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Horror Show, The (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)

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    Ian Jane
    Administrator

  • Horror Show, The (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)



    Horror Show
    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: November 26th, 2013.
    Director: James Isaac
    Cast: Lance Henriksen, Brion James, Rita Taggart
    Year: 1989
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Also known (at least outside the US) as House III, 1989's The Horror Show is a mish mash of better known and better made eighties horror movies that is worth watching not for its originality but for its cast. Borrowing elements from A Nightmare On Elm Street, Shocker (although this movie was released a littler earlier than Craven's picture) and Friday The 13th, it's definitely derivative but Lance Henriksen and Brion James both get good roles here and the film features some impressive early effects work from the KNB team.

    The story follows a cop named Detective Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen) who has been doing his damnedest to bring in a serial killer named Max Jenke (Brion James) responsible for over one hundred kills. Though Lucas finally gets his man, it comes at a price as the chase results in the death of his partner (Terry Alexander) and an innocent girl. Once Jenke is sentenced to death, Lucas decides he wants to sit in on the execution, he tells his wife Donna (Rita Taggart) that it will bring closure to the case. And so Lucas does that, he sits in the electrocution chamber (Look for Lawrence Tierney playing a warden in the prison) and watches them pull the switch on Jenke, but at first it seems he can't be killed as no matter how many volts they throw at him, he grins and takes it, cackling away like the unstoppable force of evil that he is. He gets up out of the chair, bursts into flames, and in grand 'bad guy' style he threatens to come back and get his revenge.

    Lucas, being sane, sees Jenke fall and sees him pronounced dead so he goes home to his wife and their two kids, Bonnie (Dedee Pfeiffer) and Scott (Aron Eisenberg), and the family cat. It would seem, however, that Jenke is a man of his word. Not only is Lucas being plagued by horrible dreams but he's seeing Jenke everywhere, even on the TV (which he shoots, Elvis style). A scientist named Peter Campbell (Thom Bray) tells him that he's not crazy though, and he explains to him his theory of how Jenke has used the energy that was meant to kill him to come back. When Bonnie's boyfriend Vinnie (David Oliver) winds up dead in the McCarthy's basement, however, internal affairs starts to think that Lucas might have lost his mind…

    So yeah, you can see where the Shocker comparisons are going to come into play and you can see where the Nightmare On Elm Street comparisons are going to into play as well but The Horror Show still manages to be good fun. The main reason to watch this is for the two leads. Henriksen is actually really good as the cop who may or may not be losing his mind. He handles the part very well and does a really good job of relaying his character's dual nature (that being he shares tender moments with his wife but is also capable of snapping into cold hearted cop mode quite easily). He's got that face, that weathered and world weary face, that just says more than any line of dialogue can and he's perfectly cast in this part. The other great performance here comes from the late Brion James, probably best remembered for his role in Blade Runner. He too has a very unique face and the movie really plays that up, giving him a very rat like appearance at times that is compounded by his characters tendency to laugh with a whiney sniveling tone throughout the picture. He's physically intimidating, big enough to wield that massive cleaver with some menace and he's fun to watch. The rest of the cast are fairly disposable (though pretty Dedee Pfeiffer does at least grace us with a shower scene) but Henriksen and James make this completely watchable.

    The effects work in the movie is also pretty decent. Even in it's R-rated form (supposedly an uncut DVD was released in the UK that had more gore than this version) we get severed body parts in a deep fryer, we get Max possessing a turkey on the dinner table and we get a few other bits and pieces of impressive splatter. KNB's work is solid here and the cinematography by Mac Ahlberg works well. Goofy, occasionally off in its pacing and yeah, not all that original The Horror Show is still definitely worth seeing for genre fans, particularly those with an affection for James and/or Henriksen.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Horror Show debuts on Blu-ray from Scream Factory framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. This is a hazy looking movie, it's just got that sort of less than crisp late eighties look to it that was common in the day, so the softness in the picture here is forgivable and almost certainly stems back to the way that the movie was shot. As to the quality of the transfer itself, some mild print damage in the form of white specks can easily be spotted throughout the movie as can some compression artifacts. There isn't any obvious edge enhancement and there doesn't appear to be any noise reduction slathered on the picture but things probably could have looked a bit better than they do. The good news? Black levels are decent and colors look good throughout. Detail is probably about as impressive as the photography will allow for, meaning that yes, this is obviously an HD transfer and noticeably better than what DVD could provide, but it's not going to blow you away.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track but it's a surprisingly strong one. There's a lot of great channel separation throughout the track and the effects have good presence and punch to them. The score is nicely balanced and the dialogue sounds very full, nice and real, never thin or canned. There aren't any problems with any noticeable hiss or distortion and the movie sounds better on Blu-ray than most will probably expect it to.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with the film's producer, Sean S. Cunningham moderator by Michael Felsher. It's a solid discussion about what works here and what doesn't and which gives us quite a bit of welcome background information about this more obscure eighties horror entry. You might have noticed that Alan Smithee is credited as a co-writer, and we get to learn why that is and we also learn about why the movie was released in other territories as part of the House series (which Cunningham also produced). The film's troubles with the MPAA are brought up as are other production issues but Cunningham is quite kind to the contributions of his cast and crew, expressing admiration for his actors, the technical side of things including Mac Ahlberg's work on the film and the effects crew involved in the picture. This is a good talk, it sheds a lot of light on the film's history and it's a refreshing honest appraisal of the film from Cunningham with Felsher on hand to keep all the right questions coming at a good pace.

    Outside of that we get two interviews, the first an eleven minute piece with Stunt Coordinator Kane Hodder who talks about his relationship with Cunningham and his admiration for Lance Henriksen and Brion James. He discusses some of the more complex stunts that are featured in the film and how he more or less landed on his face during the 'big fall' at the end of the movie. He also talks about what it's like being set on fire and having to stay in character and what it was like dealing with some of the makeup effects in the movie. The second interview also runs about eleven minutes and it features actress Rita Taggart who shares her thoughts on what it was like working on her first horror picture, the movie's issues with directors, her relationship with Henriksen and the rest of the crew and what a great guy the late Brion James was to work with. She looks back on the movie quite fondly and shares a few fun stories.

    Aside from that, we get the original theatrical trailer for the feature (which compares the film's antagonist to Freddy and Jason for obvious reasons), menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Shout! Factory's Scream Factory label has released a lot of jam packed special editions of undisputed horror classics but so too have they had a hand in breathing new life into some more obscure entries in the horror pantheon, the kind that aren't necessarily going to get the same amount of love. This release of The Horror Show falls into the latter category, but it's still a fun addition to the line. The transfer shows a bit of print damage and some compression artifacts but seems to represent the movie's hazy late eighties look fairly well and the audio is surprisingly good. The extras definitely add some value and the commentary is excellent. There's a reason The Horror Show isn't as well regarded as other horror movies made around the same time but it's still a fun watch with a solid cast and some impressive effects work.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!































    • Paul Casey
      #3
      Paul Casey
      Frito Bandito
      Paul Casey commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks! I'll probably pick this up anyway. It's been a long time since I've seen it.

    • Ace
      #4
      Ace commented
      Editing a comment
      Forgot to mention this is the "Cut" version.

    • Ian Jane
      #5
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      Ian Jane commented
      Editing a comment
      Never seen an uncut release in the US, don't think it ever had one. I saw the IMDB lists an uncut UK disc though.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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