God bless the good folks over at Scream Factory. For years, the horror-focused branch of Shout! Factory has been releasing mainstream horror movies with new high-quality Blu-rays, but it’s the lesser-known cult favorites that are what impresses me the most. Just think, without them, we may never have gotten a collector’s edition Blu-ray of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie! It’s in that spirit of forgotten gems that I highlight three of their newest movies that may not be household names, but fans of the films are certainly celebrating.
The sequel to the much-loved horror classic, The Gate, is a continuation of the story where a teenage geek (er…sorcerer) summons hellions who can grant any wish. You would have thought he’d learned his lesson last time, but you’d be wrong. This time a miniature disciple of Satan called a “minion” makes its way to our dimension and causes all kinds of havoc when captured.
The movie has long been a creature feature staple, and the characters of special visual effects creator Randall William Cook will bring viewers back to a time when Fangoria-worthy FX were king. As I learned in one of the special features interviews with the crew, this movie also makes a great use of forced perspective. Director Tibor Takacs doesn’t shy away from admitting the limitations of Gate II, but questions whether the R rating had anything to do with it. During filming, they had no idea what the rating would be, but would have preferred a PG-13 rating so the teens they targeted could actually see the movie in the theater. According to the filmmakers, “This isn’t Freddy!”
In addition to the new 2k scan of the interpositive to increase the quality of the Blu-ray, the new Scream Factory release includes two making-of featurettes with the director, screenwriter, make-up effects artist, and visual effects creator for the movie. You’ll get a still gallery and the original trailer too, but my favorite special feature is a recording of a cassette tape given to video store owners for a contest promotion along with a special video store promo for Gate II. It’s this kind of stuff that would have been lost to history without preservation by Scream Factory.
The fact that Rockula was produced by Cannon Films tells you all you need to know. This movie is so many different things, but let me just allow the description from the back of the Blu-ray to tell you more about the movie than I ever could:
Ralph (Dean Cameron, Summer School) is just your typical, average vampire with love in his heart, music in his veins — and a curse on his head. Every 22 years, poor Ralph is doomed to lose his soulmate, Mona, at the hands of a rhinestone-peg-legged pirate brandishing a large hambone. But this time around, with the help of his newly-formed band Rockula, Ralph is determined to crush the curse once and for all — and show Mona that when you’re a vampire, true love is eternal … and rock ‘n’ roll never dies.
“Brandishing a large hambone?” In a special features interview, star Dean Cameron sums it up succinctly by stating “What were we thinking?!” Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike this movie. I’m more in awe that a movie like this exists and I never knew about it (Not surprising since according to Cameron, due to Cannon’s bankruptcy, the only theater the movie played in was in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma). Rockula is a macabre musical comedy that is totally of it’s late ’80s era for better or worse and should be mandatory viewing for everyone.
The new Scream Factory release includes the previously mentioned interview with star Dean Cameron but also includes an interview with director Luca Bercovici (Ghoulies !), the theatrical trailer, and audio commentary with Bercovici, actress Tawny Fere, and composer Hilary Bercovici. Admittedly, the mirror set concept is uniquely compelling, and did I mention this movie also features Thomas Dolby and Bo Diddley? Need I say more about Rockula? I didn’t think so.
I haven’t yet laid eyes on the Full Moon High Blu-ray since it doesn’t come out until April 10, but if Rockula and Gate II are any indication, this will be another forgotten diamond in the rough I’ll have to own. I mean, it’s a high school werewolf movie starring every Arkin imaginable (Adam, Alan, Anthony) along with Ed McMahon and Jim J. Bullock. It’s almost impossible for this 1981 release to be more ’80s. Here’s the description from Scream Factory:
The most important thing to quarterback Tony Walker (Adam Arkin, Halloween H20) is to win the big game against archrival Simpson High. But this plan soon changes when Tony is bitten by a werewolf – and that’s when things really start to get hairy! Now, whenever there’s a full moon, he transforms into a growling beast that hungrily chases down beautiful girls. Cursed to live forever as a teenager with uncontrollable urges, Tony realizes he must find a way to end this cycle of animalistic excess.
The features list on this release is a little bare-bones compared to others, with just a theatrical trailer and a new audio commentary with writer/producer/director Larry Cohen, moderated by King Cohen filmmaker Steve Mitchell, but it’s such an underground release, fans of Full Moon High will need to pick it up.
Disclaimer: I received copies of Rockula and Gate II for review purposes. All opinions are my own.