Few horror fan could deny we’re living in a golden age of home video release. Companies like Scream Factory, Vinegar Syndrome, Code Red, Olive, Scorpion, Synapse, Kino, and Arrow offer up fine flicks on a regular basis in truly inspired editions.
Other than the sheer amount of titles being hard to keep up with, there’s very little to complain about. However, there’s still a vast selection of domestic and foreign horror films languishing in the form of outdated editions and old formats.
The sheer number of forgotten horror flicks wouldn’t seem quite so sad if we weren’t already seeing titles like Return of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, or the Jeepers Creepers franchise approaching their second high-def edition. From both a business and fandom perspective, it seems silly to double down on already available films when there are plenty of classics just dying to get a chance on Blu-ray. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look.
Possibly the saddest specimen of left behind cinema are those rare features left wallowing on long-dead formats. Take, for instance, The Keep. One of two entries in our favorite genre from director Michael Mann, The Keep is that rare film that almost feels like a night at the opera. Dialogue and plot are not the focus here so much as audio visual drama that creates some of the best atmosphere you’re ever likely to witness.
Despite an appreciative fanbase that only seems to grow over time, The Keep has never received anything better than a LaserDisc. One reason may be talk of conflicting music rights with composing team Tangerine Dream, though one has to wonder how much of an issue those rights may be considering the movie appears on different streaming services from time to time.
The other claim for the release status of The Keep is that Michael Mann apparently wants nothing to do with the film and is fine with leaving it in limbo. Someone should probably introduce him to George Lucas as an example that what a director thinks of his films isn’t always in tune with the masses.
There may yet be a spot of hope for this one as Scream Factory worked with Mann on their upcoming collector’s edition of Manhunter (its second time on Blu-ray). Hopefully someone had the good sense to remind him of his other fan favorite.
Another film that occasionally appears on streaming services without a proper physical release is the Mia Farrow and Keir Dullea spook story The Haunting of Julia (aka Full Circle), a classic tale of a woman trying to begin anew after the loss of her daughter and subsequent separation from her husband. Ghostly occurrences ensue in her new home, and she’s convinced that her child is trying to communicate with her from beyond. The truth, however, is much more sinister.
The Haunting of Julia pairs perfectly with other high-class thrillers like Don’t Look Now or The Changeling. There’s a wealth of quality performances, excellent music, and grand direction; yet, it never seemed to find an audience. Which means to this day your only option for ownership is to spend $30 on a battered VHS from eBay and hope for the best.
Of course, not every horror films needs to be meaningful or even well-produced, for that matter. Some prefer movies of the cheap and trashy variety like The Brain, the story of, well… an alien brain with a face which aids a psychologist in hypnotizing the populace with only some well-mannered Canadian teenagers standing in the way. This one actually sneaked its way onto a European DVD that is currently out of print. Meanwhile, its American fanbase, which is surprisingly bountiful, still waits for an upgrade from fuzzy YouTube files.
That’s barely scratching the surface of titles stuck on dead formats. We’ve got the original Willard and its sequel, Ben, which features the classic song by Michael Jackson. Not to mention classics such as Eyes of Fire, Terror on Tour, The Plumber, and Blood Beach. There’s an entire release line still waiting to be rescued from obscurity. It’s a possibility many of them could be lacking in decent material for a proper restoration, but as Olive Films proved with their Blu-rays of Deadly Pray and Killer Workout, you can salvage a film even with the worst of sources.
It’s bad enough to miss out on a great standalone film, but what if you’re a completist? The type who needs every piece of the story whether it’s an astounding success or miserable failure? Well, start getting your panties in a bunch because there are still some rather notable sequels languishing in obscurity while their respective franchises roam free.
The Return of Godzilla (aka Godzilla 1985), having never received a digital release on our shore, could just as easily fit into the VHS-Only category. This becomes all the more shocking when you consider nearly every other Godzilla flick is not only available on disc, but a good deal of them are on Blu-ray in their original Japanese versions. In fact, this is the only entry in the franchise to have no U.S. digital media release in either its original or highly altered American versions. There was talk of Echo Bridge Entertainment bringing this to Blu-ray shortly after their launch of the similarly mistreated Godzilla vs. Biollante, but that soon faded into nothingness. So if you’re sitting there glaring at the little hole in your otherwise massive kaiju collection, the only way to fill it is to hit the import market.
While we’re on the subject of better-than-average sequels, let’s talk about Fright Night Part 2. Directed by frequent John Carpenter collaborator Tommy Lee Wallace, this second entry flips the roles from the first film by turning Charley Brewster into a skeptic by means of good old fashioned therapy and placing Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell) in the role of a true believer. That belief serves him well when Jerry Dandridge’s sister arrives seeking vengeance for the death of her fanged sibling.
Fright Night Part 2 actually received a terrible pan-and-scan DVD release in the early 2000’s which has since gone on to become something of a collectors item by virtue of there being nothing better. Granted, its predecessor hasn’t fared much better on Blu-ray, thus far receiving two very limited runs through that overpriced mockery of a film label Twilight Time. Meanwhile the awful Fright Night remake and its own follow-up (essentially another remake itself) are a breeze to buy.
I’ll admit to some personal bias in this next section. This entire article was inspired by the trailer for the upcoming J-horror showdown Sadako vs. Kayako. What does that have to do with films missing from the Blu-ray market? This might require a little history lesson if you’re down for it.
Some newer horror fans may be too young to remember the Asian horror invasion of the early 2000’s. This was a time when every visit to Blockbuster raveled another round of fresh-off-the-boat tales of long-haired ghosts and phone curses. Truly the biggest franchises of this movement were The Ring and Ju-On. Each was well-liked on both sides of the pond and received U.S. remakes to varying degrees of success along with films from all over Asia like The Eye, Shutter, and One Missed Call. The whole thing got so out of hand that eventually Hollywood turned the flow of Asian horror from a flood down to a trickle. These days some of their movies still make it Stateside, but nowhere near the amount we used to see.
With Sadako vs. Kayako set to hit theaters this summer, one has to wonder how long it will take to reach our shores given that the last Ring film and previous two Ju-on efforts have yet to cross the pond. Finding distribution isn’t even that big of an issue, as the Ju-On series belongs partly to NBCUniversal, a company with more than enough resources to bring it over themselves, yet simply chooses not to.
This isn’t the only time parts of a major franchise have been overlooked in the U.S. market. 2010 saw the theatrical release of Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night, a film that dwells in a gray area where it’s never been fully accepted nor disowned by its parent series. All the same, even though the franchise ended last year with The Ghost Dimension, this spin-off has yet to make it farther west than Europe. Surely there was a market for it. Paranormal Activity was quite the cash cow for Paramount over the years, so why keep an extra film buried away?
Let’s say these films don’t matter to you. That’s understandable. Not everyone shares a love for found footage and long-haired lady ghosts. But if entries in some of the world’s biggest franchises can’t get a fair shake, then what else are we missing out on? There’s no doubt labels went overboard during the J-horror boom, but they neglected many older titles that are still missing from our shores. Films like Sweet Home, Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis, and its sequel, Tokyo: The Last War, are the stuff cult movie fans live for; yet, they exist in a bubble where they’re not considered high-brow enough for something like the Criterion collection, while other labels won’t give them a chance because J-horror is out of fashion.
Movies aren’t the only area where there are gaps to fill. There’s also the matter of television. In general, we’re pretty lucky in this category as most of the heavy hitters are at least available on DVD. Even so, there are still a few titles missing from the market, two of which tie in directly to some of the biggest horror franchises in the world.
“Freddy’s Nightmares” is a horror anthology hosted by none other than classic boogeyman Freddy Krueger. Each week he would present tales of terror from the town of Springwood, a few of which revolved around his own antics. The Elm Street association isn’t the only reason fans clamor for this series to get its day on disc. There’s a terrific sampling of directors like Tobe Hooper, Tom McLoughlin, Mick Garris, Dwight H. Little, William Malone, and even Freddy himself, Robert Englund.
Despite being part of a huge franchise and serving as a time capsule for that era of horror, this series has yet to fare better than an out-of-print three-episode European release and a few episodes shoved into the special features of the most recent Elm Street box set.
Fans want the show, and most would be understanding of lackluster AV quality. Said deficiencies could make this a perfect release for a budget company like Mill Creek Entertainment. At the very least fans could finally complete their Nightmare on Elm Street collections.
Freddy isn’t the only monster with a missing TV series. That green goliath Godzilla made several appearances on “Zone Fighter,” an “Ultraman” knockoff confirmed to take place between Godzilla vs. Megalon and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
The reason for this one missing in action seems to have more to do with its genre. Japanese hero shows have a pretty slim release record over here, with Shout Factory and Mill Creek offering up the majority of releases. The series has been on DVD in Japan, so the source material clearly exists. The trick is convincing someone in power that enough Godzilla and henshin hero fans are willing to spend money on this series.
Would you believe that’s just a sampling of titles in need of proper releases? And this isn’t even touching the subject of films stuck with botched or out-of-print DVD’s that are in real need of the deluxe treatment.
So what can you, as a fan, do? Well, quite a bit actually. Post to company Facebook pages, participate in message boards, sign petitions… heck, just commenting on and spreading this article around could greatly help the cause of forgotten films. Most of all, though, you have to put your money to good use. Support as many obscure, unique, and foreign flicks as you possibly can. Constantly remind companies that horror fans will spend their hard-earned pennies on all sorts of wild stuff as long as those companies have the courage to make it available.
Event Coverage: Mark Patton and Kim Myers Talk Freddy’s Revenge in London
Earlier this month Unicorn Nights organized a rare treat for horror fans, not only did we get to view the often under rated A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge but we were also honored to be in company with the two leading cast members. Mark Patton who played Jesse Walsh and Kim Myers who played his on screen girlfriend Lisa Webber were on hand for a Q & A session once the 1985 sequel had wrapped and Dread Central was in London for a full report.
Every horror fan has their own take on Freddy’s Revenge which has always felt like a standalone movie compared to the rest of the franchise. Speaking to fans at the infamous Prince Charles Cinema where the event was being shown they recalled moments that made the movie so special and separate from the other sequels. The bright yellow school bus, Jesse’s 20 inch tongue, Freddy bursting out of a Mark Patton plastic fantastic body, the exploding parrot, Jesse’s dance, Jesse’s fight, Jesse’s scream, the dog with a human head, the horrifyingly beautiful score by Christopher Stone, Hope Lange, Clu ‘fucking’ Gulager, the beautiful Kim Myers (who judging by tonight hasn’t aged) and of course the infamous line when Freddy tells Jesse,”you’ve got the body, I’ve got the brain”, before peeling back the skin on his head to reveal his pumping organ.
When the movie had wrapped Mark and Kim got down to business and answered fans long awaited questions. Myers confirmed that her audition had been grueling and that she had been asked back four times, but it was her read through with Patton that convinced the powers that be to cast her. “It was a dream come true to get the part and the opportunity of a lifetime”, confirmed Myers.
It was also interesting to learn that Robert Englund who of course would return as Freddy Krueger was the very last cast member to sign on for the sequel, and his participation was very much in the balance. Patton made everyone in the room laugh when he answered a question from a fan who said ‘was his screaming really him?’ Patton confirmed it was, before revealing that the sound men were in fear of him. Of course Myers is the only actress to have kissed Freddy and she revealed that the peck was very slimy and disgusting , but it was all about saving the love of her life, and with that, both her and Patton, embraced in what had been a fantastic and memorable night for the fans that had turned up for this sold out showing.
ABOUT UNICORN NIGHTS:
Unicorn Nights is the LGBTQUAI strand of films at the Prince Charles Cinema. Looking at some of the best (and worst) films that appeal to a queer unicorn audience. From Classics like Dirk Bogarde’s Victim and Tilda Swinton’s Orlando to lesbian werewolf love stories Jack & Diane and coming out classic Get Real. Their goal is to not let forgotten films from gay film makers or covering gay subjects be forgotten about and give a safe space for unicorns (as they like to call their audience) to come and enjoy film in the beating heart of London’s film center.
If you are in the London area you can follow Unicorn’s latest events and keep up to date by clicking here!
Also check out news on Mark Patton’s new documentary, Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street.
All Photos: David Bronstein
2017: The Digital Rebirth of the Midnight Movie
This year’s Sundance audience had no idea what they had signed up for when they entered the Egyptian Theatre on January 21st, the midnight premiere of Kuso. While Flying Lotus has established a well-earned legacy through his music, feature films are a fresh venture for him – and his first effort was transgressive enough to be dubbed one of the grossest films ever made. In spite of this film’s instant infamy, however, it didn’t have a theatrical run. Its grotesque pleasures must be sought almost exclusively online. Only some (lucky or unlucky) cinephiles have been able to experience this creation as it, and much of its ilk, should be – in the darkness of a theater.
The midnight movie phenomenon truly broke into the mainstream during the late ‘60s, amidst the academically-deemed Golden Age of American cinema. Now-famous directors like John Waters, David Lynch, and Alejandro Jodorowsky earned notoriety with these works – made infamous by their grotesque natures, sure, but also because they broke cinematic rules in such effective ways. There is something cathartic about watching a film that shows you something impossible, surrounded by others who are just as shocked and moved. This is an experience that audiences can’t truly replicate outside of a theater, at any time before nightfall.
Since the rise of the multiplex and big-chain theaters, independent cinemas have had a more difficult time competing. Why settle for one screen, anyway, when you can have twenty? With blockbusters and a series of misfires (lookin’ at you, Heaven’s Gate) putting an end to the revolutionary Golden Age, there wasn’t a space for midnight movies. Perhaps this was because they defy classification. Their ultimate effect may be disgust or discomfort, but a midnight movie isn’t necessarily horror, or comedy or sci-fi, for that matter. Without a category, they’re impossible to sell – or sell easily.
Film festivals have become the salvation of these less accessible offerings. Kuso was one of eight midnight selections at Sundance this year, amongst the equally harrowing (albeit less gooey) Bitch, the oddly touching The Little Hours, and entertaining anthology XX, to name a few. Big players like South by Southwest, TIFF, Tribeca and AFI sport midnight sections as well, which have premiered recent smashes like Turkish hellfest Baskin or monstrous love poem Spring – while the equally important Fantastic Fest and Sitges Film Festival have focused solely on genre films for years. Fest favorites still rely on distribution to find a broad audience, though, and often the weirdest ones get left behind.
So, where do modern audiences find these films when they don’t get a traditional release? They have to go online. Netflix’s horror section is notoriously uneven, though its acquisition of IFC Midnight’s lineup has improved it immensely. One of the most consistent platforms for weird cinema is far more niche – AMC’s hidden gem, Shudder. It’s advertised as Netflix for horror, but its curators have shown a specific focus on all things strange, regardless of category. This year, they’ve acquired more standard genre fare, like the heinously clever Better Watch Out and the powerful, agonizing Revenge; but arguably their most famous grab is Kuso, which draws an entirely different audience. Fresh acquisitions like Prevenge and We Are the Flesh, along with hard-to-find classics such as Death Bed: the Bed that Eats and The Devils, prove the site’s attention to exposing new audiences to bizarre, world-changing content.
It isn’t to say that weird movies haven’t been made in the decades between these periods; but we seem to have entered an age in which they’re becoming easily accessible again. Prestige talent has begun crossing into weird movies too; see Anne Hathaway in the genre-destroying Colossal or Jennifer Lawrence enduring all sorts of abuse in mother!, remarkable if only for the fact that Paramount released it with no questions asked. Stylish directors like Ben Wheatley and Ana Lily Amirpour broke into the mainstream with their own no-budget visions of strangeness, A Field in England and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, respectively.
Presenting a new generation with films that challenge, provoke, disgust and distort is essential; we live in a time of upheaval and anxiety, so why not explore movies that show the world in all its chaotic glory? Even so, that connection of a dark theater is missed – and fans can hope that somehow, the system will change again, allowing for a fresh cycle of movies that only play at night.
12 Spooky Video Game Farms To Celebrate Your Thanksgiving
Happy pre-Christmas, everybody! It’s once again that magical time of the year, where all the department stores get out their light up Santas and tinsel to celebrate the birth of capitalism. The Spooky Month is gone, all praise be to the glorious Coca-Cola Company. Oh, and there’s also something about turkeys and stuffing your face with enough pie to temporarily shut down your brain’s ability to recognize your in-laws as the enemy.
Now if you’re like me and your family is an impossible five whole hours away from you, you might be spending Thanksgiving alone. No shame in that, just a single adult man alone in his room on a day meant for loved ones. But that doesn’t mean that we very-much-not-lonely-and-totally-content-with-our-life-choices individuals can’t have some fun! So this year, I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving by remembering the American heartland that made this all possible. The noble farmer, tilling the soil from dusk till dawn until automation made his job mostly just pushing buttons. So join me if you will, with my list of 12 Spooky Video Game Farms to Celebrate Your Thanksgiving!
12) All is Dust
All is Dust is pretty much the reason that this is a list of “Spooky Video Game Farms,” and not “Top Spooky Video Game Farms.” This is a game that I once used to kick off a series of negative reviews I called “Bottom of the Bargain Bin,” you can go ahead and read my rambling review if you are so inclined. For the rest of you, I’ll recap by saying that All is Dust is bad. None of that wishy-washy some redeeming nuggets that you can see through the rest of the turd. It’s just plain bad. But what it does have going for it is that, A) it is 100% free, B) it 100% takes place on a farm, and C) it’s so bad that it sticks in my brain as being entertaining. Play if you’re very bored or truly deranged.
11) Farm for your Life
Although not really living up to the “Spooky” part of the “Spooky Video Game Farms” list, I’d be remiss to leave it out. Taking place after the zombie apocalypse, you must do your best to raise livestock and run your restaurant by day, and defend it from waves of zombies by night. It’s part tower defence, part Harvest Moon, part Cooking Mama, part Diner Dash, and part Minecraft. For only $10, it’s definitely worth checking out just for the unique premise and adorable zombies.
10) Monster Rancher
Whereas Pokémon was about a small child going forth into nature to enslave its creatures and force them to fight in the ultimate bloodsport, Monster Rancher was about setting up the ideal monster sex palace. Okay, you still make them fight. This is a monster raising (or, if you will, monster ranching) simulator after all, it would be pretty bleak of the ultimate goal was to just chop them up and sell off the best bits. It never did as well as Pokémon, but I always found something charming about Monster Rancher’s take on raising your monsters. Rather than just fighting to get bigger and stronger, you could raise their individual stats by making them do chores like tidying up or running laps. I got much more of a sense of attachment to my individual monsters when I felt like I was their dad, making them mow the lawn for their own good. Then, later as their pimp, I forced them to mate and produce supermonsters.
9) Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green
Somewhere out there some, search optimization program must be whirring its little algorithms in confusion as this is the first time anyone has mentioned Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green in a decade. A tie-in to the equally unloved Land of the Dead, it actually serves as a direct prequel. You play as Jack, a farmer who on the night of the zombie outbreak finds his farm besieged by… well you know the drill. Road to Fiddler’s Green gets bonus points for not only partially taking place on a farm, but for starring an authentic American heartland stereotype farmer. Now let me be clear, this game is pretty bad. But it’s even more so that endearingly simple kind of bad, where the zombies are so easily avoided it’s like the scene from Dawn of the Dead where the bikers are basically just having an orgy around them. I have no idea where you’d get your hands on it, but give it a play if you want some good ol’ fashioned bad game.
8) Dead Secret
This is the part where if this were a “Top” list, it would begin in earnest. Like a Jigsaw victim tasked with beating Five Nights at Freddy’s, this is a game that surprised me. I’m not really keen on the whole fixed point VR thing, as it tends to only lend itself to jump scares, but Dead Secret won me over with some thrilling chases and overall creepy atmosphere. The bizarre plot contains oni-masked demon spirit guides, magic slugs, dream machines, and the phases of the moon. It’s definitely something worth checking out, and is available on all major VR headsets. Even without one, I found the game enjoyable.
First of all, if you don’t find Minecraft scary, fuck you. You’ve obviously never played it. I do not care how blocky the graphics or adorable the sheep are. You try to listening to the zombies moaning softly in the distance as you huddle in your makeshift hovel and pray the night to be over. How about you place the last block on your new swimming pool, only to hear the telltale hiss of a creeper just behind you. Then you can come back and tell me that Minecraft isn’t horror. And don’t tell me it’s not a farm, either. All you do in Minecraft IS farm. It’s a game about building things to eventually grow more things so you no longer have to go out of your way to collect things. That is the literal transition from hunter/gatherer to farming.
6) Slender: The Arrival
Now that it’s been 4 years since its official release and the hype/controversy has died down, I’m free to say nice things about Slender: The Arrival without sounding like a pandering YouTube twat. In retrospect, the part of Slender that I really didn’t like (other than the community) was the first randomly generated section. The whole 11 or so interchangeable environments with 8 pages scattered between them just felt unnatural, a cheap way to lengthen gameplay at the cost of a cohesive world. However, I found the game to be pretty good when it got to the more linear scripted areas. One such level was titled “Homestead,” and takes place on a spooky farm complete with grain silo and quaint little hilltop church. It’s a pretty solid little piece of horror, and definitely worth watching someone overreact to on YouTube.
5) Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 is not a game wanting for memorable locations. It’s got a spooky castle, a spooky military base, a spooky mine, a spooky… ancient ruins? I mean hell, this is a game with an underground lava fortress and a minecart ride! That being said, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t immediately associate Resident Evil 4 with the first pitched siege battle in the farming village. Many of the game’s most memorable moments come from these first few chapters in the decaying rural town, including the enduring introduction of Mr. Chainsaw-McSackface. That alone deserves a spot on this list.
4) Dying Light: The Following
When I gave Dying Light: The Following a five-star tongue bath awhile back, much of that was due to my own personal disappointment with DLC releases. You really have to give props to a DLC pack that is at the same time affordable, lengthy, and adds something genuinely new to the title. For The Following’s case, that came in the form of lengthy rural sections you had to get across in your sick customizable buggy. It was unique compared to the previously cramped and vertical spaces of the main campaign, adding even more freedom to a game about freerunning.
3) The Walking Dead
Back in the day, Telltale Games was that cute little indie company putting out new Sam and Max games and the CSI tie-ins. That all changed in 2012 when The Walking Dead put them on the map. Before then, no one expected that a game you could play on your iPhone would make you cry. Of all the heartbreaking and shocking moments, perhaps the most is the dinner at the St. Johns’ farm. Clementine will remember that…and so will I.
2) Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
The last two additions on this list basically write themselves. I’m choosing to give Resident Evil 7: Biohazard the second slot because it’s just way less recognizable as once having been a plantation. As someone who doesn’t find country bumpkins scary, the crazed hillbilly trope of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or House of 1000 Corpses never really got to me. The Baker family? These people scare me.
1) Outlast 2
Of course the top spot on this list goes to Outlast 2. If you Google “horror games on farms,” it’s the first result. And there’s good reason for that. Outlast 2 takes everything unsettling about rural Americana and cranks it up to 11. You’ve got slaughterhouses filled with people, rotting cattle, a syphilitic cult leader, pits filled with dead babies… the list goes on and on. It’s genuinely terrifying. I’m not even someone who likes the weaponless approach to horror, but with Outlast 2 it’s as much about the setting as it is the jump scares. Definitely check it out.
Well, there you have it horror fans. A nice sampling of 12 Spooky Video Game Farms to Celebrate Your Thanksgiving. I tried to include a little bit of everything for everyone here, but let me know if I missed your favorite heartland horror! Happy pre-Christmas to all, and to all a good… fright?
…I’ll see myself out.
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