We Interrupt Fellini Week To Bring You... SPOOKIES!

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 - 12/11/19: Your regularly scheduled Fellini coverage will be right back... But I couldn't wait to dive right into the brand new, long awaited definitive edition of Spookies!  There's been plenty of speculation that Vinegar Syndrome was going to announce it as one of their secret titles, especially after Intercontinental Film and Video, a DVD label operating out of Quebec, restored this in 2k with a new HD scan of the interpositive.  Well, this Black Friday, VS finally did it: a 2-disc (both blu-rays, not a combo pack) loaded special edition set, "newly scanned in 4k from its 35mm original camera negative."
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.
1) 2002 Vipco UK DVD; 2) 2017 Intercontinental Film & Video CA DVD;
3) 2019 Vinegar Syndrome US BD.
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 new transfers 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, 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, then, is matted to a slightly pillarboxed 1.74:1 aspect ratio.  It's still just a DVD, 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.  Their version's still a little soft, but it's so much better than the old junker discs we've been putting up with for all these years.
1) 2002 Vipco UK DVD; 2) 2017 Intercontinental Film & Video CA DVD;
3) 2019 Vinegar Syndrome US BD.
But then, holy crap, wow!  Just from scrolling past the screenshots to get to this paragraph, you can't have missed the huge difference in Vinegar Syndrome's new blu.  Since 2017, I'd just assumed any upcoming blu-ray release was just going to be the Intercontinental scan but in HD.  And honestly, I would've been happy with that.  But Vinegar Syndrome shows us why we should never settle.  Instead of 2k from the interpositive, they've delivered 4k of the original negative!  It is so much clearer and more vivid; I was really surprised by how much there is to see that we'd been missing all these years in the shadows.  Admittedly, that does bring out the rubbery-ness of the monsters, but for the added vivid reality and clarity, it's absolutely worth it.  VS fixes the aspect ratio to a proper 1.85:1, but that's not just matting the previous framing more tightly.  It reveals more on all four sides than the Intercontinental, and considerably more on the sides than the old Vipco.  Unfortunately, it does reveal the puppeteer in that second set of shots, but overall the transfer is so much better, it manages to make this scrappy little affair seem like a more legit movie.  Grain is distinct, colors are separated so the film is no longer just blue, blue, blue, and the characters and locations finally feel clearly photographed.  I mean, you wouldn't have even guessed this was shot on 35 based on any previous release, but now it's self-evident and - if you can believe it about a film like Spookies - beautiful.

Now, audio on the DVDs is just your basic 2.0 mono track with no subtitle options or anything.  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.  Anyway, Vinegar Syndrome bumps that mono track up to DTS-HD and adds optional English subtitles.  There's also an AC-3 Dolby Digital track which seems to be the same, except lossy.
Vipco's "extras" include one of those garbage Stills Galleries 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 include Spookies' official trailer (with French narration) and a proper stills gallery full of behind-the-scenes photos and alternate cover art.  An improvement, but not really to the point where I wouldn't describe them both as barebones.

So enter Vinegar Syndrome.  Yes, they have the trailer and a massive stills gallery.  But that's nothin'.  They have a full-length documentary on the making of the film by many of the key players, who answer so many of our long-held questions and aren't afraid to get candid about their disappointments and internal conflicts.  That documentary, then, also has deleted scenes and a partial audio commentary (for basically the first 45 minutes) by the filmmakers of that doc.  And that's far from all!  There's also a second full-length documentary, on Britain's Vipco!  Obviously there's a connection to Spookies (and this makes me glad I had their old Spookies DVD so this can be a Vipco-tagged page), but it's really going off on its own tangent, exploring the cult label's history, which will probably resonate more with UK viewers than those of us in the states.  Then, that doc has its own trailer and an extended interview with the founder of Vipco.  Still not enough Spookies?  Not to worry!  There's a featurette where one of the stars, Peter Iasillo, explores the old filming location and a bunch of clips from a 2015 screening by Iasillo, co-star Anthony Valbiro, the director, the writer/ producer and the production assistant Tom Sciacca.  There's also a collection of outtakes and behind the scenes footage, sans sound.  The VS release comes in two variant slipcovers (I chose #1, pictured above) and includes reversible artwork.
So it was pretty great to finally get a watchable DVD in 2017, but even at the time, I wrote that Intercontinental's DVD was "just a prelude." Now we've arrived.  Seeing it expertly restored by VS, Spookies is positively transformed from how we've known it all these decades, and they've given us the exploratory and explanatory special edition we're always wanted.  And heck, with all the Vipco stuff, too, they've taken it ever further than us hopeful fans would've imagined.


  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).

  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.

  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!

  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.

    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.