As horror fans grieve the loss of Wes Craven, is it worth noting that his fans in the home video business have done well by him and created special editions that will help his legacy to live on. Scream Factory has been an important player in this area in the last few years, bringing titles like Deadly Blessing, Swamp Thing and The People Under The Stairs into the high-def realm with plenty of bonus material. Their latest Craven-oriented work is a special edition blu-ray of Shocker: though it was not intended as a posthumous tribute, it does a nice job of honoring his singular take on the horror genre.
The transfer included here looks pretty sleek, with nice color reproduction (particularly those frequent blue tones) and nice levels of detail. Both 2.0 and 5.1 lossless stereo mixes are included. The 5.1 track was used for this review and it’s a lively affair with surround activity during the shocks and a punchy, layered presentation of the musical score.
Scream Factory also piles on the extras. The bonus features begin with two commentary tracks. The first is a solo Craven track that is full of insights delivered in the soft-spoken but incisive style that was his trademark. His talks about how the theme of a young man emerging from the shadow of a brutal father was a personal one for him and goes into great detail about how expressed his chosen symbolism through visuals. He also speaks fondly of the film as his first collaboration with longtime producing partner Marianne Maddalena and how it was the first time he had total creative control on a film. It’s necessary listening for his fans.
The other track was created by extras producer Michael Felsher and finds him interviewing three of the director’s key collaborators: cinematographer Jacques Haitkin, 1st A.D. Robert Engelman and composer William Goldstein. All three subjects offer insightful details into their work: Haitkin discusses his philosophy of cinematography and his story-driven approach to his artistic choices, Engelman talks about blending the practical demands of production with supporting the director and Goldstein covers his career before revealing how his expertise in electronic composition was used on this film. Felsher provides nice bios for each person and keeps the insights flowing with quality questions. It’s a great complement to the Craven track and good listening for aspiring filmmakers.
Next up is a quartet of new featurettes. A nearly 18-minute interview with Pileggi is the first: the actor reveals the gentle, intelligent man behind the blustery villain performance, telling fun tales about how he scared Maddalena during his audition and how the film’s premiere allowed him to convince his friends and family about his career. Cami Cooper appears in a 17-minute sitdown in which she discusses how she transitioned from teen modeling to film, discusses the FX-oriented challenges of her performance and reveals why she drifted away from the film business.
The third featurette is an interview with producer Shep Gordon. It packs a ton of fascinating info into 12 minutes: Gordon reveals how he learned to finance films via video sales, how he created Alive to give his chosen filmmakers total creative control of their work and why he ultimately left the film business.
The final featurette might be the most fun: “The Music Of Shocker” focuses on the film’s song soundtrack. Interviewing producer Desmond Child and members of Dangerous Toys, Megadeth and Kiss, it covers each song on the soundtrack and insights into why and how each song was written and recorded. Kane Roberts also appears and offers an intriguing thought about why ’80s metal matched ’80s horror films so well. It’s fun and educational for the film’s fans and hard rock fans in general.
The remainder of the extras are devoted to promotional materials. A trailer and a pair of t.v. spots lean heavily on Craven’s name as a horror auteur (part of the Alive Films approach) and play up Horace Pinker as a new horror supervillain. Two radio spots use similar tactics but also play up the hard rock soundtrack.
A “Vintage Making Of” segment offers two brief EPK’s: the first focuses on Craven as he gives his intellectual take on horror and the second has Craven posing the film as competition to the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise, with additional soundbites from stars Peter Berg and Michael Murphy. An animated storyboard gallery covers four sequences in the film and an image gallery adds over 70 images’ worth of ad art, stills and behind the scenes pix.
Simply put, this is a fine upgrade of Shocker with extras that give you an appreciation for the talent and intellectual depth of Craven. Anyone with an appreciation for his work will want to check it out.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Shocker, click here.