Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Vinegar Syndrome - HORROR HOUSE ON HIGHWAY FIVE on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Vinegar Syndrome - HORROR HOUSE ON HIGHWAY FIVE on Blu-ray

Vinegar Syndrome is a company that I have enjoyed watching branch out in the last few years (especially in terms of their Blu-ray releases). If you've followed them at all, you realize that adult movies are a huge part of what they do and what they are into putting out. The last couple years has seen them expanding their catalog to include a ton of horror and blaxploitation titles as well. They are a fascinating label in that they are always surprising me and they are using their powers for good. By that I mean they they have really shined a spotlight on some offbeat films and filmmakers. Case in point - Richard Casey. He directed two of VinSyn's latest Blu-ray offerings in HORROR HOUSE ON HIGHWAY FIVE and HELLBENT - neither of which I had heard of by the way. 
Casey's movies feel low budget and regional. Watching how a director like this paces things in lots of recent big studio movies made me hyper aware of the stylistic choices in HORROR HOUSE. Don't get me wrong, those stylistic things can be quite endearing. For instance, when one of the actors cuts her arm badly early on in the movie - we get a long-ish  shot that lingers on the (pretty impressive) makeup job. The production design is fairly non-existent in that the sets feel like the houses they are and everything (down to the carpeting) feels of it's time. Hairstyles, furniture and the look of the film stock (this transfer is from 16mm elements) all felt like they were pointing me to the late 1970s in terms of timeframe, but the movie was released in 1985. It turns out that the film was shot over a number of years and actually had started circa 1978 so my instincts were correct.
One thing that can be fun/interesting about low budget horror movies is that they can get a little weird sometimes. HORROR HOUSE definitely veers into that territory a little bit. I was comparing it in my head to RUNAWAY NIGHTMARE - another VinSyn releases that is even more off the wall. 
The slasher genre is enjoyable and much beloved in part because of its structure and how easy it is to incorporate the basic elements into even the thinnest plot line. The basic gist is that the killer claims some victims in the opening and then the rest of the movie features he or she stalking after the rest of the cast and killing most of them. Pretty straightforward. So when you are working at this budget level, you can take that simple structure and throw in whatever else you want. You can throw in a killer in a Richard Nixon mask, a weird kidnapping scenario, an odd hippie couple in a van who are trying to build a rocket and end up creating a strangely mesmerizing and surreal tableau that's not really like anything you've seen before. Truly a "WTF movie" and an amusing one at that. 
HELLBENT is another thing altogether and it immediately feels much more 80s in terms of how it looks. Despite sharing a couple cast members with HORROR HOUSE, everything about it feels much newer and slicker than they movie. You can absolutely see the difference in the budget between HELLBENT and HORROR HOUSE in that the former has extras, props, guns and squibs and the latter was way more DIY. Both are certainly low budget features, but I prefer the aesthetic of HORROR HOUSE. HELLBENT is a little more conventional though in that it's a rock 'n roll, guy sells his soul to the devil kind of story. Richard Casey makes it his own though and there is a decent amount of strangeness and crazy moments within it. It's also a good deal more perversely sexy and cynical than HORROR HOUSE in a lot of ways. Both are very interesting entries in a unique director's filmography.
Both HORROR HOUSE and HELLBENT are presented on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome featuring the best looking new transfers these movies have ever had. They are also full of nice supplements as well.

• Scanned and restored in 2k from 16mm archival elements
• “Return to Horror House on Highway 5” – making of featurette (19 mins)
• Commentary track with director Richard Casey
• “Beach Party with Vom” – music video directed by Richard Casey (the impetus for Horror House on Highway 5)
• Alternate full frame presentation of Horror House on Highway 5
• Reversible cover artwork by Kevin Thomas

HELLBENT Features:
• Scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm original camera negative
• “A Little Chaos” – making of featurette (16 mins)
• Commentary track with director Richard Casey
• Original cover artwork by Cody Brown
• Reversible cover artwork

Both can be found via and Amazon:
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