2011 Recap: Home Video and 2012 Preview

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Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-12-27 22:04
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2011 Home Video Recap

The best days for horror on DVD are behind us and have been for a few years (by my estimation, the last great year was 2007), but there are still some companies doing some great work out there. Anchor Bay has pretty much moved on from being the premiere studio for catalog releases, but they continue to deliver great discs for modern horror (some of which you read about in my 2011 recap). Stepping into their void are the likes of Blue Underground, who not only released some anticipated titles (like The Nesting) for the first time, but also some of the year’s most memorable high definition debuts (like Zombie and City of the Living Dead). Likewise, old stalwart Synapse Films released The Dorm that Dripped Blood, The Exterminator, and Intruder to glorious Blu-ray/DVD releases that may be the standard-bearer for cult releases. Criterion even brought home some of the genre’s most sought-after titles in Kuroneko, The Phantom Carriage, and Island of Lost Souls, a Universal classic that impossibly never even came to DVD until this October.

Other studios have emerged during the last couple of years to pick up the catalog slack. Shout Factory have become a go-to studio for cult for value-packed double-features. Movie like Demon of Paradise, Up From the Depths, and other Roger Corman “classics” probably don’t deserve such high class treatment, but don’t tell them that. They’ve also been reissuing a lot of stuff that has gone out of print (like Bad Dreams and Visiting Hours), and I look forward to what they have to offer next year. Raro Video might be one of the best surprises of 2011; their output may be rather sparse in terms of volume, but they’ve released some legitimately intriguing Italian releases like Perfume of the Lady in Black and Murder Obsession. I hope they’ve only begun to raid their vaults, as the prospect of some fresh Euro-horror is enough to keep my attention.

Intervision was a similarly nice surprise for 80s SOV enthusiasts, and a hell of a story--the label was essentially conceived by Evan Husney in his bedroom. Between the now infamous Canuxploitation acid trip that is Things and the brain-damaged slasher Sledgehammer, Intervision carved themselves quite a niche, even going so far as to release them on big box VHS releases. Their parent company, Severin, was no slouch itself, with their crown jewel being the definitive release of the minor Spanish classic, Horror Express. I’d also be remiss to ignore Camp Motion Picture’s Basement box set, which also employed the VHS gimmick as it packaged together their catalog of infamous SOV material. If anyone wanted to truly inundate themselves and get a taste for that weird movement, I’d point them straight to that release, which also features the opus of all SOV slashers in Video Violence.

Then there’s Scorpion Releasing and Code Red, who are seemingly vying for the obscuro-cinema crown. They’ve even set up competing labels hosted by former WWE Divas (Katarina’s Nightmare Theater and Maria’s B-Movie Mayhem) to deliver these weird, nearly bottom of the barrel flicks. Some of these movies have deserved to remain hidden, but some genuine gems have been dusted off and polished. I think Code Red’s Nightmare release is one of the best of the year; I’ve been dubious of that particular company at times, but when they commit themselves, they deliver. Look not further than the three different transfers for Nightmare as evidence of this.

The future, however, is in streaming; I never thought I’d say that because I’ll cling to physical media until I die or it dies. But it’s difficult to deny both the allure of streaming, if only for the sheer amount of titles that are available there that could never hit DVD. MGM especially has gone to great lengths to feature some hugely interesting catalog titles, some of which do get released via their MGM Limited Series DVD label (like Hammer's landmark Quatermass Xperiment). For 2012, I’m considering highlighting at least one movie a week that’s only available on Netflix because there’s more than enough material there, and genuinely interesting stuff, from old Amicus titles (like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors) to other buried gems (The Crimson Cult, Night of the Eagle).

Looking ahead: 2012

I have seen a handful of movies that’ll be debuting next year. You’ll definitely want to be on the lookout for Juan of the Dead and Livid, a couple of exciting updates on tired sub-genres. But among those that I haven’t seen, You’re Next is obviously generating the most buzz right now; I’ve heard comparisons to Scream being tossed around, so this home invasion thriller may be a game changer once it bows in October. If anything, it returns the great Barbara Crampton to theater screens, which is exactly where she belongs. In fact, you’ll see her twice this year, as she’s also been slotted to appear in Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, a movie I’m actually looking forward to even if his two takes on Halloween have been horribly misguided efforts.

Cabin in the Woods is the oft-delayed enigmatic flick from the mind of Joss Whedon; most indications point to it being worth the wait, and it should be noted that it wasn’t shelved for quality reasons. It just happened to get lost in the shuffle when MGM restructured and had to sell off some properties (but that didn’t stop them from slapping on a 3D post-convert before then). I have no doubt that Paranormal Activity 4 is already penciled in on a calendar somewhere in Paramount’s offices, and it’ll probably be a crucial entry for that franchise, as I’m interesting to see just how far they can keep it going.

Other surprises will surely pop up; there’s always a handful of horror flicks that seemingly come out of nowhere; the ball gets rolling next week with The Devil Inside, which is apparently taking the “rehashed possession movie” January slot from The Rite this year. From there, we'll see Liam Neeson take on a pack of wolves in The Grey, which I've heard good things about. Hammer Films will bow their latest, The Woman In Black, in February, which is an update of the British TV movie (which was in turn based on a play, itself based on a novel).

After that, we’re due for revisits with Piranha 3-DD, plus we’re scheduled for another visit to the Amityville house if Dimension can ever get that found-footage take on the mythos off the ground. They also claim that Halloween 3D could come out this year, but that’s looking dubious at best; if Myers doesn’t make the date, don’t worry--Leatherface will be slashing his way back in October, also in the third dimension in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D.

So, by my count, there’s already at least a half dozen things to get excited about for next year; plus, who knows what’s going to get unearthed by these home video companies. Modern horror has an unfair stigma of being disappointing and gaunt, but I think 2011 proves that this genre has a lot to offer even in a “down year.” Personally, I just hope that somebody somewhere institutes a moratorium on zombies and vampires for 2012; if I have to endure another half dozen of each, I’ll probably be hoping for the apocalypse come December.
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