Horror fans and Hollywood studios have always had an uneasy relationship. Far too many horror movies have received perfunctory DVD releases or, worse, simply languished unreleased in the vaults. But the pop-culture archivists at Shout! Factory are aiming to correct that with Scream Factory, a new imprint dedicated to cult horror movies. The label launched in September with bonus-packed collector’s editions of Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch on DVD and Blu-ray. October brings Terror Train and Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse, while November sees the eagerly anticipated collector’s edition release of John Carpenter’s They Live.
As DVD producer Cliff MacMillan puts it, Scream Factory’s ambition is to become a “Criterion-like” imprint for horror. MacMillan is bringing a fan’s obsessive attention to detail to the Scream Factory line. “When we announced Halloween II,” he explains, “there were some people who wondered, why bother? Universal had just released it on Blu-ray a year ago. For some people, that disc is good enough. They aren’t interested in extra stuff. That’s fine but we aren’t making these discs for them. These are for the hardcore fans.”
With multiple audio commentaries, alternate and deleted scenes, marketing material and a feature-length documentary that includes interviews with much of the cast and crew, it’s hard to imagine a more comprehensive Halloween II disc. The amount of material that is being uncovered for these discs will more than satisfy even the most devoted fan, in large part because fans don’t come much more devoted than MacMillan and Jeff Nelson, Shout! Factory’s director of marketing.
Nelson is using Facebook to interact directly with fans and foster the tight-knit sense of community that has always been a part of horror fandom. Nelson explains that they’re looking for films that have so far been overlooked but with a strong cult following. “Take something like Halloween III,” he says. “And, yeah, it’s the bastard child of the Halloween movies. But the people who love it really love it. And for all sorts of reasons. It’s so bad it’s good. It’s misunderstood. It’s trying something different. We don’t necessarily want movies that people watch once and then forget about. We want something people will gladly watch every other day.”
Scream Factory also allows fans to reevaluate movies that never received the attention they deserved. Terror Train is fondly remembered by hardcore slasher fans but the new disc provides new insight from director Roger Spottiswoode, who would go on to such blockbusters as the 007 outing Tomorrow Never Dies. Tobe Hooper’s neglected The Funhouse gives the director a long overdue chance to provide commentary on one of his best films.
Arguably the most anticipated Scream Factory release (at least so far) is John Carpenter’s They Live. The movie didn’t have much impact upon its debut in 1988, but over time has revealed itself to be one of Carpenter’s most enduring films.
Upcoming titles confirmed for the line include Wes Craven’s little-seen Deadly Blessing, with Sharon Stone in one of her earliest roles, making its first-ever appearance on DVD; Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm II; The Island, a bizarro horror-thriller about modern-day pirates starring Michael Caine and David Warner from the pen of Peter Benchley; and Death Valley, another DVD debut with Peter Billingsley from A Christmas Story running into a serial killer. Many of these will be released on both Blu-ray and DVD while some will be DVD/BD combo packs.