Vinegar Syndrome Restores Sanity To the Rabid Grannies, If You Can Believe It

Rabid Grannies is a fun little horror comedy. It lives up to its title, which is a lot more than you'd expect. A snobbish, aristocratic family gathers together for a birthday celebration. Turns out they've left one out, though, who just so happens to be a Satanist. He sends the family a gift which, when opened, turns the films two matriarchs into demons. So the rest of the family must run and fight for their lives as the grannies dispatch of them in supernatural and very gruesome ways. This film's got some really nice production values, a great location, quality special effects and a big cast. The acting gets a bad rap, because this film is dubbed... and it doesn't help that everybody is playing it broad for the satire. But it's actually a pretty strong cast and a genuinely amusing script with more great kills than you can shake a stick at.  Unfortunately, it's had a tough road on DVD.

Update 12/28/14 - 1/12/15: Let's do it right.  I'm adding screenshots and details of Troma's original DVD to the comparison.

Update 11/8/23: Ah, sanity has been restored to the madness, and this page has been completely overhauled accordingly.  I've been waiting for Vinegar Syndrome to come and save the day with this title since they first started going through Troma's catalog.  Well, it took a long time, but it's finally here: Rabid Grannies restored in 4k on blu.
Troma released it in the US, but heavily edited and with an ugly. full-frame. It was released by European/ Japan Shock on identical Holland and Japan discs, widescreen and uncut, but with conspicuous, unremovable subtitles burnt into the image, and still a murky, unimpressive picture. So in 2012, I was really excited to hear that the film's original producer Johan Vandewoestijne (a.k.a. James Desert) was releasing it via his company Zeno Pictures, as a 25th Anniversary Special Edition. A loaded, 2-disc cut with a new edit of the film. Wait, what?

Here's what they said, "In the original version, the horror starts after 36 minutes. Now we made a re-edit and everything that what we called ballast is thrown out. So now the horror starts after 12 minutes. All the original gory scenes remained. We made new credits  EVERY SINGLE shot was resized to a scope version. But we made sure that during the resizing 'no heads' were cut off." Uhh, not so sure about this "re-edit" notion... But fortunately the set also includes the original cut on the other disc, so everybody wins, right?

Holy cow.

Let's start with disc 1. The discs are only labeled "Disc 1" and "Disc 2," so you have to put them in your player to find out which version of the film you're going to watch. But, that's a piffling, nitpicky criticism, no time to get bogged down in little issues like that. We've got to get to Disc 1, let's see which version it is.
Why, it's the old European Shock disc. I sure didn't see that one comin'. Literally, it's the same disc, with the same menus, features and even Shock's company logo at the start.
One of many shots only in the uncut version.
Now, previous to this edition, as I said, the Shock DVDs were the best way to go for this film. Soft and non-anamorphic with huge Dutch subtitles burned into the picture. But at least it's widescreen and uncut - a lot better looking than the muddy Troma VHS-sourced presentation. And so I suppose it's not so terrible that Disc 1 is exactly what we've had before.
And it even has a couple little extras, taken from the Troma disc. There's a very brief, three minute interview with producer Vandewoestijne full of Troma graphics and weirdo edits... but at least he's talking about the movie. And there's also an interview with the "Original R. Grannies." That sounds promising until you find out it's actually not an interview with the original Rabid Grannies stars at all. It's a silly 2 minute interview skit with a random woman Troma hired to pretend to be a rabid granny. There's also Troma's VHS trailer and a junky photo gallery.

You might recall that Troma's disc had an audio commentary as well, by writer/ director Emmanuel Kervyn. Well, that was never on the Shock discs and it's not here either. Part or all of the issue there is surely that the commentary was recorded for the heavily censored shorter cut (not to be confused with the new, even shorter cut made for this 25th Anniversary), so it wouldn't sync up here. Troma included the gore footage only as deleted scenes outside of the main film. But for this big, special 2-disc set; it would've been nice if they squeezed the commentary in somewhere.

So anyway, that was weird. They just gave us the Japan Shock disc. Okay. Now onto Disc 2 - time for that amazing new cut of the film that's going to look smashing! A brand new transfer, now in "scope," boy oh boy oh boy....
2012 Shock DVD, disc 2.
Oh yeah, now we're cookin'. It's, uh... wow. Where to start? Well, to start with, they certainly didn't go back to original film elements. No, this transfer was made using... well, the Shock disc transfer from Disc 1, I think. It looks like they just up-scaled it, so it's anamorphic now. But there's no additional detail or anything, because it's just Disc 1 ripped and encoded an additional time to make it 16x9.

'So, they literally didn't do anything to it? It's just disc 1 made anamorphic?' Oh, no, no. They certainly did... things to it. They cut about twenty-two minutes out of it, for a start. Yeah, the back of the box and the advertising all call this new cut 75 minutes, but it actually only runs for 66. Tighter pacing? I guess, but you'd have to really dislike the original to think it's a better film in this cut. Literally an entire third has been removed, often in big chunks. Sure, there's films I dislike and think the only way to make it better would be to make it shorter and shorter; but I generally don't buy those movies on DVD. Who is this set being marketed to? "If you hate Rabid Grannies, you'll hate this less. Only $25!"

They also altered the colors, often heavily tinting a scene to be a certain color. And they upped the contrast, generally tinkering around with it in an editing program like Final Cut. You could argue that aspect of things looks better. Maybe, in some shots (we'll come back to this). The boosted contrast at least makes the blacks blacker. Some shots look alright. It's not faithful or respectful of the original film; but it's not terrible work in that department.

But the framing! Oh, let's talk about the framing! Yes, it's in "scope" now, roughly 2:18.1. Of course the film wasn't shot to be screened in that ratio, so why is it now? I guess the producer (Kervyn was not involved with this release) just thought it looked better in scope, right? Actually, no, I don't think so. Another possible reason bears its head once you compare at these discs. Assuming the print was taken from the Shock disc because Vandewoestijne had no access to any film materials that the rest of us in the general public have, well, the Shock disc had huge, burnt in subtitles, right? So to get rid of those big subtitles, he'd had to have cut the bottom of the picture off!
Shock version on the left; new "scope" version on the right.
They cut off practically a third of the picture, mostly from the bottom and some from the top. I mean, I guess you'd have to give the guy a little credit just for having the gal. The sides are also padded out with slightly colored pillarboxing just to fill the screen. Er, I mean, it's in "Scope!" You'll have to travel far and wide to find a movie mistreated worse than this one is here. ...And does the new color timing really look better? Sure, the Shock disc is faded; but where did their eyes go? You can't see their faces in this new "improved" version which crushes out a lot of detail, presumably in an attempt to hide the old disc's flaws.

And the new credits they speak of are pretty immaterial... the original and new ones are both just simple white text against a plain black background. The new credits are just made to replace the lower quality of the original transfer (video shakiness and blurriness), and most of the credits have simply been removed entirely from the new version.
To add frustration to the fire, Disc 2 features a new, 37 minute "Behind the Movie" documentary. But there is no English audio or subtitling. Ahh! It looks really interesting (even though they stretch their behind the scenes VHS footage from 4:3 to 16x9); but I guess I'll never know. Oh well. As a fan of Rabid Grannies, I would actually have loved to watch that.

In 2015, I thought we were saved when Troma announced Rabid Grannies' HD debut on a new blu-ray release... until it turned out they were just releasing that awful 66 minute "producer's cut!"  That makes it one of the incredibly rare instances where the BD was actually worse than the past DVDs.  But eight more years later, and Vinegar Syndrome have done it right, restoring it in 4k from the original 35mm interpositive (yes, this film was shot on 16, but they blew it up to 35 for distribution).  I was beginning to worry that the original film elements were lost (hence the crap-sourced discs everyone had been releasing), but no, all's ended well.
1) 1999 Troma DVD; 2) 2012 Shock DVD disc 1;
3) 2012 Shock DVD disc 2; 4) 2023 Vinegar Syndrome BD.

(There's no screenshot from the producer's cut here
because this shot isn't in the producer's cut.)

As you can see, and as we already knew, the Shock disc is widescreen at 1.60:1, and the Troma disc is fullscreen at 1.30:1. Troma's disc is not open matte; it's clearly chopped off on both sides. And we've already discussed how much more butchered the producer's cut is.  VS's new blu is slightly pillar boxed to 1.67:1, with more vertical and horizontal picture than any previous release.  Shock 's DVD is clearer, warmer and more distinct than Troma's, but it's not a huge gap - it's at least nice that the subtitles aren't burnt into the Troma disc.  That and the fact that Shock's DVD is non-anamorphic makes it almost a tie between the two, though at the end of the day, the purist in me has to give it to the latter.  Especially since the real Achilles' heel of the Troma disc is that it's cut, which really slices the fun out of this movie.  Anyway, it's all academic now, because VS's new blu is the clear and obvious winner, with vastly improved detail and properly delineated colors.  It finally looks like a real movie!

Every disc just has the original mono track, except the producer's cut, which boasts a new 5.1 mix we're told by Desert is "now stereo and more dynamic."  Vinegar Syndrome goes back to the mono, cleans it up (the old ones have hiss and pops) and bumps it up to DTS-HD.  None of the DVDs have any useful subtitles, but Shock has burnt in Dutch subs on disc 1 and optional Dutch ones on the producer's cut.  Vinegar Syndrome gives us optional English subtitles for the first time.
2023 Vinegar Syndrome BD, commentary transfer.

I already talked about the previous discs' extras, but Vinegar Syndrome plays to win here, too, bringing back pretty much all of the legacy features and coming up with a bunch of great new ones.  So yeah, all of the relevant Troma stuff is here.  In other words, none of the Sgt. Kabukiman-type Troma shovelware (curiously, even the interview with Dario Argento from their Stendhal Syndrome disc was on that DVD), but the Kaufman intro, the Desert interview, the outtakes and the director's commentary, which plays over the old fullscreen transfer, though VS corrected it to 1.33:1. And that commentary is actually pretty good... He comes off a little self conscious and schticky at first, and he does sometimes explain what is obviously transpiring on-screen. But once he picks up his momentum, he winds up getting pretty informative and entertaining.

Happily, the 25th Anniversary 'Behind the Movie' feature is here, too, now with English subtitles.  And yeah, Desert repeats a few anecdotes, but there are a bunch of exclusive stories and looks at the original locations, too.  He also shows and talks about his producer's cut, so if you're curious but don't want to actually buy the Troma BD to see what it's like, you can still find out here.
Forgotten Scares: An In-depth Look at Flemish Horror Cinema
And then there's all the new goodies!  Desert comes back from a new interview, which is good but a little repetitive by now.  Better, then, are brand new on-camera interviews with the editor and Lloyd Kaufman.  One good thing about the extras is that nobody's afraid to be perfectly candid.  There's a new audio commentary by The Hysteria Continues guys, which is okay.  But far more exciting is a full-length documentary on Flemish horror films.  I went in thinking, gee, Rabid Grannies might be the only Flemish horror film I'd ever seen, but no, turns out I was familiar with quite a few of them.  Anyway, it's pretty great because it makes the effort to be comprehensive, and rather than just a bunch of British film critics telling us the history, this doc finds and interviews a ton of the original directors, producers and stars (including Desert, who not only talks about Grannies but some other horror outings he worked on over the years).  Honestly, this doc would be worth the price of entry in itself.
Seriously, don't be fooled by Troma's distribution.  They've acquired a lot of movies over the years, from The Stendhal Syndrome to Lucio Fulci's New Gladiators.  They're not the same thing as original Troma productions.  This has much more in common with The Evil Dead than The Class of Nuke 'Em High or whatever.  Yeah, Desert is a little bit right that the first half hour does over-explain that every family member is out for the aunt's money, which gets a little bit tedious.  But otherwise, this is just a really good, fun horror comedy and it's finally gotten a home video release it's always deserved.


  1. The original pressing of the Shock disc had a second disc with the hilarious FORKLIFT DRIVER KLAUS short on it -- I definitely won't be dropping that release any time soon! It's a shame this title can't seem to get a fair shake -- I wonder if the materials were sent to Troma when they purchased North American rights?

  2. KLAUS is sheer genius. I have the standalone disk. A sequel came out within the past year, but I have not seen it yet.

    For GRANNIES, I went with the XT Video 2-disc edition which has 3 versions...still 2 more than I'll ever watch.

  3. And... Troma announced a Blu-Ray for 3/10/15...

    I think I'll wait for the reviews first.

    1. Yeah, crazy. I saw it like an hour after I updated this post. I *HOPE* we get a nice, HD version of the widescreen uncut version, but I'm pretty skeptical.

  4. Oh boy, Vinegar Syndrome just announced a great looking new BD of this film - hope to see you review and compare when it comes out later this month!

    1. Hell yeah! Every monthly announcement from VS since 2014, I've been checking "Rabid Grannies?!"