Crazy Forgotten 80s Halloween Horrors!

It's Halloween, kiddies, and what better day to discover some really out there, overlooked 80s horror flicks?  Especially Halloween-themed ones?  Well, I've got two for you today, plus five more related films to boot, thanks to this unusual DVD set called Crypt of Terror: Horror From South Of the Border Vol. 1, a 2007 release from BCI.  It's the kind of DVD set that has "3 DISC SET - 6 FILMS!" in huge letters emblazoned on the back of the case, and then when you open it up, you find four discs with seven films inside.  Yeah, this is a weird, gonzo little package, but it's pretty terrific; and just right for the holiday.
So yes, like the title and cartoonish sombrero on the skeleton monster suggest, these are Mexican horror films.  Movies from Mexico tended to get little to no exposure in English speaking markets, so most horror fans have probably never heard of any of these.  But don't let that put you off.  Because if you dig classic 80s atmosphere with big hair, cheesy soundtracks, blood and a variety of masked killers and monsters, this set's got the goods.  Sure, it's a knock-off bonanza, with rip-offs of everything from Nightmare On Elm Street to Poltergeist, but this isn't like ridiculous, Indian SpiderMan-level filmmaking.  These shot-on-film movies (mostly) display genuine, ambitious filmmaking with serious effort to create stylish, professional cinema that could compete the kind of horror favorites we were getting in our own Blockbuster Videos.
First up, starting from Side A of disc 1 to side B of disc 4, because yes these are flipper discs, is Vacation of Terror.  Some of these movies are darker and more serious, but the first couple are a bit lighter in tone.  Not horror comedy or anything too jokey, but more inviting you to enjoy a fun spooky ride rather than trying to scare or menace you.  Here, we have a pretty traditional haunted house flick.  In fact, it's biggest fault might just be that it's a little too by-the-numbers predictable, with a lot of gags we've seen before in other films.  Basically, a family inherits a house that they intend to use as a summer home, and whoops, they awaken the spirit of an old witch who was buried there many years ago.
It has a cool black & sepia prologue, a la The Beyond, and then the happy family move in and start to notice things are a little supernatural.  This isn't one of those super slow burns where you're an hour in and so far you've only seen a window close by itself.  There's a natural progression, but it isn't long before mysterious sounds and creeping mists lead way to direct attempts on the characters' lives.  The little girl gets possessed via her doll, and we start to get some serious Cathy's Curse vibes.  It's not totally over the top, but it doesn't waste our time trying to be overly subtle either.  We've got magical glowing medallions, people floating around in the air and driverless cars trying to run people down.  One of the leads, the older sister's boyfriend who comes to stay with the family, is Pedro Fernádez, a big pop and television star in his home country, who's definitely going for the teen idol vibe in these films.
I say "these films" because he's back in the next movie, Vacation of Terror 2.  For the first half of this one, I have to say I was enjoying it even more than Part 1.  Pedro is back but the original family is gone (I guess he ditched his girlfriend between films).  This time he falls for a cute young pop-star who happens to walk into his little shop.  He goes to see her perform her new single at a Halloween/ birthday party being held in a movie studio, when somehow another witch's ghost gets awakened.  This one really doesn't waste time getting into the action, there's a higher body-count, more creative special effects, people running around with guns, a catchy musical number (although the lyrics are either mistranslated or it's a very strange song), and this time the witch spends most of the film in physical form as a funky, hooded lizard monster.  Plus, this one's Halloween-themed with colorful decorations to throw you into the spirit of things.
By the second half, though, it started to get a little repetitive (monster attacks, heroes escape, monster attacks again, heroes escape again), and it started to run low on steam.  Overall, the original film probably wins out by virtue of being more grounded in a better story.  Plus, it's a little disappointing that no one goes on vacation during this entire movie.  haha  But there's definitely a good time to be had with this sequel.  The effects aren't exactly cutting edge in these films, but they're not no frills papier-mâché either.  These movies had real special effects teams that were clearly trying to compete with American films, and no, they didn't match the Hollywood greats, but they're as effective and entertaining as flicks like Demon Wind or Spookies.
And we get Pedro back one more time for the next film, Hell's Trap.  This is the weakest of the three films, objectively speaking; but I could also see it being many peoples' favorite of the Fernández trilogy, or even the whole set.  This one's more of a slasher as opposed to a supernatural affair, and yes, the killer's got a cool mask.  He's also got a crazy Freddy-like glove he breaks out for a couple kills.  But this isn't your typical teens unaware that they're getting picked off one by one scenario.  Here we've got two groups of teens who initially think they're hunting a bear before finding out there's a legendary madman stalking the woods.  But they figure it out fast, arm up and fight back.  Closer to The Final Terror than Friday the 13th, becoming even more of an action movie in the final act.
But just as an overall film, it is the weakest.  There's a really heavy-handed comic relief character, and all of the dialogue and plotting is kinda lame.  The other films were hokey at points, but work as your typical, catch it on cable TV horror flick.  For Hell's Trap, you're going to have a blast if you're the target audience looking for throwback slasher films, prepared not to overlook some flaws but embrace all the 80s slasher trappings.  Mainstream audiences will be turned off, although it moves at a good pace and the final act draws you in.  But overall, this is much more Code Red than Scream Factory, if you know what I mean.
But just as you start to feel like you've got a firm grasp on what the films in this set are like, everything changes.  Say goodbye to teen idol Pedro and welcome to the oeuvre of Rubén Galindo Jr.  He's written and directed all the rest of the films in this set, and he has decidedly different sensibilities.  Those first three films had kind of a upbeat, horror films are meant to be fun kind of energy.  Even Hell's Trap, which got a little nihilistic if you really stopped to think about it, still never took itself super seriously.  Galindo's films do.  He wants to scare you and impress you with his talents at the same time.  Cemetery of Terror is the first film you'll actually find yourself thinking, "oh, that's a good shot."  And they've brought in Hugo Stiglitz (Nightmare City, Night of 1,000 Cats) to play the lead!
This is our Halloween rip-off.  It's our second film set on Halloween night, with a group of teens and a younger group of trick or treating kids being menaced by a slightly supernatural masked killer.  The teens have stolen a body from the morgue and resurrected it as part of a Halloween gag (just go with it), but of course they unwittingly picked the most evil, unstoppable corpse possible.  And Stiglitz is unquestionably our Dr. Loomis, a slightly manic doctor who knows what's up and has come to town to try wake the local sheriff up and finally stop the monster.  Some nice kills, creeping around a cemetery and an old boarded up house at night, and even a magical book of the dead.  It's cooler than a lot of our native Halloween knock-offs, that's for sure.
Then Grave Robbers is pretty similar to Galindo's Cemetery.  Like Vacation of Terror, it starts with a cool backstory prologue, this time with a mad monk who's caught performing a Satanic sacrifice and buried alive.  Then some teens who like to rob graves for a living fall into his tomb and pull out the magical axe that was keeping him dead.  So you've got another evil, undead madman hulking around a cemetery offing everybody who crosses his path, and the local police, priest and teens need to work together to stop him before he manages to wipe out the whole town.  I think they're even using the same magical book of the dead prop from the last movie.
Our evil monk zombie guy wears a hood and lurks in the shadows with a big axe, executing some pretty nasty kills.  And there are a few supernatural twists added to the mix to keep things spicy.  Really, if you don't like this one, I think you just don't appreciate 80s horror flicks.  The special effects are cool, the killer is bad-ass, gore is flying, the score's effective and the pacing is pretty tight.  Okay, there's no great story at the heart of this thing; but it's one sweet set piece after another.  Trust me, dudes, this movie's awesome.
But Demon Rat, unfortunately, is the one film that doesn't fit in.  It's from the 90s, and more importantly, isn't any good.  I understand why it's here - it's another Rubén Galindo Jr film.  But where his other endeavors seemed to take their influence from the nightmarish works of Carpenter and Fulci, this time it's like he's aping a late 90's era Roger Corman production.  It's just a bad idea followed upon with bad execution that shows none of the artistry his previous two films did.  Yes, there is a demon rat in this film, but we only see it for about twenty seconds and it looks ridiculous.  It doesn't even really factor into the plot, which is actually about a couple of goofily dressed clods standing around in a boxy apartment arguing about corporate ethics and the environment.  Oh, and it's set in the future, but looks like it was filmed in the past.  I mean the past even for the 80s.
We find a beautiful young teacher living in a post ecological disaster, where everybody has to wear gas masks whenever they're outside.  Every single scene in this film begins and ends with the characters checking a little pollution detector taped over their doors that let's them know when it's safe to take the masks off inside.  They get so much screen-time; it's crazy!  Anyway, meanwhile, her ex husband has taken over her father's corporation, which he makes secretly dump toxic waste in the local park.  It turns the local animals into oversized mutants, but the only one we encounter is the titular demon rat who takes up residence in the teacher's apartment and kills the exterminator.  But forget about that, because instead the story follows her new boyfriend who discovers what the company's up to, and the rest of the film is her boyfriend and ex-husband chasing each other around with handguns.  The plot is mind-numbingly dull, all anyone talks about is the pollution and the corporation, the cinematography is completely flat and uninspired, and the acting sucks.  Even Mystery Science Theater would have a hard time making fun out of this one, because so little ever happens on screen.
dubbed English version on top; subtitled version below.
Thankfully, things get right back on track for the final film.  Don't Panic is Rubén's Nightmare On Elm St. clone.  And if you're wondering how four flipper discs work out to seven films, it's because Crypt of Terror gives us two versions of Don't Panic, the English dub and original language version.  One runs about four minutes longer than the other, but I watched both all the way through, and the only reason one is longer is that one plays a tiny bit faster, like a PAL/ NTSC thing.  Content-wise, they're identical films.
dubbed English version on top; subtitled version below.
So yes, this film is definitely ripping off Nightmare On Elm St., right down to minor details, like the lead character's alcoholic mom who has a bottle in every scene, the father who won't believe, and the scene where they take our hero to a dream specialist and hook him up to a machine.  The only thing they leave out?  Oh, just the Freddy Krueger character.  Yeah, there's no crazed killer who can get you in your dreams.  But apart from that - exactly like Nightmare On Elm St.!  Well, there is a killer.  But the twist is, instead of him killing kids in their sleep, he kills them in the waking world, and our hero just happens to see through his eyes when he dreams.  So, a little Eyes of Laura Mars.  But he still has weird dreams right out of Nightmare, like the killer's face pushing out of the staticy television set or through a wall.  But while this film is another Galindo production, tonally, it feels much more like the lighter Pedro Fernádez entries, with this grown, curly blonde hair man running through the streets in his adorable dinosaur pajamas.  It's just some good, dumb fun.
dubbed English version on top; subtitled version below.
By now you've surely noticed that the two versions of Don't Panic have distinctly different looking transfers.  The English dub is darker, while the original language version is much brighter with heavily saturated colors.  Honestly, the ideal transfer would probably meet somewhere in the middle.  The one is too dark, but the colors are blown out in the other.  Also, as you can see in the last set of shots, both transfers are interlaced.  In fact, every film in this set is interlaced.  And, of course, they're all also fullscreen, though at least they look to be open matte.
Except maybe for Demon Rat.  That one doesn't have the egregious headroom and might be chopped on the sides.  Either way, it's a much worse looking transfer than the other films, which at least respect their filmic roots.  This one looks like it could be sourced from a video tape master.  But then, the director also seems to have added varying levels of a filter to every shot to make it look like there's "pollution" coursing through the scene.  So it's hard to tell exactly what flaw is to blame for what symptom.  Bottom line, though: it looks awful.

But on the plus side, every film in this set is presented in its original Spanish language with removable English subtitles, so we're not saddled with goofy dubbing spoiling the films.  Well, except for Don't Panic, where we get both options.  Don't Panic is also the only film in this set to have been previously released on DVD... by budget labels in the UK, and I believe those are both the dubbed version, meaning this is the first and only time it's been released on disc in its original language.
Grave Robbers - see?  They're all interlaced.
BCI released a couple of these titles in double-packs as well as this set.  There's a Crypt of Terror 2 with Cemetery of Terror and Grave Robbers, and a Crypt of Terror 5 with Don't Panic and Demon Rat.  They also threw Don't Panic (the dubbed version) into at least one of their budget 10 movie packs called Blood Chills.  If you're wondering, since those are 2 and 5, what are the other Crypt of Terror DVD releases?  Just some other random horror flicks they had the rights to, like Lord Shango and Land Of the Minotaur.  There was also a Crypt of Terror: Horror from South of the Border - Vol. 2 in 2008, but they just released generic dubbed versions of more common, public domain Mexican exploitation films from the 50s and 60s like The Wrestling Women Vs. The Aztec Mummy and Night Of the Bloody Apes, with sources that look more like the typical video transfers.
But Vol. 1 is a treasure.  It features all these films that aren't available anywhere else, all seemingly uncut, and most of which are a real kick.  There are zero extras of course, and fullscreen, interlaced standard definition transfers are hard to get excited for.  But these could've been a lot worse, especially since it's not like we have any other options.  Some of these flicks are so good, they should really be on blu-ray (Grave Robbers, I'm looking at you).  But they're not, so this set is it.  When it was new, this set was a budget release, too - the kind of thing you could score for just a couple of bucks.  Unfortunately, now it's long out of print and has to be found used for serious collector's prices.  But you can see why those in the know cling to their copies. 

Fellini's Casanova: Why You Should Import and Avoid the US Version (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

It used to be, the best DVD edition of Federico Fellini's Casanova was from the UK: a nice 2-disc set from Freemantle, which I've still got. But that was twelve years ago, and now we're in the age of HD remasters. And now? Well, it's a bit of a tie between the French and UK blu-rays, but one is out of print and only available used at inflated prices. So Mr. Bongo's new blu keeps the the trophy in the UK. But is it an essential upgrade, or just another a minor improvement in compression? Let's have a look!

Update 1/25/16 - 10/24/17: Between the Freemantle DVD and Mr Bongo blu-ray, Universal did manage the bare minimum of squeezing out an MOD DVD-R release for the US market as part of their "Vault Series."  It's obviously not in HD, but what's its transfer like compared to the others? Aren't you curious?  I was, and looking at it was somewhat enlightening, if not exactly pleasing.
I don't love all Fellini films. They all certainly have their virtues, typically visually, but they don't call grab you the way his masterpieces do. Juliet Of the Spirits, for example, seems like an excuse to play around with his colorful set-pieces more than tell an engaging story.  Satyricon would probably make a better coffee table book than a film. And his pre-La Dolce Vita work largely strikes me overwrought yet dull at the same time.  But Casanova has the power of its source material. Not that Casanova's a favorite story of mine, but coupled with the right adapter - see Dennis Potter's excellent mini series - it can be quite effective.
And I think Giacomo Casanova has found the perfect director in Fellini, someone able to exceed the excess of Casanova's bawdy tale with crazy, ribald imagery and dreamlike set pieces. Fellini takes it farther over the top than any previous version, with Sutherland seducing a mechanical woman or making his lover's bed literally spin and fly up into the air. Meanwhile, the original writing, coupled with a terrific leading performance by Donald Sutherland, are able to repay the compliment of Fellini's vivaciousness with intelligent commentary on human nature and crafting the unenviable downfall of a man you wind up genuinely caring about. The garish absurdity of the comedy is played so strong, it winds up contributing to the tragedy.
Freemantle's 2005 DVD top; Universal's 2011 DVD-R mid; Mr Bongo's 2015 blu bottom.
Freemantle's DVD is at least anamorphic, which sets it apart from some of its contemporaries, but it's still a far cry from the new HD transfer. It just looks so digital and unreal in comparison. The UK DVD is slightly pillar-boxed at 1.73:1, whereas the blu-ray is slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1.  The result being: the blu gains a little extra picture along the bottom, and the DVD is actually slightly horizontally compressed. There's really no competition between the old DVD and blu, it's a big upgrade. And the Universal release, perhaps predictably, falls somewhere in the middle.  It might actually have the best colors of the bunch.  Look at the singers' white costumes in the first comparison, or the more natural skin tones in the second; the blu by comparison has a bit of an undesirable yellow/ green push to it.  But Universal's still in SD - in fact, as a DVR, it's even further compressed, and looks it.  And despite being the same aspect ratio as the blu, it actually crops the image tighter and loses more image information than either of the other discs.

So Mr. Bongo's is still the way to go.  I could see a fresh 4k scan uncovering a little more detail and clarity, to be honest, but it's unquestionably the transfer to go with given what's available. I do sort of miss the extreme bold colors of the old DVD in a way, though, and the Universal shows they could've at least tweaked them a little further.
Both the UK DVD and blu give you the option of the English or Italian audio tracks, with optional English subtitles, which is great.  Oh, and the Freemantle DVD also has a third, French dub.  You'll surely wind up opting for the English in any case, as that's the one where Sutherland dubs his own voice.  Anthony Burgess (author of A Clockwork Orange) even wrote the English language dialogue.  And that just makes it all the more disappointing, then, that the Universal's Vault Series disc only has the Italian track, with burnt-in, unremovable subtitles.  Boo!
A far more compelling reason to hang onto your DVDs, though, is the second disc of extras. Mr Bongo's blu-ray is completely barebones, as is Universal's MOD release (which doesn't even have a menu). The DVD however, has that whole second disc.

The main extra is a documentary called The Magic of Fellini. It's about an hour-long and pretty good, but as its an overview of his whole career, it's maybe a bit superficial, breezing by without stopping anyplace for too long. Plus, it barely touches on Casanova.  Still, it's full of good interviews and film clips, and worth the watch for any Fellini fan.  It's also worth pointing out that this documentary is also on several Australian Fellini DVD and blu-ray releases, however, and released as its own DVD by Image in the US; so there's a chance you'll already have this.
Of more interest to me personally was the interview with Donald Sutherland. This is also just a little under an hour, and as such comes off as quite thoughtful and in-depth. He talks about his whole career, but focuses a lot on Fellini and Casanova. This isn't one of those frustrating interviews that covers his entire body of work and ignores the film they're making the DVD of.

The only other extra is a stills gallery.
So, that answers that: definitely a worthwhile upgrade! Still, you'll want to hold onto your Freemantle DVD for the extras, or even double-dip for them if you haven't already got it, because they're good. And it helps that Mr Bongo's blu is nice and cheap. You might be tempted to save yourself the hassle of importing and just grab the Vault Series disc; but don't - it's a trap without even the English audio track.  Of course, if you do come across the French blu you could get that instead. It has some exclusive extras, but they don't have English language options, so it wouldn't net you much more than Mr Bongo's. But definitely one blu-ray and the UK DVD for the extras is the way to go.

Is It Worth Importing Eric Rohmer's Masterful Triple Agent?

Eric Rohmer kept making films right up to his death at age 90 in 2010.  It may not be the most popular opinion, but it's my contention that his final films are some of his very best.  One of his last, Triple Agent, was released theatrically around the world in 2004, and on DVD in 2005 as a new release.  Here in America, we got it from Koch Lorber.  In the UK, they got it from Artificial Eye, and in France they got it from Blaq Out (apparently the exact same disc as the Artificial Eye one, right down to the menus).  I remember thinking back then that I absolutely had to import this title, which I did, because the US DVD was inferior.  But now, comparing them in 2017, is there a substantial difference?  They're both fullscreen, have the same extras.  Is it worth the hassle of importing?
Triple Agent is a wonderful film that I'm always freshly impressed with each time I revisit it.  No spoilers, but the epilogue blows me away every time.  But as is typically the case with Rohmer, it's not for everybody.  Yes, it's a spy film based on a true, unsolved mystery.  It's a matter of life and death, but there are no gun fights or wry one-liners whispered by people dressed as cat burglars while hanging off of window ledges.  Triple Agent a very domestic look at a real life incident following the Russian civil war in Paris in the 1930s as tensions of rose over another pending World War, but the story is in the humanity of its characters.  Your teenager will hate how everybody stands around calmly debating fine art, and all the tension is kept hidden beneath the surface.  But if your antenna is attuned to finer subtleties, then oh shit!  What a thoroughly gripping tale, expertly told by Rohmer with just a taste of vintage newsreel footage and a terrific cast of actors.
Now, you might be wondering why should we be concerned with old DVDs of this title, regardless of how good the film is?  Wasn't Triple Agent included in Potemkine Films 2013 massive 52-disc blu-ray boxed set [pictured right] that restored Rohmer's entire filmography?  Well, yes, but...  First of all, that set sells for roughly $300, and we're not all living in that affluent tax bracket.  But much more critically, Triple Agent is one of Rohmer's three final films that Potemkine, for whatever reason, decided not to restore and release on blu-ray.  It's in the set only as a DVD using the same old master.  Don't ask me why; it was shot on 35mm, after all.  It's one of the set's most frustrating aspects, right alongside their neglecting to translate any of their special features for English-speaking audiences.  So yeah, as much as they probably should be, these old DVDs are far from obsolete in 2017; they're still the best options we've got.

Oh, Artificial Eye has also included Triple Agent in their 2010 The Essential Eric Rohmer 4-disc DVD set.  But packaged together or separately, it's the same disc inside.
Koch Lorber's US DVD on top; Artificial Eye's UK DVD below.
Since these are the best we've got, let's make the best selection we can.  Yes, both DVDs are fullscreen (Rohmer seemed partial to fullscreen framing, anyway, so that ratio may not be so controversial in this case) and seem to be using the same master, but there's more to it once we begin dig in.  First of all, Koch's DVD is 1.33:1, while Artificial Eye's is 1.31:1.  Koch has a bit more along the sides, possibly including a tiny bit too much on the left (look at that first set of shots, is that the edge of the matte?), while AE has a sliver more along the top.  Still, big whoop.  More distracting, however, is the unsharpening tool [fun fact: despite its name, unsharpening is meant to make an image look sharper] Koch seems to have used on their transfer, blowing out fine highlights and edges.  It may be less of a crime on a DVD than a blu-ray, just because the image is necessarily always going to be further from a perfect representation of the original film; but it still looks unnatural and unattractive on the US DVD, especially on larger televisions.
Both DVDs include the original French audio in a nice, clean Dolby Stereo 2.0 track.  Artificial Eye also offers an additional 5.1 mix.  That's interesting, but not as interesting as the subtitle situation.  Both DVDs offer optional/ removable English subtitles.  That's a basic necessity and good it's there.  Artificial Eye also includes Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish subtitles, which is nice if you speak those languages.  But more puzzling to me was the last subtitle track: French?  HoH subtitles for French viewers, you might think?  No.  In fact, they don't subtitle 95% of the film.  They only pop up a few times, when characters speak Russian and/or German?  So French viewers can read the few lines of dialogue they don't recognize when spoken, sure.  What's odd about that?
Well, the English subtitles (yes, on both discs - I checked) don't subtitle these lines at all.  We never learn what's being said in those moments.  And that may be appropriate, just like how Saving Private Ryan doesn't subtitle the surrendering German soldiers at the end of the beach invasion.  The audience is meant to identify with the man characters who don't understand the other language being spoken.  Makes sense, a natural assumption; except French viewers do get those lines subtitled.  So are we supposed to or not?  Is this just a failing of all English translations of this film to date?  Since native viewers did get the translation, I suspect it is.  ...And by the way, if you're wondering, I ran the French subs of the untranslated dialogue pictured above through Google's software, and in that moment, he's roughly saying, "in turn case, it is very well informed.  He has never been mistaken in his picks," which does make a little more sense in context.  😉
For extras, both DVDs offer the same thing: The Miller-Skobline Case featurette.  It's a nearly 40-minute interview with a historian and the niece of the film's titular triple agent, who talk about the actual case and theorize on what really happened.  Irene Skobline also talks about how Eric Rohmer reached out to her and how she then consulted on the film.  But for the most part, the talk is about the real case, with Skobline and her family devoted to clearing her uncle's name, and Nicolas Werth giving a more objective run-down of the historically known facts.  It should definitely satisfy viewers who watched the film and came away wondering what really happened, but it doesn't give us much about the filmmaking.  The only other extra, again on both discs, is the original theatrical trailer.
Triple Agent is like the anti-John Wyck, but for the right audiences, it's another Rohmer masterpiece.  And between the two discs, the Artificial Eye is the objectively superior option (or, again, the French DVD from Blaq Out, since it's identical).  But whether the that makes it worth jumping through the hoops of importing is up to each of you.  The extra French subtitles were a neat discovery; but they're still not very useful unless you're prepared to translate them on your own.  And the foreign PQ is better, but both DVDs come up lacking in the modern, HD era.  Criterion?  Arrow Academy?  Somebody want to help us out with these three final films?

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?