By the end of 2000, most of the sheer classics in the AB line-up had already debuted to much appreciation within the horror community. The next year would see many solid releases as the company pumped out more films than ever. The offerings would generally be a step down from the quality attained by the best of the best showcase that preceded them, but definite subclassics and the odd showstopper were on the horizon in the next decade and beyond. Despite the abundance of Euro releases, North American films were on the AB radar as well, particularly slashers. Hell Night and Fade to Black also each came out to the delight of slasher fans. While the horror fan catering Fade would become very hard to find, Hell Night, starring Linda Blair found its way into most collections with its creepy killer and excellent use of underground tunnels that culminates in an exciting ending in an otherwise standard slasher affair.
The two big M's of 2001 AB slashers were established cult favorites. Mannequin and murder obsessed Maniac Frank Zito is a hopeless mama's boy with a deranged mind and a penchant for scalping. Not much needs to be said about this one, the lurid, misogynistic cover art warns women not to go out tonight and when they do, the Tom Savini gore effects come into play big time, including an insane exploding head from a shotgun that needs to be seen to be believed... especially the ending! Speaking of madmen, we also got Madman Marz that year; backwoods slasher extraordinaire with a quick axe that spills lots of blood. Opposed to other slashers of the era, Madman is paced well with tons of action with good cinematography with blue hues to add to the overall effect. It stays cheesy, too, with a goofy hot tub scene and TP's awesome belt buckle. Perhaps best of all is the theme song that tells the tale of Marz during the credits, a tune that's kept slasher nuts singing along for years. Don't say his name above a whisper!
More mediocre American slashers would continue to be released, such as Initiation and Mountaintop Motel Massacre. Though it has some pretty familiar faces (such as OTH favorite Clu Gulager), The Initiation has trouble scaring up much effectiveness with the exception of its twist ending. Mountaintop Motel Massacre is a good example of a slasher whose title is much better than the film itself, though Evelyn (who shouldn’t be disturbed because she already is!) is a fun, crazy old bat who offs tenants of the titular motel by infesting their rooms with snakes! It’s also fun to see the rest of the cast piss around in usual slasher fashion: for example, one greasy prick, Al, claims to be a record producer just so he can get into the pants of two cousins that he picks up. I’m not sure what else you’d expect from a film that Roger Corman allegedly helped to fund in an unaccredited executive producer role!
Carpenter’s original classic wasn’t the only All Hallows Eve offering in Anchor Bay’s bag of tricks, as the company also released the fourth and fifth entries in the slasher series multiple times. The Return of Michael Myers is often hailed as one of the stronger sequels in the franchise, as veteran Donald Pleasence once again returns in the role of Dr. Loomis to stop Myers from finishing what he started ten years earlier. About the only misstep in this one is Myers’s absurd, mime-like mask. Halloween 5 fared a bit better in that department, but the rest of the film is a bit of a step down from its predecessor. Everyone’s a little crazier and a little stupider in this outing, but they’re all equally as dead. Despite its flaws, this fifth entry manages to be more fun than most give it credit for being. Some years later, Anchor Bay would release the mother of all special features in the form of Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, a feature length documentary that chronicles the entire series. It was a sign of things to come, as other slasher franchises would follow suit with their own documentaries in later years.
Also, the release of more obscure horror on DVD showed no signs of slowing down during the first year of the new decade. The Wicker Man's arrival in 2001 with two versions of the movie on two different releases is still highly sought after, thankfully getting another re-release for those late to the game in the coming years. With the limited edition being housed in a wooden box, no matter which you chose, you got your money's worth with one of the true classics of Pagan horror starring Christopher Lee (at times in drag!) in one of his finest roles. While the film is full of nudity and shocks, none are nearly as jolting as when we finally discover the real reason why the Wicker Man stands tall. Before there was Hannibal Lecter, there was Lektor in Manhunter in the first screen incantation of the famous cannibal. Remade years later as Red Dragon, Anchor Bay's release is still definitive as it features the elusive director's cut with a high class sound overhaul to boot. While no Silence, Manhunter is a good piece for any fan of Hannibal. Fans of John Landis might want to check out an early cheapie of his called Schlock on a disc found only on the shelves of the most devout Anchor Bay addicts.
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