Film is a bonding piece to our culture. We get excited about upcoming releases and cherish childhood classics. But, what about the others? What about the cinematic underdogs who don’t get a fresh restoration and transfer every decade, like STAR WARS or THE GODFATHER? This is where these companies step in.

Since the early 1990s, restoration companies have been hard at work finding and restoring lost films, bringing them into the light of new technologies. These are the restoration companies that have kept that cinematic fire burning over the last couple decades, and what we can expect from them in 2018.

CriterionRestoration

The restoration granddaddy of them all, Criterion has been releasing special editions of films since 1984, their first releases being a restoration of CITIZEN KANE and the original KING KONG. Criterion is considered the pioneer of several mainstays that we see in restoration releases today, specifically the inclusion of special features, commentaries, and letterboxes.

In the past couple of years, Criterion has done restorations on both obscure and highly regarded films. Films such as Albert Brooks LOST IN AMERICA, Stanley Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s STALKER. Criterion also releases contemporary arthouse and world cinema fares, like the paranormal thriller PERSONAL SHOPPER, and the Polish oddity THE LURE, a hyper-violent mermaid musical.

Recently deceased filmmaker George A. Romero will finally see his magnum opus THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD see a proper release. Criterion has done a proper 4k scan of the film, and with the numerous special features included, this will be the best release of the film. Jonathan Demme’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, one of only three films to take home the big five at the Oscars (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), will also be released later this year.

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Criterion has made a name for themselves as being a company that strives for excellence in their releases. From their early releases on laserdisc, they very quickly became known for their attention to detail and fine crafting their special features. Even though the company is over 30 years old, they haven’t lost a pep in their step, and look to continue their streak of excellence into the new year.

Notable Upcoming Releases:

-NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (Dir. George A. Romero)

-THE HERO (Dir. Satyajit Ray)

-WOMAN IN LOVE (Dir. Ken Russell)

-SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (Dir. Jonathan Demme)

Shout/Scream Factory

Restoration

Not far on the heels of Criterion is Shout Factory and their sub-label Scream Factory. Founded in 2003, Shout Factory started as a releasing company for TV, releasing DVD collections of classic television shows like BONANZA and KNIGHT RIDER. As the company grew, they began to expand into film, working on releasing hard to find films, like the 1987 horror film THE STEPFATHER.

While Criterion focuses on quality over quantity, Shout Factory has instead decided to balance on that tightrope, releasing several films a year, both regular and special editions. Their sub-label, Scream Factory, has been chugging along with this model since 2012. They were responsible for the HALLOWEEN box set, the special edition of John Carpenter’s THE THING, and lost on VHS classic WITHOUT WARNING.

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Both Shout and Scream Factory’s slate is big for the upcoming year, and that’s only for the first quarter of 2018. Shout Factory is releasing the hicksploitation gem MACON COUNTY LINE, and the Joe Dante classics MATINEE and THE BURBS. Scream Factory will be releasing the long-awaited HELL NIGHT, Sam Rami’s DRAG ME TO HELL, and Bryan Bertino’s THE STRANGERS.

Shout, and Scream Factory update their projects constantly, keeping their fans in the loop. They have shown what persistence means in the industry, as they continue to release films to a fanbase that rarely see’s that kind of effort put into their genre.

Notable Upcoming Releases:

-HELL NIGHT (Dir. Tom DeSimone)

-MATINEE (Dir. Joe Dante)

-DRAG ME TO HELL (Dir. Sam Raimi)

-CYBORG (Dir. Albert Pyun)

-THE STRANGERS (Dir. Bryan Bertino)

-NIGHTMARE AT NOON (Dir. Nico Mastorakis)

-THE BURBS (Dir. Joe Dante)

-BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (Dir. Scott Glosserman)

Arrow VideoRestoration

While a newer edition to the States, Arrow Video has spent years releasing genre fare to the British public. Based out of the United Kingdom, Arrow Video has quickly started to make a name for themselves for releasing both maligned and forgotten fare, and for releasing it with Criterion level of care. They have released such films as John Frankenheimer’s RONIN, the Kinji Fukasaka tale of police corruption COPS VS. THUGS, and the Thanksgiving based slasher oddity BLOOD RAGE.

They continue this streak of excellence into the new year. Upcoming releases include the coulrophobia classic KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, as well as the definitive collector’s edition of the Frank Henenlotter classic BASKET CASE. Also getting a release is the Jim Van Bebber cult classic DEADBEAT AT DAWN, though a date hasn’t been specified. Arrow has proven again that they chose their projects carefully, and that they know what the fans want.

Upcoming Releases:

-BASKET CASE (Dir. Frank  Henenlotter)

-ORCHESTRAL REHEARSAL (Dir. Federico Fellini)

-IMAGES (Dir. Robert Altman)

-KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTERSPACE (Dir. Stephen Chiodo)

Synapse FilmsRestoration

Moving from the big 3, smaller distribution companies have started to catch up. One of the companies that have seen both bigger releases and bigger successes is Synapse Films. Synapse is a small distribution company that, up until recently, focused on releasing classic adult films, such as the notorious FARMER’S DAUGHTERS, a violent rape/incest film considered one of the most vile films ever made (starring future New Yorker columnist/screenwriter Spaulding Gray), as well as cult classics, like BASKET CASE 2, DEMONS, and FRANKENHOOKER.

Most recently, Synapse has seen success in 2017. They released the lost gem POPCORN, a creature feature/slasher film, as well as three Dario Argento classics; the Jennifer Connelly led PHENOMENA, and the Giallo classic TENEBRAE, and the hotly anticipated 4k restoration of SUSPIRIA

While Synapse doesn’t currently have anything on their upcoming release docket, they have shown in the last few months that they are ready to roll with the big dogs, and I personally can’t wait to see what they roll out next.

Vestron VideoRestoration

Moving from a smaller label to a sub-label of a larger company, Vestron is a new addition to the restoration scene. A smaller label of Lionsgate Films, Vestron has spent the last year gathering fans with its genre fare. Named after the VHS distribution company from the late 1980’s/90’s, Vestron has put out the movie collections of both the WISHMASTER films and the WARLOCK films, as well as the hard-to-find, Jim Wynorski classic CHOPPING MALL, and the Zach Gilligan led WAXWORK & WAXWORK II.

As they are a label of Lionsgate Films, Vestron has the advantage of being able to cherry pick from their archives. Currently on the slate for release is the CLASS OF 1984 follow up CLASS OF 1999, and the Ken Russell oddity GOTHIC. With such a powerhouse studio behind them, genre fans await what else Vestron has up their sleeves.

Upcoming Releases:

CLASS OF 1999 (Dir. Mark L. Lester)

GOTHIC (Dir. Ken Russell)

American Genre Film Archive (AGFA)

Restoration

Another new name to the restoration game, AGFA is a company located out of Austin, TX, who focus on releasing nearly impossible to find films from their archives. In this year alone, the company has released THE ZODIAC KILLER, a fascinating film made during the actual height of the Zodiac killings, with the intent of catching the killer. Also released was Tom Savini’s EFFECTS, a small budget thriller made by the soon to be king of special gore effects. Their last release of 2017 was BAT PUSSY, what is considered the first porn parody.

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Coming up on the docket is a trio of interesting genre films. First up is the thought lost Ed Woods teenagers run amok film, THE VIOLENT YEARS. From there we have THE SWORD AND THE CLAW, an absolutely bonkers Turkey swashbuckling adventure film. Last but not least is the SOULTANGLER, a shot on a shoestring splatter film sure to turn the stomach of the most seasoned gore fan.

This is only the line-up for the next few months. At the pace AGFA is going, expect several other oddities to make their way to BluRay by the end of the year.

Upcoming Releases:

THE VIOLENT YEARS (Dir. Ed Wood)

THE SWORD AND THE CLAW (Dir. Natuk Baytan)

SOULTANGLER (Dir. Pat Bishow)

SeverinRestoration

Similar to Synapse films, Severin is a small distribution company that has built themselves up over the past couple of years. They first started releasing very niche European exploitation films, like the art house SANTE SANGRE, the gore-drenched BLOODY MOON, and THE SINFUL DWARF (For those interested, be ready for a film that puts the exploit into exploitation). This trend continued into wider known genre oddities like the EXORCIST knockoff CATHY’S CURSE and the notorious documentary on America, THE KILLING OF AMERICA (a documentary that is sadly more relevant today).

More recently, Severin has struck a deal to release a collection of films produced by Amicus Productions, a popular horror label from the 1960’s. The collection will include ASYLUM, THE BEAST MUST DIE, and AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS. Coming into the new year, they’ll be releasing the notorious made-for-TV film THREADS, which chronicles the possible aftermath of nuclear war. It is considered one of the most disturbing films of all time and will see its first BluRay release.

Severin has shown in the last year that it’s quality of releases is getting better and better, and 2018 is already off to a strong start.

Upcoming Releases:

EATEN ALIVE (Dir. Umberto Lenzi)

THREADS (Dir. Mick Jackson)

IndicatorRestoration

While all the companies listed thus far have U.S. releases, Indicator is a little different. Indicator is a UK based restoration company, and don’t advertise their releases in the US. That doesn’t mean that their releases aren’t great.

In fact, Indicator can release several films that may never be able to see a domestic release. Copyright laws are different across the pond, so films like HARDCORE, GHOSTS OF MARS, and BODY DOUBLE have gotten beautiful releases, while they are still stuck in limbo in America.

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But, don’t fret; Indicator releases region free BluRays; meaning you can snag them up online and enjoy them on your domestic devices. While they haven’t announced any upcoming releases, be sure to keep an eye on them to find any films that have seemingly fallen through the cracks here.

Code Red

Restoration
Sole Survivor, released by CODE RED.

When it comes to small-scale distribution, you don’t get smaller than this. Code Red is known for how it does business; mainly, that the owner and operator packages and sends all the BluRay’s himself. This love for the genre and cinema bleeds through into the releases, as Code Red restores some of the most niche, hard to find, scooped from a VHS cemetery films you could find; films like SLITHIS, THE BEING, HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, and BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER.

They may soon need to upgrade their packaging services, though, as they are planning on releasing a trio of Italian horror classics, all of them by the Maestro Dario Argento. Code Red will release OPERA, THE SECT, and THE CHURCH later this year, films that have been requested for years by fans.

This may be a banner year for Code Red, and genre fans are richer for it.

Upcoming Releases:

THE CHURCH/THE SECT/OPERA (Dir. Dario Argento)

SERPENT’S LAIR (Dir. Jeffrey Reiner)

LAST HUNTER (Dir. Antonio Margheriti)

What’s Your Favorite Restoration?

These companies look to continue the trend of releasing hard to find films over the next 12 months. These release calendars only stretch out a few months, the farthest out being March. We can expect more releases to be announced as the year goes on, and as a fan of both cinema and the harshness and sleaziness of genre filmmaking, I’m more than excited to see what’s to come.

What say you; Which company have you found is your favorite? What’s your favorite release of 2017? What are you looking forward to in the upcoming year? What film do you want to see released more than any other? (mine: THE HITCHER). Sound off below!

Also, for fans who are looking to get into the BluRay release game, here are my recommendations for each company, so you can start your own collections (obviously, entirely subjective, these are just the releases I’ve enjoyed):

Criterion: VIDEODROME, BREAKFAST CLUB, THE KILLERS

Scream Factory: THE THING, DAY OF THE DEAD, MANHUNTER

Arrow: HELLRAISER, DRILLER KILLER, RONIN

Synapse: POPCORN, JUST DESSERTS, MOSQUITO

Vestron: CHOPPING MALL, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III, WAXWORK/WAXWORK II

AGFA: THE ZODIAC KILLER, EFFECTS

Severin: THE DEVIL’S HONEY, BAG BOY/LOVER BOY, DARK WATERS

Indicator: HARDCORE, GHOSTS OF MARS, BODY DOUBLE

Code Red: SOLE SURVIVOR, JUST BEFORE DAWN, ONE DARK NIGHT.

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