• The Year 2018: The Best Blu-rays and DVDs



    We at The Big Movie House.com love blu-rays. We love any way we can see films, be it VHS, Laserdisc, or in the theater, but blu-ray has been the way to go for some time. Where else are you going to be able to see the new 4K restoration of Maniac (unless you lived in a major city, where people were able to see it on the big screen)? Where else are you going to be able to listen to the audio commentary for Abominable by the director? Blu-ray is where it is at and we take a look at the ones we loved the most.

    The Year of Carpenter (Various)


    Every year it seems like one director is favored over any other director. In 2017 Dario Argento was the clear winner of the director run with releases like Arrow's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Phenomena along with Synapse's brilliant Suspiria. 2018 saw the release of 15 Carpenter films on blu-ray and 4K blu-ray. Halloween on 4K came from Starz. Christine 4K came from Sony. They Live, Escape from New York, Prince of Darkness, and The Fog (on both blu-ray and 4K blu-ray) came from Studiocanal, and In the Mouth of Madness, Someone's Watching Me, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, and Starman came from Scream Factory. There were also a few re-releases like The Thing, Prince of Darkness, Assault on Precinct 13, and the Carpenter produced Halloween 2 and 3 that saw Steelbook releases. It was a true banner year for the master of horror that was truly deserved.



    Every year I try to find some type of film that I have never seen before. Whether it be Shot on Video horror, the films of Don Dohler, or “mockbusters”, I always like finding something new. That is why I was so excited about this collection from Severin Films. I had never seen an Amicus film before, so I knew that I was in for a treat. This set contains three films with each one being very different from the others. Asylum is an anthology film, And Now the Screaming Starts is a gothic horror film, and The Beast Must Die is a mystery film. I liked them all for different reasons and am glad they are in the collection. There is a fourth disc that contains trailers for every Amicus film as well as along with interviews with the two guys who ran the studio. This is a fun collection to own.


    Ah Basket Case, how I love thee. Here is a horror film that isn’t afraid to be different. The film is about a guy who carries around his deformed twin in a basket. The twin likes to kill and the guy wants him to stop, but can’t come to kill him. The film is horrifying and funny, crude yet smart, and doesn’t pull any punches. The blu-ray, from Arrow Video, shows the film, and it creator Frank Henelotter, so much love, and praise. The special features are a lot of fun and the film looks amazing. If you haven’t seen Basket Case, now is the time.


    When Batman: The Animated Series premiered in 1992, it was something that we had never seen before. Here was a show that was aimed at kids, but was told in a very mature way. The animation was beautiful and the voice acting was so on point that many of the actors have continued to play the characters to this day. This series was so brave and sure in what it was doing that there is an entire episode where Batman never makes an appearance. This blu-ray set is so beautiful that you would be hard pressed in finding something better. The picture is great as is the sound (hearing that theme in lossless audio is a dream come true). The special features are wonderful and help you appreciate the series that much more. The packaging (well the true packaging and not that shitty outer box) is a wonder to behold and something that adds to the series.


    Arrow Video, being one of the leading blu-ray companies, had a massive task in front of them. They had to bring Candyman to blu-ray in such a way that would make the film’s huge fanbase happy. They remastered the film in 4K and remastered the audio in the lossless format. They then recorded new commentary tracks, interviewed many members of the cast and crew and even included a few short films that Candyman’s director Bernard Rose had made in the 70’s. They then did two things that fans did not see coming. They found a film print of the film’s unrated version, remastered it in 2K and included it on a second disc. They also scored an interview with the legendary Clive Barker, the author of the film’s source material The Forbidden. Barker, who has had many health issues over the past ten years, seems very much game for the interview and it was really nice to see and hear from him again. Arrow packaged all of this goodness in their awesome Limited Edition packaging and made one of the best releases of the year.


    The Changeling is one of the scariest films ever made. That is not something that I say lightly. The film also was not treated very fairly when it came to its home video releases. That is until Severin Films got their hands on it. Their release is something that should be studied by other companies to show them how to release a film on blu-ray. A brand new 4K restoration of the film as well as a restoration of the film’s original mono track. The film looks absolutely gorgeous and sounds like it never has before. We then have a slew of special features including commentary tracks, a video essay about the story the film is based on, and the film’s brilliant soundtrack on a separate cd. Add in a to die for slipcover and you have a film that has been treated with the respect that it deserves.


    Creepshow is yet another film that has not been treated all that well on blu-ray. Well, not in the U.S. anyway. All we got here was the film and nothing else. Sure, Warner Brothers used the original poster art for the blu-ray, but this film is a classic. The U.K. got a much better version on blu-ray that included the very awesome Just Desserts making-of doc that was made for the film’s U.K. dvd. This doc has since been made available here in the States from Severin Films, but Warner Brothers should have snapped up the rights and made a killer special edition. This left Scream Factory to answer the call from fans to release a killer blu-ray. The film was given a wonderful remaster that made the film look better than ever before and Scream really piled on the special features. Sure, they weren’t able to get the rights to Just Desserts, but they did give us a bunch of interviews, deleted scenes, and commentaries. The doc can be bought for cheap online.


    I was a few years late to the party when it comes to Happy Endings. This is a show that lasted three seasons on ABC but was canceled far too early. The series is incredibly funny and touching and has some of the best references I have seen in any media. This show was ahead of its time and there needs to be a reunion season like yesterday. Disney didn’t seem to want to release the show on blu-ray so they licensed the rights out to Mill Creek, who released the show on blu-ray right away. Mill Creek didn’t produce any new material for this blu-ray, but that is ok because the show is so good. I can’t recommend this show, or this release, highly enough.


    When Scream Factory announced that they entered into a partnership with Warner Brothers which gave them access to Waner’s library. No one was really sure what titles would be released, but everyone was speculating. One of the first titles to be announced, and released, was the It’s Alive trilogy. This Larry Cohen made series, two films released in the 70’s and one, the best one, released in the 80’s, is something that fans have wanted for a long time. This set is a fantastic set. The films look great and the special features are all worth the time. The really nice thing is that this set can be had fairly cheap which helps those who are on the fence about this series.


    Maniac is a monster of a film. It is brutal yet beautiful and is a must watch for any horror fan. The film had already been released on blu-ray once, but there was room for improvement so Blue Underground took the opportunity to give the film a facelift. The film was given a brand new 4K restoration which makes the film look like a brand new film. This is one of the best restorations of 2018. The special features are all on point with two new features coming out of nowhere. The packaging is simply stunning and the included soundtrack is haunting.


    MVD has always been a smaller company that released mostly music CDs and music videos. Last year they announced that they were stepping up their blu-ray game with the start of a label called The Rewind Collection. With this collection, they planned on releasing films that were mainstays in the video stores from back in the day. They released on blu-ray in this line, D.O.A.: A Right of Passage, in 2017, but it was 2018 where the label blew up. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Lionheart, Savannah Smiles, Abominable, and so many more were given the treatment that they deserved. Some got brand new transfers, but all of them got a slew of special features, both new and old, along with retro VHS style packaging. I love this line and have great feelings that we are going to get some really special releases in 2019.


    Night of the Living Dead is a public domain title and no company really wants to touch a public domain title because any work done on that title’s picture or sound is usually stolen by companies who want to cash in the film’s public domain status. This has always been a problem for public domain titles. Criterion made the difficult choice to remaster the film and throw caution to the wind. Fans rejoiced because the work that Criterion did is just amazing. The picture quality is the best that any format has seen, giving the film a brand new lease on life and the special features package is incredibly impressive. This blu-ray was released early in the year and set the bar very high for the rest of 2018.



    Martial arts films, from Hong Kong, are not treated the best. Most blu-rays of a film’s original version (not a cut up version from the U.S.) would usually be released in an upscaled format. Basically, these companies would place a dvd version of the film on a blu-ray and claim that it is “True HD”. It wasn’t until the four Hong Kong Bruce Lee films were remastered that companies like Fortune Star saw that remastering these films would lead to lots of money. The company remastered a bunch of films, some in 4K, while others were remastered in 2K. Eureka grabbed up a lot of these remastered titles and released them on blu-ray in the U.K. Iron Monkey, City Hunter, Police Story 1 and 2, Project A 1 and 2, and Once Upon a Time in China Trilogy were all given the royal treatment from Eureka. Slipcovers or slip boxes were given to all the titles and every one of them looked great. The picture quality for each title was beyond amazing, with most of these titles given the proper treatment for the first time in over ten years. Special features varied from title to title, but there were usually interviews and trailers.


    In 2014, Umbrella Entertainment released Razorback on blu-ray in Australia. While the release was region free, something happened and the picture was presented in 1080 50i. This rendered the film unwatchable for most people. It would take Umbrella four years to redo the release, but the extra time was worth it. The picture looks amazing, capturing the film’s visual flourishes beautifully. The special features list is even more impressive with Umbrella adding the film’s unrated version to the disc. While it was a VHS transfer, this was an important addition as this is the only way to see the extended death scenes. There are a ton of other special features as well which only adds to this release’s stature.

    DVDS

    I don’t watch a lot of new dvds because most of them are released on blu-ray and I would rather watch them in HD whenever able. There were a few dvds that I liked this year and there will be no blu-ray counterpart as they are only in SD almost from the start.


    If you told me that one of the films that I would be reviewing this year would be a film called “Ninja Zombie” I would have told you that it seemed about right. If you told me that I would like it more than many of the films that were released in 2018, 26 years after Ninja Zombie was released (but not really released. It's complicated), I would have told you that...it still seemed right. Ninja Zombie is a film that was shot in the Chicagoland area, on film, about a guy who knows the way of the ninja, who becomes a zombie as a way to find some treasure. I think that I got that right. It doesn’t really matter though because the film is a blast to watch from beginning to end. The filmmakers show that they really knew their way around a camera, all the while making a film that should have debuted back them. It didn’t but we have it now.


    The Soultangler came to my attention when this dvd was announced and the trailer looked crazy. When I finally was able to sit down with the film I found that it did live up to the hype, but only the shorter director's cut. The longer wide release version of the film takes to long to get going and can be confusing at times. The director was forced to shoot scenes to pad the run time to 90 minutes and it shows. Now, don't get me wrong about the film. It is enjoyable in both of its iterations but the wide release version is painfully slow at times while the director's cut is leaner and meaner. Also, both versions contain all of the gore on display so you won't have to worry about watching both versions to get the gore. The Soultangler is an entertaining film that has great gore effects and a love for the films that it is trying to emulate.


    The next one is a bit of a cheap. The guy who runs the dvd and blu-ray part of MVD Visual released two short films that he and his brother made back when they were teenagers. The result was The Violence Movie, shot in 1988, followed by The Violence Movie 2, shot in 1989, brought together as The Violence Movie Collection. The first film is about a serial killer who shows up at a guy’s house, in the middle of the woods, and fights him to the death. The second film is a rematch. Both films were shot on video, but they are endlessly entertaining. The fight choreography is pretty good and there are some decent effects shots, especially in the second film. As you watch both films you will wonder where the parents were when all this was happening because there are a few things these guys do that would questionable to any parent. We are glad the parents weren’t there, though, as these films would probably never have gotten made.

    HONORABLE MENTIONS

    2018 had so many great releases that I couldn't include them. Well, I could have but that would have made for an incredibly long list. So here they are in an easier to chew pic instead.


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