The Most Recent Evolution In Slaughterhouse (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.

Update 2/24/15 - 9/26/18: File this under Better Late Than Never?  I've finally got my hands on Vinegar Syndrome's 2017 edition of Slaughterhouse.  88's blu was a nice, big upgrade over the old Lucky 13 DVD... could VS's blu be a similarly big an upgrade over their blu?  I've heard good things!  Let's find out.
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 brought us in 2015 with their blu-ray release.  Still, it had its own issue, as we'll explore in a minute.  So then, in 2017, Vinegar Syndrome came out with their dual release (it's a DVD/ BD combo pack) promising us a an all 2k scan from the 35mm interpositive.  So let's see if we can spot the difference, shall we?
Power 13's 1999 US DVD first; 88Films' 2015 UK blu-ray second;
VS's 2017 US DVD third; VS's 2017 US blu fourth.
It's night and day! And I mean that rather literally, as 88's blu is considerably darker and a lot bluer than Lucky's DVD.  And I don't just mean that because one is brighter than the other, although the new blu-ray transfer is definitely darker. Now, the DVD looks a bit faded and washed out, so it's not all bad.  It's nice that 88 gave us deeper black levels. But unfortunately, that also came with some significant crush as well.  Certainly, some shadowed areas are detail free on any transfer; the blacks are just replaced with milky grays on the DVD.  But in other spots, detail has definitely been lost, too.  So you can see why some fans had their concerns... Of course, the case for 88's blu is helped 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 88's blu.
Power 13's 1999 US DVD first; 88Films' 2015 UK blu-ray second;
VS's 2017 US DVD third; VS's 2017 US blu fourth.
But now let's consider Vinegar Syndrome's release.  Interestingly, the color scheme goes back to the more naturalistic look of the DVD, rather than the heavy blu of 88's release.  And it's definitely completely free of black crush, while the colors and contrast still pop considerably more than the DVD.  It's a very satisfying "best of both worlds" scenario.  The somewhat clumpy grain looks about the same across both blu-rays, probably the best you're going to get out of the IP.  And this time the blu is framed matted for 1.85:1, while still managing to reveal even more horizontal information.  I specifically say VS's blu, because they've again made the curious decision of lifting those mattes on their DVD edition, leaving that at 1.78:1.  Hey, I'm not mad at it.  Might as well give a little bonus curiosity value to an otherwise redundant and largely unwanted DVD half of a combo pack.

In terms of audio, the DVD just gave us a slightly hissy stereo mix.  88 Cleaned that up a bit and bumped it up to a lossless LPCM, while VS gives us a choice of the stereo mix and a new "Ultra Stereo" 5.1 mix, both in DTS-HD.  VS is also the only release to include optional English subtitles.
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, as well as a couple stills galleries.  But no actual video extras were lost in the shuffle.

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. 88's 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.
And what about Vinegar Syndrome's set?  They port over a lot, but not everything, and they also come up with some new stuff.  First of all, interestingly, they go back to the first commentary from the DVD, but they don't have 88's commentary.  They've also, disappointingly, lost the "Buddy On Tour" featurettes.  That said, that material isn't half as compelling as the new stuff VS has created, including a brand new on camera interview with leading lady Sherry Bendorf Leigh.  It's not terribly long, just under eleven minutes, but pretty candid and fun.  Then they've got new interviews with Encoe and Roessler, in addition to, not instead of, the older ones from the previous discs.  The Roessler one is almost a half hour long.  They've got a vintage radio interview with Roessler and a snorting Buddy, as well as some period news coverage on the film's local premiere.  And where Power 13 and 88 had about ten minutes of unedited B-roll footage, VS has over 20, plus another 3-4 minutes of outtakes.  They've also discovered some old radio spots, added a very silly "Epilogue," thing, which is about a minute-long goofy edit of Buddy running for office, and brought back the script from the DVD-Rom.  VS's release also features reversible artwork with alternate poster artwork.
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. The special edition DVD was pretty great when it first came out in 1999, seeing how packed it was with extras.  And then the 88 blu was an exciting upgrade in 2015. But since 2017, VS is easily the definitive version to own, with a far superior transfer and some more great new extras.  You might want to hang onto your 88 blu for the alternate commentary and silly tour footage; but it's not worth going back for if you missed it.  I mean, both commentaries are great, but they're largely redundant, so you only need one or the other.  Sometimes double-dipping between blu-rays can be a real perfectionist's game, but this is one instance I'd recommend it to anyone.


  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

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

  3. I noticed the streaming version had some ridiculous death metal song playing over the end credits, which were obviously newly created with bad fonts dripping blood graphics over film footage and behind the scenes images. The VS blu has what seems to be the more appropriate original credit crawl.