Direct to Video: Straight to Video Horro - Direct to Video( DVD) [Filmlandia - 2021]
Written and directed by the ultra-prolific Dustin Ferguson (Penny Pinchers, Nemesis 5 and 5G Hornets), Direct to Video is his love letter to the movies that made him the director he is. Ferguson has become renowned for his own brand of cheap and cheerful, cult horror movies that are heavily influenced by the likes of Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman and Full Moon’s Charles Band who both made a living from making cheap, yet effective independent movies during the 1980s and 1990s. This DVD is a homage to these two men and the many other men and women who dazzled us with crazy low budget horror and exploitation movies during the heady days of the 1990s.
The list of interviewees reads like a who’s who of the low budget horror/exploitation scene of the 1990s, alongside the ever listenable Kaufman we get Fred Olen Ray (director of Evil Toons, Scream Queen Hot Tub Party and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers), Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall, Sorority House Massacre II, 976 Evil II and Ghoulies IV), Kevin S Tenney (Witchboard, Night of the Demons and Pinocchio’s Revenge) and Clint Howard (Gentle Ben, Evilspeak, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation and The Ice Cream Man) to name but a few of those involved in this project.
The documentary features a fairly in-depth discussion of Full Moon, the studio set up by Charles Band after the collapse of Empire pictures that was responsible for a host of the most popular horror movies of the period, titles like Stuart Gordon’s Castle Freak and The Pit and the Pendulum, and the Puppet Master, Trancers and Subspecies franchises proved popular and very profitable for Band and Full Moon. It was interesting to see that Band signed a deal with Paramount as they felt they were incapable of making films of that standard under such budgetary constraints. The links to Paramount gave Band access to good distribution, which allowed him to get his films into video stores across the world.
As well as Full Moon there is a lot of interesting discussion around Lloyd Kaufman and Troma films, including some discourse around James Gunn and his early career involvement with the studio and movies like Tromeo and Juliet. Gunn of course went on to direct some of the biggest and best superhero movies of the modern era including both Guardians of the Galaxy movies and the upcoming Suicide Squad reboot.
Direct to Video is a fascinating reminder of some of the more enjoyable horror movies of the 1990s, whilst directors like Stuart Gordon had peaked earlier in the 1980s with films like From Beyond and Reanimator, they were still making entertaining fare throughout the 1990s and this documentary reminds us of those titles. The same situation applies to the work of Fred Olen Ray, Jim Wynorski and David DeCoteau who rose to prominence as cult movie directors in the 1980s but continued to make cheap, entertaining features well into the 1990s. Ferguson has put together an interesting and very watchable documentary mixing informative interview footage from those involved in the making of these films with clips that serve to remind us of the films in question. On a personal level, I really enjoyed seeing Clint Howard reminiscing about his film career, especially as he seems to have such fond memories of the time.
Overall, Direct to Video is a very enjoyable DVD release that relives the glory days of the oft-forgotten and underappreciated low budget horror scene that existed in the 1990s. If you remember enjoying those films mentioned in this review or even if you don’t but love low budget horror, check this documentary out. The only downside of this release is that there is a lack of bonus material, just a handful of trailers, but don’t let that put you off, the doc itself makes this release well worth checking out.Darren Charles