Friday, October 3, 2014

Rant: Special Features? Who needs those?

As a die hard movie fan, I have always enjoyed everything about films. It goes far beyond just appreciating a movie's story or the casting or directing. I love it all. The sound, the lighting, the practical effects, well done CGI that serves to improve the movie even makes me happy. What I always found myself curious about as a kid though was the behind the scenes stuff. DVDs weren't a thing yet, so special features were not a staple of home video releases. Occasionally you might see a special on television or a stand-alone feature about a particularly popular film. But then came Full Moon, a little off-shoot of Paramount headed up by Charles Band. Their specialty? Horror.

Me? Writing about horror? What a shocker!

The reason I point out the importance of Full Moon to me here is very simple. You see, every release ends with a special treat after the credits know as Video Zone. These were awesome little behind the scenes features showing how the movie came to life. But that's not all because, if  you were lucky, there would also be Charles Band himself to talk about upcoming releases from the company. When I was a young Sasquatch whose fur had yet to grow in, this was one of my favourite things ever. No longer did I have to lust after the possibility of seeing the stuff I was so curious about, because I knew it was there waiting for me.

Sometimes it promised more than it could deliver though, sadly. I'm still waiting, Mr. Band.
So, when Full Moon essentially died out, it broke my heart. But not to fear, because here comes the wave of the future! DVDs! And every disc has extras like commentary and behind the scenes. I could now watch how Rick Baker built his American werewolf, see Bruce Campbell doing pratfalls for Sam Raimi's enjoyment, and see the Monster Squad all grown up talking about their experiences on the set. For a horror junkie like myself this truly felt like winning the lottery, because I love seeing how it all comes together. The people who worked on these films are sharing these stories I always wanted to hear and I couldn't be happier.

Well, except maybe if I got to hang out with Freddy. That would probably make me happier.
Then Blu-Ray started to come into the picture and I was hesitant about it, as I had just gotten a sizable DVD collection at that point and really didn't see the need to bother with a new format while I still could buy the DVDs with the same thing on them. I mean, I didn't even have a HD television, so it felt kind of silly to bother with. That's when the rug started getting pulled out from under the fans, as the special features became sparse on DVDs while the Blu-Ray releases had more than you could handle. I responded to this with bitter anger and a defiant glare towards the companies who felt this was an ok practice. Ultimately though, like most of us I adapted and learned to love the new format and now have a sizable collection of those as well. So, what's the problem? Where's the rant?

And where's my cheese danish?
Here's the thing that isn't getting talked about now, a thing that irks me to no end. We're getting some great horror movies finally out on Blu-Ray remastered in hi-def....but with not a single special feature. Even worse than that, some films are being outright tampered with in ways that really take a squat on what made the films good in the first place. My favourite examples of this are The Return of the Living Dead, which is missing its iconic soundtrack, and The People Under the Stairs, which is so bare bones that I would expect to find it in the bargain bin with all the other $5 to $7 movies. But you might say with the latter, "maybe there's no material to be included?" I would reply to that by showing you this release from the UK based company, Arrow Films.
Look at that artwork. It's so beautiful.
They not only released the same film in a much nicer package, but it also happens to be fully loaded. I am serious, it has so many great things on there that it boggles the mind as to why a movie made over here got none of those features when it was released on Blu-Ray. Look at this list of features.

  • High Definition digital transfer of the film by Universal Pictures
  • Original uncompressed Stereo 2.0 audio
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary with star Brandon Quentin Adams, moderated by Calum Waddell
  • Fear, Freud and Class Warfare: Director Wes Craven Discusses the Timely Terrors of The People Under the Stairs
  • Behind Closed Doors: Leading Lady A.J. Langer Remembers The People Under the Stairs
  • Silent But Deadly: Co-Star Sean Whalen on The People Under the Stairs
  • Underneath the Floorboards: Jeffrey Reddick, creator of The Final Destination series, recalls the lasting impact of The People Under the Stairs
  • Original Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Stephen R. Bissette
  • Collectors booklet featuring new writing on the film by Brian J. Robb, author of Screams & Nightmares: The Films of Wes Craven, illustrated with original archive stills

  • Do you see all of that? That's what we don't get, unless we're lucky enough to have access to a player that is capable of playing PAL discs. And let me tell you, getting one is not an easy task. I've looked into it. So now my inner horror fan feels wounded and very upset that we're missing out on what our friends across the sea get to enjoy. See, I have always hated the idea that anyone has to miss out on these things. Everyone should be able to get the same thing, if they want it. I've long expressed a supreme distaste for region locking because of this fact. It hurts the fans.

    Why would you want to hurt us?
    But, even in a market that often seeks to screw us, we do have shining rays of hope. Scream Factory, for example, really know how to show love to the horror fiends out there. Just look at the releases from this beautiful little horror label under Shout Factory's umbrella. They've released movies on Blu-Ray that never got special treatment before. They're even giving us a director's cut of Nightbreed when the fans went for years campaigning and begging for it to happen. I know all too well about the begging too, as I am a rabid Nightbreed fan. They're a company that gives me hope because they honestly seem to care about pleasing the horror fans. I feel like a lot of other companies gave up even pretending to care. In closing, special features? Who needs those? I do, dammit, and we all deserve them when you consider how pricey these releases often are. So, until I'm able to make a shady backroom deal to get my hands on a Blu-Ray player that will play PAL releases, I'll be here marinating in my frustration as I leer at the terribly photoshopped The Return of the Living Dead cover. Later days, bleeders.

    I feel more depressed the longer I keep looking at it.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment