Posted Tue Feb 7, 2023 at 11:53 AM PST by Matthew Hartman
2022 was an absolutely insane year for cult and horror 4K Blu-ray releases, with great offerings from both major studios and boutique labels arriving nearly every week! Add on the fact that exclusive 4K Blu-ray releases were coming out in countries like Germany, UK and France, and you’ll have a tough time keeping track of everything that was coming out each and every day. Our wallets certainly felt the hit! It’s absurd that we got all of Argento’s Animal Trilogy in 4K in the same year that Alligator finally hit HD and 4K as well as a ton of nearly fogotten SOV favorites finding new life on Blu-ray. Hell, even Poltergeist and Fright Night got gorgeous new 4K transfers, with Criterion delivering the mother of all Zombie films in 4K. With so much great stuff coming out this last year, it was nearly impossible to narrow the field so Bruce Douglas, Sam Cohen, and Matthew Hartman offer up a few of their favorites and honorable mentions.
Full disclosure: The only context I had for this film was that it was some sort of grindhouse classic that Tarantino had cited as being a major influence on him, plus the general reputation it has in cult film communities of being a full-throated blend of sleazy sex and violence. What I was not prepared for was the ugly and caustic revenge film it is, like it’s in fierce opposition to the leagues of fans who have held it up as an energetic, sleazy time. Vinegar Syndrome presented us with a full 4K Blu-ray package during their big Halfway to Black Friday Sale, which of course sold out quickly and has since reappeared in a standard edition. With both cuts of the film sourced from a new 4K restoration from the negative, an incredible making-of doc that includes interviews with Christina Lindberg and Gunnar Palm, plus a stellar 4K transfer supported by HDR, Thriller: A Cruel Picture gets my highest recommendation. Just, uh…expect to be shocked. - Sam Cohen
What cult film list would be complete without a nod to The Sultan of Sleaze himself, John Waters! Back in June we reviewed a beautiful Criterion Collection release of his notorious film Pink Flamingos. Fully restored from 4K scans of the original 16mm source elements, the shockingly hilarious satire has never looked better. Bonus features are mostly archival but worth it for collectors to double dip. - Bruce Douglas
David Lynch’s Dune is a fascinating failure. An expensive flop in theaters, the film steadily grew into a cult following with fans picking over every shred of footage to untangle the cinematic storytelling web of Frank Herbert’s iconic novel. As Arrow arranged a pretty terrific release for the U.K. and the United States, Koch Media delivered the genuine Ultimate Edition offering up not only Lynch’s Theatrical Cut in gorgeous 4K and 1080p, but also the Extended Television Cut in HD as well as the fabled Spicediver fan-edit in 720p. If that wasn’t enough there are tons of swag items including a production design booklet, the Marvel comics adaptation, and tons of new and archival bonus features including the excellent Ballyhoo Film’s feature-length documentary The Sleeper Must Awaken: The Making of Dune which was supposed to be on the Arrow disc but sadly didn’t make it due to some delays. - Matthew Hartman
My personal favorite 4K horror import from 2022 was Second Sight’s hardbox digipack release of Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers. Yeah, I know what you’re going to say: why didn’t I buy Shout’s version in the US? Absolutely no offense is given toward Shout’s version, but I’ve been following Second Sight’s efforts on this particular title very closely and wanted to support that. Marshall shot this rough and tough horror film on Super 16mm, then it was blown up to 35mm for theatrical release. Prior releases had been sourced from 35mm prints with noise reduction really softening the whole film terribly, but here we get a stunning 2160p presentation sourced from a 4K restoration of the original 16mm camera negative. The film grain looks incredible here and colors are so much more natural, plus the bloodletting on display still hits just as hard as it did upon its original release. And for the physical media fiends, this one comes in a terrific hardbox case with a digipack and booklet inside. Scream Factory delivered their own excellent 4K release utilizing the same A/V elements with plenty of great bonus features, it just wasn't as elaborate as what Second Sight delivered. - Sam Cohen
The Sonny Chiba Collection brings seven underseen films from the action star’s career in a mix of sleazy exploitation actioners, yakuza crime thrillers, and samurai epics. Fans couldn’t get enough of this Shout! Factory box set in 2022! To see features like Shogun’s Shadow and Bodyguard Kiba 2 finally make their jump to home video made this set worth every penny. A/V presentations for each film are impressive given the age and availability of the earlier features. Limited special features here, but the films speak for themselves! Pair this set with Shout! Factory's excellent 2019 Street Fighter Collection and Arrow's Sister Street Fighter Collection. - Bruce Douglas
Another gift from the import markets was the one-two-punch of Arrow UK and Germany’s Turbine Medien dropping their respective editions of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. This grossly unnerving and shocking horror film is loosely based on real events and was shot on location in Chicago in 16mm for an extra grimy and creepy vibe. The new Dolby Vision transfer is fantastic and the film has never looked or sounded better after years of dodgy releases that left much to be desired. Both sets feature an excellent assortment of bonus features - the Arrow has more commentaries, but the Turbine disc offers up an alternate widescreen framing on Blu-ray. - Matthew Hartman
Again, how can I choose one Dario Argento 4K Blu-ray release from 2022 to like the most? Simply, you can’t! But the Black Friday-exclusive 4K Blu-ray package of Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet from Severin Films gets a special mention. The 1971 giallo film features Argento at his spine-tingling best, and the violence is frequently punctuated by farcical comedy and visual conceits that the Italian maestro would revisit throughout his career. You could even say that Four Flies on Grey Velvet is the rollicking genesis of Argento’s obsession with voyeurism, writ large into a rock anthem of sorts. Severin’s beautiful new 4K transfer is sourced directly from the original 2-perf negative, restoring all of the various differences between the Italian Director’s Cut and English Language Version and gifting the whole thing with Dolby Vision HDR that’s tuned perfectly. Add the huge collection of supplements spread across the four discs included (one 4K disc, two Blu-ray and one CD) and you have a horror fan’s dream. Here’s to hoping that Severin follows this exclusive release up with a standard edition down the road. - Sam Cohen
The queen of absurdist sexploitation cinema received much attention in 2022 with lavish box sets featuring her avant-garde body of work. From Something Weird Video and AGFA the two collections we reviewed feature a number of cult favorites including Bad Girls Go to Hell, Double Agent 73, and Let Me Die A Woman. Lovingly restored with breathtaking restoration work the films have never looked better. Accompanied by a wealth of bonus features, The Films of Doris Wishman is a must-have for any cult collector. - Bruce Douglas
Larry Cohen’s masterstroke in genuine terror, God Told Me To is just a damn unsettling piece of filmmaking. I got this disc to review right as another horrific mass shooting was hitting headlines making this release unfortunately timely and prescient. As we struggle to understand why the latest incident happened in the real world, in the film, Tony Lo Bianco is obsessing over his latest case where a string of murders happened with each perpetrator uttering the same terrifying four words. Blue Underground continued their incredible streak of reference-quality catalog releases giving this film an amazing Dolby Vision transfer complete with a new Atmos track and plenty of bonus features. - Matthew Hartman
The love I have for this film knows no bounds, therefore picking up a newly minted 4K Blu-ray release wasn’t really a tough decision to make. There were some well-documented issues with the original audio tracks included in Shout’s 2016 Blu-ray release, to which Shout responded back then by sending out replacement discs with an improved-but-still-bunk single-channel track. For this new release, though, they present both newly restored versions of the original mono track and 5.1 upmix. Sound engineer Brett Cameron, who gets his own special feature in this release, spent hundreds of hours restoring the original mono track to repair the many missing moments of sound effects and dialogue from previous releases. As for the new 2160p transfer aided by Dolby Vision HDR, it’s the best this dark-as-hell film has ever looked. Turn the lights off for maximum effect! - Sam Cohen
2022 was a huge year for SOV productions getting the HD treatment. Vinegar Syndrome's OCN partner label Saturn’s Core has been painstakingly reviving its catalog of lost SOV horror thrillers with impressive results. My favorite of the year was 1995’s Red Lips, the trashy erotic epic that launched the 90’s lesbian vampire boom. Starring Ghetty Chasun, Michelle Bauer, and Kitten Natividad the film is packed with sleazy vibes but courting an honest love story at the center of it all. Thankfully Saturn’s Core brought the film to Blu-ray preserving the analogue patina for a new generation of fans. Special features allow fans to dive deeper into film with interviews and archival footage. It’s not for everyone, but that’s the beauty of these films making their way into our collections. - Bruce Douglas
Robin Hardy’s shocking folk horror film The Wicker Man has been remade (hilariously) and inspired numerous films in its wake. The film has had multiple cuts over the years with tons of informative bonus features, but never before has everything been pulled together into a single fantastic box set. This edition offers up the Theatrical Cut, Director’s Cut, and Final Cut of the film along with hours of bonus features complete with the film’s iconic and damned creepy soundtrack. Imprint went full out for this release and it’s a genuine treat for fans of the film and Christopher Lee enthusiasts. - Matthew Hartman
Yes, I am aware that Tobe Hooper’s classic horror film is being released in the US on 4K Blu-ray in a matter of weeks, however, attention must be paid to Turbine’s wonderful 4K Blu-ray steelbook release of the film from March 2022. As an owner of Turbine’s 2016 4K Blu-ray release of the film, which lacked HDR and had some wonky encoding, it’s my great pleasure to report that Turbine’s 2022 4K Blu-ray is a huge upgrade. Some may say that presenting a film shot on 16mm in 4K doesn’t really make sense, but to this reviewer, the enhanced resolution helps to refine the grain even more. The Dolby Vision HDR is tuned just right as well, bringing the most out of highlights, close-ups, and primaries. That way you can appreciate all the baked-in details without softening the impact of something as gritty as this film. And not that it was needed, but Turbine provides this release with a true murderer’s row of audio options, including original mono, Dolby Atmos, and even a 13.1 Auro-3D mix for those who have the equipment. These SteelBooks quickly sold out but Turbine has reissued the discs and artwork for new Mediabooks. - Sam Cohen
In November we had a chance to sit down with the b-movie classic Attack of the 50ft Woman. The Warner Archive Collection delivered the goods for a fantastic Blu-ray release sporting a gorgeous transfer, clean audio, and a nice audio commentary. Our editor said the restoration sported “impressive details and a gorgeous grayscale”. While the film may leave much to be desired in terms of plot and execution, its impact on drive-in films and genre staples can’t be understated. - Bruce Douglas
Before The Lord of the Rings and King Kong, Peter Jackson made another special effects extravaganza - that no one went to see in theaters. The Frighteners starring Michael J. Fox as an unscrupulous paranormal investigator didn’t become a hit until home video when word of mouth slowly turned this expensive theatrical flop into a genuine cult classic. Now thanks to the good folks at Turbine Medien, The Frighteners scares up one of the best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray releases of the year with new Dolby Vision HDR transfers for both the Theatrical Cut and Director’s Cut with the DC also scoring a terrific Atmos mix to match. Then as an added bonus, They have the Director’s Cut with a new open matte presentation on Blu-ray on top of hours of new and archival bonus features. It’s a beautiful box set that is a genuine Ultimate Edition for one of the best horror comedies ever made - and for a while at least, this is the only place you'll be able to score this great flick in 4K! - Matthew Hartman
There are just too many great cult classics and horror releases this year to properly highlight them all. In addition to some of our favorites listed above we had a lot of love for the following releases:
What were some of your favorite cult classics or favorite horror flicks you picked up this year on 4K Ultra HD or Blu-ray?
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