It’s time for the sparkling bloodsuckers and the shirtless lycanthropes of “Twilight” to step aside. A pair of horror cult classics are set to arrive, fangs and all, on Blu-ray on Tuesday, June 18: Joe Dante’s “The Howling” (1981) and Tobe Hooper’s “Lifeforce” (1985).
Co-written by John Sayles, formerly of Hoboken, and based on the novel by Gary Brandner, “The Howling” stars Dee Wallace as a television newscaster who has a terrifying encounter with a serial killer. Seeking a respite, she heads off to the woodsy retreat known as “The Colony.” Let’s just say things get hairy from there.
Dante, an auteur with a wicked sense of humor who also gave the world “Piranha” (1978) and “Gremlins” (1984), assembled a killer ensemble cast here, with Kevin McCarthy, John Carradine, Slim Pickens, Dick Miller and Robert Picardo all making appearances.
The real star of “The Howling,” however, is Rob Bottin: a make-up effects wizard of the highest order, Bottin crafted some flat-out terrific and terrifying werewolf designs here, and his work gets a fine spotlight on this gorgeous Blu-ray edition.
Over the years, “The Howling” became something of a B-movie institution, eventually spawning seven sequels and a remake.
On the other hand, “Lifeforce” has largely been an obscurity over the past couple of decades. Hopefully that will change next week, because this movie is a blast.
For horror and sci-fi fans, the list of behind-the-scenes players alone is cause for celebration: the film was “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974) director Tobe Hooper’s follow-up to “Poltergeist” (1982). Based on the novel “The Space Vampires” by Colin Wilson, the film’s screenplay was co-written by “Alien” (1979) creator Dan O’Bannon. On top of that, it was produced by Israeli B-movie kings Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan.
Trying to put the utterly insane plot of “Lifeforce” into words simply won’t do justice to the proceedings. O’Bannon takes a straightforward sci-fi concept – soul-sucking vampires from space bring havoc to London – and keeps spinning his yarn until it becomes an all-out horror apocalypse with plenty of dark comedy. The film feels like a piece of gonzo connective tissue between O’Bannon’s sci-fi works of “Alien” and 1974’s “Dark Star” and his 1985 horror comedy “The Return of the Living Dead.”
If you’re a horror movie fan looking for something hard-edged and off the beaten path, just trust me: “Lifeforce” has everything you need, and more.
Set to be released by Scream Factory on Tuesday, both “The Howling” and “Lifeforce” are strictly adults-only affairs, with plenty of lovingly-captured gore and nudity to spare. Both releases also boast plenty of bonus features – commentary tracks, interviews with cast and crew members, etc. – along with the U.S. theatrical cut and extended international cut of “Lifeforce.”