Lions Gate's Worthwhile(ish) 6-Pack

There's kind of a bunch of these Lions Gate packs. But I'd say the After Dark Horrorfest ones are a little different, so there's really only 4 Horror Collections. And out of those, this and the 8 pack I already covered are the only two that really struck me as worthwhile. The other 8-pack simply doesn't have any titles I'd bother with . At least the other 6-pack has the second two Re-Animator movies and a bunch of Living Dead sequels, which are all fun; but there's better editions of those films out there, including some pretty loaded special editions of the Re-Animator flicks. And if you've read my piece on Return Of the Living Dead 3, all you need to know is they've got the cut version. And it's not the only cut version in that lot. So the only reason to pick it up would be that you're willing to settle for less because of the admittedly great price point (less than $1 a movie ain't bad). That first 8-pack was actually essential for collectors in that it had the best available transfer of one of its films. I mean, only "essential" to people who are already fans of CHUD 2. I think it's an amusing little romp, but I'd hardly argue that it belongs on the shelf of every true film lover worldwide. But my point is: that one offered something superior that you couldn't get anyplace else.

So this set doesn't quite qualify as "essential" by that standard. You'd have to import, but you could get every film in this set presented equally or better on other discs. But it's the only other one I rate as worthwhile because you get a good percentage of nice, OAR transfers, and a couple of them aren't so easy to track down for a decent price otherwise. But let's quit generalizing and get into it film by film.
Blood Diner) Right off the bat, this is probably the title most people were after this set for. It's Jackie Kong's wacked out horror send-up, which starts off paying homage to Blood Feast and just gets weirder from there. The premise, that two killers are turning their victims into food for an unsuspecting populace, has been done to death; but how many of them had its killers taking orders from a floating brain in a jar determined to resurrect a five million year-old goddess? I saw this as a young teen, and that's probably the perfect age to see it. Really silly humor and over the top violence that felt rally outrageous at the time made it a favorite back then. Now it still makes me smile, but it's hard to say how much of it nostalgia vs. anything really holding up. Either way, though, it should at least bring some smiles.
Look how nice and widescreen it is. And it's the uncut version. This hasn't been released in the US at all, outside of this set, much less anamorphically. It's got a little interlacing problem, but Americans should just feel lucky to get this at all. And even compression-wise, well, at least this is just 3 films per disc as opposed to 4, and sans extras.

Update 10/3/16: Americans just got luckier! Lions Gate has released this as a fancy special edition blu-ray as part of their new Vestron Video line-up.  Check out a comparison between the two releases here, as Blood Diner has just been upgraded to its own solo post8)
Parents) I'm a big fan of Bob Balaban as an actor; and thanks to Parents, as a director to. Premise-wise, this isn't so far removed from Blood Diner, actually. But tonally, it's very far away. This film tends to get pushed as a comedy, thanks in part to star Randy Quaid, but apart from a few moments, this is really more just a dark... weird movie.  It's closer to Blue Velvet than Vegas Vacation. So people who came into this film expecting big, Family Film laughs were quite put off and this film kinda flopped. But if you're ready to explore the gruesomely nightmarish side of life that bubbles behind the 1950s sitcom veneer, Parents is actually quite a good, underrated film, and probably my main reason for picking up this set.
Pow! Anamorphic widescreen again! And it's a sweet upgrade, as this film was originally released as a no-frills fullscreen disc. It was also released widescreen as part of a double-feature disc, paired with the Ally Sheedy thriller Fear; so I guess you could kinda go either way. Regardless, it's swell to see here.

Update 3/3/17: And just with like Blood Diner, Lions Gate has now released this as a fancy, new special edition blu-ray in their Vestron Video line-up.  Check out a comparison between the two releases here, as Parents has just been upgraded to its own solo post, too!
Earth Girls Are Easy) ...Is a horror movie? I don't think so. But putting that aside, it is a fun, silly comedy with a big cast including Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey, Geena Davis, Damon Wayans, Charles Rocket, Michael McKean and of course screenwriter Julie Brown. A trio of goofy space aliens crash-land on Earth, but it turns out if you shave them and teach them English they become great boyfriends! It relies too much on the fish out of water in modern society schtick, but it's an upbeat, not at all horrific, romantic comedy with bright colors, musical numbers, and some genuinely funny moments.
Horror Collection on top; 1999 special edition below.
This set even does 2.35:1 correctly! Very nice. I mean, okay, the film's single DVD release does handle the compression better and is a little more defined. If this is one of your favorite movies and you've got a really large television, the difference might matter to you. But it's a pretty decent match unless you're really getting in there to examine those screenshots up close. I should stop to say, though, that this set still includes the movies only. The cover shows a picture of the Earth Girls Are Easy special edition DVD cover, and Film Aficionado insists on listing this as "Special Edition," but to be clear, none of the extras are here. If you want the complete package with the skits, behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes and deleted scenes, you have to actually get that Special Edition DVD elsewhere. But the movie itself is using the same root, widescreen transfer.
Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat) Ah, this movie's so much fun. I still think the Waxwork movies are the peak of Anthony Hickox's career, but I'm sure a lot of cult audiences would argue for this one. It's a character actor's wet dream with an all-star B-movie cast, including Bruce Campbell, David Carradine, Buck Flower, Brendan Hughes who'd just starred as the steamy vampire in To Die For the year before, M Emmet Walsh, Twin Peaks' Dana AshbrookJohn Ireland... oh man, it's endless.  It's one of those movies where everybody's somebody, and there's a whole lot of everybody. A family man brings his family to a small, isolated town that seems to be locked in the times of the old west. That's because its inhabitants are all vampires who've been alive for hundreds of years. They sent for him to help them with a machine to make synthetic blood so they can live amongst the humans without eating them. But unfortunately for them, there's also an uprising of bad vampires that want to take over and continue sucking blood. Oh, and Van Helsing's bumbling ancestor shows up to take (s)take down all the vamps, too. It's certainly light-hearted, but thanks to some excellent performances and direction manages not to get too silly and remains an engrossing story all the way to the end.
But you're probably noticing that these screenshots look pretty square, right? Yeah, this is the one film this set gets wrong. Lions Gate had already released this in its proper, widescreen aspect ratio on a really nice special edition DVD. LG gets, and deserves, a lot of flack for locking away their catalog in a vault to rot; but they did right by Sundown. On this set, however, they went backwards to fullscreen. Either they were just clueless (very likely) or maybe they didn't want to undercut sales of their special edition and force fans who got this set to still seek the other edition out (also pretty credible). Either way, let's compare screenshots with that edition and see how this film should look.
Yeah, I mean, the fullscreen transfer isn't even open matte. They've just chopped off the sides. And seeing as how this is 2.35:1, not 1.85:1, that's a lot to chop! Couple that with the fact that the special edition has a good commentary and some great interviews, and the special edition is essential. You can't make do with this. They might as well have just left this film off if they were going to just treat it like this. Oh well. It's still just one out of six they botched, which is the best average they've got going in this series.
Fido) I'd heard good things about this one when it came out, but never actually watched it until I got this set. It's set in an alternate timeline of the 1950s, where Romero-style zombies exist and humans have managed to incorporate them into normal life. They can even be pets! It stars the excellent Dylan Baker, Carrie-Anne Moss and believe it or not, Billy Connolly as the titular zombie. This is not really a horror comedy so much as a comedy-comedy which just happens to have signature elements and references to horror movies, but it's still plenty fun. It's a little too breezy and superficial to start to work on the level of Parents. But for a movie made in 2006 that's still riffing on the same recycled zombies clichés, it's a lot better than you'd expect.
Yay, 2.35 again! Although with newer films like these, I don't imagine fuzzy, made-for-square-TVs junk transfers were even created. Someone would have to have not just been careless but go out of their way to deliberately screw with this movie to present it wrong. But with Lions Gate, you never know. So I'm here to tell you, it's nice and OAR. Like Earth Girls, this does look a little splotchy up close, though, but that's what you get when compressing three movies per disc. Anyway, most viewers probably won't notice it in motion unless they're actively looking for it.
Boy Eats Girl) After a modern day zombie parody that manages to avoid feeling like a bunch of canned, recycled attempts at laughs, here's one that... doesn't avoid that. This is a 2005 Irish zombie comedy that pretty much steps in every puddle you expect it to. It's not badly executed, so the characters and action are still at least mildly engaging, but the more zombie films you've seen, the more you're just going to feel like you've seen this one all before. This would be fresh and imaginative if we hadn't had decades of filmmakers come up with all of these angles and variations on the same source material before. Basically, a teenage boy falls in love and then dies. He comes back as a zombie, and a zombie outbreak ensues, but he still loves his girl. This movie's just counting on its audience having never seen anything from Return of the Living Dead 3 to Shaun Of the Dead or My Boyfriend's Back (another one by Bob Balaban) to enjoy this one. And if you haven't, you'll probably find it pretty fresh and novel. Otherwise, it's not terrible but... you'd be better off just watching something else.
So, I'm not big on the movie. But the transfer's nice and widescreen again. As a newer film, like with Fido, I'm sure nothing but OAR exists for this. So at least if you're gonna watch this, you'll be seeing it properly. I will take this last moment to point out that you will come across the occasional ghosting frame like in this screenshot above. And not just in this film. I don't know if it's a conversion thing or what. But it's pretty common on DVDs from various studios, and it's just an intermittent thing, so I guess it's no big deal. But there it is, just FYI.

So there you go. I pretty much said it all. The last one was more essential by having an exclusive transfer. But this one is a nice collection of mostly strong transfers including some titles you'd have to import to match. And there is no special edition of Blood Diner or Parents, so you're not missing out on any extras there.  No longer true; check out their Vestron blus!  Meanwhile, Fido, Boy Eats Girl, Earth Girls Are Easy and Sundown do have special editions; and at least in Sundown's case, you really ought to see it properly there. With the other films, depending how impressed you are with them, this set might just be good enough. It's earned a spot in my collection anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment