Release Date(s)1989 (November 26, 2013)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B-
The Horror Show was released as the third sequel to the House series in foreign territories, but it’s a horror movie that flew under the radar and was relegated to remain only on VHS until now. The movie was directed by Jim Isaac, who also directed one of my favorite Friday the 13th movies Jason X, and stars Lance Henriksen and Brion James. The movie is also notable for being produced by Sean S. Cunningham and having Kane Hodder on as a stunt coordinator, as well as a stunt man.
Released around the same time as the extremely similar film Shocker, the movie tells the story of a convicted murderer sentenced to death by electrocution, only to return from the grave to take vengeance on the cop who caught him. As the movie goes on, the cop (Henriksen) slowly loses his mind when Max Jenke (James) toys with him from beyond. In the end, it all climaxes with a final showdown between the two.
Now I wouldn’t necessarily call The Horror Show a horror classic, but in the scheme of things, the movie works well for what it is and has a lot of great practical special effects. There’s also a walk-on from Lawrence Tierney, a shower scene and some great stunt work from Kane Hodder and his stunt team. The filmmakers do a good job of keeping things moving and making them interesting, so the movie never really stops dead in its tracks at any point. The performances are pretty good, too. Lance Henriksen plays a great cop who’s pushed to the age and Brion James plays an effective, but nutty serial killer with a laugh similar to another character of his from Crimewave.
There’s also a good score from Harry Manfredini, so it’s basically the Friday the 13th all-stars behind the scenes on this movie. For me though, the best part is that it’s fun to see Henriksen and James go toe to toe, which is funny considering they’ve both played humanoid robots in other films (ahem... Aliens, Blade Runner). But like most slasher movies, the real star of the show are the death scenes. They aren’t all full of tons of blood and gore, but being that the killer is basically supernatural, they pull out all the stops and get into some pretty crazy territory. It’s just an enjoyable movie that you shouldn’t take too seriously. It’s a fun slasher with great special effects, and I’m glad that it’s finally getting a second life.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentation of The Horror Show sports a very nice transfer. Image detail is great, especially in the darker scenes and close-ups. It’s a very clean and bright print of the film, with a light amount of film grain throughout. Colors are good, but skin tones look a little pale to me. Blacks are nice and deep, with contrast and brightness at very good levels. There were also very few film artifacts left over, mostly just small white specks. It’s obvious that it’s been cleaned up a bit, but not to ridiculous levels. There are some tell-tale signs of edge enhancement, but not burdensome in nature. For the film’s soundtrack, there’s a single English 2.0 DTS-HD track. It had a lot more dynamic range than I was expecting, especially with the score and the sound effects. Both are very loud and really pushed out some bass. Dialogue is also clean, clear and always audible. Things do tend to sound a little muddled when all of these things come together in loud bursts, but never to the point of not being able to distinguish between them all. So it’s a very solid presentation overall, with subtitles in English for those who might need them.
There are very little extras to be had, but there’s an audio commentary with producer Sean S. Cunningham, The “Show” Must Go On! with Kane Hodder interview, the House Mother with Rita Taggart interview and the film’s theatrical trailer. The DVD is identical, except for a soundtrack in Dolby Digital instead of DTS-HD. And that’s about all there is to it. The Horror Show will probably see some new life breathed into it, especially at horror conventions all over the country, and it will all be thanks to Scream Factory, who’ve saw fit to save another lost horror movie from the depths of VHS obscurity.
- Tim Salmons