Shout Factory has always been a wonderful boutique label for cult TV releases, but over the last few years they’ve really pulled out all of the stops to become the ultimate Blu-Ray label for cult movies, as well. If there’s a deeply strange movie or TV show that means the world to you, then Shout Factory has either already released it or has plans to make your dreams come true in the future. 2014 was a banner year for Shout Factory and their horror offshoot Scream Factory, seemingly cranking out gems of releases at will. Pleasing the cult movie/TV loving weirdo in your life is as easy as getting them a sweet Shout disc. The only trouble is deciding which of their greatest hits from last year to put on your naughty/nice list. It’s a challenge, but calm down. We’ve made it easy. One of these five discs will do the trick. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate these Blu-Rays is worse than Scrooge and deserves to be smacked around with a lump of coal.
Back in 1989 someone let Weird Al make a movie. It came out opposite Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Tim Burton’s Batman and bombed swiftly. Then over the last 25 years, UHF has become a cult classic. The parody-heavy, elastic reality comedy could only come from a mind as cheerfully deranged as Weird Al and plays like a movie made for viewers who felt that the Zucker Brothers’ comedies didn’t have enough parodies or jokes. In an age when the parody comedy is little more than a pathetic excuse for Marlon Wayans’ latest fart joke, UHF feels like a classic. That’s why Shout Factory went ahead and released a Blu-ray that no one ever dreamed was possible. Finally you can judge Al’s ludicrous prosthetic Stallone chest under the scrutiny that only HD will allow (note: don’t look or judge too closely). On top of that, you’ll also get the deleted scenes and delightful commentary from Weird Al and his director/manager Jay Levey from the old DVD and a 50-minute comic con panel with the man they call Al. Guilty pleasures don’t come much sweeter than this.
4) Sleepaway Camp
Actually, maybe they do come guiltier than that. An unexpected hit when it was released in 1983, Sleepaway Camp just might be the masterpiece of so-bad-its-good 80s horror. From the inexplicable opening dedication “To Mom, a doer” to the legendarily disturbing final shot that will remain in your brain forever, Sleepaway Camp is the perfect combination of hilariously incompetent storytelling and genuinely potent scares. You’ll marvel at the sick justice in the kill scenes, giggle at the acting and logic gaps, drop your jaw at the endlessly un-PC shenanigans, and finally realize where all of the costumes and hairstyles from Wet Hot American Summer originated. Sleepaway Camp is a movie just as easy to love unironically as it is to snicker at ironically. So, god bless Shout Factory for not only delivering the movie in pristine HD, but also stacking the disc with commentaries, short films, trailers, still galleries, interviews, and an all-new/all-fantastic documentary that finally answers the questions, “Who the hell made Sleepaway Camp?!”
3) The Phantom of the Paradise
Brian De Palma has a wealth of magically sardonic and exquisitely constructed genre movies under his belt, but only one Phantom of the Paradise. This combination of music industry satire, show off filmmaking, Phantom of the Opera/Faust homage, stellar scares, camp comedy, and catchy music is simply unlike anything else. It’s a pop culture pastiche as dense with references as anything Quentin Tarantino has ever made and a perfect combination of De Palma’s macabre mastery with Paul Williams’ magical music. Simply tracking the film down at all in North America used to be a trial. Now thanks to Shout, you can own it in a gorgeous Blu-ray that shows off all of the camera pyrotechnics and nutty production design and comes packed with all the special features from previously released French and British special edition Blus, along with some brand spankin’ new material. It’s a neglected masterpiece finally given the respect it deserves.
2) Nightbreed: Director’s Cut
Clive Barker’s mangled sophomore effort has long been at the center of passionate debate amongst horror fans. Since the movie was radically re-edited and re-shot in post-production, fans always wondered how Nightbreed would play if Barker was able to finish it as intended. Well, just over a year ago all of the original footage was found gathering dust in a warehouse and Shout Factory established themselves as the best genre movie home video company on the market by paying for Barker to finally complete his second film decades after it premiered in theaters. The resulting Nightbreed: Director’s Cut certainly doesn’t fix all of the problems in the movie, but it finally at least makes sense, flows comfortably, and looks as gorgeously disgusting as intended. For horror nerds, this movie is a dream that most never thought would be fulfilled, the genre equivalent Orson Welles’ long lost director’s cut of Magnificent Ambersons. To not only be able to finally see Nightbreed as intended, but in a gorgeous Blu-ray that looks better than any print released theatrically is nothing short of genre movie nirvana. Toss in hours of special features about the movie, it’s troubled production, and it’s long awaited resurrection and you’ve got a disc that will make the monster movie lover in your life cry tears of salty joy.
1) Pee-Wee’s Playhouse
Finally, we come to the Blu-Ray that Shout released this year specifically for all of our inner children. Paul Reubens’ surrealist and subversive spin on Saturday morning entertainment was beloved from the second it went on the air. After it was cancelled in controversy, it briefly disappeared before slowly taking on legendary status. For the series’ HD debut, Reubens and Shout unearthed the original camera negative for the series to deliver an eye-popping presentation of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse that looks better than anyone ever dreamed possible. The show was never even edited on film when it aired on TV, so it’s never looked this good before and given the eye-candy it provided on video, just imagine what you’ll experience now. Toss in a series of brand-spanking-new documentaries about the show so in depth that they even talk to the on-set security guard (it was John Singleton) and you’ve got a box set guaranteed to revert anyone back into a giggling 5-year-old filled with wonder. What else could you possibly want on Christmas morning?