Any attempt to bring obscure and unfamiliar films to a new audience is to be admired, and with this new box set, Arrow are proving themselves once again. In this collection, titled as the American Horror Project Volume 1, they have grouped together three films that you may well have heard of, but have likely never seen.
The Witch Who Came In From The Sea is one release made infamous for having been initially banned in the video nasties cull of the early 1980’s. Although an attempted prosecution failed, Matt Cimber’s film still became embroiled in the witch hunt (apologies) brought by the Department Of Public Prosecutions. In truth, The Witch is less a horror film and more of a tragically dark drama focussing on the consequences of child sex abuse, and featuring a woman whose grasp on reality fails, as she slips into madness. Whatever it’s fraught history, The Witch is one of the more interesting films of that tortuous period, and features an engaging performance from Millie Perkins; better known for lead role in The Diary Of Anne Frank.
The next film in the collection, The Premonition is also more psychological thriller than true horror, but it does tap into a parent’s inherent fear of child abduction. When a child’s mentally unbalanced mother kidnaps her, it falls on the foster parents to track her down with the help of a parapsychologist. What follows is an examination of the slide into an irresistible insanity. The inclusion of a malevolent clown only adds to the fearful imagery but The Premonition becomes a little too confused in the latter stages, by its own premise, to truly frighten or intrigue.
The final film is Maletesta’s Carnival Of Blood and this is a different beast altogether. Ignoring traditional narrative and plotting for surreal imagery supplemented by callous, random acts of violence, this is a film that bewitches you with its occasionally misguided sense of gory adventure. The central concept revolves around the Norris family taking jobs at a rundown and unloved fairground that is presciently skeletal in appearance. Quickly they discover there is something sinister going on behind the scenes, and that this could turn into a very short employment period indeed. Wonderfully random and unavoidably enjoyable, Maletesta’s Carnival Of Blood is the real macabre treat in this collection.
What really makes this set worthwhile, as you would expect with an Arrow release, are the extras. With a multitude of interviews, booklets, scripts and commentaries, this is a box set worthy of any horror fan’s collection. Even if you, by chance, own any of the included films, you still won’t regret spending a few pounds here.
AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT VOLUME 1 / CERT: 18 / DIRECTORS: MATT CIMBER, CHRISTOPHER SPEETH, ROBERT ALLAN SCHNITZER / SCREENPLAY: WERNER LIEPOLT, ROBERT THOM, ANTHONY MAHON, LOUIS PASTORE, ROBERT ALLAN SCHNITZER / STARRING: LONNY CHAPMAN, MILLIE PERKINS, JANINE CARAZO, HERVE VILLECHAIZE, SHARON FARRELL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW