2020 was a lot of things, it was scary, it was difficult, it was arduous, but there were also some good things that came out of it. Personally, 2020 gave way to me fully embracing collecting movies and particularly, horror movies. What’s better than seeing the horror of the outside world? Seeing a horror movie. So, I went down the rabbit hole of collecting horror Blu-rays, 4K UHD, and some DVDs. Oh, and a couple VHS tapes. There might be a laserdisc or two in there as well.
When it comes to formats, special editions, special features, variants, or just owning 5 copies of the same movie, horror lends itself to that pretty well. After all, there could be multiple different cuts of a film. Take Halloween II for example. There’s the theatrical version that we all know and love; but there’s also the Television Cut of the film. What makes the difference? The TV cut had to add new scenes to make up for the loss of gore, violence, and kills in the theatrical version. So you have some scenes that are completely new and ones that are cut to make it look like something else happens. In the TV cut of Halloween II, it’s cut to make it look like Michael Myers kills the old lady at the beginning of the movie.
Things like that are what drive horror fans to buy any and every edition of movies they love. Own 5 versions of Halloween? Join the club. Want that unedited commentary track where you can hear John Carpenter and Kurt Russell clink their drinks and light up cigars? Better own the DVD version of The Thing. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but enough to get you started on the world of collecting horror movies.
The Gold Standards: Arrow Video, Scream/Shout Factory, Criterion Collection
These three are in a class of their own. Sure, they might be more expensive than other labels, but they pay off with the wealth of effort and time that goes into every one of their releases. Two are based in the US and Arrow is based out of the UK. So for people without a Region Free player, it’s harder to find Region Free titles from Arrow Video. The rights and licensing issues hamper them from releasing certain titles in Region A. But you can’t go wrong with titles from any of these three companies.
Link to Arrow Video: Arrowfilms.com
If you’re looking for quality of anything, Arrow is where it’s at. They have specialty titles that no one else has. The extras and special features they have on their releases are also second to none (and tied with Scream Factory). Titles like The Thing, House, and their special edition of Robocop are all major highlights of this “boutique” label. They’re always releasing new titles and they put particular care into the transfers of their movies. They’ve also stepped up big-time with 4K releases making it worth it to upgrade. The only issue is for people who don’t have a Region-Free player and the shipping costs sometimes. You can find US sellers on Amazon or elsewhere that carry their movies though.
They’re very much worth the price, especially if you love the movie. Their artwork and quality are top notch, you know what you’re getting with Arrow Video.
Link to Criterion: Criterion.com
These are usually the most expensive, but very much worth it. If you’re a complete cinephile, Criterion is your wet dream. The only issue with Criterion and horror is that usually you’re only going to get the upper crust of releases. But when they do come out with a horror flick, they’re 100% worth the price of admission. They go through even more painstaking work to update and keep the original look of films. For a collector, the packaging is incredibly important, and they always have great packaging. From the artwork, to the outer box design, Criterion looks fantastic lined up on a shelf. The only issue is lack of titles, but the ones that do get the “Criterion” treatment are incredible.
Link to Scream Factory: shoutfactory.com/collection/scream-factory
These are the ones that horror collectors salivate over. They’re also the ones that scalpers and others love to take advantage of. So when you’re thinking about buying one of their titles, remember that it’ll likely fetch collector prices once it goes out of print. They’re part of the reason owning a Region-Free player is so essential. Their version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is out of print and very expensive. Turns out the Arrow Video version is still in print, and readily available. They come with absolutely smashing slipcovers that really pop out on your shelf, and those add to the collector value as well.
They’re not all just packaging and collector second-hand markups though. They put some serious effort into their releases like Arrow and Criterion do. If you can get your hands on their box-sets, they’re always well worth the time. And if issues do arise, like with their Friday the 13th box-set, they’re quick to remedy it. It might sound like a commercial for them, but they do really fantastic work and care about the collectors and horror fans out there. They’re usually my first choice for any horror films I buy.
Mid-Level But A Gigantic Library: Kino-Lorber
Link to Kino-Lorber: kinolorber.com
Kino might not have the most spectacular packaging like these other labels, but they make up for that with a massive library of films. They have everyone else beat with the sheer number of titles they have available, but if you’re looking for extras, you might want to check elsewhere.
The More Obscure, But Still Awesome Labels
All three of these labels specialize in little seen, or underappreciated gems from throughout film. Whether that’s 70’s Giallo films, 80’s slashers, or older films that might not normally see the light of day, you really can’t go wrong. In the case of Vinegar Syndrome, they have among the best customer service and product quality in the business. Their releases are sometimes individually numbered, which adds to the collector feel.
Severin specializes in controversial and provocative films. They also have the same level of love and craftmanship in their releases as any other label out there.
Synapse is one that I’m relatively new to, and don’t have many of their titles, but the couple that I do, I’ve been blown away by.
These companies show that physical media is alive and well. They don’t usually compete with one another for releases like Arrow or Scream Factory do, so if you see a movie from them that you like, grab it!
Link to Severin Films: severin-films.com
Link to Vinegar Syndrome: vinegarsyndrome.com
Link to Synapse Films: synapsefilms.com
There’s Plenty More And Big Studio Releases As Well
These are just some of the specialty labels that make Blu-ray and 4K releases. The big studios also have releases of their own, but they’re not that hard to track down. What it all adds up to is a love of horror and of collecting. Give these companies a follow on their social platforms also. That’s the best way to find out about a sale or a new release from any of them.
This was just a small taste of what getting into horror movie collecting looks like. There’s plenty of other formats, editions, and general collecting to go! What’re some of your favorite labels to buy movies from?
For more on horror, check out THS Fright-A-Thon, or stay tuned to That Hashtag Show.