This column hasn't been nearly as prolific as I (or my basement) would have liked. I have no excuse; I'm a terrible person. I'm sorry. All I can do is dig back into the piles of crap I have and try again. Hopefully we'll get my embarrassingly large stockpile of film-centric consumer products whittled down to something manageable before I die. Please help me and my eventual survivors in this noble endeavor.
Today, let's talk about DVDs, and the idiots who keep buying them. Is there anything more shameful in a film lover's home than the multiple copies of certain films that seem to pop up and spread throughout their collection? Dawn of the Dead. Halloween. The Evil Dead. VHS. Laserdisc. DVD. Blu-ray. Goddamn you, Anchor Bay. But the bright side to my wallet-crippling weakness is that one of you will get some pretty great movies on a perfectly serviceable standard definition format.
There is a secret trick to correctly watching Halloween III (1982). First, watch Halloween. Next, never watch Halloween II. Then, put on Halloween III and when the title comes up use your hand to cover one of the roman numerals so it says "Halloween II: Season of the Witch." Finally, put on Trick 'r Treat and pretend that's called Halloween III: Trick 'r Treat and now you have enjoyed the successful, decades-spanning horror anthology of which director Tommy Lee Wallace dreamed. Wallace's film is not perfect (and he's the first to tell you why), but it's got Tom Atkins, a fun Carpenter/Howarth score, a great villain and best of all, the cinematography of Dean Cundey in his '80s prime. Beyond all that, it's fun to imagine a world where the Halloween franchise spawned ten standalone films that didn't rely on tangled continuity and monotonous plot rehashes. The film failed, but it was hobbled out of the gate by the mere existence of Halloween II. Then and now, movie nerds don't like having their trilogies cockblocked like that. This version by Goodtimes Video is a decent enough (if not anamorphic) starter disc if you've never seen the film, but it should be said that Scream Factory's new Blu is a must buy for fans. It's a great transfer, and the making-of doc has a really touching, happy ending coda that, not to brag, wouldn't exist were it not for the New Beverly Cinema, Brian Collins and my camera. You're welcome, Scream Factory!
To fans who were there for its initial release, Re-Animator (1985) was a real turning point in '80s horror. It was a hard departure from the no-frills kills of Jason and his ilk, and as much as I was pre-sold on Day of the Dead, anxiously awaiting its release in 1985, Re-Animator stole its thunder pretty hard that year. It was a genre sucker punch, and a gorehound's gateway to a higher level of filmmaking quality than the dreck we were eagerly devouring. Re-Animator was not only smart, funny and sexy (shout-out to to the lovely Barbara Crampton), but it was gorier than almost anything that came before. The original Evil Dead was perhaps crazier and ultimately more iconic, but Re-Animator was simply masterful - Led Zeppelin to Evil Dead's garage band. Although Stuart Gordon's follow-up, From Beyond, is very nearly as great, Re-Animator is one of those films that really make a case for filmmaking as alchemy. The same creative team, give or take a key player, would attempt to recreate the magic a number of times, but Re-Animator has emerged as the group's bona fide classic. This two disc "Millennium Edition" has a lot of great extras, which you can't get from watching the film on Netflix!
Ganja & Hess (1973) is a film I've written about here before, and a film I've been grappling with for 20 years now; head here to really dive into it. In this post I'll just say it's amazing the film - cerebral, impenetrable, unmarketable - was able to be made at all, and I still can't get my head around the fact that this once all-but-lost nugget is now in its third digital iteration. Having seen at least four cuts of the film, I can tell you this DVD is a vast, vast improvement over previous releases, and is only missing a few moments from the version I recently picked up on Blu-ray. You will be no more frustrated by this edition than the one currently on my shelf. It's a challenging film, but it will seep into a corner of your brain and set up house if you let it.
If you want these three (and some bonus movies I didn't feel inspired to write up), tweet this article and I'll pull up a winner from there. (Sometimes Twitter's search engine is glitchy and doesn't return all tweets, but life is risk, no?) Speaking of, congrats to @eschalchlin, who won my Cabin in the Woods shirt a really long time ago. Hopefully you still want it!