Review Index

A Few Hundred Words About DVDs

I’m sure you’ve heard this, or some variant on it, before--and, for that matter, you’re certain to again--but here it is: as of June, 2001 the DVD has arrived, and for the foreseeable future it’s here to stay.

     What does this mean for horror fans? Plenty. It’s as if God had looked down upon us and said, "I know you guys are sinners, but I’ve decided I’ll give you a break." Thus, dozens of previously unavailable titles are now here for the taking, in the best possible quality and often loaded with special features unavailable on standard VHS.

     Descended from the ungainly and expensive laserdiscs popular in the early nineties, the Digital Video Disc is most definitely the home movie-viewing format of choice. Where else can you get so many cool things on a single pancake-sized disc? These "cool things" include the chapter search options that allow you to jump directly to a scene and the Special Features, or "Bells and Whistles."

     Among the more popular Bells and Whistles are "Making-of" featurettes (which generally aren’t very good) and the all-important commentary tracks that can be played in place of a movie’s soundtrack. A good commentary (Ken Russell’s side-splitting tracks for LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM and SALOME’S LAST DANCE are musts, as is the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell track for THE THING) is worth at least a semester of film school. Add to that the digitally remastered audio and enhanced picture that all worthwhile DVDs have, and you’ve got the most indispensable new toys on the market.

     Okay. Having got the good stuff out of the way, it’s time to focus on some negatives. Having such a vital component on their hands, it’s understandable that movie companies would go out of their way to enhance their DVD releases, but some go too far. Hence, we the consumers are faced with multiple editions of the same movie, as with the recently released "Special Edition" of DOGMA, a film already available on DVD. And then there are the new DVD releases for SEVEN (another "Special Edition" to replace the original release), THE MUMMY (which recently had its Special Edition supplanted by an "Ultimate" Edition) and BOOGIE NIGHTS (likewise, although New Line promises this will be the last edition they release…yeah, right). And just how many "Stanley Kubrick Collections" is Warners going to put out? They’ve only released two so far, but give ‘em time!

     The "Special Edition" mania only seems to be getting more labyrinthine and confusing as time goes on. Witness the dueling Special Editions of Oliver Stone’s NATURAL BORN KILLERS and THE DOORS, both of which are currently in release from two different companies (Trimark and Warner Brothers for the first, Warners and Artisan for the second).

     Then there’s the prickly issue of pricing. As DVDs cost roughly THE SAME to produce as VHS videos, the often absurdly jacked-up prices we’re forced to pay for them are plain ridiculous. The standard is $24.95 ($5.00 more than the average VHS), but some companies (Disney, anyone?) charge as high as $39.95 for DVDs with NO special features (and no, chapter stops and interactive menus don’t count).

     There’s also the unavoidable fact that DVDs tend to go out of print much faster than VHS videos. Hence, must-have titles like Video Watchdog’s edition of Mario Bava’s RABID DOGS and Criterion’s release of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s SALO: THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM are now off limits to all but the most dedicated (not to mention rich) collectors. The message is clear: DVDs may be the wave of the future, but if you want ‘em, you’ll need plenty of spare change…and you’d better grab ‘em quick!

SOME MUST HAVE HORROR-THEMED DVDs: 12 MONKEYS "Special Edition" (Universal), BEGOTTEN (World Artists), THE BEYOND (Anchor Bay), CANNIBAL FEROX (Grindhouse), CARNIVAL OF SOULS (Criterion), THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN (Columbia), COMBAT SHOCK (Troma), DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (Anchor Bay), DEAD RINGERS (Criterion), EVEN DWARFS STARTED SMALL (Anchor Bay), FANDO AND LIS (Fantoma), FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (Miramax), INFERNO (Anchor Bay), LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (Artisan), NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (Anchor Bay), POSSESSION (Anchor Bay), SEVEN "New Line Platinum Edition" (New Line), THE SHINING (Warner Brothers), SHOCK (Anchor Bay), SPIDER BABY (Image), TALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL (Kino), TENEBRAE (Anchor Bay), THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE "Special Edition" (Pioneer), THE THING "Special Edition" (Universal), TWO THOUSAND MANIACS (Something Weird), THE WHIP AND THE BODY (VCI)

SOME MUST HAVE IMPORT DVDs (the following may be a mite hard to locate, but savvy collectors are urged to scour the web for these unreleased-in-the-US gems--you won’t be disappointed): eXistenZ (Alliance), THE KINGDOM (Summit), THE KINGDOM II (Fejui), MEET THE FEEBLES (Substance), THE SEVENTH CURSE (Universe), VIY (Ruscico)

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