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A Bloody Good Time 05.24.12: Top 10 Best Horror Films To Own On Blu-Ray

May 24, 2012 | Posted by Joseph Lee

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.

Last week I looked at the top ten horror weapons, in my opinion. Let’s see what you had to say.

Mr. Burns replied: A pleasant suprise to see the Phantasm love.

I’ve always been a fan of that series, so if you pop by this column more often you’ll see more of it.

Guest#1197 said: What about Sex Machine’s hidden pistol in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn… If you think a gun in place of a leg is cool…

Yeah I completely forgot about that. I said I was going to give it a write-up, but I won’t. Instead just know that it would make the top five and probably knock the scythe out of my list.

Spike added: Awesome list never seen the Cube movie the trailer made it looks like nothing but a Saw ripoff. But now I think I am going to check it out.

As everyone else not-so-kindly pointed out, Cube came out long before Saw.

Michael L said: I’d include some of the traps in the Saw series. The most brutal is probably the Rack from Saw III, but the most iconic is the reverse bear-trap from the original, plus Saw VI and VII.

I thought about the reverse bear trap, but I ultimately decided to leave the Saw series out or they’d eat up the entire list. Plus they already had their moment in the sun, more or less, when I made my top ten Saw moments column in 2010.

This week, I’ve decided to celebrate the fact that I went blu last year.

I know there are some people who prefer blu-ray to DVD to the point they become annoying, but I’m not one of those people. For example, while the original Dawn of the Dead may look better on the blu-ray, does the blu-ray release have all three versions of the movie like my Ultimate Edition? I love blu-ray, and will definitely continue buying it, but don’t you just hate people who are snobs about it?

That’s not what I’m talking about this week, because for horror fans, blu-ray can be very awesome. Most of the best horror movies out there have hit blu, and while some of them are disappointing (Halloween), there are a number of good titles out there that you should definitely own if you’re a fan of them at all. So I’m going to present the top ten horror films to own on blu-ray. This is my personal list based on which releases I’ve seen or own. I don’t favor the look of the film over everything else, as sometimes a film can look average and have amazing special features. Sometimes a film can look great and the extras can be slim. It’s just a matter of overall presentation.

Honorable Mention: Insidious: I predicted when I saw this in the theater it would be great on the format, not because of how it looked, but because of how it sounded. The music, the noises the ghosts make, everything. I was right. Give this a rent and turn the volume up.

#10: The Shining (1980)

I have two other Kubrick films on blu-ray (2001 and A Clockwork Orange) and if you’ve ever seen one of his films you know they are going to transfer well onto the format. The Shining may look the best out of all of them, depending on who you ask. It was a movie that looked amazing to begin with, but when it gets digitally transferred you’re talking a great viewing experience. I’m not as huge of a Kubrick fan as some others out there, but the man knows how to set up a shot.

The special features provide you with content from the 2001 dvd release as well as brand new stuff. You get a BBC special produced by Kubrick’s daughter Vivian, a commentary track, another long making of feature, a look at the composer and a short feature on Kubrick’s career. Not a lot compared to some of the others on this list, but certainly enough for a fan of the movie. Now you can see the bizarre furry scene in glorious HD!

#9: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

When I first made the switch to blu-ray, I had some doubts on just how good an older movie could look. Those doubts were blown away when I saw the first ten minutes of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The opening dream sequence, the first shots of Springwood and the new vibrant colors made me believe in the format at a crucial time when I could have given up on it, or at least stuck to newer releases. Had this been say, the #4 entry on this list, I might not have been so kind.

But yes, Nightmare looks amazing, especially considering the movie is now 28 years old. There are moments when it could look almost modern. Then you see the 80s hairstyles and realize it’s not. The special features are very good for fans. You get two commentary tracks, and even though they sound as though they were recorded for the DVD and transferred (a common deal with blu-rays), they have a lot of info. There is also two documentaries, one on the first film and the second on its affect on horror and New Line. There is also a fact track, three alternate endings and more. If you paired this up with the documentary Never Sleep Again (also the name of a feature on this disc), you’d probably know everything you ever could know about this movie.

#8: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Hey, don’t laugh. I don’t think anyone expects blu-ray, as good as the format is, to work miracles. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has always looked like a sack of crap, and while blu-ray makes it look the best it’s ever looked, you can’t expect superb quality given the quality of the original material. A film like this doesn’t need to look glossy and pristine anyway (something certain people hated about the remake). But it does look as good as it possibly can, so at least that’s something.

What you want on this release are the special features. Some come from a recent DVD reissue, but there is one brand new ones. There are two commentaries, two features (each over an hour), a tour of the house, deleted scenes and more. The only new feature is an interview with Teri McMinn, but to have all of this in one place makes this the best Chain Saw release so far. I don’t know if there’s anything else they can squeeze out of the franchise, short of a series retrospective from the people behind Never Sleep Again.

#7: Let The Right One In (2008)

The first modern horror film on this list was also my favorite horror film of the year it came out. Let The Right One In is a great vampire film, made even better by the fact that it was released in the middle of the hysteria over the first Twilight movie, which was still going strong. I love the story so much I actually own this and the remake (which was also very good).

This movie had some controversy when it was first released onto home video, because of the fact the subtitles were simplified from the theatrical cut, taking out much of the subtlety of the translation. Luckily they’ve since fixed that error, and you can access “Theatrical Subtitles” on the blu ray disc to watch it as it was intended. In addition to that, the movie looks fantastic. Modern films usually do though, unless the transfer is really screwed up. There aren’t a whole lot of special features, but there are enough to give you some satisfaction. For me, the movie is enough of a reward.

#6: Cujo (1983)

There are some who don’t consider Cujo to be a classic in the same sense as the other films on this list. I don’t even think Cujo is all that scary. As a dog lover, I find it very depressing and sad. It’s not really Cujo’s fault, you know? Anyway, I bought this blu-ray because I enjoy the film and was pleasantly surprised when I actually watched it. Before I get into that, let me just say that this is the worst of the lot as far as special features go. You get one documentary and one commentary track, and both of those were already on the DVD.

But the way this movie looks on blu-ray is why it’s ranked as high as it is. Cujo looks disgusting in this movie, especially as his condition worsens. You can see all the matted blood, the slimy drool and the gooey puss on his body and it’s almost enough to make you nauseous. Obviously the credit for all of that goes to the special effects guys, but this format really brings out the best (worst?) of how this dog looks. For those into something a little less gross, seeing the beads of sweat on Dee Wallace’s lip as she bakes in a car were pretty great from a detail perspective. That’s one of the best things about blu-ray from a visual standpoint: you get to see more of the film.

#5: Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (25th Anniversary Edition) (1987)

Like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Evil Dead 2 wasn’t something that looked that great to begin with. But unlike that movie, it looks great when updated for a high definition release. I was curious, so I actually tested the movie when I bought the blu-ray. I put in my VHS copy and compared the two, and was blown away. While this does mean you can see more errors from the film that you may not have noticed before (and if you didn’t, they’ll point them out to you in the extras), it does mean you get a great looking movie.

But the real draw, for me, were the special features. Anchor Bay, when it had the rights to the series (this blu-ray is from Lionsgate), released them all a bajillion times and you were never sure which one to buy. I think this is probably the definitive release of the film. Not only do you get previously released features like a commentary track and old making-of bits, but you get a brand new documentary that is feature-length, as well as several home videos from the effects team showing what went into making the monsters. For anyone that loves movies, discusses movies or even wants to make one someday, this is a must-see.

#4: The Thing (1982)

For all the older horror films I’ve seen on blu-ray, this one looks the most like it could have been made five-ten years ago. The film looked great anyway, but on blu-ray it just looks amazing. The whites of the snow, the reds of the blood, all the colors are vibrant and add to the experience. The sound, which is something I don’t normally care about (as long as it doesn’t suck, you know?), also works as we get to hear every little noise in perfect clarity. In my opinion, it’s one of the best transfers for a film from the 80s.

Unfortunately, it if were being graded on special features, it might not make the list. This is one of those rare occasions when a film makes this list solely for how it looks and not because of the extra content. There are some things carried over from the DVD, but there are other things completely missing. On top of that there are no new features at all. If we could get some better extras with this transfer, it might have made #1.

#3: Grindhouse (2007)

Grindhouse is a must-own for blu-ray simply because this is the only way you can actually see it. Sure, you could get Planet Terror and Death Proof on DVD individually, but the only way to watch the combined version that was in theaters (with the fake trailers and all) is on blu-ray. Pretty smart move on their part, because they sure got my money. A perfect Grindhouse release would have included the extended versions with the combined version, but I’m not going to be picky. Those versions are out there if I choose to spend the extra change.

In addition to the movie itself, you also have more special features than you would think could fit on a two-disc blu-ray. Commentaries (even Thanksgiving gets one!), tons of making-of features and more. Some of it is even brand new, just for the blu-ray. I just can’t comprehend how much they were able to fit on this release. Just when I thought I was getting through the extra material, I’d find a new section to find a whole new set of features. It’s like a treasure trove for fans of the movie.

#2: The Exorcist (1973) (Digibook Version)

For the first time ever, you can own both versions of The Exorcist on one set. The original theatrical version, and the “version you’ve never seen” all in one easy to find two-disc blu-ray. The Exorcist is already one of the greatest horror films ever made, but this release is probably the most comprehensive I’ve seen, with a lot of love being shown for the film.

If you’re a fan of digibook format, you’ll love this one, because it’s sold that way. Inside, is another little book that talks about the movie, complete with photos. There is also a note from William Friedkin. The two discs have a number of special features, some old (like the amazing Fear of God special from 1998), some brand new. There are also commentaries, comparisons between the two movies and of course, an amazing looking transfer that should please fans of the film. If I were limiting this list to just individual films, this would be #1. But I’m not, which means it can’t be…

#1: The Alien Anthology (Films between 1978 and 1997)

My. God. If you’re a fan of the Alien series at all, you need to own this. As far as I can tell, this has every special feature ever released previously for the Alien franchise, plus brand new ones just for the blu-ray release. If you are someone who owns the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set, you may only begin to wrap your head around how much material is featured. Each disc contains a film and its own special features (including commentaries ,deleted scenes and isolated scores), and then there are two more discs of extras, many of which are over an hour long.

Basically what I’m saying is, if you’re a fan of the Alien films, the only thing that should hold you back from buying this is price. Eventually, that will go down too. It’s just an absolutely mind-blowing set that has very few rivals for any blu-ray release, let alone horror. The closest may be the epic Star Wars set that come out last year. Maybe.

That’s it for me. Which horror films do you have on blu ray? Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week, I present a look at which directors I want to see try horror. It’s a column I had planned a while ago, but never got to.

Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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Joseph Lee

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