Features and Columns · Movies

April Is the New October Thanks to Eight New Releases from Scream Factory

By  · Published on April 5th, 2015

IFC Midnight

Scream Factory isn’t the only genre label resurrecting classic movies (and “classic” movies for that matter) from the past and giving them new life on Blu-ray, but they’re definitely one of the best and busiest. They’ve been in the habit of releasing a few titles each month for the past few years, but they’ve stepped up their game this month as something of a tease heading into 2015’s Summer of Fear.

Eight new Blu-rays are hitting shelves in April including two brand new releases and six catalog titles ‐ well, eight technically as two of the releases are double features ‐ and while the movies vary in quality they all get their share of Scream Factory love.

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The Babadook

Amelia (Essie Davis) is a single mom still grieving from the death of her husband during their son Samuel’s (Noah Wiseman) delivery. Her days are spent apologizing for the boys antics while her nights are spent awake due to Samuel’s screams from night terrors. She tries to convince the boy that monsters aren’t real, but when she makes the mistake of reading a mysterious book to him one night the nightmare takes hold of her as well.

Writer/director Jennifer Kent’s feature debut made a big splash with genre fans last year, and deservedly so as it’s a fantastically creepy gem that imbues the horror with deeper meaning and drama. It’s a story about grief ‐ the importance of experiencing it, the danger of letting it rule your life and the need to move on from it. The film is most definitely horror, but it manages something rare in its ability to be an effectively terrifying drama even without the supernatural element.

This release marks Scream Factory’s first team-up with IFC Midnight, and the result bodes well for a future partnership. They’re releasing the film in two packages ‐ a standard edition with interviews and a behind the scenes look and a special edition that adds Kent’s original short film, deleted scenes and a pop-up style slipcover. My only real criticism of the special features is that it’s missing a commentary track ‐ would have been great to hear a female filmmaker (let alone a female genre filmmaker) talking about the production.

The Babadook releases on 4/14, pre-order it here

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Carrie / The Rage: Carrie 2

Carrie White (Angela Bettis) is a shy, awkward high-schooler whose daily tortures at the hands of her fellow students is matched only by the pains her fiercely religious mother (Patricia Clarkson) inflicts upon her. What no one knows or suspects though is that Carrie holds an immense ability within, one that only grows in power when she blossoms into a “woman,” but when the bullies commit one last act of cruelty against her at the prom they all learn just how dangerous she can be. The Rage sees the start of a similar pattern with a teenager named Rachel (Emily Bergl) who exhibits a minor talent for telekinesis that explodes when classmates push her too far.

Stephen King’s debut novel has been adapted three times with this Canadian TV miniseries being sandwiched between Brian De Palma’s original and 2013’s copycat redo. Bettis does good work, but it’s the lesser of the trio due mostly to the obvious budgetary constraints. The cast and crew feature some recognizable faces including Katharine Isabelle and Bryan Fuller, but the story can’t carry the 132-minute running time. The sequel is far more direct than I expected (including the return of Amy Irving as Sue Snell) and draws a direct lineage to Carrie’s father, and while things play out in a very familiar line it’s actually a solid film all around.

Scream Factory’s double feature release is a 2-disc set, one movie per Blu-ray, and while they’re light on extras both films have gotten new commentaries from their respective directors.

Carrie (2002)

The Rage: Carrie 2

Carrie / The Rage: Carrie 2 releases on 4/14, pre-order it here

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Class of 1984

Andrew Norris (Perry King) arrives for his first day of work as the new Lincoln High music teacher only to discover he’s accepted a job at a truly nightmarish place of learning. A gang (led by one of Dick Van Patten’s eternally evil sons) rules the classrooms and hallways using intimidation to fuel their drug and prostitution rings. Andrew stands up to the young thugs, but when his actions lead to retribution he’s forced into a life or death battle with the fate of a music concert hanging in the balance.

Mark Lester’s cult classic hits a lot of familiar beats ‐ it’s basically The Principal for people allergic to Jim Belushi ‐ but that doesn’t stop it from being a fast and entertaining watch. (Well, at least until the inevitable rape sequence.) It’s a slightly exaggerated look at a school system in decay, and the social commentary is paired with fun action beats and dialogue ‐ plus Roddy McDowall and a young Michael J. Fox!

Scream Factory’s release features a newly remastered HD picture that delivers a sharp, colorful image alongside a solid selection of extras.

Class of 1984 releases on 4/14, pre-order it here

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Deep in the Darkness

Dr. Michael Cayle (Sean Patrick Thomas) moved his family from the big city to the small, rural town of Ashborough in order to spend more time with them, but he soon discovers that his plan may actually mean they have no more time left. Something is in the woods. Lots of somethings actually, and the locals insist he make a sacrifice to them if he wants his lovely family to stay that way.

I’m a Scream Factory fan, but I’ll be the first to suggest the new films they bring to Blu-ray (as opposed to the catalog titles) frequently leave a lot to be desired. There are exceptions of course ‐ The Battery and Cockneys vs Zombies come to mind ‐ but more often than not they feel like nothing more than weak TV movies. I was worried this Chiller film would see the same fate, but the damn thing is actually a solidly crafted “monster” movie with some strong set-pieces, better than expected acting and a handful of good scares. The third act falters a bit, but overall it’s a fun watch for genre fans.

As the only new title in Scream Factory’s April roster this one also comes with no special features.

Deep in the Darkness releases on 4/21, pre-order it here

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Escape from New York

It’s 1997, the future, and the island of Manhattan has been converted into a maximum security prison. The only rule is that once you go in you don’t come out, but when Air Force One is hijacked and crashed inside the American President (Donald Pleasance) becomes a valuable hostage for the prisoners within. Time is short, and lacking a better option the powers that be decide to send in the recently convicted Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to rescue the president within twenty four hours.

John Carpenter’s 1981 action/sci-fi classic remains a fantastically entertaining romp through a “futuristic” urban jungle, and even 34 years later Plissken is still one of cinema’s best anti-heroes. He literally throws humanity under the bus at the end by derailing world peace! Russell provides the core wit and bravado, but the film’s supporting cast is equally strong and fun to watch including Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Adrienne Barbeau, Harry Dean Stanton and Isaac Hayes. For my money this is also Carpenter’s best score as it goes beyond just a title theme to become catchy, emotive and varied whole.

Scream Factory’s 2-disc Blu-ray features a new 2K scan struck from the original negative ‐ and it looks fantastic ‐ and brings together some new extras with older ones ported over from previous releases.

Escape from New York releases on 4/21, pre-order it here

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From a Whisper to a Scream

The town of Oldfield, TN has given rise to numerous evils, and on the night that one young murderess is put to death a reporter visits the woman’s uncle (Vincent Price) for an exclusive look at the town’s sordid history. He recounts a series of tales detailing the murderers, monsters and nightmares all the way back to the Civil War.

Jeff Burr’s horror anthology (also known as The Offspring) is a mixed-bag of terror, but none of the tales pull their punches when it comes to their grisly nature. Clu Gulager stars in an early segment that reveals a disturbing relationship that leads to bloody disaster (and introduces the world to his fantastic scream), and later stories include swamp magic, a sideshow act gone awry and some creepy little kids making the most of their parents’ absence due to war. It’s more gory than scary, but there are highlights for genre fans.

Scream Factory’s release features some substantial extras including to feature length docs and two new commentaries.

From a Whisper to a Scream releases on 4/28, pre-order it here

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Ghoulies / Ghoulies II

A young man inherits an old mansion in the Hollywood hills, but his innocent exploration of its contents leads to his being crowned as king of the Ghoulies. Or something. Possessed by dark supernatural impulses, he orchestrates a goofy assault on his friends by some demonic little turd monsters. The sequel sees the creepy little hellions hitch a ride to a traveling carnival, but when one of the employees discovers the evil causing chaos with both carnies and customers he sets out to vanquish the vermin for good.

The Ghoulies franchise features four films in total, and it’s most definitely a series of diminishing returns. (Not that it starts all that high to begin with.) They’re a mix of horror and comedy, but neither element works all that well even in these first two installments. The monsters are too goofy to be scary, the humor is too broad to be funny ‐ there are some good practical effect moments though, so that’s something.

Scream Factory’s double feature puts both movies on one Blu-ray with a mix of old and new special features.


Ghoulies II

Ghoulies / Ghoulies II releases on 4/21, pre-order it here

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Invaders from Mars

Young David Gardner is fascinated by the stars above, but his interests take a nightmarish turn when he sees a spaceship descend from the sky in the hills behind his house. No one believes his claims, but things get worse when his parents and others investigate only to return somehow askew. Aliens are taking control of the townspeople for nefarious purposes, and it’s up to David and the U.S. Marines to save humanity from these intergalactic invaders.

Tobe Hooper’s remake features some creative and fun alien design, but it’s a problem that the best part of the movie is the brief clip of Hooper’s far superior Lifeforce playing on a TV. Acting is sketchy and the action is worse, but the biggest problem isa tone that doesn’t quite know who it’s aiming for ‐ the slight and goofy nature of it all feels directed towards kids, but the pacing and plotting will leave most kids bored. And don’t get me started on that terrible ending.

As unimpressive as the movie is, Scream Factory has pulled together some entertaining extras including a making-of with some fun anecdotes and designs.

Invaders from Mars releases on 4/7, pre-order it here

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.