By Brian M. Sammons
The reason I began Hidden Horrors oh so long ago was to shine a spotlight on horror related news/products/ services that might otherwise slip under a horrorhead’s radar in these busy, chaotic times. The recent announcement that Echo Bridge, a company that I honestly didn’t know a lot about before this, would be handling the re-releases of many of Miramax’s back catalog of genre titles on DVD is just such news I like to spread the word about because it means a lot of movies that may have been out of print are once again seeing the light of day. Also, for those fans operating on a tight budget in these economically woeful times, Echo Bridge just loves to put out compilation DVDs, so you can get up to four movies for one low price. What’s not to love about that? But are these movies going to be the flicks fright fans want, or just filler? Let’s find out.
Well since this column is all about hidden horrors, I’ll begin with probably the most hidden little gem of the first crop of releases; 1998’s THE FACULTY. Essentially INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS set in high school, it is filled with the usual teen angst and far-too-pretty-to-be-real-twenty-somethings-playing- teens that you find in flicks of this type, but it has enough going for it to make it an enjoyable experience and not a groan-inducing one. Probably the chief reason for that is director Robert Rodriguez who, in addition to his kid-friendly flicks, has proven to be a genre fan with MACHETE, SIN CITY, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and overseeing the new PREDATORS movie. Also, THE FACULTY has a more than competent cast with both up and coming actors and others already known, like Clea DuVall, Josh Hartnett, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Elijah Wood, Jon Stewart and Robert Patrick. Third, there’s quite a bit of the red stuff splashed around for the gorehounds. Lastly, the story takes a few interesting twist and turns to keep the audience guessing and for the most part, they work. Oh, and there’s a very Cthulhu-oid critter at the end, which always gets big points from me. So all in all it’s a pretty cool flick and one I’m happy to see back out on DVD.
On to FROM DUSK TILL DAWN that I previously mentioned briefly. Sure, it spawned a few sequels, each more ridiculous and insipid than the last, but the original was a funny, action packed, over the top gorefest that was the first successful teaming up of director Robert Rodriguez and writer (and no fooling; actor) Quentin Tarantino. Add to that mix George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and genre favorites like Danny Trejo, Tom Savini and Fred Williamson and you’ve got an eclectic cast for one wild film. If you have yet to see this vampires, strippers, and bank robbers flick then you’re long overdue. As an extra bonus, this new DVD also has the feature length documentary on the making of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN called FULL-TILT BOOGIE.
As I said from the start, Echo Bridge loves to put out multi-movie combo packs and one of the best is the one that collects the killer angel THE PROPHECY films. The first movie, starring Christopher Walken as Archangel Gabriel looking to destroy humanity, was pretty darn good. No it’s wasn’t great by a long shot, but it had enough good ideas, and yes, Walken at his scene-chewing best, to make it entertaining. Oh and not to mention a pre-famous Viggo Mortensen doing one kickass take on Lucifer. There is also Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen and Eric Stoltz to round out this more than capable cast. The movie was written and directed by the man who wrote the original HIGHLANDER film. All that means that this flick about a war between angles to decide the fate of mankind has quite a bit of talent behind it and it shows. Sadly, as is often the case, the sequels provided diminishing returns in that department as time went on, with Christopher Walken being the only constant throughout the series and even he is seen very little come the third movie. So for the low price on one DVD you get a pretty good movie, an ok second movie, and a forgettable third movie, all chockfull of hot angel on angel action and violence on a biblical scale.
So what’s better than three movies for the price of one? Four movies for the price of one, naturally. Well, that’s usually the case, but perhaps not so here. You see, Echo Bridge decided to bundle some of the HALLOWEEN movies together and while normally I’d be all for that, the choices they made here are questionable at best . On this DVD you get HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MEYERS, HALLOWEEN H20, and the one that all but killed the unkillable franchise, the Busta Rhymes-rific HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION. However it seems odd to me that Echo Bridge would start their run with the legendary HALLOWEEN movies with the last three of the original series. What’s also odd is that instead of having a fourth HALLOWEN movie on this four-pack, they instead tossed in the forgettable thriller film; MOTHER’S BOYS. Uhm…why? Sure it’s got Jamie Lee Curtis in it, but its inclusion here just seems wrong. But if you’re missing some of the latter-day Michael Meyers murder movies, this is a good and cheap way to pick them up.
The last combo pack I want to discuss is a double feature of THE CROW films. However, for some inexplicable reason, this DVD has the second and fourth movies, but not the first or third. Now I can see holding back on the original, and best by far, CROW movie for maybe a special edition or better yet, a Blu-ray release, but why skip the third movie? I mean, it wasn’t good or anything, but then neither was the fourth flick, THE CROW: WICKED PRAYER staring Edward Furlong as the titular undead avenger and that one made the cut to get on this disc. As for the second CROW movie, CITY OF ANGELS, it is also deeply flawed, but still has enough good parts in it to warrant a watch. So if you happen to believe that the old law of STAR TREK movies (that only even number ones are good) applies to THE CROW series, then this is the two-pack for you.
All of the movies that I’ve just mentioned as being part of multi-film combo DVDs are also available as stand along, single title DVDs. But oddly, none of the single title DVDs has any extra features on them. Now I can understand the multi-packs not offering bonus content. After all, they are squishing sometimes up to four feature length films onto a single DVD so some things are going to have to be cut out for lack of disc space. But when you have just one movie on one DVD, there’s no good reason for the bare bones treatment. So with that in mind this is one of the few times where I’d recommend the combo DVDs over the singles since you’re not getting any extras no matter how you slice it (outside of FULL-TILT BOOGIE on the FROM DUSK TILL DAWN disc) you might as well save a few bucks.
Regardless of the lack of bonus content, I’m more than happy to see these movies back out and widely available for the first time in a long time. If you’re missing some of these titles from your own home horror library, then this is your chance to rectify that and I look forward to seeing what the new Miramax, Echo Bridge partnership brings out next.
--Brian M. Sammons