We’ve reached that point of the year where the weather is a bit chilly, the days are shorter and there seems to be a holiday every week. With said holidays come more time spent with family, that if we’re honest most of us would rather not see, and with more family time comes more fights and lots of unnecessary stress.
It’s also the time of that year that we’re expected to buy gifts for the ones that we love. While gift giving can be great, it’s also a lot of fun to get gifts for yourself. So what I’ve done is I’ve put together a gift guide featuring 10 of the year’s best Blu-ray releases that would make for wonderful stocking stuffers. You can be a wonderful person and buy them for others, but please do not hesitate to get a couple for yourself.
If you’re looking for additional titles to pick up outside of my recommendations be sure to make sure you stop by the Vinegar Syndrome and Severin websites on Friday (today, 11/23) as both companies will be having massive Black Friday sales with a bunch of titles 50% off. In my titles below I have one each from Vinegar Syndrome and Severin, but honestly, you can pick up any title either company put out because both do stellar work.
And now, for the recommendations…
Body Melt — Region A & B — Vinegar Syndrome
Have you seen Philip Brophy’s Body Melt? If your answer is no, I want you to hang your head in shame while the rest of us throw tomatoes at you. I’m kidding, don’t do that. There’s way too much stuff for us to have seen everything, so I ain’t mad at you for missing out on this early ’90s splatter classic from the merry old land of Oz, but I am going to suggest you pick it up because you’ll probably like it a lot, if not fall in love.
The film is the story of a new drug intended to help people get the best body possible, but it has disastrous results that end up with a lot of melting. It’s a wonderful social commentary on life in suburbia and the constant drive and push to be perfect. The 2K transfer from Vinegar Syndrome is gorgeous. I mean good lord, this may be one of the best looking transfers I have ever seen. The release is also stacked with a shit ton of special features including a rad 40-minute interview with Brophy diving into the film’s origins.
Bram Stoker’s Shadowbuilder — Region A & B — MVD Rewind Collection
I never even heard of Bram Stoker’s Shadowbuilder, much less seen it, until the recent release from MVD Rewind Collection. And you know what? I’ve been missing out these last 20 years! I’ve long been a defender of ’90s horror, finding the decade to be much maligned for reasons beyond me, and Shadowbuilder is yet another feather I can add to my cap. Michael Rooker, who we all love, plays a badass gun slinging priest on the hunt for a some sort of black smoke demon. It’s wild, it’s nutty and it’s a lot of fun.
The MVD Rewind release is put together nicely, featuring the company’s signature packaging, and the film quality is stellar. Special features include an audio commentary with director Jamie Dixon, a mmaking-of feature, an interview with star Kevin Zegers and a look at the film’s special features.
Candyman — Region A — Scream Factory
Some films are great upon their initial release and then somehow get even better over time. Candyman is one of those movies. It’s quite absurd when you think about it, but hey, I ain’t complaining. This stone cold classic, and personal favorite of Mr. Disgusting, follows a graduate student doing research on urban legends when she comes across one about the spirit of a slave with a hook hand that haunts a housing project. But you all already knew that, right?
The Blu-ray (it’s finally on Blu-ray!!!!) from Scream Factory is wonderful! This new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera elements looks so good! And then there’s the special features on this release, oh how I love these special features! It’s a 2-disc set that includes an unrated version (woot woot!) and the wide array of bonus content includes interviews with both Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen. Check out the full details here!
The Cat o’ Nine Tails — Region A — Arrow Films
Dario Argento makes my heart sing and as such I could not make this list without including an Argento title. I’m going with The Cat o’ Nine Tails, released on Blu-ray stateside earlier this year by Arrow. The film is a classic Argento murder-mystery with a reporter and blind journalist trying to solve a series of killings where they end up becoming the latest target. Is this the best Argento there is? No, but it’s still good and worthy of a place in any horror fan’s collection.
The new 4K restoration looks awesome, and while the special features aren’t as plentiful as other Arrow releases, there’s still plenty of good stuff to like here, the best of which is a new interview with Argento.
Deadbeat at Dawn — Region A — Arrow Films
Goose is the leader of the Ravens, one of the baddest gangs around, and they rule the streets. His girlfriend wants him to step away from the violent lifestyle he knows, and if he doesn’t she’s going to leave him. The power of love is too strong and Goose quits, but unfortunately, he’s quickly drawn back in when the Spiders, a rival gang, kills his girlfriend. Now Goose must seek revenge.
Deadbeat at Dawn is one of the greatest independent films ever made. It’s flawed to be sure, but contains so much charisma and heart that I can’t recommend it enough. And now it has the fantastic Blu-ray release it deserves. The release includes an amazing 80-minute retrospective on the film with director and star James Van Bebber giving plenty of backstory. Also included are four Van Bebber short films and four music videos, one of which is for Pantera’s “Revolution is My Name.”
Deep Rising — Region A — Kino Lorber
When Deep Rising was released in 1998 it was a bit of a box office bomb and was panned by critics. Roger Ebert even put it on his most hated films list. Ouch. Twenty years later, however, and most of us know better. Is Deep Rising an Alien ripoff? Eh to a certain degree, but Alien is just a ripoff of Planet of the Vampires, and you know what? All those movies are awesome, so who cares? I hate to throw around the ‘M’ word, but I think this is a masterpiece from Stephen Sommers and I’m glad to see it getting a bunch of love these days.
Kino Lorber did a stunning job with this release and did not skimp on the bonus content. There are interviews with most of the cast, a commentary with Sommers and some behind-the-scenes looks at the special effects. It’s all very rad.
Eyeball — Region B — 88 Films
When people discuss the best Italian horror filmmakers the first names to come to mind are typically Argento, Fulci and Bava. While those three titans are certainly worth the praise they get, this, unfortunately, means that Umberto Lenzi is often left on the outside looking in and that’s too bad because the man was an absolute genius, capable of working within any sub-genre. Eyeball is a mid-70s giallo effort about a black-gloved killer that picks off American tourists as they travel Spain by bus. It’s a gruesome murder-mystery that keeps you guessing and is beautifully shot, taking full advantage of the gorgeous Spanish scenery.
The 88 Films Blu-ray features a brand-new 2K transfer and comes loaded with special bonus features, the best of which is the documentary All Eyes on Lenzi: The Life and Times of the Italian Exploitation Titan. All horror fans should own this one, but for those that haven’t fully jumped into the world of Lenzi I think this needs to be on the top of your list.
The Horror of Party Beach — Region Free — Severin Films
Apparently, The Horror of Party Beach is considered one of the worst movies of all time, at least that’s what the film’s Wikipedia page has to say. I’m here to tell you that’s straight up garbage. In the ’60s American International Pictures launched a new genre of beach party movies with the release of Beach Party and The Horror of Party Beach is one of those movies with the added bonus of having a man-in-a-suit monster that comes to eat all those dancing kids. The movie features a number of songs performed by the Del-Aires including “The Zombie Stomp.” How do you beat that?!
Special features include a retrospective on the film, an interview with two members of the Del-Aires, a history of rock & roller horror films with Tim Sullivan and an archival interview with director Del Tenney.
Mandy — Region A — RLJ Entertainment
Mandy has been getting a lot of love and for good reason. Our very own Scott Weinberg raved about it, and it’s generally considered one of the year’s best films — if you ask me it is the best — and the Blu-ray is awesome. Nic Cage seeks revenge and there ain’t nothing better than Nic Cage seeking revenge.
Are there a ton of special features? No, not really, but what is included is worth your time. There’s 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage that includes cast and crew interviews and concept art and then nearly 14 minutes of deleted scenes, one of which is the uncut Cheddar Goblin bit. Panos Cosmatos created a marvel of modern cinema and everyone should own their own copy.
Razorback — Region Free — Umbrella Entertainment
The one thing everyone can agree on when it comes to Australia is that everything there is out to kill you. Razorback is a film about one of those things, in this case, a vicious wild pig capable of holding its own with the Outback’s most terrifying creatures. If you want to introduce someone to a modern slice of Ozploitation you can’t do much better than this classic from Russell Mulcahy in which the giant pig in questions kills an American journalist leading to her husband traveling to Australia to hunt the beast.
The Umbrella Blu-ray comes loaded with special features that include behind-the-scenes interviews, a feature looking back on the making of the film and an audio commentary with Mulcahy. A fun bonus that I like as a nice throwback is a standard definition presentation of the film that was previously released on VHS back in the ’90s.
BONUS: Beyond the 7th Door — Region Free — InterVision Picture Corp
Ok, this movie wasn’t released this year and it’s a DVD, but anyone that has known me for the past year knows how much I love Beyond the 7th Door. Go ahead and read my review from last year. This is a cinematic achievement of epic proportions and Severin is going to have it half off during their Black Friday sale. Go buy it and then come tell me about the holes.