Whether it’s VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and now Blu-ray and digital downloads; home video has always brought the cinematic experience to moviegoers everywhere, no matter how rare or obscure the film may be. This is truer than ever, as collectors and the fan base of obscure, exploitation and other horror sub-genres grow. Companies like Synapse, Raro Video, Scream! Factory and many others take pride in their own nerdery and devote their companies to bringing us these gems, restoring them from original prints and loading them up with extra goodies. But there are some films that seem to be either forgotten about or come as a total shock that it’s not available on any recent format since the VHS era. Take a look below at some of these titles that you may find to be surprising!
A cannibal movie about two brothers that serve their victims to patrons in their diner while trying to resurrect and an ancient god is sure to be a cult classic. It’s what you would call a “splat-stick,” using gore for laughs. Would you believe my first exposure to this film was on network television (I believe it may have been MonsterVision on TNT)? Later, I rediscovered the film when FearNet had a brief run on demand through my cable provider and showed it to all my friends. For the longest time, we searched for it on DVD, but outside a poor quality Region 2 DVD, we only found it available on VHS. This last Halloween, I did pick up one of those cheap six-packs (where all the movies are crammed on one or two discs) from Lionsgate that does have Blood Diner on it, but unfortunately, it’s a straight VHS dub. I don’t count this as an official release, so hopefully, Lionsgate will decide to polish up the film and give it an official release, although I wouldn’t count on it.
This isn’t obscure or unheard of horror films by any means, but it seems to be somewhat forgotten since it hasn’t had a release since the VHS days outside of a few unauthorized Region 2 DVDs. A personal favorite of mine, The Mutilator is about a boy who accidentally shoots and kills his mother on his Father’s birthday. Not the best gift in the world, but cut to him as a college student and he receives a phone call from his father to come clean up their beachfront condo. He brings some friends along, but rather than having the weekend of their life, they are murdered one by one. It could have been a generic, run of the mill slasher (especially given that title), but it boasts excellent kills with great gore and actually has a good psychological storyline. A few years ago, Code Red announced they were going to release it uncut on DVD and then they ran into a slight problem… any of the 35mm prints of the film cannot seem to be found. Rather than dub VHS copies onto DVDs, Code Red decided to stop the project altogether.
Regardless of having a huge cult following and having David Gale (the villainous Dr. Hill from Re-Animator) as the movie’s villain; a scientist who is using an alien/brain-like creature to hypnotize people through a TV show and take over the world, The Brain has only had a VHS and Laserdisc release to my knowledge. Like Blood Diner, this one has come as a total shock to me that it hasn’t been released on DVD. Also like Blood Diner, Lionsgate currently has the rights to distribution, but as of 2011, there still have not been any plans of an official release. Lionsgate is sitting on two of the biggest cult classic properties and not releasing them? Maybe in the post-apocalyptic future they are considered a rare form of currency and are hanging onto them to trade for vast riches.
Shocking Dark (aka Terminator 2)
Okay, so this one isn’t very well known, but it’s one of those bad Italian knock-offs that I love so dearly, that I had to include it on the list. Although it’s known as Terminator 2 (and actually coming out years before James Cameron’s official sequel), it’s more of an Aliens rip-off until about the last ten or fifteen minutes. It’s not good by any means necessary, but these films are usually watched for their cheese factor and nobody brings that better than Bruno Mattei, who made many of the American knock-off films that plagued us in the 80’s, most popular being Hell of the Living Dead (although this one is quite unique it a weird way). It’s pretty obvious why this one is not available in any format in the US, including VHS. The only way to get this film is to find a bootleg, which is pretty easy to do if you check those sleazy bootleg booths at cons.
A Clive Barker film that missed the mark and the mainstream audience doesn’t seem to know about… or has chosen to forget. I remember reading this graphic novel as a kid and being shocked that a phallic-shaped beast was running around eating kids. I loved every page of it. It was gory and it was great. Then while cruising the horror section at the local mom and pop, I saw the film sitting there on the shelf. This, as I can recall, was the first time I realized how disappointed you could be by the film adaptation of books. Barely anything about this was the same and Rex looks like someone in a weird S&M caveman costume, complete with glowing red novelty eyes you’d find at Spencer’s Gifts. The film was released by Artisan in 1999, but the transfer is hardly anything to consider as good and it’s since been out of print, which is why I decided to include it on the list. Although it’s a silly movie, it contains that “cheese” factor and would be nice to see restored and released for fans.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes
This is one that’s on every list of this kind and for a very good reason. It’s downright terrifying. Taking place in Poughkeepsie, NY, it’s part mockumentary and part found footage and does both parts done equally well. In the documentary segments, various police or federal agents are interviewed and discuss the killer’s methods and motives as we review the tapes found recorded by the killer as he commits violent acts. After a limited release in theaters, it has yet to be released on DVD and from the sounds of things (or lack thereof), there doesn’t seem to be any plans to, however, this is another one that you can find bootlegs of at cons.
Nightmare at Noon
The 80’s really tried to sell us Wings Hauser and Bo Hopkins as the next action/comedy duo, like Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Heck, the movie even co-stars George Kennedy! In this action/horror flick, some scientists poison a small town’s water supply that turns the residents into wild maniacs and turn their skin and blood green. So, it’s not the greatest idea for a film, but it’s not horrible. There are worse films out there on DVD and when you load a film with the dynamic b-movie duo, how could you not release it on DVD? It’s such an incredibly fun watch, that Mike, Bill, and Kevin over at Rifftrax have their riffed version available for download!
Within the Woods
In order to raise money for Evil Dead, Sam Raimi and company made a short film that was basically the first two Evil Dead films in less than twenty minutes. Now, I know a movie that has such a short run time would never get an actual release, but why was this never released on the number of Evil Dead releases? Every time they re-release Evil Dead, I always hope to see it listed under the bonus features. The Synapse Blu-ray release of Intruder has its original short Night Crew, so why not include Within the Woods on the next inevitable Evil Dead release? My guess is that the original is lost or because of copyright issues, but who knows. At this point, I would take any release put on a disc.
I’m sure there are many more out there that I didn’t discuss, but these are some obvious choices and personal favorites. What are some that you would like to see that I may have missed? Tell us below!