Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too.
Scream Factory continues to mine past decades for horror gems worthy of resurrecting onto Blu-ray, and while they make the occasional misstep the vast majority of their releases make for fantastic additions to your library. They have four titles hitting shelves in February with the first two streeting next week.
In addition to releasing on the same day, Witchboard and Night of the Demons also share the same director in Kevin Tenney. They’re his first two films (of thirteen total) but remain his most well known. This is as it should be seeing as Demons is also his best film, but it’s a shame if only because Demolition University, starring Corey Haim, really deserves to be seen by more eyes.
Keep reading for our look at Scream Factory’s new Blu-rays of Witchboard and Night of the Demons.
Night of the Demons (1988)
A group of “teens” celebrate Halloween with an inadvisable party at the very remote and allegedly haunted Hull House. When the sound system breaks they decide to have some fun with party games, and first up is a seance involving a full length mirror. Fools. Suzanne (Linnea Quigley, pictured above) and Angela (Amelia Kinkade) soon succumb to demon infestation and begin terrorizing the the other party goers with murderous intent, dance moves, and a highly disturbing game of hide-the-lipstick.
As the group gets picked away one by one in grisly fashion, the dwindling survivors struggle to figure out what’s happening and how they can escape with their lives. Actually they pretty much neglect to look for a cause as survival is a full time gig, but this is the kind of horror film where plot details aren’t really all that important. Instead, the movie has fun with the demonic antics while managing some interesting asides along the way.
Unlike just about every other horror film in the ’80s, there’s a black character here among the friends who not only lives well past the usual cutoff for minorities in genre films, but he also gets to be a bit of a hero. Alvin Alexis, the actor who plays Rodger, comments on this in the special features and takes great pride in the accomplishment. One of the film’s other highlights is an ending that would feel right at home in a Creepshow or Trick ‘r Treat movie wraparound.
The differences between Tenney’s debut (below) and follow-up are clear almost immediately. For one thing, instead of waiting until the final fifteen minutes of the movie the naked lady bits start making an appearance here in the first six. Even better, the mild bloodletting in Witchboard is improved upon tenfold with gory attacks and some impressive prosthetic work from Steve Johnson. It’s a creature feature where each new victim becomes the next new demon, and what it lacks in character development it makes up for in fun.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray features an attractive transfer, two commentaries, and reversible cover art, but the real star of the supplements is a 71 minute making-of.
- You’re Invited: The Making Of Night of the Demons [71:31] – Tenney and friends discuss the film’s production including casting, special effects, location, and more. Johnson’s segment on the makeup work is a highlight as he breaks down several of the effects with an impressive amount of enthusiasm for a 26 year old film, and his affection for Quigley is surprisingly sweet as well. The only thing missing here is the lovely Jill Terashita among the talking heads.
- Interview with Amelia Kinkade [22:31] – Hey, did you guys know Amelia is Rue McClanahan’s niece?
- Allison Barron’s Demon Memories [3:56]
- Theatrical Trailer, Photo Galleries
A group of twenty-somethings having a party decide it would be fun to contact the dead, and lucky for them the hoity-toity Brandon (Stephen Nichols) has brought a ouija board along for just such an occasion. It seems he’s been in contact with a little boy named David who died at the age of ten, but when he and Linda (Tawney Kitaen) attempt communication for everyone’s entertainment things go violently awry.
Sure the immediate blame falls on Jim’s (Todd Allen) wise-ass comments, but David’s reaction, and all the murder that follows, is probably a bit overboard. Linda begins acting strange, people start dying, and soon Brandon and Jim are forced to put aside their considerable differences if they hope to defeat the growing evil and save Linda’s soul!
Kevin Tenney‘s directorial debut is a surprisingly tame and straight-forward film for a man who would later give the world Night of the Demons and Pinocchio’s Revenge, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s more story here than you’d expect to find in an ’80s horror flick, and its relative lack of gore and nudity is equally surprising. Even without those staples though it’s undeniably clear which decade this belongs in thanks to the soundtrack, the valley girl psychic (Kathleen Wilhoite), the presence of a waterbed, and of course, Kitaen’s illustrious mane of hair.
As I said, the lack of traditional horror elements and increase in dramatic narrative aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean they work perfectly here. The characters have an impressive depth for a genre film, but the scares and thrills are neutered in all but the first kill. Part of the problem is that for all the effort paid to the main characters the story of the supernatural threat is ultimately a bit of a letdown. Tenney impresses more with his use of crane shots and ghostly POVs, but the film remains a minor success thanks to its unusual amount of character work.
As is expected by now, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray offers a better image than the film has seen before alongside a wealth of supplemental features. In addition to new commentary tracks, the disc also features over two hours of making-of material made up of new and old featurettes.
- Progressive Entrapment: The Making of Witchboard [45:41] – Tenney and various members of the cast and crew reflect on the film’s production with fond memories and occasionally humorous anecdotes.
- Vintage Making of Witchboard [6:54] – This short behind the scenes featurette was made during production when the film was still called Ouija. The five featurettes that follow were collected at the same time.
- Cast Interviews [20:15]
- On Set with Todd Allen and Stephen Nichols [19:56]
- On Set with the Makers of Witchboard [19:59]
- Life on the Set [20:13]
- Constructing the World of Witchboard [21:14]
- Theatrical Trailer, Outtakes, Photo Gallery
Pre-order Witchboard and Night of the Demons from Amazon.