August 29, 2023

The rabid cult following Erotic Nightmareworldwide for Hong Kong genre cinema has long been in direct contrast to the quality of the home video releases we've had to put up with, so it's gratifying in the past couple of years to see so many major and obscure gems finally getting quality editions on Blu-ray. Case in point: Vinegar Syndrome's two-disc Made in Hong Kong: Volume 1 set, which collects three films with varying degrees of sex and horror. The restricted classification of Category III has long been a selling point for the more extreme end of these offerings, and while this set doesn't technically fall under the Cat III banner, it certainly captures that spirit with some wild samplings and more than one helping of the always mesmerizing and fearless Anthony Wong (The Untold Story, The Ebola Syndrome). Very underseen but a great way to kick things off is the wild The Demon's Baby (1998), which starts off like a familiar Hong Kong adventure film involving a treasure hunt that leads The Demon's Babyto a hidden cave and the discovery of five evil spirits stuffed away in some bottles. The general in charge ends up regretting his transgression when the spirits are unleashed and knock up his five wives, which means Anthony Wong has to be enlisted to fight off five flesh-eating baby monsters. The climactic orgy of gore and latex madness is really something to behold and worth the wait, and the transfer here looks stunning. Then in Erotic Nightmare (1999), Wong takes center stage as a guy who has intense sex dreams every night involving naughty doctor visits, naughty gym jump ropers, and anything else that could involve topless young women. It's all the doing on a strange monk who planting a smoldering tattoo of a young woman on Wong's hand, and things get decidedly un-sexy when he starts to wake up to atrocities like his beheaded dog and his mom mutilated and stuffed into a suitcase. Very warped and twisty, it's a ton of fun and relentlessly tasteless; again the 2K scan here from the negative looks marvelous here and way better than the ancient version released by Mei Ah on video ages ago

The Deadly CampDisc two is devoted entirely to The Deadly Camp (1999), better known to HK video hounds under its original title, 1999: The Deadly Camp since it opens with a significant nod to September 9 of '99. A fairly typical late '90s slasher film, it follows two brothers, their girlfriends, their uncle, and another couple on a weekend trip of fun and solitude on an isolated, uninhabited island. However, as we've seen in the chainsaw-waving prologue, someone is mostly definitely there already, and they waste no time swiping the kids' cell phones from a plastic baggie stuck by a tree. They end up crossing paths with Boar (Wong again) and his two lackeys, claiming to be in the condom sales business but actually smugglers. Meanwhile more than one maniacal killer is tromping around the grounds, knocking everybody off one by one. Surprisingly, this is the tamest of the three films (and the most widely available on video in the past); there's a lot of screaming and chasing, though the gore is fairly limited. It's still fun though with a few truly diseased touches in the second half. Erotic Nightmare features a new commentary by Samm Deighan, who has a blast going into the pleasures of Hong Kong sexy horror cinema, the outer fringes of Cat III films and the ones that don't quite make the cut, and the surreal touches that accumulate after the crazy mid-film plot turn. The Deadly Camp sports a new commentary by the gang at The Hysteria Continues, and they're in fine form here going into late '90s slashers, the history of HK subgenre efforts, the elements that recall golden age backwoods classics, and more. "Anthony Wong: The CATIII King" (11m47s), a video essay by Deighan and Charles Perks, is an overview of his career with a focus on his horror and sexploitation work. It's a lively primer, though the movie clips here are really choppy and in lo-res quality. An audio essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on The Demon's Baby (8m4s) covers pagan practices and folk horror tropes. Also included with the package is a 40-page book featuring essays by Bruce Holecheck (on the crazy vagaries of Cat III in particular) and Erica Shultz, plus a text interview with Wong by Arnaud Lanuque. . Buy here or here.

A very spooky little indie, The Harbinger2022's The Harbinger is the latest from director Andy Mitton who was responsible for the superb The Witch in the Window as The Harbingerwell as the fascinating YellowBrickRoad and We Go On. Here he uses the shooting conditions of the pandemic to craft a story about Mavis (Emily Davis), a young woman wreaking havoc in her Queens apartment building due to horrific, intense night visions involving a plague doctor costume. When she starts being mutilated by her visitations, she reaches out to the one friend she can count on, onetime college roommate Monique (Gabby Beans), who leaves her happy home life in quarantine to go help. What she steps into is a dangerous world of predatory dreams that can actually erase someone from existence. Moody and stylish, it's a striking film with good performances, a melancholy tone befitting the setting, and a couple of ferocious scare sequences. The basic concept of being erased is a primal and terrifying one (also exploited effectively in Absentia and The Wretched), and this one manages to run with it in a new direction that leaves a lingering chill afterward. The Blu-ray release from XYZ is as immaculate as you'd expect a/v-wise from a digital production of this vintage, with DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 options with English SDH subtitles. Mitton and Beans provide a great, loaded audio commentary talking about the shoot and the challenges of working at the height of Covid; also included is a whole section of deleted scenes including an interesting alternate ending with optional director commentary. Buy here or here.

Thanks to found The Outwatersfootage fatigue and its ridiculous running time of 110 minutes, reaction seems to be extremely split on 2022's The Outwaters with the negative responses being very much on the hostile side. It's not a film for everyone to be sure, but The OutwatersRobbie Banfitch's film, presented as the fractured remnants of a hellish desert trip preserved on three SD cards, boasts some potent nightmare imagery that makes it worth a look. Banfitch also stars here as part of a quartet of friends embarking on a visit to the Mojave Desert for a music video shoot in 2017, which we know is going to end badly thanks to a frantic 911 call over the opening minutes. Preceded by a couple of ominous earthquakes in L.A., the trip becomes a surreal and baffling ordeal for the travelers as they encounter unearthly sounds at night coming from within the earth and violent attacks that seem to bend the nature of reality itself. The second half of the film is intentionally disorienting but has a truly delirious quality to it, with a final stretch that recalls the more nightmarish moments of Rituals and ends on a particularly grotesque note. The ETR Media Blu-ray of the film (an original by streaming platform Screambox) reflects the intended digital look of the film, flaws and all, with DTS-HD 51 and two Dolby Digital 2.0 options (one noted as the "original") provided along with English SDH subs. Banfitch, actor Scott Schamell, and "Detectives Stacey and Knocko" provide a full commentary for the film juggling production stories and their California experiences, following by a Card Zero prequel short film (35m13s), a File VL-624 epilogue short (20m49s), the theatrical teaser and trailer, four character promo spots, four trailer spots, an "All the Pretty Little Horses" music video, and a companion shorts trailer. Buy here or here.

Now one of the most iconic international cult stars of the '70s, Swedish actress Christina Lindberg has had a fairly low profile since her most Black Circlefamous role in Thriller: A Cruel Picture. However, if you want to see her in a more recent performance, she has a key role in 2018's Black Circle, a semi-horror Swedish-Mexican outing involving Lindberg as a producer, Mondo Macabro's Pete Tombs, Klubb Super 8, and Synapse Films, among others. After a strangely long delay, the film from director Adrián Black CircleGarcía Bogliano (Late Phases, Here Comes the Devil) has finally hit American home video on region-free Blu-ray from Synapse, complete with a soundtrack CD if you really want to mess yourself up going to sleep after this one. The gist here involves an enigmatic self-help LP created in the 1970s that wreaks havoc in the lives of two sisters, Celeste (Felice Jankell) and Isa (Erica Midfjäll), who find that its hypnosis techniques cause a malefic duplicate of its listener to materialize in their world. Often abstract and ethereal, it's a film that requires patience and close attention but has some fascinating sound mixing and visual choices, including an austere final act that takes things in a different direction. The film itself looks excellent here as expected and features an immersive DTS-HD 5.1 Swedish track with optional English subtitles; Bogliano also provides an audio commentary about the production process including casting and mixing. Also included are a teaser trailer, a Don't Open Your Eyes companion short film (10m55s), a 57m27s interview between the director and Lindberg, a behind the scenes featurette (9m4s), and a 14m7s still gallery. Buy here or here.

Though we've had plenty of titles from on-demand mail order exploitation outfit W.A.V.E. Productions on Blu-ray by this point from Saturn's Core Video & Audio, less attention has been paid to its short-lived offshoot, Sharkey Video. The biggest release of theirs for quite a while was Backwoods Marcy, and one of the main players beyond that film, Dave Castiglione, was also responsible for the ambitious shot-on-video underwater horror opus, Deep Undead. This one was shot around the late '90s but never finished or released until 2004, marking an end to the Sharkey era. In addition to directing and acting, Dave gets to show off his scuba abilities here for some long, weirdly hypnotic diving scenes scored with droning electronic Deep Undeadmusic, all in the service of a story about some pro divers looking into some disappearances who Deep Undeadend up sucked into a crazy plot involving radioactive aquatic waste and a water-dwelling female vampire. Clocking in at an indulgent 104m10s (at least half of which is scuba footage), this one could use some trimming but delivers some oddly hypnotic moments involving the pasty-faced bloodsucker hovering around beneath the surface. Castiglione and Saturn's Core's Ross Snyder provide a commentary for the film covering its bumpy history, the revised version we have now with some tweaks and additions he felt were needed, and the use of familiar names from the W.A.V.E. stable like Pamela Sutch. "Diving Deeper Into Deep Undead" (81m34s! is a new feature-length retrospective documentary featuring Castiglione, composer Matt Cannon, author Richard Mogg, and stars Debbie D., Laura Giglio, Mick McCleery, and Phil Herman, packed with stories about the real-life nuclear power plant inspiration for the story, the challenges of choosing deep sea diving as your primary cinematic device, the casting process, and the challenges of shooting so much underwater. A 2019 cast and crew Q&A from a screening at the Blue Moon Theatre (19m1s) including Sutch, Castiglione, Cannon, and actors Vince Butler and Laura Giglio. An archival making-of featurette (26m27s) has plenty of vintage cast and crew interviews, followed by the original VHS cut of the film (at a much tighter 84m36s), a 4m19s alternate ending, the Cannon short film "Open House" (11m50s) starring Castiglione, a still gallery (8m45s), the trailer, and bonus trailers for Backwoods Marcy, An Ex-Hooker's Christmas Carol, and Love Is a Stranger. Buy here or here.

Speaking of W.A.V.E., Saturn's Core continues its "I can't believe this is real" line of Blu-ray releases from the company's catalog with one of its longest and most ambitious productions, 1994's Hung Jury. Clocking in at an ambitious 114 minutes (with an even longer 119-minute alternate cut!), this was directed as usual by W.A.V.E. founder Gary Whitson and features familiar faces like Castiglione, Tina Krause, Clancy McCauley, and Michelle Caporaletti. Like Deep Undead, this has its fair Hung Juryshare of underwater photography but otherwise is a very different beast as it depicts a string of violent murders committed on an island against a yachtful of strangers. It's all tied to the execution two decades earlier of a drug addict accused of drowning a young woman, and the suspects and victims are scattered among such a huge cast you'll need a scorecard to keep it all straight. Imagine an Andy Milligan shot-on-video '90s slasher film without Hung Jurythe yelling and that's pretty much what you get here, albeit stretched out with lots of walking, talking, swimming, and other mundane activities padding out the running time. Apparently this was Krause's first film, which makes it one for the history books, and there's enough gore here to satisfy (including a fun severed arm gag). Of course, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that there's a kink factor here with occasional scenes involving bondage, gagging, and captivity, though it's nowhere even close to the excesses of some other W.A.V.E. titles. The Blu-ray touts a new transfer from the SVHS master tape, which still looks an awful lot like regular ol' camcorder VHS, plus two commentaries: one with Whitson moderated by Ross Snyder (who made the doc about his company), then a great one with Richard Mogg, author of the essential Analog Nightmares: The Shot on Video Horror Films of 1982-1995, who really knows his stuff here and contextualizes this within the company's output and the general trend of SOV slasher movies around that time. Also included here is the far more succinct (and much more bondage-y) 84-minute The Perils of Penelope, a 1992 W.A.V.E. feature paying homage to cliffhanger serials with Caporaletti as our heroine repeatedly tied up and put in dangerous situations that comprise the episodic narrative. Apparently this one got banned from convention screenings so it has some degree of notoriety, and now here we have it in all its lo-fi glory on Blu-ray. Also included is the 20-minute The Perils of Penelope: The Hypnotic Gem, a sequel of sorts with Elizabeth Raven going through the same motions. The package comes with a 28-page booked featuring production photos, a Whitson foreword, and essays by Grace Lovera, Taylor Heider, and Caroline Kopko. Buy here or here.

A combination of Video Diary of a Lost Girlcult film love letter and audacious art school project, 2012's Video Diary of a Lost Girl is a colorful mixed media collage unlike anything else out there. Packed with movie posters and other cinematic ephemera nodding to everything Video Diary of a Lost Girlfrom Cannibal Ferox to American Psycho, it does have some semblance of a linear narrative involving video store worker Louise (Pris McEver), a demonic descendant of Lilith, who has to seduce and murder a new male every full moon cycle. When she meets a guy named Charlie (Chris Shields, who also co-wrote) tied to her past, romance blossoms but with one huge snag in their relationship. Shot almost entirely against a green screen and flooded with Day-Glo colors, this debut effort from director Lindsay Denniberg starts off in full-on hallucinatory mode with the Lilith origin story and rarely lets up over the next 90-plus minutes. Luckily the film has a really goofy sense of humor that makes it all stand out, including some amusing one-liners and a surprisingly cute conclusion. Preserved from the original digital master and looking insanely vibrant, the Blu-ray from the American Genre Film Archive comes packed with extras including two commentaries with Denniberg (one with McEver and film programmer Crisitna Cacioppo, the second with Shields and Casey Puccini), a funny 15m41s outtake reel, a 20m19s behind the scenes featurette, a 5-minute photo gallery, trailers, and a slew of short films: Fur Fatale (2007, 4m45s), Wet Skin (2008, 10m3s), Chance (2009, 16m7s), Third Eye of Medusa (2015, 3m50s), What's Inside Pandora's Talk Box? (2017, 34m7s, with optional commentary), Sex Machine 2025 (2006, 11m26s), Dracula Gets a Nose Job (2007, 16m22s), You Stink, You Die! (2019, 25m58s), Debit Wolf (2014, 15m47s), Full Frontal Biopsy (2012, 3m1s), I Don't Know When the Armageddon Is (2018, 7m), and Memory (2019, 4m13s). Buy here or here.

A viral Once Upon a Time in Ugandasensation that seemed to come out of nowhere, Ugandan action films became a worldwide source of fascination a decade Once Upon a Time in Ugandaago thanks to a mind-boggling trailer for Who Killed Captain Alex? The Wakaliwood DIY movie culture found an immediate champion in Alan Hofmanis, who flew to Uganda from Long Island to meet the filmmakers and ended up participating in their productions, the wildest ones helmed by Nabawana IGG (Isaac Nabwana). The films and their histories are fragile (with scripts and other ephemera falling victim to termites, for example), so it's joyful to see these stories preserved in the 2021 documentary Once Upon a Time in Uganda, now on Blu-ray from Yellow Veil. Drawing inspiration from everything from Bruce Lee to Sylvester Stallone, these labors of love feature lots of enthusiastic locals who volunteer to learn crafts ranging from makeup to editing to acting, and you get to see plenty of giddy filmmaking in progress here. Of course, you also get to see how they come up with that insane, utterly endearing narration for the movies and trailers, an aspect that completely sets these films apart from anything else in the world. There are also some tensions and setbacks here, plus a bit of reenactment that make you wonder how much of this is 100% true, but then again that kind of suits the subjects matter. The Blu-ray will mark the first time a lot of folks can see this film since much of its festival play was sidelined by the pandemic, and it's a treat here with a crisp presentation and 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA options with English SDH subs. Extras include a five deleted scenes, an intro and commentary by director Cathryne Czubek, a 34m15s Zoom Q&A with Czubec and Ark Martin Kyaligamba about the process of making the film starting in 2015, a fundraising trailer, and two galleries (behind the scenes and "Zombies vs Cat & Matt Scene"). Buy here or here.

Proving there's Hole in the Fencestill life left in the old "kids go savage" idea from The Lord of the Flies, the 2021 Mexican production The Hole in the Fence (El hoyo en la cerca) is supposedly inspired by real events -- which is pretty creepy to contemplate. At a prestigious Catholic summer camp, the most wealthy and supposedly well-bred boys are sent each year for intensive training by their private academy. By day they engage in manual labor like digging holes and chopping wood, while at Hole in the Fencenight they spread occult stories and find random kids to pick on. One afternoon they find a big hole ripped in the wire fencing surrounding the camp, and it appears to be stained with blood. Around the same time, one of the boys spies a sinister-looking brute lurking in the woods nearby. Soon the regimented programming of the camp begins to break down, and the cruelty inherent in this longstanding breeding ground for powerful men rises to the surface. The intersection of scary mob rule and religious fervor is always good for drama, and this one gets extra mileage by placing it in a group of kids who always seem to be teetering on the edge. Director Joaquin del Paso does an excellent job at using the mostly sunny setting as a counterpoint to the disturbing subject matter, and it's easy to see why this has drawn comparisons to Midsommar in some quarters. The Blu-ray from Altered Innocence looks immaculate and makes for a great visual presentation; the Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix (with English subtitles) is also great but doesn't do much surround-wise apart from scenes with the kids chanting in unison. Extras include a long reel of deleted scenes (14m36s), a 4m15s selection from the casting tapes, a 5m17s acting workshop, 5m8s of camera tests, a 2m45s making-of featurette, a deliberately misleading "happy" trailer, the U.S. trailer, and bonus trailers for Arreebato, Beautiful Beings, Dressed in Blue, and Adoration. Buy here or here.

The always unpredictable CIP (Canadian International Pictures) has been dipping its toes in the grittier side of '70s cinema recently, and two of their Blu-ray offerings are prime examples of how crime films could get filtered through the sensibilities of Dirty MoneyMontreal filmmakers. In particular, these films represent the early work of Denys Arcand who went on to went on to more mainstream success with 1986's The Decline of the American Empire, 1989's Jesus of Montreal, and 2003's Oscar-winning The Barbarian Invasions. Our Dirty Moneyjourney into his crime days begins with 1972's Dirty Money (La Maudite Galette), his debut narrative feature and a forerunner to the home invasion movie trend that would come decades later. In this case said invasion is staged by married Roland (René Caron) and Berthe (Luce Guilbeault), who are offended by the penny-pinching attitude of uber-wealthy Uncle Arthur (J. Léo Gagnon). Recruiting two of Berthe's relatives, they stage the robbery at the remote country home only to find their plans going extremely haywire with trust quickly going by the wayside in the process. Though the pacing here is meditative for the most part, the film jolts with a few unexpected moments and brings some new twists to the heist table; in particular, a striking, long wide shot anticipates what Funny Games would do several years later. (Also, approach this one with caution if you're a dog lover even if there's thankfully no genuine animal harm here.) The CIP disc is a great way to bring this one to U.S. viewers, featuring an impressive 4K restoration from the original camera negative with the original Québécois fully restored and presented with optional English subtitles.'s Paul Corupe and film historian Jason Pichosnky provide an informative new audio commentary with lots of info about cinema from Quebec in the first half of the decade, other significant work from the cast, and Arcand's entry into filmmaking. The director himself appears for a new interview, "Making Money (20m7s), talking about his transition to this feature after working on short and full-length documentaries for a decade, as well as the commercial prospects of the enterprise. "Building an Industry" (23m27s) is a Zoom chat with Cinémathèque Québécoise director Robert Daudelin about the '60s and '70s local industry (which itself was preceded by a small number of "pretty bad" films), followed by audio interviews with actors Marcel Sabourin (17m14s) and Gabriel Arcand (18m53s), trailers for Arcand's three early crime films (also including 1973's Réjeanne Padovani), and a restoration trailer. Also included is a booklet with a new text interview with screenwriter Jacques Benoit. Buy here or here.

Now we jump ahead to CIP's Blu-ray edition of the third Arcand crime film, 1975's Gina, a vehicle for Céline Lomez who would excel in the 1978 Canuxploitation classic The Silent Partner. Here she plays the title character, an exotic dancer sent to a new hotel gig in a small, snowy town where she encounters a documentary crew (working on a potentially dangerous project Ginaabout textile workers) and a rowdy gang of snowmobile-happy cretins. When the latter decide to sexually assault her after hours, Gina has to call in a few favors... Though it sounds like a drive-in film, this one again has a deliberate pace and poetic snowy atmosphere as Arcand spends most of his time soaking up the provincial setting and snowy vistas. The juxtaposition of his personal ax to grind over the treatment of Ginadocumentarians makes for an interesting contrast with the potential rape-revenge story, which does provide some fiery catharsis in the final stretch. Don't go in expected a sleaze spectacle, as this is more a slice of pure Canadian art film with a few gritty grace notes. The presentation here is also quite impressive especially given it's from a lesser source (but apparently the best surviving one), a 2K scan of a 35mm print. The Québécois original audio track sounds fine here with optional English subs included, plus the alternate English dub track. The always insightful Kier-La Janisse and writer/film programmer Justine Smith do the commentary honors this time and are more than up to the task, explaining the odd trajectory of Arcand's career, his sometimes controversial perception among local cineastes, the ins and outs of filmmaking during that time, and the film's depictions of predation, ennui, and gender disparity. Another new Arcand interview, "Directing Gina" (21m56s), covers the personal nature of this project stemming from his own past experiences as well as the crafting of the screenplay to take advantage of commercial requirements and the available setting. New audio interviews with actors Gabriel Arcand (13m16s), Paule Baillargeon (8m5s), Dorothée Berryman (14m39s), and Marcel Sabourin (13m2s) go into an insane amount of depth about the creation of the film including the snowmobile culture and performances, the casting process, the local box office reception for films like this, and Arcand's working process. Then the video essay "The Exploitation of Gina" (11m20s) by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas covers the film from the rape-revenge vantage point of some of her past featurettes, followed by the same three Arcand trailers. An insert booklet features a new essay by Jim Leach, who authored a book about Arcand. Buy here or here.

Then it's time to head to the other end of North America for the Mexican horror film The Demon Rat (Mutantes del año 2000), a 1992 production from the enthusiastic Rubén Galindo Jr. The Demon Ratthat feels a lot scruffier than his earlier Don't Panic, Grave Robbers, and Cemetery of Terror. Like those films, this one has gotten a sterling restoration on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome after lurking on DVD for years as part of BCI Eclipse's 2006 Horror South of the Border line (and then repackaged for its Crypt of Terror Mexican horror collection). Shot on 16mm with a grimy post-nuke aesthetic, this one spends more time focusing on the depiction of its grim, environmentally ravaged setting than the actual monster rat, which is mostly seen in quick implied flashes until a reveal at the very end. In the not-so-far-off future of 2000, heavy pollution and acid rain have people wearing gas The Demon Rat to get by day to day while animal life is transformed into horrible monstrosities thanks to corporate radioactive waste dumping. Irina (Rossana San Juan), who's married to one of the chief offenders, is having a particularly big rat problem in her apartment building and turns to colleague and teacher Axel (Miguel Ángel Rodríguez) for help -- though the process of getting rid of the vermin infestation is a very tall order. Feeling like a more serious and even more threadbare rendition of the beloved Rats: Night of Terror, this one was made during a more strained period for the Mexican industry and feels far more like an earlier film than the other Galindo horror films out there. Released as part of the VSA line, this looks way better than the old DVD (this never got a theatrical release anywhere and went straight to Mexican VHS), scanned in 2K from the 16mm negative with the original Spanish DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track (with English subs) about as robust as it could be. "The Dangers Ahead" (17m57s) is another worthwhile interview with the director (who calls the film The Mutant Rat, a more accurate title) and gets into the context for the story's creation, the production, and the dire nature of the industry by that point. In "A Precautionary Tale" (11m29s), San Juan looks back at the making of the film and notes the state of her career at the time as well as the ways she feels this was prophetic for the state of the world in more recent years. Finally in "It's All in the Prophecy" (12m8s), Rodriguez covers his own 45-year career, the hot topics the film touches that feel modern now, his memories of working with his director, and his interpretation of some of the more colorful costuming choices for his character. Buy here or here.

Also out from Vinegar Syndrome is one of the weirdest pickups in the history of Cannon Films: Psycho Girls, a 1986 Canadian slasher film that was toned down for U.S. circulation to get an R rating (which wasn't worth the trouble since it barely got Psycho Girlsreleased anyway). A bizarre, exaggerated black comedy with a completely ADR-ed soundtrack, the mayhem begins with a chain-smoking writer clacking away at a typewriter to preserve the grotesque story of sisters Sarah and Victoria Tusk, with the former confined to an asylum after poisoning both of their parents in bed on the morning of their anniversary in 1966. Dressed like a noir femme fatale, Victoria refuses to sign her sister's release papers -- which instigates a daring release plan four years Psycho Girlslater and a vengeful rampage of homicide from Sarah and her cuckoo cronies. Far more Troma than Cannon, this is a very amusing, very '80s oddity with Re-Animator-inspired main titles, some surprisingly stylish lighting, and soaking splashes of gore, all restored here (via video inserts as the more graphic material no longer exists on film) in the longest possible version clocking in at 97 minutes. Given that the film is extremely grainy anyway, the quality shift isn't as dramatic as you'd think-- and it's great to have the extra bits here, including a nasty shear decapitation and skull shaving plus lots of stage blood in the finale. Transferred in 2K from the 35mm interpositive, the film looks as good as it could here (definitely better than the VHS copies) and comes with a very illuminating new commentary by director and co-writer Jerry Ciccoritti and director of photography / editor Robert Bergman chatting with Brad Henderson about their friendship going back to high school and the making of this film. The disjointed narrative, as it turns out, can be attributed to the fact that the film was originally conceived to unfold in two halves, with the first a more Hitchcockian / giallo approach for Victoria and then a jagged, insane feel for Sarah. Obviously that isn't how it all played out, so you just have to go with the flow here as it veers into a bizarre theatrical torture performance in the final act. "Filming Canadian Style" (23m25s) features Ciccoritti (who also directed the two VHS perennial Graveyard Shift vampire movies) talking about his punk rock background and the lengthy process of getting this film together. Then "Psycho Team Effort" (15m26s) has Bergman talking about the many industry hats he wore over the course of his career and the collaborative efforts to get this film together, as well as the summer school program that got him into the filmmaking world. In "A Career Built on Psycho Girls" (21m56s), art director Craig Richards recalls getting recruited during his school days over Christmas break to work on his first film project with these guys, which eventually led to coming up with the scrappy process of putting this whole feature together. Finally an audio interview with Corupe again (15m53s) efficiently covers the state of Canadian regional filmmaking, which was far more difficult than the tax shelter heyday and required genre filmmakers to keep an eye on the home video market. He also touches on similarities to other films like the early Cronenberg titles, Seizure, and Bloodsucking Freaks. Buy here or here.

How much you get out of 2022's Debbie Does Demons will depend on your affinity for digital projects layered with a faux grindhouse appearance, something this Debbie Does Demonsone trots out right in the opening credits. This marks an ambitious return for DIY filmmaker Debbie Does DemonsDonald Farmer (Cannibal Hookers, Shark Exorcist, Demon Queen), here with tongue very much in cheek as it depicts the antics of "notorious witch bitch" and "queen of naked evil," Carmilla Karnstein (Jessa Flux), a topless sorceress summoned from the beyond thanks to some drunk dummies with a Ouija board. Meanwhile paranormal show host Debbie (Angel Nicole Bradford) knows all about Carmilla's sordid history and might possess the way to get rid of her once and for all. Technically it's Carmilla who does the deed of the title in the most outrageous sex scene involving a big demon puppet, and Farmer drops in some amusing genre nods beyond the Carmilla name including a little Lovecraft here and there. The acting here is completely ripe and delivered at full blast, which can be pretty amusing at times and feels especially surreal combined with the heavy doses of nudity (especially from Flux who's a real trooper and spends much of the film topless). This Blu-ray from Culture Shock Releasing marks one of the label's last via OCN Distribution, and it's as good an edition as you could hope with the film looking and sounding perfect for what it is. Farmer supplies an 8m31s video intro about the film's influences (obviously Fright Night, plus Female Vampire and Witchfinder General), as well as praise for Flux's scene-stealing performance. The star does a separate 12m28s interview about her own casting in the film and her larger than life approach to the character and dialogue, complete with 18th-century jargon. Bradford turns up for her own 9m40s interview and is a lot more low key here than in the film as she recalls working with Farmer on this after prior work together, with the script appealing to her immediately. Also included are teasers, a trailer, a behind the scenes gallery, and the usual Culture Shock bonus trailers. Buy here or here.

Even though we live in a Adjust Your Trackingworld with 4K scans from camera negatives at our fingertips, there is still a large and fervent following for the home video format that really landed us where we are today: the VHS tape. Still the ultimate salute to the format, the Adjust Your Tracking2013 documentary Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector, is now a decade old but still feels relevant for a tape-loving culture that thrives today. From the format's origins in the late '70s to its mom and pop store heyday through the homogeneity of Blockbuster Video, it all gets covered here with a number of contributors (some no longer with us) including Sam Sherman, Lloyd Kaufman, Mike McPadden, Bruce Holecheck, Tony Timpone, Mike Raso, Eric Spudic, and Zack Carlson, among many others. One of the big points here is especially resonant, the fact that there are still thousands of titles unavailable outside of VHS is still the case; thus, among tape swappers there are titles now that can commands thousands of dollars to this day. This doc has been out in various formats around the world (including a VHS from Lunchmeat, of course), but VHShitfest has given the red carpet treatment with a two-disc Blu-ray set. Of course, having this in HD feels perverse given that the film itself has been treated to look like a soft VHS copy converted to a DVD-R with deliberate compression artifacts and tracking issues, but hey, that's the entire point. Included here are the original 2014 commentaries (directors Dan Kinem and Levi Peretic, then Matt Desiderio and Josh Schafter), plus a new 2023 commentary with Kinem, Peretic, Desiderio, and Joel Smith that works like a fun sort of state of the union of the format now. Also on the first disc are the teaser and theatrical trailer, 24m9s of deleted scenes, three short films (The Ballad of Chester Turner; It Wasn't in Vain, It Was in Staten Island; and Video Shelf), a mammoth 67m30s chunk of behind the scenes featurettes, and an even more titanic 191m12s(1) of extended interviews. If that isn't enough to keep you busy for a week, head over to disc two where you'll find three more behind the scenes segments (193m17s) including a new Desiderio interview, a joint director interview, and a 2012 Horror VHS Collectors Unite convention, nine updates with various collectors from the feature (88m47s), three galleries (production photos, VHS tour photos, and promotional art), a "Tapes! Tapes! Tapes!" (229m35s!!) deep dive into the VHS collections seen in the film with collectors chatting about their favorite titles, and four video store tours (77m44s) from New York, Texas, Indiana, and Oregon. Buy here or here.

A companion At the Video Storepiece of sorts to that film can be found on the ETR Blu-ray release of At the Video Store, a 2019 documentary ode to the video At the Video Storestore experience in all its many manifestations. From the gray market-heavy rental outfits in New York City and Los Angeles to the more mainstream purveyors of VHS and DVD, it's a wistful snapshot of the impact the video store, including its staff, customers, and tactile shopping experience, had on filmmakers and cinema awareness, with interviewees including tons of store owners along with names like Bill Hader, Gus Van Sant, Thelma Schoonmaker, Todd Haynes, and John Waters. Some of the portraits here are surprising and endearing as we see how some owners have other adjoining businesses to keep the stores afloat, such as a gym. Director David Westby provides a sweet 2m48s video intro to the film (complete with a couple of cute scene stealers), and the film itself gets a nice presentation here with optional English SDH subtitles. You also get five deleted scenes (including a great Hader bit on Star 80), plus the trailer. Buy here or here.

If that isn't enough The First VCRretro tech for you, go back further in the home media timeline with another ETR Blu-ray The First VCRrelease, The First VCR + Cassettes Go Hi-Fi, featuring two shorts (42 and 44 minutes) devoted to the early processes that would lead to the tape-based entertainment popularized in the '70s and '80s. The story of the first VCR is a long and odd one covering the creation of magnetic tape and the creation of Ampex, which led to the first (huge) video recording machine that became a fixture of the TV broadcast world for many years. Likewise, you get to see how the compact audio cassette that became a familiar component of Walkmans and cars while serving as a viable competitor to vinyl (before being taken down by the compact disc). Some great vintage ads get dropped in here, making it the more energetic of the two with a slew of archival material here showing how it all came to be. Trailers for both features (which comes with English SDH subs) are also provided. Buy here or here.


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