The Demon Wind Is Blowing! (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

How has this movie not been released and re-released on DVD like twenty times already?  Demon Wind is such a great, weird, cheesy, pure 80s, all out fantasy horror movie. It's clearly Evil Dead inspired, but also has enough unique stuff going for it, too. Sure it's goofy and low budget, but I'd love to see what a proper scan of this movie based on its OCN or at least a print would make this look like - that would probably make a huge difference. But that's not gonna happen until these DVD studios wake up and get into gear on this movie. Maybe it's stuck in some kind of legal copyright swamp. But at least there's a cheap-o, no frills, PAL DVD out there to tide us over. It's twelve years old, from a company called Pegasus.

Update 5/19/15 - 10/17/17: Aww yeah!  Another title rescued from the M.I.A. tag, this time thanks to Vinegar Syndrome!  This film cried out for a restoration (just look at the screenshots below), and it finally got one with their new DVD/ blu-ray special edition combo pack.
The movie starts out with an old hymn being sung over footage of an old rural cabin. Inside we meet a loving married couple who are using incantations to ward off ghosts who are talking to them, and things go immediately south for them. The husband gets possessed, and we get our first set of awesome, gooey transformations effects like 90 seconds into the film. The wife has a snow globe (literally... with a little scene inside and everything), which is apparently magic, because she uses it to blow the whole place up in a giant, blue explosion - yee-ha! Cue the opening credits.
So we meet our main characters. Our lead is kind of your average 80s straight man horror lead, and his girlfriend's kind of generic, though she immediately pulls her pants down when she walks into a diner, so she's not completely average. They're searching for the guy's father based on a dream, which yes, we get to see, where he's naked at a gas station and his grandmother's a grinning zombie. So they assemble the team: a sexist jock, a smart guy in glasses, their girlfriends and two of the most memorable characters in any movie ever: a pair of shotgun-toting, karate expert magicians!
Like, literal magicians, who enter the scene by driving into a gas station in a convertible, pulling flowers from their sleeves for the ladies, doing a stunt kick show with a beer can, and ending a fight by conjuring a rabbit. Look, that's just what happens in this movie. And it's still only the very beginning. The film really begins when they all go find the ruins of the cabin from the prologue and summon an army of demons by reading an incantation written on a wall. Evil magic kills their car batteries and prevents them from walking away, and then there's evil ghost children and then the magicians start go full action hero on a horde of zombies. People start getting possessed, a tongue shoots out of a mounted cow skull and kills a girl, they get magic daggers, a demon hangs from the ceiling waving a decapitated head... I won't get into spoilers (and there is a LOT to potentially spoil about the final third of this film!), but Hell breaks loose in a very anything-can-happen way, a la Fulci's The Beyond.
Again, you can't not see the Evil Dead in this film, but it also works on almost all of the same levels. No, it doesn't have the great cinematic touches that Raimi laced the first and especially the second film with, but it makes up for that by adding a lot of crazy, entertaining stuff. They don't have the craft of Evil Dead, but they have the content. This movie is just non-stop special effect set pieces, funny lines (even if you're laughing at them as often as with them) and ambitious ideas, and as absurd as it gets, they play it pretty straight. The special effects might strike younger audiences as dated, but they're actually quite good and, again, ambitious. You keep expecting this movie to start getting worse and let you down, but it never does. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not going to replace Hellraiser or Halloween as anyone's favorite top shelf horror film. This is from a lower shelf. But if you love crazy, gooey 80s horror, it's actually pretty great.
2003 Pegasus DVD on top; 2017 Vin Syn DVD mid; 2017 Vin Syn blu bottom.
Unfortunately, Pegasus's DVD is not great at all. It's a soft, fuzzy, full screen thing that looks like it's ripped from an off-the-shelf video tape. You can't even read the closing credits, the letters are so blurred together. And it was taken presumably from an NTSC source, because it's interlaced as well.  It's about as terrible as a DVD can be.  And in stark contrast comes Vinegar Syndrome's edition, which fixes everything!  It's widescreen, slightly matted to 1.85:1 on the blu.  Curiously, like their Undertaker combo-pack, they leave the DVD open to 1.78:1.  Anyway, it really repairs the DVD's extra boxy composition (sporting an unusually tall 1.29:1 AR).  Pegasus' framing was mostly open matte, so it's more about cropping the excessive head space, but VS do reveal a little more image on the sides as well.  On top of that, the colors are corrected, the interlacing is fixed, detail is restored... I mean, we're comparing a brand new 2k scan of the original camera negative to a DVD that didn't even port a VHS correctly, so it's an almost ridiculous comparison.

There's a slight hiss behind the DVD's audio, but it's actually surprisingly clean considering what the film looks like. Unfortunately, that hiss has been preserved and even gotten a bit worse on the blu's DTS-HD 5.1 mix.  The picture looks immaculate, but the audio track's definitely a little rusty.  It's loud and all the music and dialogue is perfectly discernible, but that hiss is very noticeable even for casual viewers.  Vinegar Syndrome have added English subtitles, though, which is a plus.
Of course, the UK DVD had zero extras, not even a bonus trailer for some other unrelated flick Pegasus was selling.  But Vinegar Syndrome has assembled a a bunch of neat stuff.  First off are three terrific, new on-camera interviews with the producer, Sandy Horowitz, who talks about how this film was made in almost back-to-back with Twisted Nightmare, the cinematographer Thomas Callaway, and actress Sherry Leigh, who you may remember from Slaughterhouse.  Then there's an audio interview with the film's editor Christopher Roth, who talks about some of the struggles the production had.  Finally, VS throws in a nice stills gallery and the original theatrical trailer, which is also restored in HD.  The case includes reversible artwork, and the first 3000 copies come in a super cool, lenticular hologram slipcover based on the old, also hologramatic Paramount VHS cover.
As shoddy as the DVD was, you kinda had to get it anyway, 'cause Demon Wind is too much fun to let rot away in obscurity. But now you can just throw those suckers out, because Vinegar Syndrome has given this film better treatment than it deserves.  Okay, the audio's a little hissy, but basically this is everything horror fans could have hoped for, and I daresay more than any of us would've expected.  I mean, who would've imagined the day when Demon Wind's cinematographer was telling us about his experiences on location in crisp HD?

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