The Horror Show (Blu-ray Review)

The-Horror-ShowSean S. Cunningham is the man that brought us Friday the 13th and exploited Halloween to open up the gates of horror to numerous copycats.  All sorts of masked killers and teen murder mysteries became abound and dominant throughout the horror genre.  Sean only did the one film though, he never returned the franchise opting to try and make “regular movies” and not horror films.  However, he wound up back in the fold producing them within no time.  With The Horror Show, Sean seemed to be trying to groom a new famous face in movie killer history with “Meat Cleaver Max” using his House franchise as a gateway to bring him to life.  The film didn’t become the hit they wanted it to be and it even didn’t achieve much of a cult status like another film that year of similar subject matter.  But I think it’s really great the film has resurfaced through Scream Factory as its actually not too bad and many horror fans should have a lot of fun going back and rediscovering it.

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Detective Lucas McCarthy has finally capture serial killer “Meat Cleaver Max” (guess what his weapon of choice is).  When putting him to the electric chair, Max takes an abnormally long amount of time to fry.  Upon moving into a new house, McCarthy and his family keep being plagued with nightmarish visions and violent happenings.  Its because Meat Cleaver Max has made a pact with the devil to haunt McCarthy in order to kill his family and frame him for the murders.

I had never seen The Horror Show before this.  But I have seen a movie by Wes Craven called Shocker.  And holy crap do they feel like twins.  That film also contained a serial killer executed by the electric chair only to come back after a pact with the devil to murder and frame the person responsible for his capture for them.  Even more bizarre, both films came out the same year.  Another step to the crazy is that producer Sean Cunningham and director of Shocker, Wes Craven are friends.  But, in the battle of who came first, The Horror Show wins by about 6 months.  Shocker has gone on to become a cult classic, while The Horror Show seems to have largely been forgotten.

The film was originally intended to the third film in the House series.  In fact, in other territories it WAS sold as House III.  It also has a lot of that team behind the scenes as well.  According to the commentary and interviews on this disc, apparently this movie was created and shot with all intentions to be House III.  Somewhere along the line the studio wanted it to be a standalone movie.  The film was intended to be an offshoot of that franchise in the first place, crafting a new story, which is why it does work so well by itself and is a little bit of a departure for that series.  If you take a look around at this movie, it does really fit, considering most of the nightmare action takes place in the house.  But for you House fans out there, this really is House III: The Horror Show.

One thing I think this film has over its sister-movie Shocker is its killer.  Brion James is absolutely hamming and camping it up “going all in” as Meat Cleaver Max.  While on the crazy side, he’s quite fun to watch.  James is loving the role and it seems they may have wanted this character to go beyond this one movie.  At this time in horror, it was all about creating that new Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees.  The trailer for the film even tries to sell him as such.  Another thing this movie has over Shocker is Lance Henrikesen classing the place up.  Lance has long been a favorite actor of mine and he’s quite his normally creepy and commanding self here.  It’s rare we get him in a straight man good cop lead like this so it’s a treat.  Normally if he’s in a lead there’s something strange with him or its still slightly villainous.

The Horror Show gets to claim fame for actually getting a really good jolting jump scare on me.  I’m normally “been there done” that with horror tricks and tactics having spent so many years desensitizing myself to it, but there was a moment that completely caught me off guard and had me jump off my couch.  Well, done.  The movie itself wavers from being creepy and disturbing to campy, gory and at times unintentionally funny (some of the dialogue is a real doozy).  But when it all comes down to it, all these factors kept me fully entertained at all times.  I’d even go as much to say I think I may have enjoyed this better than the beloved Shocker (though, I’d have to visit Shocker again…hey Scream Factory how about 2014?)

The Horror Show manages to work and be quite a good feel bad time.  Led by competent acting, some really great scary imagery and fun gore, the movie isn’t great but very watchable and entertaining.  I don’t think this movie was anything remotely worth removing your name from (one of the writers is credited as the ever so legendary Alan Smithee), as I think for the most part the film holds up quite well.  If you’re a House fan or just looking for something solid that seems to have gotten lost of the years in horror, then check out this release!

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The Horror Show is presented in 1080p MPEG-4 AVC.  It’s a nice picture that is sufficiently high detail.  Facial tones and definition is well defined.  The overall picture is a nice and bold one.  Colors are striking and present.  Not in a vivid scene, but they make their presence felt.  Blood, which is of course its own character in these (lol), is a nice pronounced red.  The print used for this transfer appears to be in very good shape as there appears to be no damage or distractions coming from the source.  The Horror Show is another one of those deep lowly catalog titles than looks better than it probably ever deserved to.  Which in turn, is awesome that it does happen to have a really good looking image.

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The only audio present on the disc is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that more than captures the film.  It’s a loud track with really good clean dialogue.  Effects and sounds are loud.  Like I said, this movie actually got one really genuine jump scare out of me, so you know this track is doing something right.  The gun shots, explosions and the like are all clear and making their presence known.  This is a track the will more than get the trick done for you.

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The Horror Show comes with a DVD copy of the film.  This is another one of those that doesn’t have a chapter selection option available.  The release was actually delayed due to the addition of the commentary, so this is an enhancement over the original planned release.

Commentary With Producer Sean S. Cunningham – Scream Factory mainstay Michael Felcher moderates this commentary as they record during a horror convention (not DURING the actually convention but it took place on that weekend).  Thankfully Felcher is there to moderate as Cunningham seems like he would’ve been content just watching the movie.  Felcher keeps him active though, constantly giving him questions to keep him from drifting away or going silent.

Interview With Stunt Coordinator Kane Hodder (HD, 11:08) – Jason Voorhees/Victor Crowley himself discusses the stunt work on the film and how he did most of the shoot with a 3rd degree ankle sprain.  Kane is very detailed and super passionate about his work on the film.  This guy totally loves and prefers low budget productions and you can totally tell.  He also discusses a little bit of convention life as well.

Interview With Actress Rita Taggert (HD, 10:54) – The actress recalls her hesitancy on doing a horror film, but was pulled in by the prospect of working with Lance Henriksen.  She also talks of the original director who was fire while they were already shooting the movie.


Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:37) – It’s kind of a funny “of it’s era” trailer as far as its voiceover narration goes. You should check it out.

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The Horror Show debuts on Blu-ray looking and sounding better than ever.  Scream Factory brings the film with great video and good audio accompanied by plenty of extras.  The material may look light on paper, but the content and material it goes over is far more wealthy than listing it would lead on.  This is a fun movie to have gone back to and it has a fun little package to surround it.  While there have been some better Scream Factory releases this year, this one is no slouch and is a pretty easy one to recommend to the fans.  In fact it may become one of their more underrated releases over time.  If you like Lance Henriksen, slahsers or movies focusing on being told through nightmarish imagery, don’t be afraid to pick this one up when its streets.



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