American Horror Project vol. 1 Review
This is the first of what will hopefully be a long run of Blu-ray sets that Arrow Video is releasing. The idea behind American Horror Project is to highlight overlooked American horror films. As Arrow puts it “American Horror Project proudly presents an alternative history of American horror and film heritage.”
This box set includes three films; Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood, The Witch Who Came from the Sea and The Premonition. The set also includes a 60 page booklet featuring articles about the three films. All three Blu-rays and the booklet are housed in a side loader box with great artwork by Twins of Evil. Each Blu-ray also has newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil with reversible original cover. Each film has a brand new 2K restoration which looks great. There is scratching and blemishes throughout but considering the source material, this is very acceptable. Each film has a short introduction by musician and author, Stephen Thrower. I highly recommend watching these because Mr. Thrower is incredibly knowledgeable and offers a great perspective on the film.
Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973)
The Norris family takes a job at a shady dilapidated carnival. Their real reasoning for taking said job is to find their missing son who they believe is somewhere on the carnival grounds. The carnival is staffed by an increasingly weird group of ghoulish carneys and the farther the Norris’s penetrate the creepy carnival the more horrifying it becomes. With lots of hallucinatory cannibalism and a very loose plot, this movie really captures the experimental 70s film vibe.
Overall Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood is trippy, experimental, weirdo nonsense and I mean that in the best possible way. From the bizarre soundtrack to the hallucinatory scenes of cannibals, this movie is a lot of fun. Trying to pin down a solid picture of what this movie is would be quite difficult. It’s almost a stream of conscience of a lunatic on LSD. The director, Christopher Speeth didn’t do any other films which I feel is a great tragedy because there was definitely a possibility for him to create a catalog of horror madness. The crazy eyed groundskeeper is a particular highlight of the movie for me. He’s genuinely creepy and oozes insanity. I’m also particularly fond of the great abandoned carnival footage throughout the movie.
Special features are audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith, various interviews, outtakes, draft script and a stills gallery. The outtakes are definitely worth a watch and add to the bizarre feeling of the movie. The interview with the director is great as well because it kind of puts into perspective what was going on when he was trying to make this film.
The Witch Who Came From the Sea
A very disturbed but loved woman, Molly, played by Millie Perkins, is haunted by childhood memories of rape by her own father. She fantasizes about mutilating and killing strong men and soon her fantasies seem to be coming true. From football players to a macho TV actor, no one is safe from her wrath.
Unlike the previous film in this set, this movie is not fun. It’s an uncomfortable, tragic and dirty movie. It is also my favorite film out of the three and is also the most well made. What starts out as campy ridiculousness, with muscly men in speedos causing our leading lady to go into a quiet manic frenzy, quickly turns into a grimy incest filled fever dream. This film was included on the notorious “Video Nasties” list and of all the “Video Nasties” I’ve seen, this is the least gory yet most disturbing I’ve seen. Interspersed throughout the film are flashbacks to her childhood abuse at the hands of her father, which are truly upsetting and spectacular. The audio for these scenes is of a storm at sea and each time Molly is hit or abused the horrifying sound of violent waves replace the sounds you’d expect. Her screams are howling winds. The effect of this really messed with my head.
I’ve only watched this movie the one time but there will most definitely be repeat viewings of it and I’m particularly excited to watch it with the director commentary. Special features include an audio commentary with cast and crew, a brand new making-of documentary, an archive featurette and a featurette that is the director reflecting on the movie.
Sheri Bennet (Sharon Farrell, Night of the Comet), her husband and her daughter are the typical happy American family. This all changes when one night she discovers a deranged woman trying to kidnap her child. After this traumatic event, she begins experiencing nightmarish visions. Now the question of whether these are just hallucinations or something more must be answered.
Of the three films in this set this is my least favorite. In general I am not a fan of parapsychological movies and this is no different. The movie is well acted and filmed and the score is great so I understand peoples affection for this movie but it’s just not for me. There are some really great and genuinely creepy hallucination scenes and Richard Lynch (Invasion USA) is slimy and creepy as hell. Like Malatesta’s Blood Carnival there is also some great carnival footage which I’m always a sucker for. In short, I don’t regret watching this but I don’t see any future viewing of it happening.
Special features include: an isolated score, audio commentary with the director, a brand new making-of documentary, archive interviews with cast and crew, three short films by Robert Allen Schnitzler, 4 Peace spots, and trailers and TV spots. The short films, which are early work of the director, are the most intriguing special feature in my opinion but I’m saving those for another day.
Overall, I highly recommend this set, you really won’t be disappointed. Arrow may be making these titles available individually later on but it is definitely worth it to get this limited box set edition. The 60 page, full color, booklet that comes with the set is a real treat. It’s full color and printed on beautiful glossy pages. It includes four short pieces, one about American Horror Project and then one for each movie. There is also some full color stills and credits for each movie. As of the writing of this article, Diabolikdvd.com has this set available for $62.99, so at about $20 a movie you really don’t have much of an excuse to not pick up this set.