Spookies, Restored With a New 2k Scan?!

Today's the day I ask one of the biggest, most important questions that's been looming since I started DVDExotica: where in the heck is our Spookies special edition DVD/ blu?  And admittedly, the more visually astute among us might be looking at the graphic to the upper right there and thinking, what are you talking about, dude?  That looks like a Digitally Remastered DVD right there; what's that?  Well, I'll tell you what that is.  That's a piece of insignificant junk.  If you've ever heard of Vipco before, you don't need to be told.  But it's pretty much the best we've got.  But stick around and I'll tell you what's the deal with that disc, why Spookies deserves so much better, and how it's been sitting frustratingly on the cusp of an awesome special edition and just needs somebody to give it a little push so it can spread its creepy spider wings and take off.

Update 4/18/17 - 10/12/17: Ah yes, nothing feels better than taking a post out of the M.I.A. category (that's right, not even the sweet release of cold-blooded murder).  Would you believe that Spookies has been restored from a new HD, 2k scan of the interpositive by... Arrow?  Drafthouse?  Scream Factory?  Vestron?  Nope, keep guessing until you land on Intercontinental Film and Video, a DVD label operating out of Quebec.  No, I hadn't heard of them either; but I have the disc in hand myself, so I can assure you it's real.
Spookies is one crazy, wild 80s horror flick, even by comparison to other crazy, wild 80s horror flicks.  It features vampires, werecats, spider women, ghoulies, witches, ouija boards, grim reapers, deadites, hand puppets, muck men, zombies and more.  There are so many ambitious special effects from prosthetics and animatronics to stop motion and rotoscoped eye beams.  Everything you've ever wanted to see in an 80s horror movie is here for you.  I remember this in the VHS days, and the cover had a big splash about how it won a special effects award right on the front.  Now, I don't know if that was from a legit competition, or if it was something they made up to give themselves and market the film; but these are award-worthy effects regardless.  I mean, not Academy Award-worthy, but it sure tops a lot of its low-budget direct-to-video competition.
So don't get the wrong idea.  This is not a great horror film.  It's silly, convoluted, cheesy and makes absolutely no sense.  The writing is dumb, the acting is laughable and the editing is downright broken.  And if you're one of those people who's gonna let that stuff spoil it for you, you're not gonna dig this movie.  But oh man, is it cool!  A group of completely disparate characters decide to crash an old mansion to party, use a ouija board and bring an evil force to life, where each room is a different crazy horror experience: statues come to life, muck men in the basement, it's always a surprise.  Meanwhile, there's an old vampire magician trying to force an undead beauty to marry him and sends his henchman after a little boy on his birthday...
The reason why this movie doesn't make much sense, or at least one of the reasons, is that it's sort of two movies in one.  This movie was already filmed as Twisted Souls, and that version has never been released to this day.  Some time later, the filmmakers hired some new cast members, made some new monsters and shot a bunch of new footage.  Then they cut big chunks out of Twisted Souls to make room for the new material, and thus Spookies was born.  That's why half the main characters never even interact with the other half; it's a mash-up.  And that's the only version that's ever been released in any format to date.
Vipco's 2002 UK DVD on top; Intercontinental Film & Video's 2017 Canadian DVD below.
So Vipco has reissued this a couple times in the UK with different covers, but it's always the same disc.  It's fullframe, barebones and interlaced to hell.  I'm guessing it's taken from the old Image laserdisc and now that we have the new transfer to compare it to, definitely open matte with an insane amount of excess headroom present in their roughly 1.31:1 worth of picture.  It's dark, and while the film itself is meant to be dark, but coupled with the extra-strength interlacing, it can be downright difficult to discern what's even going on in any given shot.  It's even got the miscolorings of old school video noise.  Intercontinental's DVD, now, is matted to a slightly pillarboxed 1.74:1 aspect ratio.  It's still just a DVD (sorry folks, no blu), so it's in standard def, but the image is still much finer, thankfully free of interlacing issues, and what were once crushed blacks now reveal the image behind them.  The film's still a little soft, which is probably a combination of the film itself and the SD compression; but it's so much better than the old junker discs we've been putting up with for all these years.

Audio's just your basic 2.0 mono track with no subtitle options or anything.  That goes for both discs.  That's right, this import DVD with its French cover and French menus has no actual French language options for the film itself.  ...Not that that should matter at all to the rest of us, since this is an English language film and all.  But it's just odd.
Vipco's "extras" include one of those garbage Stills Gallery where they just take screenshots from the same low-quality transfer that's on the disc and put ugly boarders around them.  There are also bonus trailers for a couple other Vipco Screamtime Collection titles, but not Spookies' actual trailer.  Intercontinental's DVD is no special edition, but they do at least improve on Vipco.  They do include Spookies' official trailer (with French narration) and a proper stills gallery full of behind-the-scenes photos and alternate cover art.
So it's pretty great to finally have a watchable DVD of this film, in its OAR and everything.  But I can't help but wonder if this is just a prelude.  I mean, why make a new HD scan if you have no plans to release it in HD?  I mean, it does make the DVD look better; but I suspect this transfer was created for a blu-ray special edition by somebody, and it's just been shared with Intercontinental.  So maybe a fancy special edition is still pending.  The filmmakers have been vocal online about having the unseen Twisted Souls footage, so both cuts could be released; and there've been 35mm screenings with cast and crew members at Drafthouse theaters, so they're available for interviews and commentaries.  They've even gone on record as being interested in putting a special edition together.
But then again, there's also the very real possibility that this is it.  For a while, fans were assuming this was an upcoming release from Drafthouse Films, but sorry if I'm mistaken here, I think they're out of the home video business now.  They've had no releases at all this year, nothing announced, they canceled their subscription service and their social media's pretty quiet.  And that was before their ugly sexual harassment scandals with Devin Faraci and Harry Knowles.  So if this scan was created for a Drafthouse release, this DVD may be all that remains of a very dead project.  So make your own decisions, but I snapped up my copy while I could.  Because fans have been asking for this title since the early days of DVD, and it's been a long, dry wait.  If this is it, I'd never forgive myself for missing out.  And if that ultimate blu-ray edition turns out to be just around the corner, if it's one of the two secret titles in Vinegar Syndrome's Black Friday announcement, I won't mind double-dipping in the slightest.

5 comments:

  1. Agree, John, I've always enjoyed this and look forward to the day I can put my old VHS copy to dead... (it was Vipco's UK release funnily enough, probably barely inferior to the DVD you refer to in the article). The fact that the full Twisted Souls footage is out there somewhere is mouth-watering, let's really hope that one of the boutique labels decides to do this justice (on Blu).

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  2. Some time ago, I read that Lionsgate owns the American rights to this movie. This allegedly has something to do with why efforts to bring this to DVD have been thwarted, though I don't know the reason. It's almost similar to what went on for years with the American DVD release of Phantasm 2.

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  3. Thanks for the review! Really enjoy your site. Just snagged one of these on ebay and glad to find out it's a legit release with a big improvement in picture quality. Definitely cool that there are some extras as well!

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  4. It's not a "legit release" by any means. Whoever is putting this disc out does not own the rights to the property and it's not in the public domain.

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    1. Assuming that's true, that's unfortunate but not unsurprising. The "whoever is putting this out," though, is no mystery. Their official Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/FilmIntercontinental/ They talk about having DVD rights (but not blu, hence the DVD only release) in Quebec and other parts of the world like the Congo, Djibouti, Guinea, Haiti and Monaco.

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