Zombies are the middle children of the otherworldly family. Vampires are the oldest brother who gets to have a room in the attic, all tripped out with a disco ball and shag carpet. Werewolves are the youngest, the babies, always getting pinched and told they're cute. With all that attention stolen away from the middle child zombie, no wonder she shuffles off grumbling, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."

- Kevin James Breaux

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"Rants & Ravings About Horror" - Week 13: “Dump Bin Invasion!”

Week 13: “Dump Bin Invasion!”

I don’t know about you but I buy a lot of those $5 dump bin movie sets.  You can find them at Walmart, Target, K-Mart and just about every department store and gas station that sells DVDs.  There are horror collections and sci-fi collections and film noir collections and even comedies and musicals but more often than not there are a TON more horror collections than all other genres.  There are two different types of dump bin DVD collections.  The most common are the sets that include all the public domain films that you’ve seen before like Night of the Living Dead (1968), Carnival of Souls (1962), or Little Shop of Horrors (1960), to name a few.  The other sets include films the “common” man has for the most part never heard of before like The Familiar (2009), KillerKiller (2007), or Occupied (2011), to name a small few.  This second set of DVDs is mostly made up of independent films and TV movies no one remembers or sequels to films no one cares about - i.e. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), Howling IV: The Original (1988), or Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 (1987), to name a few.

If you’ve purchased one of these then you already know that many times the films are pretty bad and presented in a “full screen” version and has not been digitally mastered.  Some of these are bottom of the barrel presentations (especially films in the public domain).  Knowing this then, why do we bother purchasing these films and better yet why do studios and distributors continue to make them?

The simplest reason is that many of these films have never seen DVD release until now and in this current climate of declining DVD/BD sells presenting a collection of previously unreleased films on DVD for the first time is a major selling point.  The other simple fact is that studios know that not all the films that they own in their library are good or even remembered at all.  This is a low cost way of getting a lot of those films back into the public.    Another reason is that many DVDs have fallen into the OOP (Out of print) phase of their existence which means there is little to no interest in the film except from cult fans (like myself).  I purchased one collection of 8 films just so I could add C.H.U.D. 2: Bud the Chud (1989) to my collection.  I did the same thing with 976-Evil 2 (1991).  Neither film has had an individual release and for good reason as neither is any good but I love the originals of the series and having the sequel just adds to my collection.  I’m sure the studio that holds onto the rights for these films had no idea what to do with them either and was not willing to put any good money into releasing them individually.  This is where the companies of Echo Bridge Home Entertainment and Mill Creek Entertainment come in.

Echo Bridge Home Entertainment and Mill Creek Entertainment and two of the biggest distributors of these bargain bin film collections.  You’ll recognize their logos on most of the collections that you come across (including the boxed sets of most of those old TV series as well).  They’ve made it big business to continually distribute forgotten films to DVD.  You may recognize the titles – Gore House Greats Collection, American Horror Stories, Drive-In Cult Classics, Freakshow Cinema, Big Box of Horror, Midnight Horror or 8 Horror Movies.  The titles for most of these collections are fairly generic.

A lot of the times these collections share some of the same films so if you buy many of them you may have the same film several times.  This is the nature of these collections.  There may be one or two titles that you recognize immediately but then the rest are completely unknown to you.  This is a good and bad thing.  For people looking for good films…well, for the most part you’ve come to the wrong place but for those of you looking for some mindless entertainment then these collections are right up your alley.

I love bad films.  I enjoy bad films trying to be good films just as much as I love bad films that know they’re bad films (these are the most fun).  You’re going to get a bunch of bad films from these collections no matter what.  The great thing about sitting down and watching a film from the Freakshow Cinema collection or Drive-In Cult Classics collection is that the films are short and straight to the point and don’t try to be anything more than they are which means that their stories are pretty derivative but if you’re lucky the performances may be good or the cinematography might stand out or the musical score may be just what you wanted to hear.  For the most part, not everything about each of the films in the collection is horribly bad (although there are the occasional turd you just can’t polish no matter what).  There is the occasion where I envy an independent film because the story may be derivative but the cinematography really held the film together creating a very visually stunning film.  I’ve even come across a couple where the performances from the lead actors were phenomenal despite the crappy script and uninspired direction.  Then there are those that are so bad that they are good because they entertained the hell out of me from beginning to end (whether they meant to or not).  These are the surprises that I look for in these dump bin DVDs.

Now you won’t always come out with a film or two that are actually good (more often than not you won’t) but the true adventure is when you do and then you’ve found a film that you can recommend to others.

As an independent film maker I don’t set out to ever make a bad film but sometimes obstacles get in the way that are just too big to overcome and the film is compromised and doesn’t come out the way you originally envisioned.  Maybe the budget was too small to get the camera equipment you needed for that long dolly shot at the opening of the film or maybe your main actor got sick and had to be replaced just before filming or maybe there just wasn’t enough days in your shooting schedule to get everything done so a few pages had to be cut.  There are numerous ways a film can suddenly become compromised and for the most part it is some of these compromised films that end up on these dump bin DVDs.

Then again it could just be that all these major studios just have too many films in their library and have absolutely no idea what to do with them so they give them to the Mill Creeks and Echo Bridges out there for a small pittance and just hope for the best.  In the long run what does it really matter as long as we horror fans can add those C.H.U.D. 2’s and 976-Evil 2’s to our collections – FINALLY!

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