BRAAAAINS! This week we sort through a pile of movies on our doorsteps and then dive into a trifecta of brain induced mayhem! First we break our Arrow Films Blu-ray of Frank Henenlotter’s BRAIN DAMAGE (1988); then we follow Edward Furlong into some CD-ROM Horror with BRAINSCAN (1994) and finally we unearth 1988’s criminally underseen THE BRAIN. As always, Josh Obershaw runs down the latest physical media news.
There are certain distribution companies that you always keep on eye on. For imports from the UK it always comes down to two for me: Arrow Video and Second Sight Films. Now Second Sight may not have the monthly output of Arrow, but you can rest assured that whatever they put on disc will be a stellar release. They first came to my attention with their RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD Blu. That disc is still my go to release of the film to watch as it’s the only place worldwide to hear the original theatrical soundtrack. Since then other highlights from the company have included the BASKET CASE TRILOGY, STREETS OF FIRE, and SUPER MARIO BROS. Try holding your breath and waiting for Disney to release that last one in a special edition here in the States.
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of my favorite horror films of all time. Top 5. Top 2 probably. In fact, it was my first Disc of the Week ever last July. Unfortunately the series has been a bumpy road to travel ever since. PART II scrubbed the series of its nihilistic punk aesthetic and turned it into a kiddie comedy. It has some fans, I am not one of them. NECROPOLIS and RAVE TO THE GRAVE, the fourth and fifth installments, are two of the worst movies ever made. They move beyond the juvenile slapstick humor found in PART II to new levels of cringe-worthiness. The only sequel in the series that could be labelled a good movie is RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3. Instead of trying to match the original’s untouchable blend of horror and humor, it succeeds by playing it straight. This is a somber film about the lengths we will go to for love. But don’t be worried horror fans, this isn’t some art house zombie fare. It’s also a Brian Yuzna joint, which means plenty of rubber creatures running around and tearing chunks off of people.
Kino Lorber is a company that has been steadily putting out good Blu-ray releases for years. With their discs you can count on solid transfers and usually a few supplements. Some releases, such as their excellent QUATERMASS XPERIMENT and MIRACLE MILE Blus, are so packed with bonus features that they would be called Collector’s Editions by most other companies. But even with all that, Kino does not have the same rabid fan base of an Arrow or a Synapse. Maybe it’s because their catalogue isn’t made up of the same recognizable titles that drive cult movie fans crazy when other labels announce them, but I always get interested when I hear the newest set of Kino announcements.
I don’t have much interest in the modern 3D trend. Now every other film is released in 3D and the magic has worn off. The effect is never as great as it is hyped up to be and I usually leave the theater with a headache. I do, however, have a fascination with the films released during the 3D booms of the ’50s and ’80s. Maybe it’s because they’ve been unavailable in this original format for so long that it feels like more of an event when they are finally remastered for 3D Blu-ray. Despite 3D TVs seemingly not taking off in the way they hoped, studios have continued opening their vaults and releasing these classic 3D films onto home video. This past summer Universal gave us JAWS 3D and now they reach back further into their catalog to bring us IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE in 3D.
Joel and Ethan Coen are two of the most eclectic filmmakers of all time. They can move from screwball comedy to dark morality play to satire over the course of three films. You never know what to expect from one of their films before that first trailer hits. This sense of surprise goes back to their debut film BLOOD SIMPLE, which played a couple of film festivals in late 1984 before being given a wide release in January 1985. The film came out of nowhere and was instantly praised by critics as a suspense filled neo-noir. The Coens went from industry outliers (Joel’s only previous credits were as assistant editor on THE EVIL DEAD and FEAR NO EVIL) to filmmakers praised for their assured camera work, tight script, and the dark sense of humor that would permeate the rest of their career.
Joe Dante arrived on horror fans’ radars in the late ’70s with his unique brand of witty horror films for the monster kid generation. The early ’90s saw Dante getting more personal with a pair of films he made with writer Charlie Haas and producer Michael Finnell. GREMLINS 2 was a much anticipated sequel to Dante’s biggest hit, but instead of doing the obvious and telling another dark tale featuring the little monsters, he made a comedy that skewered the idea of sequels while being filled to the brim with references to any and everything he loved in film and television. MATINEE came 3 years after GREMLINS 2 failed to incite much interest at the box office and unfortunately met a similar fate. Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, MATINEE sees army brat and Dante surrogate Gene (Simon Fenton) move to Key West with his family. While annihilation hangs over the heads of everyone in town, Gene is more interested in the horror films of William Castle-esque schlockmeister Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman). The film deftly mixes nuclear paranoia and horror fandom with a sweet coming-of-age story, making it a film genre aficionados can enjoy just as much as families.
The end of 2016 is fast approaching (thank goodness), which means home video labels will be rolling out their announcements of what they’ll have in store Blu-ray-wise for you holiday shoppers. The first one out of the gate is Arrow. This morning, the UK-based company revealed their slate of releases for the last month of the year. Most of the titles are going to be UK-only (a couple of them are “much-requested” re-pressings), which is good news for our friends over there and for those of you here in the ol’ US of A who go region-free. But, really, who cares which side of the Atlantic you’re on? The whole line-up rocks, and it’s a strong end to a spectacular year for Arrow.