Walt's Monster Club

Sadly, news has come that Walter Olsen, head of Scorpion Releasing and brother of Code Red's Bill Olsen, has passed away, just a few months since we lost Bill.  So today I thought we could go back and look at a great Scorpion blu that would make a fine addition to anybody's collection: 1981's Monster Club.

In the clear tradition of the beloved Amicus anthologies comes one that is technically not by Amicus, but otherwise the clear next step in their sequence.  It's directed by Roy Ward Baker (Asylum, Quatermass & the Pit) and stars horror icons Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasence, Britt Ekland and Patrick Magee, and admittedly, it's in the running for worst of the lot, but not by a wide margin.  The wrap-around is sillier than the others - Price is a vampire who attacks Carradine, playing a famous horror author, who Price turns out to be a fan of.  So instead of finishing him off, he invites Carradine to the "Monster Club," where monsters gather, boogie down to rock songs like "Monsters Rule O.K." and drink blood.  Price tells him "real" monster stories, which comprise the meat of the anthology.  This wrap-around is pure tongue-in-cheek camp, the likes of which these anthologies have never sunk to, exemplified by this famous speech of Price's:
"You see, first we have the primary monsters: vampires, werewolves and ghouls.  Now, a vampire and a werewolf would produce a werevamp, but a werewolf and a ghoul would produce a weregoo.  But a vampire and a ghoul would produce a vamgoo.  A weregoo and a werevamp would produce a shaddy.  Now a weregoo and a vamgoo would produce a maddy.  But a werevamp and a vamgoo would produce a raddy.  Now, if a shaddy were to mate with a raddy or a maddy, the results would be a mock.  (A mock?)  Frankly, that's just a polite name for a mongrel.  You know it's quite simple really.  All you have to do is remember the basic rules of monsterdom: vampires suck, werewolves hunt, the ghouls tear, shaddies lick, maddies yawn, mocks blow but shadmocks only whistle.  (Shadmocks?)  If a mock were to mate with any of the other hybrids, their off-springs would be called shadmocks.  (And they only whistle?)  Well, they don't do it very often.  (Some do.  Terrifying?)  Oh, but you should see the results of a shadmock's whistling.  Shadmocks are the lowest in the monster hierarchy, yet they have this power.  (What happens when a shadmock whistles?)  I heard of a man once who saw the results of a shadmock's whistle.  That's all he saw, and yet..."
But the stories within are played relatively straight and in perfect keeping with the past.  The production values are impressive, with a lush score (the first story subtly invokes Gabriel Fauré's Pavane, and even the interstitial pop songs are well produced and catchy), colorful lighting and beautiful locations.  Baker certainly knows how to shoot a horror story.  There's certainly still some comedy, especially in Pleasence's middle segment, but not like the overt goofiness of the wrap-around, which feels inspired by Adam West's Batman more than anything from the house of Hammer.  And yes, they do reveal the ghastly results of a shadmock's whistling.

Monster Club had previously only been available as a non-anamorphic widescreen DVD from Pathfinder.  But in 2013, Scorpion issued a brand new, HD transfer on blu with a fun collection of new special features.  Network released it in the UK a year later, using the same master, but without any of Scorpion's extras.
2013 US Scorpion BD.
Scorpion presents Monster Club in 1.78:1, a nod I assume to its British theatrical origins.  They don't share any information about the transfer, but we know it's from "original film elements" and looks surprisingly bright and clean.  Film grain is light and sporadic when it isn't missing entirely, this isn't a modern 2 or 4k scan.  But it's a very clean and satisfying picture with solid blacks and clean lines.  The original mono track is presented in lossless DTS-HD, along with an isolated music and effects track, also in DTS-HD.  Disappointingly, there are no subtitle options.
Extras start off with a typically silly Katrina wrap-around, which I suppose is fitting for this film on paper, but still doesn't really mesh with the film's atmosphere.  She also conducts an interview with Price expert David Del Valle, who's refreshingly enthusiastic about this film.  Then he shares with us two vintage Price interviews he's conducted, a video one that's over an hour, and an audio-only one that's over 40 more minutes.  They cover Price's career overall, rather than Monster Club specifically; but most fans should appreciate these.  Also included is the original theatrical trailer, a couple bonus trailers and liner notes by George Reis.
The whole thing's just a good time.  They even get Price and Carradine to dance at the end.  And there's still no better release than Scorpion's.  R.I.P. Walt.

Must-Have Mahler

It's been a while since we've tackled a Ken Russell film here at DVDExotica, and I've been sitting on a doozy.  Mahler is from 1974, and yes it's another one of his surprisingly vast number of films about famous composers.  And hey, I love all of Russell's eras, but the 70's is really the peak, where he's got the budgets and the creative freedom to fully live up to his imagination.  Mahler is definitely taking full advantage.  And while there's only been one old, cruddy DVD released in the United States, there have been far superior, underappreciated editions overseas... just the sort of thing this site was born to tell you all about.
Mahler is one of the later composer biopics, so it's not quite as out there as Lisztomania or Dance Of the Seven Veils, but it's sure not one of his staid BBC documentaries.  I mean, you do see that sexy SS officer nailed to a burning cross on the DVD cover up there, don't you?  This film comes out swinging, with a small cottage by the sea bursting into flames.  It's the beginning of one of Russell's brief, impressionistic interpretations of Gustav Mahler's life and music.  Then it settles into more of a traditional biopic, framed by a deathly ill Robert Powell (Harlequin, Tommy) on a train to Vienna, where he encounters people from his life who trigger a series of flashbacks.  Cinematically, the device might read as a bit trite, but it really doesn't matter here, with Russell and Powell using it collaborate on a fascinating characterization, uniquely exploring the man's life and work even when it isn't producing more of Russell's signature prototypical music videos set to Mahler's greatest compositions.
Mahler originally came out as a barren, full-screen DVD from Image back in 1998.  Fremantle released a similar UK edition in 2005; but eventually word got around that the smart move was to import a later reissue from Odeon Entertainment, which had the anamorphic widescreen version.  But that's old news now.  We're in the HD era, and Paramount themselves have come out with a proper blu-ray edition, but only in Japan.  It's been available since 2012, actually the same year the Odeon came out, and there's been no sign of a Western release, so we have to import.  Luckily, it's completely English friendly.
2012 Odeon DVD top; 2012 Paramount BD bottom.
Coming out, as they did, in the same year, one might expect the Odeon and Paramount discs to have the same master, one just given a higher resolution disc.  But no, these aren't even in the same aspect ratio.  The DVD is 1.77:1 and as I said, anamorphic.  It's also non-interlaced and a rather satisfying DVD for its time.  But it's still a very scrunchy image, which is to say ruffled all over by messy compression artifacts and aching for a clearer HD image.  And we get it.  Now framed at 1.66:1, revealing substantially more picture around all four images, Paramount's version is infinitely cleaner, with finer lines and far more lifelike detail and colors.  Admittedly, grain is a little light and inconsistent - this is a 2012 BD, after all, not a modern 4k job - but wow, it's a whole different world compared to the DVD.  Print damage (like the black spot over the boy's cap in the first set of shots) has been cleaned up on the blu, too.  Clearly a full-on remaster was done, which Odeon was not let in on.
Both discs offer the original stereo track, but it's in lossless LPCM on the blu.  Neither offer any subtitles, unfortunately, though the blu does throw in an equally lossless Japanese dub for its native buyers.  There are no special features on these or any releases of Mahler except the fullscreen trailer, which is included on both the discs we're looking at today.  Everyone really ought to be region free, but this is region A anyway, and it belongs in more people's collections.

All the Children Of the Corn You'll Ever Need

Children Of the Corn is the killer kids movie.  It's not the first, or the best, but somehow it's the definitive one.  Anyway, it has its moments.  And it's still better than the eleven(!) other Children Of the Corn movies.  I mean, you should see Part 3 once just for its epic climax, but otherwise, this is the only one worth bothering with.  Strangely, it still kinda holds up.  You can't really be a fan of this twisted subgenre and not have it in your collection.  And I certainly couldn't not have it on this site.
In my case, it helps that I grew up a Thirtysomething devotee, so Peter Horton always helps sell me on this.  But even if you didn't roll hard for The Michael and Elliot Company, the cast is elevating this movie to places it normally couldn't reach.  A pre-fame Linda Hamilton does an above average turn, but it's the "kids" (in quotes, because one actor was actually in his 20s) who play Isaac and Malachai who really carry this film.  Otherwise, it's shot and scored like a TV movie, the effects are mixed and as good as the aforementioned kids are, most of the other child actors are entirely unconvincing.  But the premise of a ghost town populated only by its children who murdered all the adults is powerful (even if another movie beat them to the punch).  All the "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" mythos undercuts what works about this film more than enhances it, but the corn husk imagery is at least a little interesting and gives the movie a valuable sense of personality.
I suppose it's worth mentioning that there's possibly a longer director's cut out there.  It's described on the film's imdb page, and people have posted on forums (so take that for what it's worth) claiming to have seen it on television.  Check out the lengthy discussion in the comments of this blog post, for example.  Apparently, the prologue is more elaborate, with additional characters and kills, and a few additional moments.  But it seems to be seriously lost, if it ever existed at all.  I remember 88 Films delaying their release to search for it, and ultimately coming up empty-handed.  I'd certainly love to see it restored if possible, and I wonder if it would actually make for a superior film; but I don't hold out a lot of hope anymore.
Children Of the Corn has had an extensive history on disc, starting out with an Anchor Bay 2001 DVD, followed by a 2004 Divimax edition, which also turned it into a special edition adding a bunch of extras.  Then, in the HD era, AB released it as a 25th Anniversary Edition blu-ray, which is the first one we've got here.  Then the rights shifted to Image, who released it on DVD and BD in 2011.  88 Films released it in the UK in 2016, but it was quickly overshadowed by Arrow's 4k restoration in 2017, which was released in both the US and UK markets.  But, of course, it was only a matter of time until that BD was reissued on UHD, and that's what happened in 2021 in the US, and 2022 in the UK.
1) 2009 AB BD; 2) 2011 Image DVD; 3) 2017 Arrow BD; 4) 2021 Arrow UHD.
For starters, all of these are 1.85:1, except the Image, which is 1.78:1.  You can see the Image is essentially the same framing as the Anchor Bay just with the slim vertical mattes removed.  But then Arrow doesn't just restore mattes; they keep the extra vertical information from the Image disc and instead restore the 1.85 AR by revealing more on the sides.  The colors and general look of the picture is rather consistent across all releases - I think they're all from the original 35mm negative (Arrow's definitely is; their booklet tells us so).  But the grain is soft even on Anchor Bay's blu.  Arrow really captures it well for the first time on blu with their fresh scan, which smartens up detail as well.  The backwards "B" is distinct for the first time on the Arrow discs in that second set of shots.

The UHD is barely even an upgrade in that regard, because their BD encodes it all so well.  But the UHD, graded as it is in HDR/ Dolby Vision, is more vibrant.  The older releases look a bit washed, which Arrow's blu emboldens nicely, while still separating them.  Notice their naturally bluer sky.  And then the UHD pushes the colors even further.  The mechanic's yellow hat, and even the red on his color, are deeper and richer.  This is definitely a case where the UHD's upgrade is in the HDR.  You really have to zoom into the shots to appreciate the boost in resolution (though if you're looking for that, check out the car door handle and gas cap at five or six hundred percent to really appreciate it).

And here's another reason to upgrade to the Arrow: Anchor Bay and Image both just have a 5.1 remix track (despite earlier AB DVDs having the original track, too), but Arrow has both the original mono and the 5.1 remix in LPCM and DTS-HD, respectively.  Image also doesn't have any subtitle options, though the other three all have proper English ones (AB also has Spanish).
Straight outta Gatlin
Anchor Bay already had some solid extras in their pocket by the time they of their 25th Anniversary edition, starting with a really strong audio commentary by the director, producer Terrence Kirby, and the actors who play Isaac and Malachai.  This diverse quartet have a lot of memories, good information and keep the discussion lively.  There's a good 30+ minute featurette that sits the commentary gang in front of the camera, and yeah, they repeat some stuff, but it's still worth the watch.  They also had the trailer and some galleries.  ...And when AB came up with their blu, they kept all that and added some more.  They also added three great new interview featurettes, one with Linda Hamilton, one with the composer and production designer and one with producer Donald Borchers.

Image, meanwhile, has nothing but the trailer.
Disciples Of the Crow
Arrow happily went in the complete opposite direction.  They carry over everything from Anchor Bay, old and new.  And they came up with a bunch of new stuff.  There's a second, expert audio commentary, which is okay.  They do have some new pieces of good info sprinkled throughout the track.  Of even more value, though, they have new interviews with the screenwriter, the actors who played the two good kids, the actor who played "the blue man" and a visit to the original filming locations.  And I was very happy to see they threw in the original adaptation of King's short story, Disciple Of the Crow, a short film from 1983 that was originally released on VHS as part of The Nightshift Collection.  It's presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p and does not appear to have been restored in 4k like the feature, but it looks a lot better than a VHS rip.  It's a lot lower budget, cruder and under 20 minutes long, but it's creepy enough and I daresay better than some of the later CotC sequels.
The UHD doesn't have anything the BD 2017 release didn't have, but it keeps everything.  And both releases come with a full-color 28-page collectors' booklet, in a slipcover with reversible artwork.  For whatever mysterious reason, you definitely can't seem to keep this series of films down, but it seems like this will be the final, definitive chapter on this film for a good long time.

Naked Lunch, On the End Of Every 4k

I've been waiting for this.  Naked Lunch is one of David Cronenberg's absolute best, meeting perfectly in the middle between his classic early horrors and his more ambitiously mainstreams later work: the best of both worlds.  And Criterion's blu-ray has served me well.  But this film has been crying out for a while now to get a taste of the 4k world, and hopefully some fresh special features.  Arrow heard.  I pre-ordered their limited edition the day they announced it, so now let's see what they were able to do.
I generally prefer Cronenberg's original works to his adaptations, but that's another way this film manages to be the best of two worlds.  Naked Lunch is a fascinating exercise, as it adapts little of William Burroughs' book (although, yes, "the talking asshole" is present), taking large swaths of content from Burroughs' other writings, his personal life and Cronenberg's own imagination, resulting in a wholly original work that keeps the spirit of the original work but also does its own thing.  Peter Weller (Buckaroo Banzai, Robocop) is surprisingly effective as Burroughs' alter ego, Bill Lee, and he manages to keep the amazing supporting cast from running away with the show.  There's Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Cronenberg all-star Robert Silverman and Roy Scheider as Burroughs' recurring villain Dr. Benway.  The sets are exotic and the special effects are as seductively real as they are grotesque.  Howard Shore composes a dark, almost sinister score offset with period jazz performed by Ornette Coleman
You had to import Naked Lunch on DVD until 2003, when Criterion gave it its US debut as a 2-disc special edition.  Ten years later, they released the blu-ray edition, with all the same content fit onto a single, dual layer BD disc.  Another ten years now and it's the UHD era.  The baton has been passed to Arrow, who've restored the film in conjunction with Turbine (who are releasing their own UHD concurrently in Germany) in 4k from the original camera negative with a whole new batch of special features in a fancy, limited release (with a standard edition sure to follow).
1) 2003 Criterion DVD; 2) 2013 Criterion BD; 3) 2023 Arrow UHD.
Criterion's master, which seems to be the same in 2003 and 2013, is taken from the 35mm interpositive and framed at 1.78:1.  Arrow's looks surprisingly close to the Criterions considering it's 20 years later, in higher resolution and taken from a better source.  Don't get me wrong, it's an upgrade; just not the eye opening revelation I was expecting, which I believe says more about the quality work Criterion did the first time around than any kind of knock on Arrow's.  Arrow have matted the film to 1.85:1, also drawing in additional slivers on the left- and right-hand edges (notice we get a bit more of the "A" in "BENWAY" in the window of the first set of shots), and the screenshots naturally appear darker here as their edition has Dolby Vision/ HDR10.  The UHD's higher resolution certainly preserves rounded edges that turn into pixelated blocks on Criterion's BD when you zoom in, and the colors look more naturalistic and draw you further into Cronenberg's mysterious tones - the reds are particularly strong.  I was a little surprised by the softness of the grain, but otherwise, it's a consistently moody and attractive image.

All three editions feature the original stereo mix, in DTS-HD on the blu-ray and LPCM on the UHD.  Arrow has also added a 5.1 mix in DTS-HD to their disc.  And all three include optional English subtitles.
Both Criterion releases contain exactly the same special features, which are rather excellent.  First, there's a terrific audio commentary by Cronenberg and Weller, recorded separately but edited together.  This works out well, each filling in each other's dead space and complimenting what the other is talking about.  Cronenberg naturally has more to say and gets more airtime, but supplementing that with Weller's own thoughts fills the length of the picture perfectly.  There's also a vintage television documentary called Naked Making Lunch that manages to get more in-depth than your average DVD supplement is able to, covering a lot of Burroughs as well as the filmmaking.  The original EPK featurette is here, too, as well as a couple minutes of bonus on-set B-roll footage.  There's over an hour of Burroughs reading from his book, a whopping ten stills galleries (broken down by subject), the trailer and two TV spots.  There's also a 32-page booklet with essays by three critics and one by Burroughs himself.

Arrow basically throws all of that away (perhaps Criterion are planning their own UHD... at any rate they rarely tend to license to Arrow) and starts from scratch.

Before Criterion brought Naked Lunch to the US, I used to have a Japanese DVD, which had an audio commentary by Cronenberg himself.  It was rather good, though it was prone to gaps of dead air.  But then, two thirds of the way through or so, he goes silent for a long time.  Like really long, until he's not saying anything else until the end of the film.  He basically stops talking at the 1hr 8 min mark, comes back for a few sentences literally 20 minutes later, until he's never heard from again.  I have a very faded memory of someone who worked on that DVD jumping onto a DVD forum (maybe mhvf or dvdmaniacs) and explaining that one of the tapes they recorded Cronenberg on got lost or damaged, so there was more commentary, but it's lost to the world.

Well, tuning into this Arrow UHD, I believe I've been reunited with that commentary.  It's good with bouts of silence, and then it arbitrarily ends with a long way still to go.  Somebody at Arrow really could've done us the courtesy of adding a little beep or clue that the commentary is over, and not just in another one of Cronenberg's lengthy silences, so we're not left sitting there watching the movie in dumb, abject silence, waiting for content that's never coming back.  But, still, the first half of the commentary is good, with Cronenberg explaining his thoughts and experiences adapting Burroughs, so it's better to have it than nothing, but it isn't a patch on Criterion's commentary, which is 100% the go-to Naked Lunch commentary.
Anyway, it's not an option because we say goodbye to the Criterion commentary, as well as Burroughs reading from his novel, the featurette, the B-roll, the TV spots and the many galleries.  But in addition to the old commentary, Arrow has come up with a lot more to take their place.  For starters, there's another audio commentary, this time by two experts, which is a little informal for my tastes, but they do bring in some good information about Burroughs' writings, and what is/ isn't the same in the film.  And there are excellent, all new on-camera interviews with producer Jeremy Thomas, Peter Weller (who's very invested in Burroughs and talks for over an hour!), DP Peter Suschitzky, effects artist Chris Walas and Howard Shore.  There's a critical visual essay (which has some fun insights into the connections between this and the nearly Cronenberg-directed Total Recall), an interview with an expert on Burroughs' life and a fascinating talk with a musical expert who analyzes Shore's score... though he starts by rather confidently and I daresay incorrectly analyzing the film itself.  Like that Room 237 documentary taught us, there are always people with alternate interpretations of our favorite movies, I suppose.  But once he gets into the score, which is the bulk of the talk, he's incredibly knowledgeable; I learned a lot.
1) 2013 Criterion BD; 2) 2023 Arrow UHD.
Arrow also has the trailer, a couple of their own stills galleries and yes, Naked Making Lunch is back.  But they didn't just port it over, they restored it in HD and put back the opening that Criterion's version turns out to have been missing.  The booklet's 'About the Transfer' page doesn't get into the special features, but this is clearly a fresh scan, which corrects Criterion's interlacing and really cleans up the picture.  The aspect ratio is 1.33:1 on both, but Arrow's pulls out to reveal more picture (i.e. we can now see David's microphone on the left).  Both versions still have lossy audio and no subs, but it's a serious improvement in terms of PQ.  And on the Arrow, its director even gets to do an audio commentary.

And besides all that, as you can see pictured higher up the page, Arrow's limited edition is packed out with swag.  It comes in a hard box (and, if you ordered direct from Arrow, there's a variant "Original Artwork" slipcase) with reversible artwork in the amary case.  And there's a double-sided poster, an 80-page full-color bound booklet, six postcards, replicas of two business cards and a boarding pass.  Plus there's Arrow's usual film card for an upcoming release - mine was 1963's Horror, a.k.a. The Blancheville Monster, which will apparently be coming out later this year.
So, Arrow's is obviously now the definitive edition.  You might want to hang onto your Criterion for the exclusive features, but, as superior as their commentary is, and nice to have the other odds and ends, by the time you've worked your way through all the Arrow extras, I don't think you're really missing out on any anecdotes or insights.  All of these extras repeat the same stuff a lot.  Criterion's commentary is a more pleasing listen, but at the end of the day, Arrow gives us all we need and more.

House On Haunted Hill '99

Just thought I'd squeeze in a catalog title during a quick break between all these new releases.  This is one where, just going over my own site here, I was surprised to realize I hadn't already covered it.  I've done the original House On Haunted Hill, and I actually had the cover scans and screenshots from this version sitting on my hard drive for years.  I'd compared the DVD and Blu-ray for my own edification, noting the aspect ratio shift and which extras had been carried over from the new to the old edition.  I just never... wrote it up.  Whoops.  Well, it still definitely deserves to be up on this site, so okay, here we finally go.
House On Haunted Hill '99 is the first feature from Dark Castle Entertainment, a production company dedicated to remaking William Castle films, though they only did this and Thirteen Ghosts before branching off into other projects.  And sure, remaking William Castle at the on-set sounded like a terrible idea, and I can't say I was a rush to watch this when it was announced.  It's only thanks to the fact that us horror fans ultimately wind up watching everything that I did wind up catching this in theaters and being surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
Because, actually, William Castle films are kind of the ideal to remake.  Because they're fun, they stand up as much or more on their premise than their execution, and yet they're not artistic masterpieces.  You know, you don't want to remake a piece of crap, because who wants to be associated with that?  But you don't want to remake the greatest works ever, because yours will always be the inferior option.  House On Haunted Hill gives you enough to work with, and enough room to innovate and build upon. It's why remakes like The Fly and The Thing work, but A Nightmare On Elm St and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, while maybe not terrible, essentially don't.  ...Although someday, I'm sure some artist with a strong vision will come along and knock that pat little theory down.  But it's a decent rule of thumb for now.
This House On Haunted Hill stays reasonably faithful to the original, not just sticking to the same premise of a group of people staying the night in a haunted house in order to claim big prize money.  They follow most of the same twists, retaining everything that worked the first time, while still throwing in enough new scares to keep you on your toes, and Geoffrey Rush not only lives up to Vincent Price's signature performance, but revitalizes his central relationship with his hated wife.  But it's also ready to replace what doesn't work, from the creaky effects and corny scares to secondary characters who could be recast and reinvigorated to advantage.  The production values have increased to give us a bigger, more impressive house and cutting edge special effects by KNB and Dick Smith.  And the supporting cast here is full of noteworthy faces including a delectably vampy Famke Janssen, Jeffrey Combs in an all too small role, an admittedly slightly stiff Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher, and a surprisingly great turn by SNL alumni Chris Kattan.  The ending kind of lays an egg, going a couple twists too far and throwing in a cheese-ball CGI climax.  But by then, you've had so much fun, how can you not forgive it?
So, House On Haunted Hill's history on home video is pretty short and simple.  Warner Bros released it as a new release in 2000 (yes, it was a snap-case) as a pretty rewarding special edition DVD.  And that was basically the whole story until Scream Factory eventually snapped it up and gave it an even full Collector's Edition blu-ray in 2018, just in time for Halloween.  And it's still the go-to release to this day.  So let's see how much Scream improved things.
2000 Warner Bros DVD top; 2018 Scream Factory BD bottom.
Enough time passed between the two that Scream Factory didn't just try to slap the old DVD master onto an HD disc.  Scream has given us a new 2k scan from "the original film elements," which clearly means not the negative (or they would've said so), but definitely an upgrade, though even the DVD was anamorphic and quite respectable.  The first thing to note is that the aspect ratio shifts from 1.78:1 to a more accurate 1.85:1, tightening up not just on the top and bottom, but on the left.  Colors have been re-timed, and while it can be subjective shot to shot, overall, I'd say they're more distinct and attractive on the blu.  It's certainly a boost in resolution, with small detail cleaning up nicely.  Film grain is soft, there's still room for further improvement in the 4k era, but it's a welcome step up from the DVD.

Both discs offer the original 5.1 mix with optional English subtitles.  The DVD also has French subs, and the BD bumps the audio up to DTS-HD.
Now, as I said, the special features were already pretty nice on the DVD, starting with an enthusiastic audio commentary by director William Malone with a lot of good information about the filming, earlier cuts, etc.  There's a great 20-minute featurette comparing the remake to the original, and a series of very short featurettes detailing each scary set-piece in the film, centered around an on-camera interview with Malone intercut with clips and behind the scenes photos.  There are four deleted scenes, including a whole excised subplot featuring Debi Mazar, so it's surprising those got cut.  And all those deleted scenes are introduced by Malone.  Plus, there are trailers for both House On Haunted Hills and a highlight reel from Malone's early film, Creature.

Scream Factory keeps all of that except for the trailer of the original House and the clips from Creature.  But they've added brand new on-camera interviews with Malone, composer Don Davis and effects supervisor Robert Skotak.  Plus they've added three stills galleries and two TV spots.  Scream's release also comes with reversible artwork and a slipcover, plus a poster if you ordered directly from Shout's site.
So at the end of the day, this may not be a showroom floor release, but it's a fun, all-around BD of a fun all-around film.  Even the DVD was good, but this is worth the upgrade.  Yes, there's room for further improvement with a stronger scan and maybe some cast interviews.  But short of a full-blown 4k restoration - it's likely the case that they're just working with an older DCP with finished digital effects, so grain detail and such is just what it is outside of an all-out reconstruction - it's unlikely anyone will be going back to the well for this little flick.  And it may not be a classic, but it's one that deserves a spot on your shelf.