2016 is finally over with and while most have been saying that it’s been a bad year, especially with the number of great talents that we lost, at least we saw a number of older films get some incredible releases. Companies like Scream Factory and Arrow Video have been painstakingly restoring and releasing all the little gems that would have otherwise been lost and forgotten and companies like Synapse have started throwing their hat in that ring and we even saw the return of Vestron Video!
There were so many great releases this year that it was a chore to keep up with them all, but I couldn’t have been happier with the titles that were being restored and released for us all to revisit. So, I decided to give spotlight to ten titles (in no specific order) that saw a Blu-ray release this year that no collection should be without. Believe me when I tell you that condensing this down to a list of ten was quite difficult and if you see something that’s not on this list, it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t recommend it, I just feel these specific ten are worth shining the light on.
From JP Simon, the director of Pieces, comes an absurd horror flick about killer slugs called, erm, Slugs. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as you would think, but they somehow manage to make it work. Just like Pieces, it’s exactly what you think it is; killer slugs run amok and it’s up to the health inspector to stop them! The film boasts some really over the top, gory deaths, including a man’s face exploding with tiny parasites. Arrow Video released the film in a brand new transfer from the original film elements, so the film looks absolutely disgusting… and I mean that in a good way! There’s also a handful of featurettes as well as some commentaries thrown in as well as reversible cover art and an illustrated book.
HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER
Henry is a hard movie to sit through, not because it’s terrible, but because it’s ultra gritty and fairly realistic as far as serial killers go and being based on a true story (at the time), you really see the horror of being a random victim to a totally emotionless monster. Michael Rooker’s performance is terrifying and the late Tom Towles plays his partner in crime as the two random stalk and kill their victims. Dark Sky Films recently released the film restored in 4K, so this is as close to perfect as the film is ever going to look. Some may say the restoration made it lose some of the grittiness, but I would say that it was cleaned up enough so that it looks as good as it did when it was first filmed. Henry itself is a must watch for any horror fan, but now that it’s available on Blu-ray, I recommend re-buying or buying for the first time.
Most people scoff at the Exorcist sequels, mostly due to the fact that The Heretic was pretty terrible, but I’ve always felt that Exorcist III got a bad rap. I found it to be effectively scary, including one of, if not the most, effective jump scares in horror movie history and it’s beautifully shot and told. The only issue I had was the ending and always wanting to see the Legion cut of the film and now thanks to Scream Factory, I can. Although the original footage was lost and the scenes were taken from multiple sources, Scream Factory’s Exorcist III release includes the Legion cut, which to me was worth the purchase alone. But Scream Factory also included so many extras and some gorgeous new artwork, it just made it that more appealing.
I DRINK YOUR BLOOD
The first time I ever saw this movie, I was totally blown away by how batshit insane it is. Although it has nothing to do with drinking your blood or anyone’s there of, it’s about a Satanic cult that gets infected with rabies and runs around murdering and infecting others. It has a bizarre, hypnotic soundtrack and also features the screen debut of Lynn Lowry. Rather than transferring the print over from the DVD, Grindhouse Releasing restored the film once again and it looks absolutely amazing. Probably one of the best transfers I’ve seen. Not only does it have enough bonus material to wet your appetite, but it also comes with David Durston’s first two films, I Eat Your Skin and Blue Sextet. Fans who pre-ordered the film also got a collectible syringe like the one used in the movie, except not real.
Seeing as this is one of my favorite movies, I may be a little biased toward it and putting it on this list was a shoe-in, but for anyone who hasn’t seen it, do so immediately. A guy dressed like The Shadow runs around a Boston college campus dismembering coeds with a chainsaw and stitching them together to make some Franken-women. Oh, and there’s also a random Kung-Fu scene, because it’s produced by sleaze-master Dick Randall. To me, the movie defines what a drive-in, exploitation, grindhouse flick is and who better than Grindhouse Releasing to restore it and bring it to Blu. Something really cool included with this release is the soundtrack on a CD and like those who pre-ordered I Drink Your Blood, this film also included a nice little gift… a little puzzle that might look familiar to fans of the film.
BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR
I’ve always felt this was an underrated sequel and it actually progressed the story of Herbert West, as this time he is trying to create life, like Bride of Frankenstein. It had more of a mad doctor vibe to it, especially in Herbert’s lab and we got to see him play more into that character, seemingly more insane. Finally, it was brought to Blu-ray by Arrow Video and the film looks absolutely beautiful all cleaned up, allowing the colors to really pop, and this goes for both the R-Rated version and the Unrated Version (both of which are included). Gary Pullin has always been my favorite artist and to see his work do this release justice is absolutely perfect.
I was going to include Tenebrae on this list, but once Phenomena was released, it kind of took its spot. I love Tenebrae, don’t get me wrong and Synapse killed it with their Steelbook Blu-ray release, but Phenomena holds a place in my heart as my favorite Argento film. I love his other works as well, but Phenomena is shot in the style of a music video while still feeling like an Argento film and it has a great mood. Synapse also released the flick in a Steelbook, restored in 2K and includes all three cuts of the film, which includes the US version called Creepers. If you ever wanted to see Jennifer Connelly solve a murder by telepathically communicating with insects with a chimpanzee and Donald Pleasence, now is the time.
Like Pieces, Blood Diner was always defined to me what an exploitation film is, but this one is way more far out. It’s a sorta, kinda, not really a remake of Blood Feast and very much plays up the gore for laughs. Unlike most films that attempt this, Blood Diner actually succeeds and is just as hilarious as it is gross. It’s actually one of the very first horror films I remember seeing on late night TV. What makes this release so special is that it’s not only the first time this film is actually released to North America, but it’s through the resurrected Vestron Video, who was kind enough to restore the film and interview director Jackie Kong in some of the bonus features who offers some insight on the film. It’s such a treat to finally see this film get a proper release. Now if only someone could get on a release of The Brain…
Porn star Marilyn Chambers stars in a movie about a plastic surgery gone awry and now she has this tentacle like thing that comes out of her armpit to drain people of their blood and leaves them with a case of rabies. Sure, why not? Admittedly, not my favorite David Cronenberg film, but for the longest time I had trouble finding this on DVD after mine was stolen. At least for a reasonable price. Collector’s wanted crazy amounts for their out of print DVDs and I was willing to accept the fact that I would probably never have it again. But thanks to Scream Factory, I was finally able to reunite with the flick and at a much, much better quality with some special features as well. I think that’s why I included it on this list.
This film. This film right here. This film is the reason I love the Italian exploitation genre. It’s like it was made without a single care – or talent – in the world, being void of good special effects, cinematography, directing, acting… everything. And that’s why it’s so loved. Oh, that and a nearly thirty year old dwarf in a bad wig playing a ten year old boy with insestual feelings for his mother. This is one of the most ridiculous movies I can think of and the fact that Severin has released the film on Blu-ray in a brand new restoration with brand new special features makes me the happiest man in the world. This is one of those films whose absurdity cannot be described, it must be seen. If you watch one film off this list, make it Burial Ground.
And those were my ten favorite Blu-ray releases from 2016. There were so many to choose from and as I said at the beginning, this was no easy task, so I decided to think about the ones I was most thankful were released this year. Whether you agreed with some of the list – or the whole list – I hope you will seek some of these films out and rediscover them or discover them for the first time. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us.