Shout! Factory loves cult movies. For a decade, the home video company has lovingly reissued a steady stream of them and last fall inaugurated their Scream Factory imprint, which has been resurrecting many ’80s horror gems, including Halloween II, Death Valley, They Live and Deadly Blessing. Their reissues are defined by solid restorations, colorful new packaging and excellent, in-depth bonus features. Cliff MacMillan, DVD producer for Shout! Factory and Scream Factory home entertainment series, chatted about what goes on behind the scenes.
Scream Factory is showing a lot of love for cult and horror titles. How hard has it been to obtain licensing rights from the various studios?
Well, Shout! Factory has been giving love to films and tv shows for 10 years now, but the cult and horror love really started a few years ago when we were able to license 60 films from Roger Corman’s library. After we went through those, we started approaching the studios for films. As far as being hard to obtain a license from the studios, some studios are willing to license and others are just not interested.
How difficult was it to find all the elements for films like Death Valley, Deadly Blessing and The Funhouse and restore them? What was it like tracking down all of the talent for the interviews?
We did the new transfers for Death Valley and Deadly Blessing. Universal had good film elements on both, and they had done the HD transfer on The Funhouse. Like with all releases, some talent are interested in being involved and some are just hard to track down. We couldn’t find Maren Jensen for Deadly Blessing, but luckily we found Susan Buckner thanks to Facebook.
Have you had many revelations about these movies as you’ve restored them?
The biggest revelation came when working on Humanoids From The Deep from the Corman library. We found extra scenes that had never been seen before. The audio was lost, but it was great to find this never-before-seen footage of additional scenes and include them on the disc.
How have fans responded so far to your efforts?
Most of the fans are great. There are always the few that complain over something. Not every small cult film is going to look like the 4K scan of Lawrence Of Arabia. It’s just not going to happen. We don’t own these films, we just license them. We’ll never be able to spend the kind of money necessary to make these films look like the major restorations of studio films.
I have made the argument that if some B and C-movie titles did not come out on DVD, they have less of a chance on Blu-ray. Do you think that’s going to be the case in the future?
You are correct. Often films don’t come out on Blu-ray because there is no HD master or it’s just going to be too costly to do a new film transfer. Again, we don’t own these films. So, if a B or C title can’t sell at least “X” amount of units, there is no way we can spend the money to transfer the film in HD.
What other titles does Scream Factory have coming up?
The big titles coming in 2013 are The Fog, The Howling, The Burning, Day Of The Dead and more titles to be announced later this year. It’s going to be a busy 2013 for Scream Factory.
What is your personal favorite horror or cult movie?
My favorite is Halloween. I remember begging my father to take me to see it in the theater. It was double billed with Black Christmas, so it was quite an afternoon of scares. That probably was the start of my love for horror film.
A GOOD FEELING OF DREDD — When Hollywood tried adapting the classic British comic book series Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone in 1995—the titular character literally being judge, jury and executioner on the streets—they messed up by taking off his helmet, inserting goofy one-liners and giving him a sidekick (the incredibly irksome Rob Schneider). Thankfully that train wreck can be wiped from your memory with the fantastic new Dredd, starring Karl Urban (Star Trek, Lord Of The Rings). Urban, writer Alex Garland and director Pete Travis get it all right: Dredd’s perpetual trademark scowl, the gallows humor, hyper-violent action and true sense of nihilism that sweeps over post-apocalyptic Mega-City One. Some have criticized its narrative similarity to The Raid: Redemption—Judge Dredd and rookie judge/psychic Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) are trapped in a 200-story building and hunted down by Slo-Mo drug overlord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her henchmen—but this is still a gritty, amped-up movie about a dystopic future America riddled by drugs and violence that needs to be cleaned up. Hey, kinda like now, just without the cool cinematography. While Dredd bombed at the box office, here’s hoping it finds a cult audience on video and inspires a sequel. It deserves one.
FREAKY FEMALE — Why is it that tween and teen girls always seem to get spiritually hijacked by demons? That thought popped into my head more than once as I watched the Sam Raimi-produced The Possession, a creepy take on the exorcist subgenre of horror. The twist here is that the offending entity comes from a haunted dybbuk box hand carved with Hebrew symbols, and the divorced parents of the victim must go to a member of Brooklyn’s Hasidic community (played by Matisyahu, no less) for help. That religious twist and a focus more on old school horror rather than CGI craziness (no spider walks here) tempered with some genuinely unnerving moments place this fear flick a cut above the competition. It’s not groundbreaking but still an interesting variation given the theme of divorce and its repercussions on children. And hey, we learn that Jewish demons are just as badass as Catholic ones.
FLOWER POWER — Probably the only Godzilla movie not released on DVD or Blu-ray in North America until now is Godzilla Vs. Biollante, the 1989 sequel to Godzilla 1985 and the second of seven movies in the Heisei series of the franchise, which lasted until 1995. What makes this entry so unusual is that the Big G’s adversary is a giant flower. No joke. Points for originality. Biollante has a ginormous plant-like body with tentacles resembling Little Shop Of Horrors‘ Audrey II and a rose for a head. It’s the by-product of genetic engineering, which was rearing its ugly head at the time; in this case, being used ironically to create a bacteria that could kill Godzilla. Oops. That teaches them to play God. Biollante eventually transforms into a nastier, teeth-baring critter, while the Japanese military keep trying to wipe our anti-hero off the map. Despite the hokey music, Godzilla Vs. Biollante is a fun monster romp and shows a transition from the old school films into the pre-digital series that featured superior organic effects, set pieces and photographic tricks. The new Blu-ray and DVD release includes a Japanese stereo mix, an American mono mix (probably all they had from the 1992 VHS release) and 52 minutes of great behind the scenes footage.