The UK’s Best Genre Label Goes Deep on American Horror

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It’s almost impossible to go a day or more without coming across an article describing the imminent demise of physical media, but thankfully those voices of doom have so far been proven wrong. There are lots of reasons for the format’s superiority over streaming, but one of the biggest is the love shown to older titles from smaller labels.

The UK’s Arrow Video has been one of the most reliable specialty Blu-ray/DVD labels for years now with beautifully-produced releases as diverse as Joe Dante’s The ‘Burbs, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser trilogy, and numerous Dario Argento films. They expanded their reach this year and began releasing titles for North American audiences (Region A, as opposed to Europe’s Region B) including a gorgeous double feature boxed set of Edgar Allan Poe’s Black Cats.

They’re extending that American love further with the recently announced American Horror Project. The multi-volume project is an effort to highlight the “unsung heroes of American terror” and looks to be focusing on titles that barely even reach the level of obscure. Of course Arrow already releases their fair share of American genre films from the ’70s and ’80s in restored HD editions, but as with their contemporaries Scream Factory and Synapse they’re typically titles that hold some level of recognition with viewers. This new endeavor feels much closer in spirit to the work being done by Vinegar Syndrome (and their work with the AGFA), and that’s great news for fans of odd and twisted films that we’ve never seen before.

James White, Arrow’s Head of Technical and Restoration Services, describes the ambitious project here:

In much the same way that Stephen Thrower’s landmark study NIGHTMARE USA told an alternative history of the independent horror film during the 1970s and 80s, Arrow’s Horror Project aims to shine a light on a number of innovative and provocative films made during this period that for whatever reason, have been allowed to languish, under-appreciated and waiting to be rediscovered. The majority of these films haven’t been seen for many years, and none of them will have ever been remastered for Blu-ray before.

We’ll be restoring these films from scratch, seeking out the best existing source elements and involving the original filmmakers to ensure that the films can be seen at the highest quality and in most historically accurate presentations possible. In many cases this may mean extensive detective work and piecing the films back together from a number of separate elements, given the lack of care that some of these titles suffered back in the day. Most of these films will never appear pristine, but viewed in the context of the Horror Project, will reflect their own unique production and distribution histories in a way that they’ve never been afforded before. This was an incredibly prolific and creative period of independent filmmaking and Arrow’s Horror Project seeks to rescue these important films from being lost to cinema history forever.”

Volume One hits shelves February 23rd, 2016, and the details of the set and films are below.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand new 2K restorations of the three features
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentations
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
  • American Horror Project Journal Volume I – Limited Edition 60-page booklet featuring new articles on the films from Kim Newman (Nightmare Movies), Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) and Brian Albright (Regional Horror Films, 1958–1990)
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The three films making up the first volume are all from the ’70s, but I’d only heard of one beforehand. Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood sees a couple go undercover at a creepy carnival after their son goes missing there, but they soon discover the people who run it aren’t quite people after all. The Witch Who Came from the Sea is about a mad woman whose delusions fuel a rampage of revenge, and it’s written by the guy behind Roger Corman’s Bloody Mama and Death Race 2000. Finally, The Premonition follows a woman’s efforts to recover her foster child from the girl’s maniacal birth mother.

MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD – SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand new interview with director Christopher Speeth
  • Brand new interview with writer Werner Liepolt
  • Draft Script (BD/DVD-ROM content)
  • Production stills gallery

THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA – SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Audio commentary with director Matt Cimber, actress Millie Perkins and director of photography Dean Cundey
  • Brand new interview with director Matt Cimber
  • Brand new interview with Dean Cundey
  • Brand new interview with actor John Goff

THE PREMONITION – SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Audio commentary with director-producer Robert Allen Schnitzer
  • Brand new interview with composer Henry Mollicone
  • Interview with actor Richard Lynch
  • Three Robert Allen Schnitzer short films: ‘Vernal Equinox’, ‘Terminal Point’ and ‘A Rumbling in the Land’
  • 4 “Peace Spots”
  • Trailers and TV Spots

Arrow Video’s American Horror Project hits shelves February 23rd, 2016.