Away From Her and Sarah Polley's Lost Commentary

2006's Away From Here is a movie I've been meaning to cover on this site since year 1.  But every time I start capturing screenshots, I wind up re-watching the whole movie again, and then the night's wasted and I don't get it done.  But thinking about it, there really aren't that many movies arresting enough to hook me back in every time I get close to it, so that says a lot.
Away From Her is a tragic romance and the feature film debut of actress Sarah Polley as a writer/ director.  I was already a huge fan of hers in front of the camera, and we've looked at several of her films here already, including My Life Without Me and Atom Egoyan's Exotica - in fact, Egoyan also produced this film.  But seeing Away From Her had me thinking she could do no wrong.  But then her next film turned out to be a big let-down... not terrible, but writing-wise, much less mature.  Here, she's adapting a story by Alice Munro, which I think is what keeps this film so acutely on track, freeing Polley to invoke beautiful acting set-pieces from her top-shelf cast, including Gordon Pinsent, Julie Christie, Olympia Dukakis and Kristen Thomson.
Admittedly, it's not a perfect film.  Many people have rightly called it to task for white-washing dementia, a few moments are embarrassingly twee, like the comic relief retired sportscaster who roams the retirement home announcing everything as if it was a sports event, and the use of younger actors to portray the leads' past selves in silent flashbacks feels like they've been overly influenced by 2001's Iris.  And there's a distracting foot fetish reference that'll pull you right out of the film for two to three minutes.  But the flaws are few and far enough apart that they don't spoil the film.  It's a terrific story that goes in unexpected directions (it doesn't just hit the obvious notes and story points you would guess from the trailer), and while Christie cleaned up in the awards department (winning or nominated for the Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, etc), it's really Pinsent who steals the show.  Polley also got an Oscar nod for this, and while I don't actually put a lot of stock in the Academy Awards' choices, I point that out to at least show that this is much more than an Iris knock-off or Lifetime "Disease Of the Week" melodrama.
Away From Her hit DVD as a new release in September, 2007.  Another reason I wanted to cover this movie here at DVD Exotica is that fans of this movie should know that there is a distinctly different 2-disc special edition released by Mongrel Media in Canada as opposed to the Lions Gate one here in the United State, and both are very much of interest.
US Lions Gate DVD on top; Canadian Mongrel Media DVD below.
Image-wise, there's not a huge difference. The framing is identical at 1.78:1, despite the Mongrel DVD claiming 1.85:1 on the back of its case (really, how do so many major studio releases keep getting their aspect ratio wrong on their cases?).  The US DVD is a bit redder, and the Canadian's a bit on more on the yellow side; but it's very minimal.  And seriously, they both have ugly compression issues and edge enhancement... at first glance, I thought this was on standard definition digital cameras, and that's why it had never been released on blu.  But no, they used 35mm, so this could seriously benefit from an upgrade.  As it is, at least they're both anamorphic in almost the right ratio and not interlaced.

Both releases give you a choice between 5.1 and stereo mixes, as well as French subtitles.  The Canadian DVD also has a French dub and the US DVD also has Spanish subtitles.  No English subs on either version.
But here's where things get interesting: the differing special features.  The US DVD has an audio commentary by Julie Christie, where she runs low on things to say in the second half, but overall is pretty good.  It also includes the film's deleted scenes, with optional audio commentary by Sarah Polley.  Frustratingly, Polley refers back to the commentary she recorded for the full film ("as I said on the main commentary track"), but that commentary isn't on here!  The only other extras are some bonus trailers, an advertisement about an Alzheimer's fighting charity that autoplays at the start, and some paper inserts about Alzheimer's with writing by Olympia Dukakis.
The French 2-disc set does not have the Christie commentary (or the bonus trailers, ad and inserts), but it does have the deleted scenes with the optional commentary.  Frustratingly, it doesn't have Polley's commentary for the complete film, either - what the heck happened to it, people?!  But it does include a brief 'making of' featurette, the film's actual trailer (which somehow Lions Gate missed) and most notably, Polley's early short film, I Shout Love!  It's about 40 minutes and stars Away From Her's Kristen Thomson as a nutcase who forces her ex-boyfriend to reenact all her favorite moments from their relationship on video.  It's a little unbelievable how readily he goes along with it, but if you can suspend your disbelief for the premise, it's a pretty well acted and engaging entry, especially for a very young director's early work.  Unfortunately, it's non-anamorphic widescreen and interlaced to Hell, which is surprising when the film on disc 1 is presented properly.  But it's made all the more rewarding for Polley fans because, unlike the feature film, it does include an audio commentary from Polley, and it's really quite interesting.
So, it's annoying about the Polley commentary, and in order to have a substantial special edition, you kind of have to piece it together by buying the two separate releases (there's also a French DVD that apparently has some unique interviews, but I'm not sure how English-friendly it all is).  This film is in serious need of a blu-ray special edition with a fresh scan of the negatives and all the extras compiled, including the commentary and some new stuff.  It's got a lot of major awards under its belt, so you'd think there would be studio interest, but these days, if it isn't horror/ exploitation, the collector's market doesn't seem to care, so good luck.  On the up-side, though, both DVDs can be had super cheap (the US disc goes for literally a penny on Amazon), so it's really no great hardship.  And between both editions, you've still got a pretty great special edition of a terrific film... at least by old DVD standards.

The Hunt for the Definitive Black Christmas (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Black Christmas is a pretty great Christmas horror classic (I'm talking about the original, of course, not the 2006 remake). In fact, while Silent Night, Deadly Night may be the most popular of them, and Gremlins the most mainstream; I think I'd say Black Christmas is the quintessential Christmas horror flick. A smart, quality, built-to-last holiday scare that's had a long-lasting effect on the genre. Yes, this is the original "we've traced the calls; they're coming from inside the house" movie (When a Stranger Calls ripped it off from here). And it's an amusingly dark coincidence that it's directed by the same man - Bob Clark - who made one of the world's most beloved family-friendly holiday films shortly after, A Christmas Story. So, I guess it's not surprising, then, that there are a whole bunch of Black Christmas releases out there. Like a lot.
First hearing about it, Black Christmas probably sounds like a pretty generic slasher film: a mysterious killer comes out at night to stalk and stab girls living in a sorority house. But two facts should set it apart pretty quick. One, this film is from 1974, and so predating the slasher as an established genre by a good number of years (Scream Factory are releasing two important slasher precursors this winter; this and The House That Screamed), so it's not compelled to follow any of its formulas, and any slasher-like ideas it has are all fresher here. And more importantly, two, this film is smartly written, as well as being well directed and performed, which is what every film needs to be in order to rise above its contemporaries. There's nothing wrong with being a slasher, or a western, rom-com, sex farce, or any other typically dismissed genre of film so long as you've got a demonstrably good film. And that's Black Christmas: a well-crafted mystery with a strong cast including Olivia Hussey, John Saxon, Margot Kidder, 2001's Keir Dullea, Doug McGrath, SCTV's Andrea Martin, Art Hindle and a not very famous but definitely memorable Marian Waldman as the house mother.
So, like I said, there are a whole bunch of Black Christmas discs.  It first came out as a 25th Anniversary edition DVD from Critical Mass.  It was fullscreen and only had an interview with John Saxon, and that was it.  So there was room to grow.  Critical Mass's second go, the 2002 Collector's Edition DVD from Canada, was widescreen and had a bunch of great extras.  Unfortunately it was non-anamorphic and looked pretty grubby; but it became a sought after collectors' item for a long time anyway, after it went OOP with a bunch of great exclusive extras, including a commentary by Bob Clark.  In 2006, Critical Mass released it in the US with their Special Edition, which was anamorphic widescreen and had a bunch of all new extras, but none of the old ones.  In 2008 Critical Mass brought their special edition to blu-ray from Somerville House, but it caught a lot of flack.  Some other labels have released it on blu in other regions - including Cinema Cult in Australia, Happinet in Japan, Anchor Bay in Canada and Capelight in Germany - but they're all taken from the same master.  So for all the Black Christmas releases we've already got, fans keep asking for a new one.  And this December, we've got Scream Factory raising their hand to accept the challenge... can they finally deliver the Black Christmas blu-ray the people have been clamoring for?
1. CM 2001 US DVD, 2. CM 2002 Canadian DVD, 3. CM 2006 DVD,
4. CM 2008 blu, 5. SF 2016 blu disc 2, 6. SF 2016 blu disc 1.
Hoo-boy, there's a lot to go through here! Let's just start at the beginning.  The original US DVD wasn't so bad for 2001.  It was fullscreen, but at least it was open matte.  I mean, it's not too good.  It's soft and interlaced; but in 2001, they would've just about gotten away with fans only asking for OAR.  And in 2002, they gave that a shot, giving is a slightly widescreen 1.63:1, but it's non-anamorphic, still interlaced and managing to look debatably worse than the previous edition.  The 2006 DVD brings us to our most common transfer, 1.78:1 and looking alright for DVD except it's interlaced, too.  The 2008 blu, then, brings that transfer to HD, and thankfully corrects the interlacing problem; but it didn't blow up too pretty.  Apparently, the negatives are damaged.  It was an upgrade from the DVD, but nobody was really impressed.  And as I said, all the other blus used the same transfer.  The Capelight blu from Germany, not pictured here, made a slight adjustment, starting from an identical transfer, but then slightly cropping the image on all four sides in order to fix some juddering the other blus had.  Whether the loss of visual information for the steadier image was a worthwhile trade-off is entirely subjective; but hopefully Scream Factory's new blu means we won't have to think about any of these past editions anymore anyway.  Yes?
Well, being warned by Scream Factory to manage our expectations in their spec announcements doesn't fill one with confidence.  But they've done a whole new 2k scan of the negative, plus included Critical Mass's older master with no DNR or other effects on the second disc (yes, this is a 2 blu-ray set), so what we get here is probably the best we're ever going to get.  And... it looks a little better.  The CM transfer on disc 2 is 1.78:1 and looks pretty flat, color-wise, like the previous editions.  The new 2k scan is more colorful and matted to 1.85:1.  Grain looks more natural than it did on the previous blus, and as you can see in the first set of shots, they cleaned up some flecks and noise.  This is no great revelation, and not very far removed from what we've had all along, which maybe got more criticism than it ever deserved.  But that said, when picking a winner, it goes to Scream's new 2k transfer.
A more important reason to select or double-dip for Scream Factory may be the audio.  Many of the other blu-rays have only included a 5.1 mix that makes a lot of changes, replacing one sound effect with another.  I picked one scene at random (when the house mother discovers the body upstairs), just to see if I'd "land" on a noticeable difference and yes immediately, the music sting was very different.  They do still have that 5.1 mix if you want it, though; and they've got a third track - a stereo mix with the newer sounds from the 5.1 - to boot.  Scream Factory has also provided English subtitles, which the Anchor Bay blu has as well, but few of the others did.

Update 12/4/16:  I neglected to point out that the mono track has some unfortunate distortion, breaking up on the "s" sounds in much of the dialogue.  Some scenes aren't too bad and just feel a little rough; but at other points it's very noticeable and downright unpleasant.  This issue's all the more frustrating since I just went back to check it against the lossy 2008 blu and older DVDs, and none of them have this problem.  Now, seeing as how the mono is the strongly preferred way to view this film, and a substantial selling point for Scream Factory's new edition over the blus from every other region, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them offering replacement discs in the near future.  In the meantime, however, I'd still recommend viewing the film with the mono as-is rather than the 5.1, as the other mixes take those creative liberties.  I'd rather have this mono track than none at all.

Update 12/15/16: Replacement program is now on!  😀
Update 1/10/17:  The replacement disc has landed! As you can see in the photo above, the disc looks virtually identical to the initial pressing, but has a "-V2" at the end of the catalog number along the outer edge to distinguish it. The corrected audio track is a DTS-HD with the mono in 2.0, not a lossy version like the old blu-ray.  You can still hear hints of the audio cracks in this version, for example around 7:40 and 9:20 the loudest vocal peaks and hard S's still scratch a bit, but it's a vast improvement over the distortion heard on the original disc, and a very welcome improvement from Shout.
And this doesn't even count the three and a half audio commentaries on disc 1!
And jeez, I could write an entire set of encyclopedias on all the Black Christmas special features.  So I'll try to just cover everything in brief.  First of all, it comes in a slipcover, features reversible art and if you pre-order direct from Shout, it comes with an 18" x 24" poster[right].  But the important stuff is on the discs themselves.  Now, like I said, the Canadian blu used to be hard to get because it had a bunch of exclusive extras, now they've almost all been ported over to Scream's blu.  So has all the stuff from Critical Mass's blu-ray, and all the new extras Anchor Bay created for their "Seasons Grievings" blu.  That's a lot of frickin' stuff!  And, naturally, they've come up with a few new, original features, too.  Here, let me break it all down:
  • Audio commentary with Bob Clark from the Canadian DVD
  • Audio commentary with John Saxon and Keir Dullea from the US blu
  • Audio commentary with Nick Mancuso in character as Billy from the Anchor Bay blu (honestly, you can give this one a miss)
  • Audio interview with Bob Clark from the US blu (phone interview which only plays over the first half of the movie)
  • Black Christmas Legacy - documentary from the Anchor Bay blu
  • 40th Anniversary Panel At Fan Expo 2014 - from the Anchor Bay blu
  • On Screen! - featurette from an old Australian DVD put out by Road Show
  • 12 Days Of Black Christmas - featurette from the US blu
  • Black Christmas Revisited - featurette from the Canadian DVD and US blu
  • On-camera interviews with Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder - from the US blu
  • On-camera interview with Bob Clark - from the Canadian DVD
  • On-camera interview with John Saxon - the only extra from the 25th Anniversary DVD (and carried over to the Canadian DVD); only 3 minutes long
  • Midnight Screening Q&A With Bob Clark, John Saxon and Carl Zittrer - from the US blu
  • On-camera interview with Art Hindle - all new!
  • On-camera interview with Lynne Griffin - all new!
  • Deleted scenes - from multiple releases
  • Alternate credits - from multiple releases
  • Trailers
  • TV & radio spots
  •  Photo gallery
...So that leaves nothing exclusive on any other blu-ray release.  Everything from the original Critical Mass blu and the Seasons Grievings blu?  All here.  Almost all of the content from the old DVDs is here, too, but there are couple of exceptions.  The Canadian DVD had an episode of a Canadian television series called Dark Dreamers that focused on an interview with John Saxon, where he talks about his whole career.  That was not ported over, though you'll notice the Scream blu has a lot of Saxon's input in the other features.  There was also a UK DVD from Tartan that had an 8-minute featurette called And All Through the House, which toured the original shooting location and is not on here.  So if you've got either of those DVDs, you might want to keep them.  But honestly, the amount of special features included in Shout's collection is so vast and comprehensive, it'll be a feat just to watch everything they've got.  You won't need more; they also tour the original shooting location on the Scream disc.  I mean, the Dark Dreamers thing is kinda cool if you're interested in the rest of Saxon's career outside of Black Christmas, but for this movie, I can't really imagine wanting any more material than everything here.  It's overkill, and I love it.
So throw out your Critical Mass blu-rays.  Even if you prefer that older transfer, Scream's included it, too.  Throw out your Anchor Bay blu-rays; all their new content has been ported over along with everyone else's content and all new stuff.  Throw away most of your old DVDs, and really, don't bother tracking down those last couple featurettes unless you're just collecting for collecting's sake.  Scream Factory has the best transfer, the best audio options, and by far the best and most comprehensive special features.  Scream warned us to manage our expectations, but unless someone unearths some rare film elements and mounts an extensive restoration, I can't imagine anyone topping this release.  Certainly, as it stands, it is our definitive edition; Scream Factory has done it.

Return Of the Living Dead 3, Finally Done Right!! (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Most of you guys, if you've found your way to this blog, probably already know the rough deal with Return Of the Living Dead 3. The US disc from Lions Gate is cut, though with a nice widescreen print, and the UK disc is uncut but fullscreen. Director/ producer Brian Yuzna is rumored to ask a lot for his titles, so they've been slow to arrive from the labels you'd expect, like Arrow and Scream Factory. There are a few questionable blu-ray releases from Austria (upscaled, 1080i?), but there doesn't seem to have been any official new masters struck.

Update 1/1/15 - 11/22/16: Oh man, am I happy to be updating this one! Lions Gate have finally come through for this film, via their terrific Vestron line.  RotLD3 in uncut, widescreen, HD, and with all new features to boot.  Finally.
It's a charming, little movie. Unlike Part 2, Return 3 doesn't really connect to Dan O'Bannon's original, except for a few token references and the fact that it takes place in a world with a zombie problem stemming from military barrels of a gaseous chemical weapon. Some military scientists (including Waxwork director Anthony Hickox in a cameo) are performing some fun, gruesome experiments on zombies safely in the isolation of their secret bunker. But when the Colonel's son decides to sneak his girlfriend (Mindy Clarke) in for a private tour, all Hell quickly breaks out with the zombies getting loose and the girl getting infected. It was actually a pretty original take on zombies at the time (it's since been ripped off and aped a few times; and zombie premises have been pretty over-mined in general over the last decade or so), where the zombie is the heroine of a love story, struggling to maintain her humanity as she decomposes, all the while on the run from military and monster alike. Despite the premise, it still retains some of the humor but actually turns the RotLD series back towards the horror end of the spectrum. And it features a bunch of wild, creative zombie effect gags that suffer in the cut version.
R-rated on top; unrated below. has already done a perfect breakdown of what's different between the two versions, although as of this writing, all their images seem to be broken? Anyway, the screenshots above give you a quick, fun way to tell which version you're watching.  Does the zombie have a piece of the guard's face in his mouth when it looks up at 32:35 mark (30:05 on PAL)? Then it's the uncut version.  And suffice it to say, that's the one with pretty much all the best parts. Interestingly, the R-rated cut doesn't just cut stuff, but replaces most of it with alternate shots. One shot of a zombie eating its victim, for example, was replaced with a shot of a security camera recording the moment. So hardcore completists might actually want to hang onto their R-rated DVDs.  But that's not to suggest that there's any question of which is the preferable cut. While the film does a good job of interesting character and emotion where there usually isn't any (i.e. a zombie in love), a lot of the appeal of this movie still hangs on the wild, over the top monster and gore sequences, so cutting them really spoils the film.

So you really want an uncut version. And of course, you really want an OAR version. That really shouldn't be too much to ask, but until 2016, it absolutely was. At least the uncut DVD is open matte:
I've matched them up vertically so you can see how much was cut from the top and bottom.
It's the Cinema Club (UK) DVD on the left, and Lionsgate (US) on the right
Basically, the widescreen disc is just the fullscreen disc cropped. I mean, that's not a criticism. A film should be matted into its proper AR, but an open matte transfer is a lot less offensive than your average pan and scan job. Also notice the color timing is very different (is the sky pink or orange?).  The picture quality there looks like a nearly perfect match, though; but let's look at some later shots. And more importantly, let's look compare them both to the brand new, 2016 blu-ray.
Cinema Club 2001 UK disc on top; Lions Gate 2001 US DVD middle; Vestron 2016 blu-ray bottom.
Okay, I left the black bars around the first set of shots to illustrate the ever-changing aspect ratio here.  Yes, we're certainly seeing more picture on the UK disc, but that's because it's open matte.  That might be a little bit cool for some of the awesome effects shots, but otherwise the proper compositions of the original AR are vastly preferable.  And the US DVD got closer to that at 1.74:1, but Vestron's new blu finally brings the framing all the way home with a correct, slightly letterboxed 1.85:1.

The blu isn't terribly far removed from the US DVD, actually, which says more good things about the DVD than bad about the blu.  Even the UK DVD's image quality isn't too far off, apart from being a bit over-saturated.  There's no interlacing issues anywhere to be found, or swathing away of detail, so there isn't that much for the blu to correct.  Grain is... well subtle and natural now, and the DVD had some slight edge haloing that's been taken away.  Vestron's colors are a happy medium between the previous DVDs.  So a decent upgrade, just nothing mind-blowing.  But, of course, the important thing is that the US DVD was cut, so it was never a truly viable option anyway.

Each of these releases features Dolby Stereo audio, though the blu naturally has it in DTS-HD.  Both the US releases have English subtitles, and the DVD even has Spanish and French as well, while the Cinema Club disc has none.
The Lions Gate DVD also has something else going for it, though: two audio commentaries. There's one by Brian Yuzna, and one by Mindy Clarke and visual effects supervisor Tom Rainone. These are quite entertaining. Yuzna especially tells you pretty much everything you'd want to know, and clearly took the time to get to know Dan O'Bannon's original before jumping in. Clarke and Rainone, meanwhile, are more fun and breezy, but still take things seriously enough. Clarke asks and answers the question, "how do you play a zombie, believably, who wants brains?" Both are happily light on dead air, and they add a lot of value to the US disc. Both DVDs also include the film's trailer, with Lions Gate also including bonus trailers for four other Yuzna flicks: The Dentist, Dentist 2, The Progeny and Faust.

But at this point, you just know Vestron is going to come in and smash it in terms of special features, so let's get down to it.  First of all, the commentaries from the old DVD are both ported over here, plus the trailer (in fact, Vestron has also a second one).  So there's nothing missing from the new blu, unless you were really attached to that Progeny trailer.  But Vestron has once again teamed up with Red Shirt pictures to come up with a whole bunch of new goodies, too.  First off is a brand new, nostalgic chat between Yuzna and screenwriter John Penny.  Then there's a 19 minute interview with Mindy Clarke, and another with J. Trevor Edmond, who played the male lead.  If you really want to nerd out on the details, there's a featurette with production executive David Tripet and editor Chris Roth who talk about Trimark films and how they acquired the rights and initiated the RotLD3 project.  Then another featurette takes a look at the special effects, interviewing Chris Nelson and Steve Johnson, who's always fun on these things, and even Anthony Hickox to speak about his cameo.  You also see some nice glimpses behind-the-scenes in these featurettes.  There's also a brief featurette playing the original storyboards against the film's sound, a stills gallery and as always with the Vestron line, it comes in a shiny slipcover.
"At the end of the day, though, the cuts are just too important for me. I hang onto the US disc for the commentaries, and it's at least nice to be able to pop it in and see how it's supposed to look. But ultimately the cuts are too important, and the full-frame transfer not bad enough, that whenever I sit down to just watch the disc, I have to go with the UK one. So that's what I recommend: the UK disc for the superior version of the film, or both if you're a big fan. Fortunately, they're both cheap and plentiful. And all the while, of course, hoping Scream or someone will eventually deliver the total package: widescreen, uncut blu with the commentaries and a heap of new interviews. But we've been waiting so long already for that, we might wind up looking like one of those canister zombies before that happens."

^Ha ha! That's what I said last year, after decades of disappointment with this title.  I never would've guess I'd be here with a widescreen, uncut blu-ray the very next year. 'Cause really, having two versions on two different discs doesn't work.  What're you gonna do, watch the widescreen DVD until a cut scene comes up, pause it, then switch discs?  We fans have been crying out for this since the laserdisc days, and now it's finally here.  Viva le Vestron!

I Drink Your Blood and I Eat Your Skin, Together Again (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Okay, this film is not for everyone.  But I'll tell you what, it's sure for me.  1970's I Drink Your Blood is a crazy exploitation/ horror movie I like better each time I see it.  Of course, it helps that I keep seeing it in better and better quality.  I first saw it in theaters in the early 2000s via a print that had turned bright pink.  Then I got Grindhouse's restored special edition DVD in 2003.  And now in 2016 I've got their further restored 2 disc blu-ray set.

Update 5/8/17 - 8/8/18: For those interested in the second feature, I Eat Your Skin, I've added DVD comparisons to the Alpha Video DVD, so you can see how the new HD transfer for that flick stands up to a previous SD release, and the Code Red DVD, so you can see, uh, how weird things can get.
If you haven't seen it, I Drink Your Blood is one of those rare envelope-pushing 70s horror that really sets up the 80s wave, alongside films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead.  This isn't one of those myriad 60s and 70s flicks where the posters and trailers really try to sell you on how gruesome and depraved it is, only to finally present you with some completely tepid, dull talky with three men sitting around yammering about something vague and off-camera for seventy minutes.  I Drink Your Blood goes for broke.
A pack of Satan worshipers arrive in a small Upstate New York town, and rape a young woman.  Now the townsfolk to drive them out, but that's going to become a small war.  Sounds similar to the plot of a bunch of 70s sleazy drive-in fair, right?  But that's just like the first fifteen minutes.  Because in seeking revenge, the woman's nephew - who definitely earns his place in the pantheon of Great Horror Movie Kids, along with his young peers in films like Trick Or Treats, Nightmare and Beyond the Door 2 - comes up with a twisted plan inspired by his veterinarian grandfather.  He kills a rabid dog, takes its blood, and injects it into the cultists' meat pies, turning them all into foaming, homicidal maniacs.  Meanwhile, there's also a new dam being constructed, and the whole team of construction workers also manage to get infected and invade the town.  It's a blast.
There's non-stop violent murders, crazy LSD freak-outs, depraved sex and somehow a giant snake even gets caught up in the fray.  Lynn Lowry appears as a deaf, mute hippy, and everybody goes insane in their own, unique way.  If you're thinking this is sounding somewhat like George Romero's The Crazies, only crazier, well it is, but remember this one actually came first.  It's wild and nihilistic at the same time; like the horror version of Road Warrior.  Is the bizarre mix of characters a little bit silly?  For my money, that actually adds to it.  Is it a little low budget and clunky?  Sure.  Just like those classic, early Romero flicks only even more over the top, if you can imagine it.  A lot of people are going to be turned off by the superficial flaws, and those are bountiful; but if you can appreciate these grainy slices of cinematic dementia, this is one of the most entertaining.
A scene only in Grindhouse's restored director's cut
One of the great things about Grindhouse's releases, both the DVD and blu, is the inclusion of two cuts of the film.  Both the DVD and blu-ray edition present us with the full-length, "Uncensored, X-Rated Theatrical Cut," which runs 83 minutes and has all the frequently cut gore re-instated.  But then there's also the "Original Director's Cut," which restores multiple scenes including the terrific original ending via seamless branching, that the producers made him cut.  I 100% recommend the director's cut; it's even more awesome and gonzo.
2003 Grindhouse DVD top; 2016 Grindhouse blu-ray bottom.
And I'm happy to report the blu is a strong upgrade.  The original DVD was fullscreen 1.33:1; but for HD, they've not just matted it down to 1.66:1, they've uncovered new information on the sides.  The composition is so much better now; the full-frame was much boxier, with too much empty space.  The colors are also so much more natural.  You can tell from the damage in the first set of shots that the blu was sourced from the same elements as the DVD, so we're not exactly getting a wealth of new detail, but the HD, framing and corrected colors are a huge distinction already.  The inserted scenes for the director's cut are a little lower quality; they exhibit more scratches and dirt and generally seem a bit softer and more contrasty.  But those shots still benefit from the increased resolution.

Both releases feature the original mono track in 2.0, but the blu bumps it up to DTS-HD.  The blu-ray also adds English subtitles, which the DVD was lacking.
And now you may be thinking we're "already" up to special features, but there's so much, it's like we're just beginning.  First of all, the DVD was pretty packed.  And I have to point out, there's actually more than one version of the DVD.  There was a limited edition only available through Fangoria, which had a different cover, and another limited edition only available through Grindhouse directly.  That's the one I've got here.  It's hand-numbered from 500 copies (mine's #205), and is signed by the director David Durston and much of the cast on the inside artwork.  It also came with an exclusive signed insert by Lynn Lowry.  And there's a later, non-limited version.  But as far as what's actually on the disc, they're all the same.

There's a terrific audio commentary by Durston and star Bhaskar.  The scenes included into the director's cut are also available to watch as separate deleted scenes, and those also have optional audio commentary.  Then there's a silly but terrific half-hour featurette called The I Drink Your Blood Show, where Durston interviews several members of the cast and crew in his home, in the style of a late-night talk show.  He even talks to the ad-man who changed the title of his film on him (his original title was Phobia).  There's a stills gallery which also includes another audio interview with Durston playing over it, three minutes of outtakes, trailers, radio spots, a collection of Grindhouse bonus trailers, and a fold-out poster with notes by David Szulkin.  AND, there are several easter eggs, including a recording of Bhaskar doing the "evil king cobra dance"(!), a clip of Durston and Bhaskar recording the audio commentary, Durston singing an original song about being a horror movie director(!!), and a six minute clip from I Eat Your Skin, the film I Drink Your Blood famously played as a double-bill with theatrically.
Impressive, but it turns out Grindhouse was just warming up.  Two of the biggest additions to the blu-ray set are two complete additional feature films.  First we get Blue Sextet, an earlier film by Durston that features many of the case from I Drink Your Blood.  It's more of a micro-budget art film than a horror film, and lucky us, Grindhouse has unearthed the longer, European cut with additional sex scenes added to make it more saleable overseas.  It's presented in HD at 1.78:1 and looking like a pretty great scan from a print.  It's the story of a famous sculptor (Jack Damon, who played the heroic foreman in I Drink Your Blood) who commits suicide, and his six closest friends get together and try to piece together what drove him to it, each revealing darker and more twisted secrets they shared with the man.  It's not a horror film (though it has one brief, horror segment); but if you're open minded, it's pretty entertaining.

Blue Sextet also has its own audio commentary by Jack Damon, who also executive produced and co-edited the film.  And I definitely recommend listening to that if you've watched the film.  He is not afraid to speak very critically about everyone involved!  You rarely hear a commentary this honest.
2003 Grindhouse DVD top; 2016 Grindhouse blu-ray bottom.
Then the other feature they've included is I Eat Your Skin!  It's a weird Floridian horror film from the early 60s that went unreleased for almost a decade until producer Jerry Gross bought it and made it a double-bill with I Drink Your Blood.  It's a very different film, that will strike some familiar chords with fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000, as it's super dated and cheesy.  A famous author/ James Bond wannabe goes to Voodoo Island to write his next book, where a doctor is actually turning the local natives into bug-eyed zombies.  But if you're a fan of this dorky cult movie, this is its HD debut!  And I'm throwing in a screenshot of the clip from the 2003 Grindhouse DVD so you can see just how different it looks.  The blu is widescreen at 1.85:1, and this is no open/closed matte affair here.  It was an old, cut off the sides affair, now restored.  Just look; that's a massive improvement.

But wait, you shout!  It's not fair to compare the blu to a little movie clip that was a bonus feature on a DVD.  Let's see how a real, commercial release of this film sizes up.  Well, alright; here's Alpha Video's DVD, which came out the same year as Grindhouse's DVD.  And to keep it interesting, here's the 2013 "party" disc from Code Red that puts Zom'biez, as they've dubbed it, in a double bill with Night Of the Livin' Deadz, as they've called it.  It's a party disc because they throw in silly commercials, crop the film to 2.35:1 and present both films "in Lollipop Covermation!"  What the heck is that?  Scroll down, friends, and see for yourselves.
2003 US Alpha DVD on top; 2013 US Code Red DVD below.
Well, you know, it might not be fair to compare a real release to an Alpha Video DVD either.  haha  It's just as fullscreen, of course, but also as compressed and interlaced.  In fact, it's even more faded than Grindhouse's old clip.  I think they (Grindhouse) must've made an effort to improve the quality a tiny bit.  Code Red's, on the other hand, looks much clearer.  Unfortunately, that extra vertical cropping is excessive - that is definitely not the OAR, and just sacrifices picture for the novelty of the framing - and the "Lollipop Covermation," which consists of putting random color filters over different parts of the film, is downright ridiculous.

I should also point out that there is a longer cut of I Eat Your Skin.  That version has a longer intro and a few trims restored.  However, Grindhouse, Alpha and Code Red all feature the more common, shorter cut.

And I Eat Your Skin has its own special features, too.  On the Grindhouse blu, I mean.  The Alpha DVD is completely barebones, and Code Red just includes Night (which they give the same treatment to) and the handful of commercials.  But here you'll find a great interview with the film's second unit director, who's almost as forthcoming as Damon.  There's a bonus trailer for a documentary about that guy, which looks like a lot of fun, and even better, a hidden Easter Egg of Elvira introducing the film!
On top of all that, Grindhouse has also secured a bunch of new features about I Drink Your Blood itself.  There's a great, hour-long interview with Durston where he goes over his whole career and is really interesting.  There are multiple clips of Durston, as well as several of the cast members, speaking and doing Q&As at different screenings.  Durston repeats himself a lot in these, but there's also new stuff to be found in each one.  Actors Jack Damon and Tyde Kierney also turn up to provide an all-new commentary track for the film, and they have a lot of fun with it.  We also get two German super 8 shortened versions of the film... I haven't seen those on a DVD since that old, Astro Filmworks DVD of Antropophagus. Of course everything from the DVD is ported over, easter eggs and all.  And there are a couple NEW easter eggs, including a short industrial film called Sanitation - Rodent and Insect Control, which I must assume is directed by Durston though no one's actually credited, and another interview clip of Durston talking about Bela Lugosi, who he acted in a play with early in his career.  That adds up to a lot of easter eggs, so don't stop poking around the menus until you've found 'em all.

This package comes in cool slip-box, with a booklet including the same notes from the DVD edition, plus new tributes to Durston written by Damon and Kierney.  And last but certainly not least, the first 3000 copies include a life-sized toy hypodermic needle, like the one seen in the film, as you can see in the film above.  Definitely one of the coolest packaging gimmicks I've ever seen.
Before I'm accused of over-selling this film, though, let me reiterate: this movie is not for everyone.  It looks dated and cheap, and while the casting is pretty great, you're not going to find a lot of subtle, naturalistic performances around these parts.  If you're used to glossy, 80s or modern horror, this is the polar opposite.  But if you like grounded violence mixed with over-the-top absurdia, mixed into one trashy, messy pie, this is the cream of the crop.  And Grindhouse has positively outdone themselves creating the ultimate possible edition.  Yee-ha!