Collins’ Crypt: When Scream Factory Met Paramount

After holding out for years, Paramount has finally opened their doors to the "Criterion for horror" label.

Next week, Scream Factory will release special edition Blu-rays of Body Parts and Let's Scare Jessica To Death, two films that couldn't be less alike. The former is a curious blend of medical thriller and revenge shocker about a murderer whose (wait for it) body parts are used for experimental grafting procedures, only for the madman to come back to life and go about getting them all back, and is probably most (in)famous for having its marketing and theatrical run cut short by the arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer. Let's Scare Jessica To Death, on the other hand, is an incredibly creepy entry in the famed "is this woman going crazy or are people really after her" sub-genre of horror thrillers, anchored by a memorable Zorah Lampert performance and Orville Stoeber's eerie score. The only thing they have in common (besides an 88 minute runtime!) is that they were both distributed in the US by Paramount Pictures.

Yes, after years of attempts, Paramount has finally allowed the good folks at Scream Factory to produce new editions of some of their library titles, a relatively new partnership that so far has yielded a few quality releases (Prophecy!) and some even more exciting titles in the pipeline, such as My Bloody Valentine and Escape From LA (I continue to be so, so wrong with my guesses). For those who don't pay attention to such things, Scream Factory does not own any of these movies; their releases are entirely dependent on whether or not the studio (Warner Bros, Sony, Paramount, etc) wants to license them out to a third party (that would be SF) for a while before reclaiming their rights to home video releases, which is why some of their Blu-rays end up going out of print. Some studios - most notably Universal and MGM - have been on board with Scream pretty much since the beginning, while others chose to continue making their own special editions.

Thankfully, their exemplary work over the years has seemingly opened a few previously closed doors, and I can only assume that as physical disc sales decline, a studio is happy to make a few extra bucks on a title that won't be selling too many copies, especially when they don't even have to put much effort into it on their end. With Paramount now in their Rolodex, Scream Factory conceivably has access to several new titles that have been previously out of reach, and I doubt they'll dilly dally going about getting them. Naturally, the big get from the vault at the bottom of that iconic mountain would be the Friday the 13th series, but that's a no-brainer - I'm far giddier about the prospect of Scream Factory-branded releases for films that could really benefit from an upgrade, or in some cases, the first ever high def release in the US. If their work on Jessica and Body Parts (new commentaries with their respective directors, top notch transfers) is any indication, Paramount should have no worries about lending out a few of their other movies to the company.

(Note - all below films were theatrically released in the United States by Paramount. It's possible they've changed hands since. And no, I don't have the room for a dedicated all-region Blu-ray player, so that is not a viable solution for the few below that are available overseas unless you're offering to pay for it and also reconfigure my home theater.)

1. The Dead Zone
I recently rewatched this for the first time in close to 20 years, and was again struck by how good Christopher Walken was as Johnny Smith. The eccentric actor almost never got to play another role like this, and it's a damn shame - he's warm and charming and even kind of romantic in his scenes with Brooke Adams; it's an everyman role that you could just as easily picture someone like Tom Hanks or John Travolta portraying when they were the right age. It also keeps coming up in reference to a particular individual who shares some similarities with the villainous Greg Stillson, making it a timely option as well. For whatever reason, Paramount never released the film on Blu-ray in the US, and the DVD isn't particularly jam-packed with bonus features, so along with the current resurgence of King fare, only some kind of unavailability would make this anything but a no-brainer to put out - preferable before November, for those who could use a reminder of what happens when madmen are given control of the button.

2. Event Horizon
Around 30 minutes of this underrated Paul WS Anderson sci-fi/horror hybrid were hacked from the film prior to release, and while some of them have surfaced as deleted scenes, what we really need is a full restoration a la their releases of Cabal or Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Anderson believes that the excised footage was lost, but we've heard the same thing about My Bloody Valentine and that footage was found, so maybe they just need to poke around in the same basements? Also, the existing special edition had some excellent featurettes (combined to make a full length documentary) but it lacked insight from nearly every cast member (if memory serves, Jason Isaacs was the only one to make an appearance), so if they'd be willing to offer up some of their time it'd be worth the double dip to hear their thoughts on what remains Anderson's best film (no jokes about how this isn't really a tall order, please).

3. The Ruins
Paramount released this surprisingly solid "killer plant" movie on Blu-ray in 2008 with an unrated cut, a director commentary, and some featurettes, so fans are already probably pretty satisfied with what they got. The problem is that this film still doesn't have as many defenders as it should, and if I've learned anything over the years, horror fans treat Scream Factory the way film snobs treat Criterion, soaking up every release regardless of pre-existing interest. So they can release the same disc for all I care - their branding will seemingly open it up to more appreciative viewers. 

4. The Paranormal Activity series
Considering how successful (most of) the films in this found footage series were at the box office, they all got laughably bare-bones DVD and Blu-ray releases. No commentaries. No behind the scenes features. A handful of deleted scenes and "unrated" cuts (usually nothing too exciting) were all we got across the six films, to the extent where it seemed almost like they were withholding things on purpose. Now that the series is done (talks of a revival occasionally surface, however) I think it'd be nice to finally get the filmmakers and cast on the record with how they pulled off the nearly annual releases, kept track of its increasingly convoluted mythology, and - most importantly - what that pool filter in PA2 was up to, since the movie never resolved it. Boxed set, maybe?

5. Orca
This notorious Jaws knockoff is better than at least two actual Jaws movies, boasts a great Ennio Morricone score, and a hilarious bit of chest-puffing where their title star eats a great white, as if to convince the audience that this was bigger and better than Spielberg's little picture. A flop during its theatrical release in 1977, time has been... well, decent to the film. It's not a classic, but there's plenty to like and it deserves better than what it currently has, which is a DVD so bare-bones that it doesn't even have the trailer, and no Blu-ray at all. There's an Australian release that has a historian commentary, but it'd be nice to hear from its makers before they're all dead (director Michael Anderson, producer Dino De Laurentiis, and stars Richard Harris and Will Sampson have all since passed).

6. The Keep
The first ever widescreen DVD of the film just came out in Australia, but it's about time that we got to see Michael Mann's full... okay I'm not gonna bother writing up a whole thing for what I know is a fool's errand. Just putting it on the record so no one complains. (It ain't happening.)

Keep aside, are all of these total nonsense? Fanboy pipe dreams? Maybe, but so was an uncut My Bloody Valentine, and we're getting that in a couple weeks. So was a boxed set of the very tangled Halloween franchise, and they did that years ago. Ditto the "Cabal" cut of Nightbreed, and a decent version of Black Christmas on disc. In other words, Scream Factory has had a knack of getting things done that seemed out of reach, and until they close up shop (let's not joke) I'm going to go ahead and believe that they have a few miracles left. Either way, hopefully this partnership continues until the well has run completely dry - these are obviously not all of the films in Paramount's vault, so let's hear your suggestions! Surely one of you has to have a good case to make for why we need a better (and, alas, Wes-free) Scream Factory special edition of Vampire in Brooklyn!