Scream Factory: The Criterion of Horror
The definition of Criterion is “a principle or standard by which something may be judged or decided.” It also happens to be the famous American video-distribution company that’s synonymous with quality and completeness. The be-all-end-all, last word in home video. If a movie is released by Criterion, not only is it the best and most complete version of that film and extras, it’s also a statement about the film itself. A film deserving of regal treatment. Sadly, for lovers of the horror genre, we get a bit of the cold shoulder from “the elites”, for our mostly under-appreciated aesthetic sensibilities. This is where Scream Factory comes in to save the day for film preservationists and collectors alike.
Started in 2012 as a subsidiary of Shout! Factory, and run by Jeff Nelson (marketing director), and Cliff MacMillan (DVD/Blu-ray producer and acquisitions guru), the company set off to target fans of cult horror and sci-fi with a focus of the 70s & 80s variety. Now with four years going strong, found their mark they did, with release after release of fan favorites. (Beginning with Collector’s Editions of Halloween II & Halloween III: Season of the Witch.) Unlike some other distribution companies, (who will go unnamed), simply slapping a movie on a disc and exploiting the double dip friendly horror community, wasn’t their business model. From the first release on, they made it their mission to be the very last word in whatever they released. Be it a film with a hundred prior releases on blu-ray and DVD, new originals, or a lost classic that most thought would never see the light of day again, it had to be the best. To be fair, there are several boutique distributors that offer up rare genre favorites that deserve mention: Blue Underground, Synapse, Kino Lorber, Eureka, Olive and Vinegar Syndrome , just to name a few. But the only one that even approaches this dedication to quality, completion and fan service is UK based Arrow Video.
As a horror and cult movie fan and collector, nothing excites me more than a new release announcement from Scream Factory. In part because I’m a huge John Carpenter fan; just this week they announced a 2-disc Collector’s Edition of The Thing for this fall, as a way to celebrate their 4 year anniversary. Which is fitting since they’ve been kindest to us Carpenter fans, gifting us stellar editions of the entire Halloween franchise, They Live, The Fog, Prince of Darkness, Assault on Precinct 13, Body Bags, Escape from New York and Village of the Damned. It’s also poetic since their first releases were the Halloween II and Halloween III:Season of the Witch Collector’s Editions.
The new title announcements have become like a surprise holiday for me. I never know when they’re coming and the anticipation is half the fun! Even if it’s a title I’m not going to buy, I get excited, like seeing a well respected artist being inducted into the genre hall of fame. I’ve become so confident in their product that I will pre-order a Collector’s Edition release, long before I hear what extras are included, just because I know that whatever can be included, will be included. More and more often, this means a brand new transfer, which to me is the most exciting thing of all. Knowing their fans' passions have become second nature to them, so they will even go as far as to include the older lesser quality transfers just for the sake of completeness.
With their May 24th Collector’s Edition release of the Michael Mann classic Manhunter, Scream Factory has 193 releases under it’s belt, with announced releases through September bringing that up to 217. There are so many amazing genre classics on this list, it’s daunting to pick just a few to illustrate why this company is so marvelous for us genre nerds. We could talk about their penchant for under appreciated cult classics like Terrorvision, Slumber Party Massacre or Sssssss. From B-movie favorites like Troll & Troll 2, to neglected masterpieces like The Sentinel & Ghost Story. We could talk about modern classic must-owns like The Babadook, or exploitation throwbacks like their Blacula/Scream Blacula Scream double feature. I could even talk about my son Max's favorite release, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Collector's Edition. But let’s focus on a few titles that are not just the bread-and-butter of any serious horror fan's collection, but also amazing feats unto themselves from a distribution perspective.
Army of Darkness (Collector’s Edition): While Scream Factory has no shortage of amazing and often obscure genre titles, a select number of them are granted the coveted “Collector’s Edition” status. While they make every attempt possible to get every imaginable special feature and film version for each of their releases, the logistics are often insurmountable to do so. But when they are able to secure some truly unique collection of extras, that release is put out under their “Collector’s Edition” banner. One other notable quality of these editions, is custom artwork is often commissioned for them. We’re not talking your $5 bargain-bin hackie photoshop covers which are an insult to fans and art lovers alike, we’re talking frame worthy works here. In fact that’s precisely what many do, as Scream Factory offers up limited runs of posters for each release, if you’re quick on the draw and pre-order directly from their website (which also nets you several weeks advanced shipping). Knowing quite well that many genre fans are purists, these cover sheets are reversible, so you can choose between the newly commissioned artwork or the original theatrical artwork. Not only that, but the first run of releases often have slipcovers, so you can have the new artwork displayed and the old art in the case itself, best of both worlds. Little touches like this, really shows the level of respect they have for their customers.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more popular horror title than Sam Raimi’s 1993 Evil Dead trilogy epic, Army of Darkness. Which also has the distinction among fans of being one of the most double dipped titles in existence. There’s been so many different versions and variations of this film released on home video, trying to settle on just one has proven harder than remembering to properly say “Klaatu Barada Nikto”. This is where Scream Factory saves the day again! Instead of doing the lazy habit of simply slapping a transfer with a few extras on a disc and calling it a day, they made damn sure to have every coveted version of the film in one set, with more extras than you can shake a boomstick at. We’re talking 4 versions here: the Theatrical, Director’s Cut, Television Broadcast version and the International Cut (from a new 4K scan of the international inter-positive to boot!). Once again proving they are the last word on anything they release. Check out the full specs:
DISC ONE (Theatrical Version, 81 min.) – 1080p High-Definition (1.78:1), -Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0
NEW Medieval Times: The Making Of "Army Of Darkness" Featuring Interviews With Star & Co-Producer Bruce Campbell, Actors Marcus Gilbert, Ted, Timothy Quill, Richard Grove, Bill Moseley, Patricia And Angela , Director Of Pope, Editor Bob , Production Designer Anthony , Composer Joseph Lo , Costume Designer Ida , Special Make-Up Effects Artists Howard Berger,Tony Gardner, Robert , And Greg , "Pit Bitch" Performer And Effects Artist William Bryan, Mechanical Effects Artist Gary Jones, First Assistant Director John Cameron, Visual Effects Supervisor William Mesa And Stunt Coordinator Christopher Doyle (96 min.)
Original Ending, Original Opening With Optional Commentary By Sam And Bruce Campbell
Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary By Sam And Bruce Campbell
Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots, Home Video Promo
DISC TWO (Director's Cut, 96 min.) – 1080p High-Definition (1.78:1), - Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0
Audio Commentary With Director Sam , Actor Bruce Campbell And Co-Writer Ivan
NEW Additional Behind-The-Scenes Footage From Effects (55 min.)
Vintage Creating The Deadites Featurette (21 min.)
Vintage "Making Of"
Extended Interview Clips With Sam , Bruce Campbell And Robert
DISC THREE (International Cut, 88 min.) – 1080p High-Definition (1.78:1), -Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0
NEW 4K Scan Of The International Inter-positive
Television Version With Additional Footage (90 min., Standard Definition (1.33:1), - Master Audio 2.0)
NEW Still Galleries With Rare Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Production Designer Anthony , Visual Effects Supervisor William Mesa And Special Make-Up Effects Artists Tony Gardner And , Inc. (Over 200 Stills)
NEW Still Gallery Of Props And Rare Photos From The Collection Of Super Fan Dennis Carter Jr.
NEW Storyboards For Deleted Or Alternate Scenes
Vintage The Men Behind The Army (19 min.)
Nightbreed:The Director’s Cut (Limited Edition): What sane horror fan doesn’t adore Clive Barker? A true legend and visionary of fantasy and horror, with an infamous reputation for getting the constant shaft from the studio system. The long torrid tale of production and release of this fantasy magnum opus is one that us hardcore Barker fans know well. Suffice to say, the studio wanted a very different film than Clive did and what we saw in the theatrical release was the end product of that conflict of vision. The original cut of this film became a thing of legend. First, there was no hope of ever seeing any semblance of it. Then came word that VHS versions had surfaced, but the original footage was lost forever. Then the footage was found, but studio execs stated there wasn’t enough financial incentive to restore it. With the help of a rabid online campaign, those close to the original production and some serious wheeling and dealing, lightning struck and it was announced Clive was working directly with Scream Factory to release a restored Director’s Cut of Nightbreed.
In an official announcement Clive wrote:"This is film history and beyond my wildest dreams of realization. When Scream Factory told me that they found the NIGHTBREED film footage I was gob-smacked! This is the ultimate validation of choices made by myself and Mark Miller [of Seraphim Films] all the way back in 2008. As we embarked down the road of attempting to track down the lost footage, we looked at each other and said, 'Maybe one day they'll find it.' It's my pleasure to announce that the day has come. Speaking personally, I didn't allow myself to believe that it would. Even if we did find some footage (which we did in 2009 in the form of heavily degraded VHS tapes) and even if we did find a company willing to release the film (which we did in 2013 with Scream Factory, God bless them) the prospect of finding the actual lost film materials was remoter than I'd wanted to admit out loud. If the footage could not be found by those who had worked closest on it the same year it had been released, then what were the odds we'd be able to find anything 20 years on? But Scream Factory, in their commendable determination, kept up the search and thanks to them total reconstruction has been made a possibility."
I was ecstatic. Scream Factory had a general release of the director’s cut as well as a special 10,000 run limited edition of the set. Needless to say, I pounced on the limited edition set and it is a thing of beauty. From a film preservationist perspective alone, this is reason to revere Scream Factory. It’s also a prime reason to follow them on Facebook and pay close attention to their announcements, because these limited editions go by quite fast. I was lucky enough to get a pre-order in for the limited edition of their upcoming Return of the Living Dead release (squeeeee!), it too sold out fast. This release shows once again the amazing level of determination and of never giving up on trying to get genre fans what they’re are clamoring for. Which brings me to my next release…
Halloween: The Complete Collection (Deluxe Edition): Speaking of releases many thought were firmly in the “never going to happen” category, holy Haddonfield is this release a doozy. It’s easy for the uninitiated to take a release like this for granted, but for those of us in the know, it represents a true Herculean effort in logistical wrangling on the part of Scream Factory. With 10 films in it’s franchise, Halloween has taken many twists and turns, not just in story and quality, but also in production and distribution rights holdings. If you were a hardcore Halloween franchise fan, which you should be, owning the best version of each film was like a wild scavenger hunt. The thought that we could ever have all the rights holders play nice and allow us one cohesive set, was just something most of us assumed would never happen. Let alone a set with every coveted version of each film. It was enough to drive any horror fan with collectors OCD to cry themselves to sleep, trying to hunt down all the various discs and in some cases VHS tapes, to have a semi-complete collection. Dealing with one distribution company or set of rights holders can be a big enough obstacle in and of itself, but these films boast Embassy Pictures, Universal Pictures, Trancas International Films, Dimension, Miramax and the Weinstein Company as their distribution company list, all in one box. There’s even a slightly “lesser” franchise box set for the moderately hardcore fans, if the deluxe was a bit too much for you. Pure fan service at it’s best.
So there you have it folks, whether you’re a serious collector, a lover of cult sci-fi and horror, or just have that one particular movie that never seems to get it’s proper due, Scream Factory should absolutely be on your radar. Cult horror and sci-fi not your thing? Keep an eye on the new sister product line Shout Select. Taking the same loving approach to other under appreciated movies that don’t fall under the Scream Factory genre tent. I myself have a pre-order for the first release announced for that line, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 5th Dimension:Collector’s Edition. I wouldn’t mind an entire Peter Weller box-set, come to think of it. Of course that new label also has John Carpenter’s Elvis slated, keeping with their devotion to us Carpenter fans. If there’s a genre gem out there aching for a proper release, Scream Factory is working their tushes off to get that baby in your hands, they are the crowned kings of physical media fan service. Hail to the king baby!