Features

Arrow Staff’s Top Titles Of 2021

2021 was one of Arrow’s most varied years for new releases. Asian cinema buffs had a feast to pick over from classics like The Daimajin Collection and Yokai Monsters, more treats from Masumura, Korean drama such as JSA and A Tale of Two Sisters and the Christmas present of all Christmas presents, Shawscope Vol. 1.

It wouldn’t be Arrow if we didn’t bring you some b-movie goodness in the shape of packed box sets of Cold War Creatures and Weird Wisconsin: The Bill Rebane Collection. We shone a spotlight on some of the best in modern cult including The Stylist, Dinner in America, A Ghost Waits, Threshold, Clapboard Jungle and many more.

We tried to keep slasher fans happy by unearthing a couple of 80s horrors in the shape of Death Screams and Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge. Plus we had the pleasure of bringing the Arrow treatment to some big Hollywood titles like True Romance, Legend and Dune.

All in all, it’s been a packed year which made picking some of our favourites a very tough chore. Here are the thoughts of some of the Arrow staff who have taken on that unenviable task…

 

Francesco Simeoni – Director of Content

Giants and Toys

I was thrilled when we did Black Test Car, the first of our Masumura releases as I’d been wanting to release Masumura films for some time. Giants and Toys, his least known film to me was quite unexpected and I think quite a unique film in Japanese cinema, I’ve really never seen anything like it. It’s incredibly Japanese but also really not, much more like an American film and for the 1950s it’s hard to think of a more scathing film coming at this time while it’s pop aesthetic feels like something from the 1960s. The warring trio of sweet companies and the lengths they go to beat the competition is hilarious, while the manufactured celebrity and media culture still feels pretty relevant today. I love that we’ve got all these Masumuras with gorgeous Tony Stella artworks and they feel like their own collection as well.

Over the Edge

For me this is one of those situations where it takes a good Blu-ray to trigger a viewing. I’d been aware of this film since my first job where the company was the ex-distributor of the film and so had various bits of marketing bits hanging around like posters and stills. The company didn’t distribute many films but it did distribute Eraserhead and Grey Gardens so I made a mental note to watch it at some point but I never actually got around to it until our Blu-ray happened and it didn’t disappoint. Like the all the great youth movies, this one felt in tune with the youth of the day giving it an honest, raw quality that comes off the screen with great power and the famed finale did not disappoint. Special shout out to the lovely design on this one which I thought captured the film perfectly, from the cover to the booklet.

Years of Lead

It’s been a long time since we released any Poliziotteschi and I was glad we could release a bunch in this boxset. I’d been playing around with a Years of Lead boxset idea to encompass some of the 1970s films that addressed the political aspects of the years of lead but it didn’t really come together so thought it would be ideal to address it with these films. Like all Poliziotteschi they speak to the period in that they were made, either as a reflection of these turbulent times or directly drawing on real events which makes them an interesting capsule of Italian society. But they’re all about fun genre thrills and for me poliziotteschi deliver brilliantly, with car chases, cops and gangsters, all within a gritty 70s aesthetic. I was delighted with the package as a whole and thought the design really nailed the era, while original posters are such a treat.

 

Martial arts scene from King Boxer (1972)

Shawscope Vol 1 included 12 films from the legendary Hong Kong based Shaw Brothers Studio such as King Boxer (1972)

 

James White – Head of Restoration/Technical

True Romance (4K UHD)

Given that the film is so well known and has been widely available since its 1993 release, it was great to see just how much interest there was in our new 4K restoration, sourced from the original negative. Sadly director Tony Scott isn’t with us anymore, but I think with both our presentations of both director’s and theatrical cuts, restored and graded in 4K HDR – as well as an extensive package of extras – we’ve done his film proud and given his and Tarantino’s classic the release it always deserved.

Mill of the Stone Women (Blu-ray)

I had never seen and was only vaguely aware of Giorgio Ferroni’s 1960 Italian horror classic, so it was a real treat to be able to be able to oversee our new restoration, sourced from the original camera negative (with its alternate versions constructed partly from alternate film elements). The film’s pioneering use of lurid colour, along with its brooding, nightmarish atmosphere, set a template for many films to come.

 Shawscope Volume One (Blu-ray box set)

This was the product of nearly two years of work, and a herculean task by all those involved. Despite the constant challenges thrown up by Covid regulations, this proved to be a proper collaboration between film labs in Hong Kong, Italy, the US and the UK, as well as a host of international Shaw experts and collectors, all working together to ensure that these films – many of which had only been released in compromised or poor quality versions before, received the best and most definitive treatment possible, as well as a truly exhaustive assemblage of contextual extra features. Roll on Volume Two!

 

Neil Snowdon – Producer

Daimajin Collection

There are few things better than the feeling of discovery, and that’s what these films were for me. I didn’t know the films at all before we put them out. I had a ball watching these films with my daughter, appealing not only to a personal interest in folklore and legend, but also to my taste for monsters. That they’re so well made and shot is the icing on the cake, and the new artwork and extras were the cherry on top.

Cold War Creatures – Four Films from Sam Katzman

There’s not a bad movie in this set, I don’t care what anyone says. Sure, The Giant Claw is known for what some will say are ‘bad’ special effects for the creature. And, to be clear, they’re no Ray Harryhausen. But they are awe inspiring in their own particular way. The films are B-Movie’s through and through, but they’re also solidly made by people who knew their craft. There’s a solidity and seriousness to the productions and their stories that, whatever their seeming simplicity, I find immensely appealing. The films have never looked better and the set is rounded out with some wonderful contextual extras. Watching took me right back to the feeling of watching monster movies on the BBC as a kid. Pure pleasure.

True Romance

Because, dammit, I LOVE Tony Scott! Gorgeous new restorations of the Theatrical and Director’s Cuts, all the legacy extras and superb new ones besides. There’s not a lot to say here except, I hope we get a chance to do more of Tony’s films someday.

 

James Flower – Producer

2021 has been one of my favourite years of working at Arrow, and I’ve gotten to work on some dream projects over the last twelve months (True Romance! Legend! Restoring the uncut climax from Children of the Corn III in all its gory rubbery glory – yes, really!), culminating in our maiden voyage into the Hong Kong action genre with Shawscope Volume One. No hints for what’s to come in 2022, but it’s safe to say there’s something for everyone!

Demons (4K UHD upgrade)

Nearly a year after helping out on QC with this one, I still have “We Close Our Eyes” by Go West stuck in my head on a near-daily basis (sending my therapy bills to Arrow HQ). Lamberto Bava’s day-glo demonic free-for-all is one of the wildest of all 80’s horror films and our new UHD does immaculate justice to every gory, garish second.

Dementer

I still need to make time to catch up with all of our releases of new films by up-and-coming directors from this year (not enough hours in the day!), but Dementer was appointment viewing off the back of Chad Crawford Kinkle’s first film Jug Face, handily included here as an extra. From the bonus features, I could have happily listened to Chad’s Zoom roundtable with indie genre legends Larry Fessenden and Lucky McKee for another hour or more!

Over The Edge

Forgive me for being indulgent and putting one of my own producing gigs on this list, but this one was a passion project literally years in the making; I acquired the rights to the film myself months before I even joined the team at Arrow back in 2018! Still pinching myself that this came together just as I’d hoped it would with the help of some invaluable collaborators, not least Elijah Drenner’s wonderful retrospective documentary that pulled together all of the key cast and crew, Sister Hyde’s brilliant cover art and Kim Morgan’s excellent booklet essay.

 

Scene from Dinner in America (2020)

Refusing to take it down a notch in Dinner in America (2020)

 

Louise Buckler – Senior Marketing Manager

Dinner in America

It’s the tits. A punk AF love letter to being yourself, not giving a damn. Dinner In America is one of my favourite films of recent years so I was so pleased we could give it a home at Arrow! The team were super enthusiastic​ about our release and helped us create a killer extras package and John Pearson’s new artwork was the cherry on top. If you’ve not seen it yet, get ready to have Watermelon stuck in your head for weeks…

A Ghost Waits

A Ghost Waits is a true labour of Indie love from Adam Stovall and MacLeod Andrews –  and one of the sweetest haunted house movies out there. Touching on themes of loneliness and depression, the film will no doubt resonate with many considering the nature of recent times. MacLeod Andrews and Natalie Walker put in stellar performances and their comic timing is second to none. If you are looking for unconventional tale of the afterlife with a great soundtrack that will leave tears in your eyes look no further.

The El Duce Tapes

I’m a sucker for a great doc and was absolutely floored the first time I watched The El Duce Tapes. Compiled from hours upon hours of forgotten VHS footage that was pieced together 30 years later, the film focuses on El Duce of The Mentors with interview footage form thew man himself and those that were close to him. The final product is a heart breaking emotional rollercoaster which shows the tragic fall of a troubled and broken man. Jonathan Snipes and Nilborg’s haunting electronic soundtrack is also an absolute must listen (you can check it out digitally via the good folks at Burning Witches.

Honourable mentions go out to REC, Blind Beast, Demons 1 & 2, Deep Red UHD and Children of the Corn Trilogy.

 

Alan Simmons – ARROW Editorial and Curation manager

After originally seeing the short of the same name at FrightFest wayyyy back in 2016, then backing the Kickstarter to get the feature made AND THEN seeing and falling in love with the full-length version at FrightFest 2020, I was ecstatic when we picked up The Stylist for physical and ARROW as it felt like getting to stay on a ride until the very end.

In writer-director Jill Gevargizian’s The Stylist, Najarra Townsend’s perfectly performed sweet but psychotic snipper Claire is barely off the screen for the entire film. Townsend and Gevargizian spend so much time and energy investing us in Claire that our pity and identification with her blur moral lines making us forget that she is actually the bad guy. That we root for Claire as she simultaneously scalps her clients and stalks new friend Olivia (played by the brilliant Brea Grant) in spite of everything, and hope against hope until the last possible moment that everything will be okay for her — in the face of inevitable pain and blood — is the ultimate testament to a fantastic combination of writing, performance and direction.

The Bloodhound was another of my favourite Arrow Video titles to work on in 2021. Patrick Picard’s haunting and off-kilter two-hander take on Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ stars Liam Aiken and Joe Adler as Francis and JP, estranged friends reunited after a call from JP inviting Francis to come and stay with him and his reclusive sister Vivian (Annalise Basso) in there posh but discombobulating house.

Picard’s sense of and manipulation of space and place is masterful, and combined with Aiken and Adler’s weird love-hate chemistry as JP pushes poor Francis through a variety of ever-increasingly awkward positions and situations makes for something spell-binding. Slow-burning and utterly captivating, The Bloodhound will haunt you until you watch it again to sniff out more details.

Adam Rehmeier’s anarchic razing of suburbia Dinner In America rounds out my top three. Emily Skeggs and Kyle Gallner are simply wonderful as the misfit pairing of awkward put-upon loser Patty and angry take-no-shit punk Simon, and how they find each other and realise they need each other is sweet and fulfilling in the most anti-romantic way possible. The scenes where Gallner’s rebel yell in human form teaches Skeggs’ doormat in glasses to stick up for herself, get pissed off and let her middle fingers go up whenever required will linger in the memory for as long as the tender ones where Simon discovers Patty’s musical ability.

Fucking funny, very sweet and with a lot to scream about the state of the good ol’ USA, Dinner In America is like Heathers meets Napoleon Dynamite with a rad soundtrack and an awesome message about being yourself and absolutely refusing to take it down a notch.

Honourable mentions must also go to Adam Stovall’s black and white lo-fi Beetlejuice: A Ghost Waits and Chad Crawford Kinkle’s deeply personal modern witchcraft chiller Dementer.

 

Scene from The Stylist (2020)

The Stylist (2020) – very useful with a pair of scissors.

 

James Pearcey – Technical Assistant

Battle Royale [Limited Edition 4K UHD Blu-ray / Standard 4K UHD Blu-ray]

Simply one of the greatest films ever made given the release treatment it deserves. Beautifully transferred and stacked with extra features (the card game included is also a lot of fun).

Legend [Limited Edition Blu-ray]

A gorgeous fantasy film with some crazy performances that absolutely sings in this new transfer. Given how complicated this release was when it originally came out everyone did an amazing job of tracking it all down, remastering it magnificently and packaging it with all the extra features anyone could want.

Deep Red – Arte Originale [Limited Edition 4K UHD Blu-ray]

Always tricky to choose between the Argento Giallo films but this is one of my favourites, another very beautiful (if gruesome) film. Given the attention and respect it deserves. As a side note the Arte Originale packaging was absolutely gorgeous.

 

Anthony Newcomb – Customer Service supervisor

Shawscope Vol.1
A huge accomplishment for Arrow and an essential set for anyone interested in the history of Asian cinema.

Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge
A great slice of 80s cheese and my favourite artwork of the year.

Heavy Trip (ARROW)
A hidden gem and future cult classic. Funny, endearing characters and made with a real love for heavy music.

 

Dom Walker – Ecommerce manager

The Stylist

One of my favourite horrors in recent years. Najarra Townsend holds our attention as outsider Claire, the eponymous lead who finds herself becoming more entwined with Olivia, her bridal client. We’re drawn into her world and see the story from her own skewed angle as the tension builds magnificently to a spectacular and unforgettable finish. Our limited edition came with a host of extras including the original short film ‘The Stylist’ was based on and CD containing the soundtrack. A cut above!

Threshold

An innovative and intriguing road movie that toys brilliantly with audience expectations. The premise is very simple and within the first ten minutes you’re ready to hit the road with the siblings to work out the mystery for yourself. Getting to the bottom of a curse that afflicts Virginia is a wild ride and the story is carefully revealed with each passing location.

Battle Royale Limited Edition

It’s hard to ignore this beast! Battle Royale hasn’t lost an ounce of power in the twenty years since it’s release and it still rightly stands as one of the very best films in the survival genre. This incredible boxset contained everything any Battle Royale completist could ever need with 5 discs containing a host of extras and the sequel Battle Royale II: Requiem.



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