Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Brian Sammons Hi-Def Hoedown XTRA– The Best Blu-ray Releases of 2011

By Brian M. Sammons

Hello fellow HD loving horrorheads. I thought with the new year just starting that I’d take a look at the best Blu-ray releases of 2011. Now I will NOT be talking about new, modern movies brand new on disc. You should already know about those. No, I’ll be spotlighting the old horror classics that are either new to Blu or out on Blu-ray for the first time. In order to make this list, the movie not only has to have the best video transfer ever, but a bevy of new special features. You will not find any direct transfers from DVD to Blu-ray here no matter how good they are. No, only the best discs with the most love and care shown to them will be on this list. Lastly, as I don’t want to be here all day, only one movie from each company will be on this list. If you like one of these movies, by all means check out the other titles that company also released, as you’re likely to find more of the same great movies from them. But without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things from 2011.

INTRUDER (1989) – Synapse Films

There are a few companies that constantly never disappoint. You will find examples of all of them on this list, but I figured I’d start with Synapse Films as their Blu-rays consistently look amazing. A great example of that is this release. INTRUDER is a very fun late 80s slasher flick, with multiple ties to the cult classic EVIL DEAD films, that has long been overlooked by companies and horror fans alike. Well there might have been some reason for that in the past, as this film was notorious for being raped by the MPAA and having all the great gore gags cut from the picture. Well this release has all those great looking, and surprisingly bloody, kills scenes put back in. Not only that, but Synapse Films, always known for releasing great looking discs, really outdid themselves here. This movie has simply never looked better. The colors are bright and vibrant and the blood has never been redder. Add to the great transfer and restored splatter scenes a nice collection of special features and you have a Blu-ray that no slasher fan should be without.

ZOMBIE (1979) – Blue Underground

Blue Underground released a bunch of good movies in 2011, but their masterpiece of that year has got to be the rightfully named 2-disc Ultimate Edition of Lucio Fulci’s undead classic, ZOMBIE. Not only is this a great zombie flick, it is in the top three of my favorite Fulci films ever, and it has some of the most memorable scenes in horror film history (who can forget the zombie vs. shark or the splinter in the eye scenes once they’ve seen them?), but this movie has never looked better. Further, this is one of the best looking Blu-rays, period. Watching it, it is mind boggling that it was shot in 1979 and not just a year ago. Yes, it really looks that good. Then if you factor in that it takes two discs to hold all the special features that Blue Underground has gathered for this, and you got a must have Blu-ray that any horrorhead should have. Trust me, it just doesn’t get better than this.

PHENOMENA (1985) – Arrow Video

Arrow Video is from the UK and they release some of the best classic horror movies of all time. Not only that, but the amount of extras they put on their discs, and the very cool goodies they include with the Blu-ray (like posters, booklets, double-sided cover art, and more) is second to none. Sure they usually cost more than our US releases, and if you add in the shipping costs to get the discs here from the UK they are made even more so, but for serious collectors, there’s usually nothing better than an Arrow Video release. In 2011 Arrow Video released a bunch of great Blu-rays, including a staggering amount of Italian horror movies. As a fan of those films it is hard to pick out a favorite, but if I had to, it would be their release of Argento’s PHENOMENA. Sure they also released DEEP RED, but so did Blue Underground. They also released TENEBRAE on Blu-ray, but again, so did Blue Underground (the two companies often play tag by releasing the same titles months, or even just weeks apart). PHENOMENA was a movie that the Brits released and we Americans, for whatever reason, did not. And man did they do it up good. I don’t want to say much about PHENOMENA as it is one of Dario Argento’s craziest and oddly most enjoyable movies, and it should be experienced firsthand. Go get it and experience the wonderful weirdness, and one of the most awesome endings ever, for yourself.

THE EVIL DEAD 2 (1987) – Lions Gate

Lions Gate is easily the biggest of the companies on this list, but that won’t get them a free pass here. No in order to make it on this list they must earn their spot like everyone else. Luckily they do that handily with their 25th Anniversary release of THE EVIL DEAD 2. Now do I need to explain why THE EVIL DEAD 2 is mandatory for anyone calling themself any form of horror fan to have? It’s one of the greatest, goofiest, goriest black comedies ever. I know you’ve seen it, but I also know you haven’t seen it like this before. This remastered edition looks incredible. If anything, it may look too good, as some of the seams on the special effects can clearly be seen in HD. Still, that’s a small price to pay to such an amazingly clear picture. Add to that a ton of extras that combine all the special features from the previous releases of this movie, with a bunch of new stuff recorded just for this disc, and you have one hell of a (dare I say it?) groovy movie.

So there you go, four great movies, on four great Blu-rays. Each one is a sure fire winner and I hope they’re an example of what we can expect to come in 2012.

--Brian Sammons