88Films' Slaughterhouse Finally in Widescreen! (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Slaughterhouse was a horror movie staple for me back in the 80s VHS rental days; I used to love the tagline on the box: "Buddy's got an axe to grind... a big axe." And I was psyched when it finally came out on DVD in 1999, from the too short lived Power 13 cult label, as a loaded special edition. Many of the biggest, most famous horror titles weren't getting the kind of bonus feature treatment this nutty, offbeat slasher got. And I was just as psyched 15 years later when I saw 88Film's trailer announcement that they were finally releasing this in widescreen on blu-ray.
This isn't one of those films that doesn't deliver what you see on the box.
Slaughterhouse isn't a great horror film, it's full of poor acting and lame characters. But it's also got a pair of fun villains, some genuinely funny lines, a rockin' soundtrack and a lot of effective, well crafted horror scenes with cool atmosphere in an ideal location. See, old man Bacon won't sell his dilapidated slaughterhouse to the big industrial guys, but it looks like the law is going to finally force him out because he hasn't been able to keep up with his taxes. Meanwhile, a bunch of typical 80s horror teens, played by typical 80s twenty-somethings, keep sneaking onto his property and getting killed by his psychotic, squealing son Buddy. That seems like a problem at first, until Les decides he could make this situation work for him by luring his competitors into Buddy's deadly sty. It was certainly never the kind of film to cross over to big, mainstream appeal; but if you enjoy 80s horror, you're sure to get a kick out of Pig Farm Massacre (as it was released in Germany).

But whether you got the German Pig Farm disc or the original Power 13 DVD, it was just an old fullscreen transfer in serious need of an update. And that's what 88Films has brought us, so let's see how they did.
Power 13 DVD on top; 88Films blu-ray on bottom.
It's night and day! And I don't just mean that because one is brighter than the other, although the new blu-ray transfer is definitely darker. Some of this will just come down to personal preference, but overall for me, the DVD looks faded and washed out, so I prefer the blu's deeper blacks. Of course, it helps immeasurably that the blu is also in its proper widescreen aspect ratio. The DVD is open matte, so at least we weren't losing much picture; but it was obviously meant to be matted to widescreen. Here it's 1.78:1 to fill your widescreen TVs, which still gives us a sliver more picture than the 1.85:1 it was probably framed for originally. And if you look carefully, there actually is more info on the sides of the blu.
Power 12 DVD on top; 88Films blu-ray on bottom.
There are also flecks of dirt and scratches on the print that aren't on the DVD's, but they're tiny and only last a few frames apiece. It's obviously not some super high budget Sony restoration, but it's also no "grindhouse print," a la Code Red. Basically, the new blu looks like film, whereas the old DVD looked like VHS. It has bolder colors and a much clearer, more streamlined picture thanks to the HD upgrade. It's still grainy as hell, and soft on detail; but that presumably goes right to the film's source materials. Certainly, compared to the DVD it's a huge upgrade, and probably looks as good now as this film ever did.
And what about those extensive extras from the Program Power DVD? You'll be happy to hear that 88Films has ported almost all of them over. Some of the names have changed... what was called the Financing and Distribution of Horror Films featurette is here listed, more accurately, as simply a Jerry Encoe interview. But all that stuff has been transferred over... the deleted scenes/behind-the-scenes footage, the Rick Roessler interview, all the crazy footage of the actor who plays Buddy walking around meeting people on the street, and the multiple trailers and TV spots, including an amusing "No Smoking" one you should make sure to check out. The DVD also had a bunch of .PDF files on the disc, which included things like the screenplay and photos, which were left off; but every video extra has made the transition.

And the commentary? Well, no. But 88Film's blu-ray has an all new commentary instead. Yes, I've listened to both; it's definitely an entirely new one for the blu. The new one features the director (Roessler) and producer (Encoe), whereas the original featured the two of them plus Michael Scaglione, the production designer. So that's one more reason to pick up the blu, but also a reason to hold onto your old DVD. The blu also has reversible artwork, without the garish ratings logos they're required to put on the front, which is a nice touch; plus a two-page insert with liner notes. And it comes in a cool red case rather than the standard blue. Oh, and there's over twenty minutes of bonus trailers of titles also available from 88Films.
Slaughterhouse may not be the classiest top shelf horror movie around, but it is fun, moves at a good pace and delivers the goods for horror lovers. And this is a top shelf, must have upgrade for fans of the film. Wholeheartedly recommended.

2 comments:

  1. Just released: "Slaughterhouse, the 30th Anniversary Edition" just released on bluray and available on Amazon Prime with lots of extras. Also, the feature which is upgraded, cleaned and director approved is available on Amazon Prime and Shudder.com.

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  2. Say what? This is a streaming-only thing? And this is upgraded/ cleaned more than the 88 blu?

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