Various - American Horror Project Vol 1( film boxset) [Arrow Video - 2016]American Horror Project Vol 1 brings together three relatively obscure, often arty, & moody American horror films from the 1970’s. The set features six discs in all- one blu-ray, and one DVD for each film- added to this we get a 60 page booklet, & each film has it’s own case with the whole set coming in a sturdy thick card slip case.
One of the key figures behind the realization of this set & series is Stephen Thrower- who started off in the british post-Industrial experimental music scene; working with Coil between 1984 and 1993, but has gone on to become one of the most respected & authoritative figures in cult horror & sleazy based cinema. He has penned lengthy & detailed books on cult directors such as Italian gory maestro Lucio Fulci, and Spanish sleaze muster Jess Franco. But most relative to this series is his 2007 book Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents, which saw him covering a huge selection of American Independent horror films from between the 1970’s & mid 1980’s.
The three films featured here are: 1973’s Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood, 1976’s The Witch Who Came from the Sea, and 1976’s The Premonition. Each film features a new audio commentary from directors & cast, & also each features a selection of great extras- going from new documentaries, onto short films, and old interviews. Added to this each film has a very informative & often thought provoking introduction from Mr Thrower himself.
Before getting this set for review I had seen & was familiar with just one of the films on the set, and that was The Witch Who Came from the Sea- so unlike many 70’s cult box film sets there was much to investigate & enjoy for the first time here. And I’d venture to say this would be the same for most fans of the genre, as none of these films have ever really received re-issues, and certainly not with the level of thought & care shown here.
First up in the set we have Malatesta's Carnival of Blood- this 1973 film is set in a rundown amusement park, and tells the acid laced, surreal & blood spattered tale of the Norris family- who get jobs working at carnival as a cover to searching for their missing son, who they think has been taken by the carnival. The film is fully of weird & unhinged characters, crowds of odd & malevolent ghouls, rundown rides & carnival locations, & the odd splatters of gore. The films structure unfolds in a decidedly odd, darkly dreamy & haphazard way- all making for a rewarding very low budget 1970’s brain screw.
Second we have The Witch Who Came from the Sea- this 1976 film features respected character actress Millie Perkins (who is most known for films such as The Diary of Anne Frank), playing the central role of Molly- a disturbed bar maid who is haunted by memories of childhood abuse & violent fantasies, which all acuminate in a murder spree. The film is a well made & moodily dreamy psychosexual-drama, which is punctured by a moments of shocking violence. I had been aware of the film before as it's one of the titles on the British video nasty list, but it's fair to say that it’s alot better made & thought provoking compared with many of the lo-if & scuzzy exploitation fare on said list.
Last up we have 1976’s The Premonition, and I guess you’d say this is more of a arty & slow paced thriller/ drama with some horror elements. The film tells of unstable mother & clown mime artist friend, who plot to take back her daughter from the middle class suburban foster parents she now lives with. The film blends together themes & elements of motherhood, precognition and telepathy- it’s a very slow burn of a film, but it’s well made with a well acted cast, with some often quite unpredictable twists in both tone & story.
As you’d expect from Arrow the whole set is very classy presented- with each film coming in it's own individual case, and these feature reversible shelves with the original film artwork on one side, and on the other newly commissioned artwork. The sixty page perfectly bound booklet is in full colour, and features a lengthy introduction from Mr Thrower about the series & this first Vol. Also you get new articles about each of the films from the likes of Kim Newman (Nightmare Movies), Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) and Brian Albright (Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990). Along with of course a host of stills & artwork from the films themselves.
All in all this is a very put together & wholly fascinating box set, that brings together three lesser known American horror movies from the 1970’s. I very much looking forward to seeing what comes next in the series, and can whole heartily recommend this set to any fan of cult horror. This set was released by both Arrow Uk & Arrow USA, so where ever you are in the world you should hopefully be able to get your hands on a copy of this.Roger Batty