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.

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