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.
It’s no secret that one of my favorite specialty labels these days is Scream Factory. They simply understand genre fans and reward us handsomely with high definition transfers of our favorite horror flicks from the past. Their contemporary releases leave much to be desired (Cockneys vs Zombies aside), but more often than not when they reach decades back for a film the result is something fantastic at best or fun at worst.
Their “Summer of Fear” begins this month with five new releases, and while one is contemporary and another is from the ’70s three of them are from the horror’s early ’80s sweet spot. If you’re a genre fan odds are you’ve seen at least two of these, but you’ve never seen them as new-looking as they do here with new HD transfers.
Keep reading for a more in depth look at the new Blu-rays of Evilspeak, Final Exam and the legendary Sleepaway Camp.
Spanish monks are understandably peeved after one of their own dabbles in the dark arts, but when they banish him from their end of the beach they never could have foreseen that his evil would propagate through the centuries before finally landing on and in Ron Howard’s brother. But it does. Coopersmith (Clint Howard) is a military school cadet constantly being picked on by the other students, but a trip to a dusty chapel basement finds him mixing it up with the devil.
The scene where Bull from Night Court carves a pentagram in the sand before slicing off a woman’s head is reason enough to watch, but if you need more there’s also some killer early ’80s computer graphics used to illustrate Coopersmith’s communication with the satanic Esteban and a scene featuring pigs attacking and eating a naked lady. In retrospect that pig bit probably surpasses the Bull bit.
Eric Weston‘s film follows the Carrie mold in the way its lead character faces more and more abuse before eventually succumbing to the growing supernatural evil and taking everyone down with him. It takes nearly eighty minutes before young Coopersmith accepts the devil into his heart and begins his bloody rampage, but the movie keeps things interesting with a handful of wacky scenes before then. Did I mention the pigs eating a naked lady?
Gore scenes that had been cut to avoid an X-rating are restored here resulting in a wonderfully bloody final twenty minutes, and they help raise the film up a few notches as a supernatural revenge flick. Heads are lopped off, entrails are chewed and pretty much no one escapes unscathed.
Scream Factory’s new transfer is the expected several steps up from VHS and includes a new commentary from director Eric Weston, the theatrical trailer and the following special features.
- Satan’s Pigs & Severed Heads: Making Evilspeak [27:48] – Several of the supporting cast members talk about their experience making the film. Haywood “What’s Happening!” Nelson has a lot of positive recollections, but he also remembers someone on the shoot stabbing the tires on his Porsche everyday out of spite for Nelson’s television success.
- Effects Speak with Allan A. Apone [14:37] – The special effects guru talks about the challenge of doing his job on a low budget film with only eight weeks of prep.
- Clint Howard interview [11:39] – “When I first read the script I questioned whether to get involved, because it was obviously demonic in nature…”
- Don Stark interview [10:09] – “I think Evilspeak was my last teenager. I was seventy at the time.”
- Joe Cortese interview [6:55] – “They said to me look, this is a different kind of role for you. It’s this horror movie with a computer, and everyone was like ‘Computer? What’s a computer?’”
Pre-order Evilspeak here.
Final Exam (1981)
Someone is stalking and killing college kids on campuses across the country, and the students of Lanier College are next on the madman’s hit list.
That’s honestly all the synopsis you need, but just in case I’ll also share that the campus is mostly empty as finals week is drawing to a close and most of the students and faculty have already left. Members of fraternity play a prank that riles up local law enforcement in a “boy who cried wolf” kind of way meaning the students are on their own as the killer works his way across the quad.
The film hits several of the usual slasher notes, but it’s what it does differently that makes it stand apart from the rest. For one thing we see the killer’s face during the very first murder leaving no mystery as to who’s perpetrating the killings. You may be left wondering why he’s doing it, but at least there’s no game of “guess the murderer” happening here. There’s some playfulness with the victims as well, and while it’s clear which girl will be the final girl you can’t help but think she won’t be the only one standing at the end.
To be clear, its unique qualities don’t make it a good movie though. The acting is a bit rough at times, and with no mystery to solve as to who’s behind the killings we’re left with a somewhat plodding affair.
There’s fun to be had though particularly in the film’s incredibly non-pc take on campus violence and student murders. Jokes are made left and right about Charles Whitman and the fact that a rival quarterback’s murder means this school may finally have a chance on game day. There’s even a mass shooting that’s ultimately played for laughs. Try getting any of that past nervous studio heads these days.
As they’re wont to do, Scream Factory presents the film with a new HD transfer, a new commentary with three of the cast members and interviews with the trio as well. It’s the weakest batch of extras of the three films covered here in part because the cast members don’t seem to have much of interest to say.
- Joel S. Rice interview [6:47]
- Cecile Bagdadi interview [3:43]
- Sherry Willis-Burch interview [4:58]
Pre-order Final Exam here.
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Angela (Felissa Rose) loses her family in a boating accident as a child and goes to live with her Aunt Martha and cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten). As a young teenager years later she’s sent off to summer camp with Ricky for a few months of sun and fun, but when a killer starts doing the thing that killers do secrets from her past come back to haunt her.
The cousins’ fellow campers are a mix of the friendly and the foul, and for a while the characters get to act as if they’re in a more straightforward summer camp flick. But when some of the other kids start harassing Angela forcing Ricky to step up and defend her things turn dark fast.
Writer/director Robert Hiltzik‘s film looks like a typical camp slasher on paper, but in reality it’s nothing of the sort.
There’s a minor mystery as to who the killer is and the deaths grow progressively gorier, but the script goes in some highly unexpected places. For one thing the film is pretty funny, and while it may not all be intentional humor it still entertains. For another the story takes some odd turns through flashbacks that add subtext to the film that goes beyond the norm of the genre even now let alone back in the early ’80s.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray features a new 2K restoration that does wonders for the image and really brings out the colors and nighttime scenes, and the disc includes three commentary tracks (two previously recorded ones as well as a newly recorded track with Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tierston). This Collector’s Edition also includes the following special features.
- At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp [45:43] – Cast and crew share memories of the film’s production and provide several humorous anecdotes along the way.
- Judy [15:53] – This short film by Jeff Hayes is a mix of semi-sequel and social commentary, but its script, acting and subterranean production values leave a lot to be desired.
- “The Princess” [5:33] – This is a music video for one of Jonathan Tiersten’s songs.
- Camp Arawak Scrapbook [9:20] – Behind the scenes photos
- Rare Ed French artwork/photos [1:27]
- Scanning Sleepaway Camp [9:00] – A demonstration of the 2K film scan process that’s highly technical and only recommended to viewers interested in the nitty gritty of the process.
Pre-order Sleepaway Camp here.