As Scream Factory continues to release features-packed restored editions of missing horror classics like The Nest, From Beyond, and Lifeforce, other great genre pics are either going out of print altogether (Ten Out-of-Print Horror Flicks to Make You Drool) or just languishing in lackluster standard-DVD Hell. What movies should Scream Factory, Blue Underground, or other classic horror Blu-ray houses scoop up next? Here are ten classic horror flicks that are still missing from the HD revolution. (Note: After much consideration, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder, while amazing and definitely in need of domestic HD releases, were deemed not “horrific enough” in the traditional horror movie sense. They’d be day-one pre-orders on Blu-ray, but aren’t as “pure horror” as these ten.)
When Universal released the horrendous Sean Bean remake of this ‘80s classic in 2007, they inexplicably ignored the opportunity to even issue a standard special edition of the 1986 classic with C. Thomas Howell and Rutger Hauer. The trend of ‘80s remakes in the late ‘00s has probably allowed the original to get lost in your memory, possibly buried under the wave of other bad scare flicks for which Hollywood drastically overestimated the nostalgia. Don’t let that happen. The original Hitcher is a tense, perfectly-paced slice of road horror and, while the U.K. got a two-disc special edition on DVD (from which one would think it would be easy to import the special features), no one currently has plans for a worldwide HD upgrade. Blue Underground has a great reputation for their handling of under-loved ‘80s classics. They’d be perfect home for The Hitcher.
“One of us, one of us.” It is Blu-ray injustice that you can get Cirque du Freak on the format, but Tod Browning’s nightmare classic isn’t even available on standard DVD any more in the U.S. Granted, the legends surrounding Tod Browning’s horror standard have probably become more prominent than the film itself at this point. Yes, Browning used people with real deformities in his pre-code, 1932 stunner, but they are not the true horror lurking behind Freaks. It is the “normal” people and it’s the devastating punishment that their horrific behavior deserves that really makes the film truly memorable (and caused censors to hide the film for decades). Criterion has released some great horror Blu-rays and they’d be the perfect studio to treat this film’s sensitive subject matter in the manner it deserves.
In the Mouth of Madness
Scream Factory killed with last year’s great HD edition of They Live. Now get on John Carpenter’s last good-to-great movie (sorry Ghosts of Mars fans), this underrated Lovecraft homage from the mid-‘90s. In fact, there are a number of Carpenter flicks not on the format, including Prince of Darkness and Vampires. While we would be the first to admit that the Carpenter classics like Halloween and The Thing should have been the first to Blu-ray, why is taking so long for the rest? If any modern horror director should have their ENTIRE catalog on Blu-ray, it’s Carpenter. He has such loyal fans that they’re guaranteed to sell. Release a box set and I’ll even take duplicates of the ones I own already just to own them all.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Does it count as horror? Did you see it at the right age? If you did, you don’t have to ask. For those of us whose parents blindly rented any VHS tape with a Walt Disney logo on the top, we shall never forget Something Wicked This Way Comes, a common choice for people in my generation when asked “What’s the first movie that gave you nightmares?” Disney notoriously discards their live-action history (go ask Hayley Mills fans), but this year marks the 30th anniversary of this nightmare-inducing fable. Get working on a Special Edition Blu-ray timed to Halloween or I’ll send Mr. Dark after you.
Optimum Home Releasing issued a great HD version of Michael Powell’s 1960 classic in Europe, but the film has been largely ignored domestically. It fits with the history of a film that has never received the credit it deserves, overshadowed by Hitchcock’s Psycho and censored into obscurity in the ‘60s. It took Martin Scorsese to help revive it and the film has had a number of theatrical re-releases over the years, however, it still has yet to get a U.S. Blu-ray edition. Criterion owned the rights for a long time, releasing a great DVD version, but they lost the rights to Lionsgate, who has issued a number of Studio Canal titles since then but have no plans to bring this film stateside. One of the best thrillers of all time deserves as much attention around the world as it gets in the U.K.
A Tale of Two Sisters
I wouldn’t create a list like this without a bit of modern Asian horror, right? This one’s the best. I love Ringu and the original The Eye as much as the next guy (and I love Shutter more probably), but Kim Jee-woon’s family nightmare is the most attuned to HD with its striking visual compositions and complex imagery. Just watch that trailer above and imagine it in 1080p. Tartan released an awesome DVD version, but even that transfer could use a remaster and the international region-locked Blu-ray has scant special features and a bit rate that caused complaints. Now that Tartan is back in business through Palisades, they should use this to kick-start a line of special editions of the best of the Asian horror wave, complete with a full HD remaster and wealth of bonus material. Three years ago, someone at Palisades was hinting at a U.S. release online on message boards. Stop hinting and get to work.
Dario Argento’s timeless genre pic has been in HD limbo in the States (an import version is available) thanks to the dreaded remake machine that allows a company like the Weinsteins to lock down the rights to a horror classic just because they’re considering making an updated version. The region-locked international edition is supposed to be a beauty, but we get no stateside Blu-ray just because we’re waiting for David Gordon Green to finish his long-delayed remake? That doesn’t seem right. (Wait, did I say finish? I meant “start” as legal issues have delayed it yet again.) Why not get buzz going now? Why not build the cult of Argento, one of the most obvious picks for HD? Argento is a master of visual storytelling, a filmmaker whose work is going to resonate in 1080p like it never could in a standard transfer, and a possible remake just isn’t a good enough reason to delay that experience for fans.
Carnival of Souls
“Guarantees to sweep you into a new dimension of filmmaking.” Why don’t they make promises like that in previews anymore? It probably looks horrendously dated and cheesy to you young readers, but this is one of this writer’s most memorable horror film experiences by far. It’s a genre classic, a movie that still works because of its emphasis on creepy atmosphere over jump scares. I’ll be honest – it’s one of two horror movies that I can remember giving me nightmares as a kid (the other being Halloween). Don’t we want to give the gift of bad dreams to a new generation? The Criterion DVD is a beauty (there are actually several DVD editions but the Criterion is the best) and they seem to still own the rights. The company releases new catalog titles every month on Blu-ray. Get to this one before Halloween, Criterion. There’s a whole new generation of kids to scare.
Don Coscarelli’s horror classic seems to grow in esteem every year, as more and more young viewers discover both Phantasm and his more recent horror-comedy cult hits like Bubba Ho-Tep and John Dies at the End. Shout Factory is releasing a special edition of Phantasm II on Blu-ray this Spring, but the original is nowhere to be found. What’s the hold-up? Why wouldn’t the Factory release all four Phantasm films in a glorious HD box set? Part of the problem is that Anchor Bay, whose output has slowed in recent years, still owns the original. There’s a Facebook page devoted to harassing the studio to do what should be done with the classic. Get to letter writing, horror fans, and include pictures dressed like The Tall Man if you’re truly committed.
As we pointed out, Scanners just went OOP on DVD and is already fetching a pretty penny on that format. Time for an HD upgrade. While we’re at it, where the hell are most of the old Cronenberg horror gems like Shivers and Dead Ringers on Blu-ray? Almost none of this visual master’s works are on the format. Sure, there’s his recent stuff with Viggo Mortensen and the must-own Criterion version of Videodrome and, of course, The Fly, but that’s pretty much it. (Criterion is issuing Naked Lunch soon too). Is there any director more visually fascinating than Cronenberg that’s currently so under-represented in the HD world? Where is The Brood? Rabid? The Dead Zone? Forget one release. Let’s do a Criterion box set and solve the problem in one fell swoop.