Motel Hell's New 4K Steel

I've been meaning to dip into a few more of these region A vs region B comparisons, especially after that period where it seemed like Arrow was releasing nearly simultaneous UK releases of all the major horror titles US labels were putting out. All of us region free collectors were suddenly faced with a tough choice: which one's the best to get? Now, the releases of today's film, Motel Hell, weren't quite simultaneous; they were a year apart. But if you followed this stuff, you already knew about the second one by the time the first was available. So... which is the best to get?

Update 3/12/16 - 10/13/20: Ah. Well, that question just got a whole lot easier to answer.  This week, Scream Factory is reissuing Motel Hell in a fancy new steelbook.  But more importantly, they've given it a new 4k remaster.
It really surprises me that it took until the blu-ray era for Motel Hell to get a special edition. It always struck me as one of the most beloved modern horror films, but I guess it didn't make it onto quite as many peoples' radars as the major franchises. But Farmer Vincent and Ida were at least as memorable, and twice as fun, as Michael Myers or Jason. Still, sadly, I guess I just can't operate under the assumption that everybody's seen this, so I'll break it down real quick.

Motel Hell came right at the brink of the slasher era, 1980. And because it came so early, it thankfully wasn't so trapped by the established formula, to the point where it's not even quite a slasher, exactly. We find out pretty early on that Farmer Vincent and his sister Ida (surprisingly well played by Rory Calhoun and Porky's Nancy Parsons) are capturing motorists to make his famous meats, Sweeney Todd style. But one beautiful young lady comes along that he just can't bring himself to smoke, so he takes her into his home and everybody gets on surprisingly well. But sooner or later, she's going to find out what's in their secret garden...
This movie's a hoot. It's funny, but except for a few moments (mostly involving a pair of swingers straight out of a Paul Bartel film), never loses its dark, genuinely scary and dramatic plot. In other words, it's a horror film with some humor, not a parody. It keeps you invested by getting weirder and weirder, and has some great horror moments, including a chainsaw duel well before Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 or Phantasm 2. It's genuinely atmospheric with lots of great, creep imagery; and it's got a terrific cast of characters that make you want to revisit the film again and again. Even the swingers are pretty great; they just feel like maybe they're in the wrong movie. This film manages to appeal to all types of horror fans. Even if you don't usually like slashers, horror comedies rub you the wrong way, or you think there hasn't been a good horror film since Hammer Films went bankrupt, you probably make an exception for Motel Hell.
So, Motel Hell first hit DVD in 2002, as a barebones double-bill with Deranged as part of MGM's Midnite Movies line. Deranged [right] was cut, though, so don't bother getting the DVD for that; there are multiple uncut special editions to seek out instead.  But Motel Hell wasn't cut, and it was pretty exciting seeing it for the first time in its OAR. It wouldn't be until 2013 that MH finally got a proper special edition treatment from Arrow, and in HD to boot, as a blu-ray/ DVD combo pack. There was a parallel US release soon to follow: Scream Factory released their special edition blu-ray/ DVD combo pack in 2014. It was a tough call on which was better, but this week in 2020, Scream Factory has taken another stab at it, reissuing the film (BD only) in a steelbook with an all new 4k transfer taken from the original camera negative.
1) MGM DVD 2) Arrow DVD 3) Arrow BD 4) Scream DVD 5) Scream BD 6) Scream 4k BD.
MGM's DVD was pretty great for its time, but the new blus are more than just that the same transfer slapped onto an HD disc. Consequently, even the combo pack DVDs are a nice upgrade. The picture's clearer, less contrasty, and even though all six discs letterbox the film to 1.85:1, they new releases have a sliver more picture along the edges. The colors are more natural, too.  Look how green their motel room looks on the MGM DVD compared to the other shots in the first set. Also, yuck, the old DVD was interlaced, a fate which Arrow and Scream both escaped, even on their DVDs. Then, of course, the blu-rays are both sharper and better defined than their DVD counter-parts.
Arrow blu left; 2014 Scream Factory blu right.
And compared to each other? They're nearly identical, both apparently using the same transfer given to them by Universal. Getting in close, though, Scream's blu is a little smoother, and Arrow's grain looks a little more natural, possibly having a minuscule amount of extra detail. Scream Factory may've used a pinch of DNR, or it might even be down to just compression. I also noticed both blus have sporadic white speckling (see the earlier shot I posted of Nina Axelrod mourning at the grave site, it's right there on the cross). You'd think at least one of the labels would've gone in and taken those out, since it's a relatively easy fix. But it's also a very minor flaw. So, as far as the transfers go, I give the win to Arrow, but it's close enough to be a tie to most viewers who likely wouldn't even see the distinction on their televisions. But it is there.

But it's a much more obvious win for Scream Factory now in 2020.  For starters, while it's still matted to 1.85:1, this image pulls back to reveal of the image more around all four sides.  And while Arrow initially beat Scream in terms of grain and fine detail, this new 2020 scan clarifies even more detail and really captures the fine grain from the negative.  It's still a little patchy at points, strictly speaking, but it's about as good as you could reasonably hope for outside of a UHD disc.  The first thing you'll probably notice is now much brighter the highlights are, but overall the colors are bolder and more distinct, while blacks stay black and shadows are keenly rendered.  It pops when it's supposed to, but the suspenseful night scenes are as effectively creepy as ever.

All the blus just have one HD audio track: the original stereo 2.0: lossy on the DVDs, LPCM on the Arrow, and DTS-HD on the Scream Factories, and they all provide optional English subtitles.  It sounds like Scream has remastered the audio a bit in 2020, too, though, since their new DTS-HD sounds a bit bolder than before.  The one thing the MGM DVD has over the others is foreign language options, with additional Spanish and French dubs and Spanish and French subs.
Extras are where things get interesting. The old MGM disc had nothing, except for the trailer. But Arrow came up with a lot, including an audio commentary with director Kevin Connor, moderated by Calum Waddell. It's a good and lively discussion, that stays nicely focused on the film on-screen, though a lot of energy gets lost debating whether the film has a political or environmental message (the director says it doesn't, and that's that). Then there's two cheerful on-camera interviews with cast members Paul Linke and Rosanne Katon, which I'd say are the disc's highlights.

Next up [here comes a wee tangent] is a featurette I liked more in concept than execution, called Ida, Me Thy Name where women critics and horror stars talk about Ida's role in horror history. Or maybe it's just about scream queens in general, because a lot of them don't seem to have bothered to see Motel Hell, though, and just start talking about female horror characters in general, which is pretty bland and generic. And one of the critics who does stay on topic, Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg, must've only seen the film years ago and be speaking from memory, because she gets things frustratingly wrong. At one point she says, "the character of Ida in Motel Hell is the typical grotesque female you often see in horror films. She is not attractive, and therefor she is 'grotesque.' She's overweight, her hair is dirty and greasy, um, she has no redeeming features either physically or in her or her personality. And because of that, she's completely asexual and therefor she's a monster."
Now, to be fair, she's saying that filmmakers and audiences in general sees her as grotesque; she's not calling Nancy Parsons grotesque personally. But what she's saying is still so off-base about Ida. Her hair isn't dirty and greasy; she actually puts a lot of care into her hair in this movie. Seriously, re-watch the film, she's got a whole separate plot-line going with her hair: she has pig-tails, then she braids them, then she gets fancy curls... but that's detail. The point is more that she has a LOT of redeeming features in her personality. The whole movie hangs on how charming she and Farmer Vincent are; that's the movie's whole charm. How can you watch her do the "hypno-high" scene with Calhoun, and then their talk about how they'll be remembered for bettering the world, and think she has no redeeming features to her personality?

Anyway, you've got that, and the actresses not talking about Ida, it may not be their fault, since I don't get the impression Arrow even told them they were being interviewed for Motel Hell. For a while there, Arrow was doing that cheap thing where they were taking one interview and cutting it up for multiple discs - how many times did we see Luigi Cozzi in front of that same part of his store/museum on every Italian horror title they released? So, Ida Be Thy Name is a nice concept, but ultimately just frustrating and unrewarding.

Anyway, that's still not all there is. Arrow also has an interview with younger horror director Dave Parker, who's a very enthusiastic fan and talks about the film's place in the genre. It's kind of interesting, and nice and short, so nice to have, though I can't say I'd ever heard of Parker before. Then they've also got the trailer, plus a nice booklet with notes by Kim Newman and a look at a Motel Hell comic book, which apparently exists. Arrow's release also has reversible artwork and one of their postcards for another title.
And finally we come to Scream Factory's extras. First of all, they ported over some, but not all, of Arrow's extras. They got the Linke and Katon interviews, which I think were the best and most important to carry over, so that's good news. Yes, they also brought over Ida By Thy Name, so you can at least sate your curiosity. They didn't use Arrow's commentary because they recorded their own, also with Connor, but this time moderated by that filmmaker again, Dave Parker.

Who the heck is this guy and why does everyone keep bringing him onto Motel Hell blu-rays? Well [tangent #2!], the film both discs keep promoting is The Hills Run Red, so I decided to check it out. It's too juvenile to really recommend, but it actually has some surprisingly good qualities and was perfectly watchable for a modern, low budget slasher, with a good concept by David J Schow and a cool performance by William Sadler. But yeah, it winds up being kinda dumb and about on par with most direct-to-video horrors. It's also nothing like Motel Hell.

Anyway, the new commentary is pretty good. Obviously, a lot of details are the same on both. Parker asks a lot of interesting questions, but unfortunately Connor's memory comes up a bit short at times and he gets a bit quiet with Parker audibly struggling to draw more out of him. I could see Scream thinking they were going to make a better commentary than Arrow's, and that's probably why they made this; but at the end of the day, I'm not sure they pulled it off. Both are fine, and neither are fantastic; it's basically a draw.

Scream comes through, though, with a new almost half-hour documentary with the film's writers and producers. A few anecdotes get repeated, but ultimately it's a fun and informative piece, up to Scream Factory's high 'making of' standards. And they've got another new on-camera interview, too, with Thomas del Ruth, the film's DP, who's quite interesting. Scream's releases also have the trailer, plus reversible artwork and a slipcover for the 2014 set, and of course a steelbook for their new 2020 disc.
It was no landslide victory, but having lived with them both for a while, I found Scream Factory's release more satisfactory. While owning them both, I'd pick Arrow's blu off the shelf just to watch the movie; but the distinction in transfers is so slim, I wouldn't go out of my way to import or double-dip for it. And adding it all up, I think Scream has the best features, thanks to them importing the best of Arrow's and creating their own. Now, in 2020, Scream's new blu doubles as both the best transfer and the best extras package, making it the easily definitive release.  And yes, sometimes it's still fun to buy both releases to have all the extras; but in this case I don't think there's any call for that.  This new 4k is all you need.

Fulci's House By the Cemetery, Restored and Delivered in 4K

In the upper echelon of spaghetti horror films is Lucio Fulci's House By the Cemetery. Consequently, there have been many releases of this film over the years. And today, there's primarily two blu-ray releases of this film, competing for the top spot: Arrow's in the UK and Blue Underground's in the US. They're both pretty fancy special editions with all unique extras, so I'm going to get in close and see which tops which in a proper comparison. I've also got the film's original DVD debut disc, from Diamond Entertainment, so we can see how far we've come. Oh, and I've also got a Mill Creek DVD from one of those 50 film sets, and Anchor Bay's 2001 DVD, so I guess I'll throw those in, too.

Update 1/24/20: It's a whole new ball game, kids, with HBtC now restored in 4k and issued as a fancy, new 3-disc BD set from Blue Underground.  I'll spoil it right up front.  There's no question it's the best edition of the film.  The only questions now are: is it superior enough that it's worth replacing a previous blu, and if you are replacing it, is there any reason to hang onto any of the older releases?

Update 10/5/20: It's a whole-r newer ball game, kids! Two major updates of the same film from the same label in the same year? Yes, it happened - HBtC is now available not just as a 4k restoration on a 1080p BD, but a proper 4K Ultra HD with HDR. 
House By the Cemetery comes right in the sweet spot of Fulci's career, and is all the better for it. Fulci had already just recently experienced the surprise, break out success of Zombie, and made pretty much all of his biggest hits in short succession immediately after, including The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, and this one right here. It stands out in being the only one that takes the time to for a slow build, creating suspense and particularly atmosphere before jumping into most of the wild set pieces that pretty much come at you non-stop, beginning to end, in those others. It's a haunted house film where the new family slowly catches onto the creepy vibes permeating their home. It's something a little different for Fulci.
That said, it's not a subtle film. Awesome special effects create gruesome kills convincing enough for the camera to linger on and ogle. A big film score, dramatic cinematography and a monster named Freudstein carry this film right out of the stratosphere. It still has one of those not entirely logical and certainly not spelled out plots that will have you guessing why characters are making decisions and things are happening. And the answer just might be nothing more than: it looks good on camera. Maybe that's all part of the fun, or maybe it's going to drive you up the wall, but nobody's going to hold your hand through it either way. It's just a crazy 80s horror with bleeding mannequins, werewolf howls taken from dusty old sound effects records, little boys dubbed by grown women, characters who may or may not be supernatural, rack focus, mysterious floating eyes, super strong bats, blood and guts. Sounds like a recipe for a great time to me.
So, yes, House By the Cemetery debuted on DVD from Diamond Entertainment group, one of those no frills grey market DVD labels that's since gone the way of the dodo. But back then, we were just happy to get the film on disc, uncut and widescreen even. But then Anchor Bay jumped in and gave it a nicer disc in 2001, which lead to a whole chain of releases from a Blue Underground reissue in 2007 to a Vipco disc in the UK, Laser Paradise in Germany, and shady grey market labels in the US like Madacy and of course Mill Creek, as part of their 2010 Pure Terror 50 pack [left]. When we got to blu-ray, Blue Underground tackled it first in 2011, followed shortly by Arrow in 2012. Other labels have issued it in their own countries since (Shock in Australia and XT in Germany), but most international buyers were probably deciding between the Arrow and BU.  I say "were," because this year, Blue Underground has reissued it first as an updated, 3-disc limited edition set based around a fresh 4k restoration of the film, rendering everything that came before it more or less obsolete.  And then, just now, they've issued it yet again as a full on 4k Ultra HD, rendering even that obsolete!
1) Diamond 2000 DVD; 2) Mill Creek 2010 DVD; 3) Anchor Bay 2001 DVD;
4) Arrow 2012 DVD; 5) BU 2011 BD; 6) Arrow 2012 BD; 7) BU 2020 BD; 8) BU 2020 UHD.
So, where to begin. Despite 10 years and many improved DVDs in between them, Mill Creek hasn't improved on the old Diamond disc. They've both got this sickly greenish coloring (though Diamond's is slightly better in some shots), but at least they're 2.35:1. Well, almost... Diamond is 2.25 and Mill Creek is 2.22:1; but regardless, they're non-anamorphic tiny little images floating in the center of your screen, and interlaced to boot. The blu-rays are a comparative revelation, with the Anchor Bay DVD splitting the difference.  It's anamorphic and non-interlaced, with more clarity than the previous discs, but it's still got that greenish color timing and of course standard def compression. The Blue Undergrounds actually are 2.35:1, while Anchor Bay and Arrow's are even slightly wider at 2.39:1.
ltr: BU 2011 BD, Arrow 2012 BD, BU 2020 BD.
Beyond from that, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the initial blus apart. BU's blacks are a hair darker, but I could only tell when I got them into this direct side-by-side comparison. They also suffer from the infamous scanner noise that was plaguing HD transfers coming out of Italy for a while (BU and Arrow seem to be using the same source). It's like a light digital grain floating on top of the actual film grain, giving everything a more static-y feel. I mostly noticed it on tight close-ups, giving a macro-blocking effect to peoples' skin. I've circled a couple egregious spots on Arrow's blu, above.  Thankfully, of course, BU's 2020 blu-ray clears that right up, giving us the cleanest, most naturally filmic presentation we've ever seen.  It's got a warmer color timing, which, eh, I could go either way on that.  As you can see, though, it even restores a surprising amount of detail that was crushed in the solid black shadows of all previous releases.  It may be a bit over-blown on the bright side, but it's so much stronger in all other areas, it's hard to complain.

But like I said, "obsolete!"  It's all about BU's UHD now, so how does that look?  Well, intriguingly, its framing shifts to 2.34:1 (despite claiming 2.40 on the back cover), and that's not just a hair's difference in cropping a pixel or two on the end.  Look up at those comparisons, and you can easily see BU has zoomed in tighter and shaved off a little image along all four sides.  Why?  Well, uh, I hope they had some information that the previous blus were all mis-framed and showing too much, but I assume it was just somebody's casual judgement call.  Anyway, we're not talking about large swaths, and I can't say any of the framing adjustments are hugely offensive or revelatory once you get past the old DVDs.  And it's a minor quibble when put up against how beautiful this UHD now looks in full 4k with HDR.  Colors are vivid, the brights are toned down and more natural (revealing detail that had been flared out on the previous BD), compression is fantastic and every piece of grain is accounted for.  You'll see a bit more of a cyan push here, but it's nothing drastic that you'd notice outside of a direct comparison like this.
The DVDs, of course, feature nothing but your basic English audio stereo track, and pretty hissy ones at that. Both older blus, however, give you the option between the English and Italian (where Bob's dubbed voice is decidedly more natural) audio tracks in much clearer, more robust quality, as well as optional English subtitles.  BU has additional French and Spanish subtitles that Arrow lacks, but it has to be noted the BU's 2011 Italian track is lossy.  They fix that in 2020, though, bumping the Italian track up to DTS-HD just like the English mono, and for those less rigidly adherent to history, throwing in a new DTS-HD 5.1 remix of the English track.  And they now offer two sets of English subtitles: a faithfully accurate translation and dubtitles that match the English dub.

The UHD has all the same audio tracks and language options as the 2020 BD set, but also adds a new English Dolby Atmos track to the mix.
And of course, the old DVDs have nothing. In fact, House By the Cemetery has traditionally been light on extras. The Anchor Bay and Blue Underground DVDs only had a deleted scene, stills gallery and a couple trailers. Obviously Vipco didn't break out the goods. There's an Italian DVD with some interesting extras, but they're not subtitled, so that's no use. But when it came time for blu-ray, both companies decided it was time to stop toying around and play for keeps. Arrow's release is even a 2-disc set (technically 3, but one is just the DVD copy of the main blu), and as of 2020, so is BU's.

Blue Underground (2020 exclusives in blue):
  • Audio commentary by Troy Howarth (most interestingly, towards the end, he breaks down the differences between the original screenplay and the finished film)
  • On-camera interview with stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco
  • On-camera interview with Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina
  • On-camera interview with Dagmar Lassander
  • On-camera interview with Carlo De Mejo
  • On-camera interview with Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti, two of the film's writers
  • On-camera interview with co-writer Giorgio Mariuzzo (the best of the new 2020 stuff)
  • On-camera interview with cinematographer Sergio Salvati, effects artists Maurizio Trani and Gino De Rossi, & Giovanni De Nava, the man inside the monster suit
  • 2014 Q&A with Catriona MacColl, hosted by Calum Waddell (well shot, but nothing new)
  • On-camera interview with critic Stephen Thrower (which visits the US locations in a nice segment that's almost thrown away)
  • The deleted scene 
  • Stills gallery
  • Two Trailers and a TV spot
Arrow:
  • Introduction by Giovanni Frezza
  • Audio commentary by Catriona MacColl, moderated by Calum Waddell
  • Audio commentary by Silvia Collatina, constantly interrupted by Mike Baronas
  • On-camera interview with Giovanni Frezza
  • On-camera interview with Catriona MacColl
  • On-camera interview with with Sergio Stivaletti about directing Wax Mask[?!]
  • On-camera interview with Gianetto De Rossi, a decent little chat, but there's a much better one with him, that covers most of the same ground, on Arrow's Zombie release.
  • On-camera interview Stefania Casini, Barbara Magnolfi and Silvia Collatina. Uh, only one of these actresses was actually in House By the Cemetery (Silvia). But it makes about as much sense as interviewing Stivaletti about the Wax Mask, I guess...
  • Reunion Q&A, an almost 45 minute panel filmed at a Horrorhound convention with Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, and Dagmar Lassander. It's pretty fun, but the sound quality is awful. I had to crank up the volume super loud and even then I kept missing things that were said.
  • The deleted scene
  • Theatrical trailer and TV spot
  • Bonus trailers - this collection of 20 or so Italian horror trailers goes above and beyond your usual stash of 2-4 bonus trailers
  • easter egg: On-camera interview with Sergio Martino about Mountain of the Cannibal God
  • easter egg: On-camera interview with Luigi Cozzi about Contamination
  • easter egg: On-camera interview with Dardanno Sacchetti about Manhattan Baby
  • easter egg: an alternate take of Giovanni Frezza's introduction
  • easter egg: additional snippet Silvia Collatina's interview
  • easter egg: bonus trailer for Lady Oscar, the film Catriona MacColl says she's most proud of during her audio commentary.
Arrow's release also comes with a 20-page booklet by Calum Waddell, including an additional text interview with Catriona MacColl.  It has reversible cover art and if you ordered it directly from Arrow's site, a bonus slip cover. Blue Underground, on the other hand, keeps the packaging basic, with no insert or anything.  At least with their first release.  Their 3-disc BD set comes in a stylish lenticular slip cover, a 20-page booklet by Michael Gingold, and of course the third disc in the set, the soundtrack CD.  The UHD release is a 2-disc set, keeping all of the on-disc extras (and even upgrading the main trailer to 3840 x 2160), but ditching most of the swag, including the booklet and soundtrack CD. It does come in a slick, embossed slipcover, though.  And honestly, I prefer this more streamlined packaging.
By the way, it's the same deleted scene on all the discs. It's some additional dialogue at the end of the bat attack sequence, though we don't hear what they're saying because the sound has been lost.  And no, it has not been restored in 4k on the 2020 releases.  It's funny to see Arrow's introduction to the scene [above], saying they're "presenting here, we believe, for the first time anywhere," when it's the exact same scene that everybody had been been including on their discs for the previous eleven years!

So, Arrow's got the most stuff, though less so since BU beefed up their supplements in 2020.  And Blue Underground hooked up with Red Shirt Pictures to get some top quality interviews with pretty much everybody, including several cast members, Stivaletti and two of the effects guys. Arrow only has one exclusive interview from this film, effects artist Gianetto De Rossi. Also, the more you watch these Arrow releases the more you realize these are all interviews from their other discs. Don't get me wrong, they're not putting the same clips on multiple discs, but they're all wearing the same shirts sitting in front of the same backgrounds. Arrow clearly interviewed everybody for hours on all their films and cuts out whichever part is relevant to that movie.  If they even are.

Because that brings me to the much odder thing: how many of these extras aren't actually related to the movie. Why are there interviews about Mountain Of the Cannibal God, Contamination, etc on here? I feel like they're just trying to fill up space with whatever they had laying around in order to justify the extra disc. Then, when you watch the same actors in the multiple features (i.e. Silvia Collatina on her commentary, her interview and her portion of the Q&A), they repeat the same anecdotes each time. In other words, Arrow has a ton of filler. Not that there's nothing good on here. Catriona's always fun, and Stefania Casini was a good interview if you don't mind the fact that she has nothing to do with House. But there's no way this needed to be two discs. Add to that the irritatingly long animated credits sequences for every single supplement and scenes from the film you've just watched that appear again and again, and it winds up being a slog to get through, which would have actually been a more entertaining viewing with huge chunks edited out. Arrow's list may look more impressive, but Blue Underground's was the finer selection even in 2011. Now, in 2020, it's really no contest.
So, let's answer those questions we proposed at the top.  Is BU's new 2020 edition, while unquestionably the best edition going, superior enough that it's worth replacing a previous blu?  I would say so, yes.  If the previous blus hadn't been plagued by scanner noise, then the new edition would still be an improvement, but possibly subtle enough that many viewers wouldn't mind not quite being on the cutting edge.  More extras and improved language options?  Neat, but probably not enough for a double-dip on their own to most fans.  But the old BD's problems really push the restored, and corrected, 4k disc over the edge - you'll be glad to put that noise behind you.  And of course, if you're playing UHDs now with a 4K HDR TV, well, you've probably had the newest release on pre-order all summer already.  And if you are replacing it, is there any reason to hang onto any of the older releases?  Certainly none of the DVDs, and there's nothing on the 2011 BU BD that isn't on their 2020 (wouldn't that be annoying?).  Arrow has all the exclusives, but a lot of it's redundant in that you're just going to hear the same people say the exact same things, and a lot of it's just short-ends slapped onto the disc to fill up space.  So I'd say, unless this is your all-time favorite film and you just have to own every single scrap of supplemental content available, the new BU discs are the one and only House By the Cemetery worth bothering with anymore.  The UHD if you can play it, or the 3-disc set if you're not there yet.

A Pair of Scorpions - Bonus Scorpion! - The Carpenter

What's this?  A third in a pair??  What's happening, do the rules of this world mean nothing anymore?  Well, hey, this is childhood favorite Scorpion put out in 2011 that I've been itching to get on this site since I started.  So, bonus!

The Carpenter is a wild, direct-to-video supernatural slasher from 1987.  A young couple moves into a new home, and as they're having the house renovated, we start to learn things aren't as idyllic as they seem.  The husband's a sleazy cheat, the wife has a history of serious mental illness, and even the contractors are slackers and crooks.  All but one of them, anyway, as one carpenter is always working late and doing the work of a whole crew on his own.  Soon he's not just doing all the repairs, he's solving all the wife's troubles, including murdering whoever needs murdering.
But something's too good, or too evil, to be true about this carpenter.  Is he a madman obsessed with the young couple, a ghost determined to finish the house he could never complete in life, or all a part of the wife's mind?  It's very rough around the edges, but the script at its core is clever enough to keep even jaded horror vets on the hook.  It's tongue-in-cheek at times, with all the cheerfully over-the-top handyman-themed kills you'd expect, but the humor is never at the expense of the characters or the story.  This isn't a horror comedy so much as a legit dramatic horror with some wit, striking a tone very similar to The Stepfather, and almost as successfully.  And character actor Wings Hauser is at his best as the titular laborer out of his time and his mind.  Admittedly, this film puts a lot of weight on his shoulders, but he carries it well, delivering demented speeches over his coworkers' wriggling bodies.
The only bummer is that this is an essentially barebones DVD-only release.  Apparently elements don't exist for a blu, and even the version we have here is a composite cut.  See, when this was released on VHS, there were two versions: R and Unrated.  Whatever elements Scorpion had for their transfer was the R rated cut, so they had to cut in the unrated footage, i.e. all the best bits, from a tape.  So yes, this is the full unrated version, but SD is all we get.
2011 US Scorpion DVD.
As you can see, the film is presented as it was originally shot, in widescreen (specifically, 1.78:1), as opposed to the old 1:33 VHS tapes.  It's obvious this was shot on film, not tape, so it looks markedly better than it ever has before.  That said, there is some evident print damage, from little specks to vertical lines running through the shot and even green chemical burns.  But most of it's pretty clean, and looks like it would've looked pretty nice in HD, apart from the inserts.  Looking above here, the second shot is the main footage, while the first is from the unrated footage, which you can clearly see is from a weaker, noisier source.  Still, it's far from unwatchable.  If you got through Scream Factory's Silent Night, Deadly Night or Arrow's Hellraiser 3 without falling on the floor, you'll be fine here.  There is a noticeable shift in quality even in motion, but it's far from unwatchable.

We just get the original mono track, but that's all I'd ask for anyway, and it's a pretty clear track, with any weaknesses seeming to stem from how it was originally filmed.  You can hear the shift in quality when the scene shifts from the R to unrated footage; it sounds more echo-y and thin.  But it's still pretty clean and hiss-free.  Subtitles would've been nice, but there aren't any.
There are no extras, really, apart from the Katarina's Nightmare Theater wrap-arounds.  She doesn't have much to say even by Katarina's usual standards... her credits sequences last longer than the segments themselves, which are mostly just an excuse for her to pose holding a power drill.  The only other things on this disc are bonus trailers, not even a trailer for The Carpenter... although it's possible none were ever created, apart from those thirty-second "coming soon to home video" ads.  Anyway, this release does at least come with reversible artwork.  It's the same imagery on both sides, but allows you to hide the garish Katrina banners.
This is a real must-have DVD for me.  Yeah, this film's low budget and won't bowl you over with production values, but it's a neat little film that still manages to amuse after all these years.  I'd love to get this on blu.  If the insert footage is the only thing holding Scorpion back, hey, examples like the aforementioned Silent Night, Deadly Night show fans are prepared to accept composite cuts when they're the only option.  Score an interview with Hauser and the director, and I think you'd have a high demand title.  But until such a time, this is a staple on my shelf, SD or not.