Blu-ray Movie(s) Review – American Horror Project, Vol. 1

American Horror Project, Volume 1
Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood
–Directed by Christopher Speeth
–Original Year of Release: 1973
The Witch Who Came From the Sea
–Directed by Matt Cimber
–Original Year of Release: 1976
The Premonition
–Directed by Robert Allen Schnitzer
–Original Year of Release: 1976
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Blu-ray Set Release Date: February 23, 2016

Horror Project cover


It seems as if the fine folks at Arrow Video and MVD Distribution keep trying to “one up” themselves. Every title they release seems to be better than the last. Some of these classics are well known, while others have been swimming in purgatory for so long that many people have forgotten about them. The AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT is Arrow and MVD’s attempt to preserve some of these rare gems for future generations to enjoy. And I have to tell you: they have found some way, way out there titles to start us off with!

This is certainly not a negative, either. I will confess I had never heard of any of these films prior to receiving them in this collection. But I’m sure glad I got the opportunity to watch them; they are an interesting glimpse into old-school, low-budget horror that every fan of the genre should experience.

If you are not familiar with AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT, VOLUME 1, here is the production description courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

Everyone knows the classic American horror titles: Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and A Nightmare on Elm Street, to name but a few. But we want to tell you a different story a story of the unsung heroes of American terror… Whether it’s a film that has languished in obscurity, or a movie that’s at risk of being lost due to lack of source materials, American Horror Project is here to ensure that these unique slices of the American Nightmare are brought back into the public consciousness and preserved for all to enjoy.

Volume I of this series presents three tales of violence and madness from the 1970s. Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (Christopher Speeth, 1973) sees a family arrive at a creepy, dilapidated fairground in search of their missing daughter, only to find themselves at the mercy of cannibalistic ghouls lurking beneath the park. Meanwhile, The Witch Who Came from the Sea (Matt Cimber, 1976), stars Mollie Perkins (The Diary of Anne Frank) as a young woman who’s bizarre and violent fantasies start to bleed into reality literally. Lastly, every parent s worst nightmare comes true in The Premonition (Robert Allen Schnitzer, 1976), a tale of psychic terror in which five-year-old Janie is snatched away by a strange woman claiming to be her long-lost mother.

Newly remastered from the best surviving elements and contextualized with brand new supplementary material, with American Horror Project we can re-evaluate an alternative history of American horror and film heritage.

There’s so much to like about this collection: the artwork, the Special Features, and, of course, the films themselves. I can’t wait to see what Volume 2 will bring, but for now we can feast on these three treasures from the 70s.

Each film has its merits and downfalls, but all three are entertaining in their own ways. MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD is very low-budget, and the acting is not good at all…but the film has quite a bit of gore, and it looks good for the most part. THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA has a very misleading title…but the story is engrossing and disturbing. THE PREMONITION is just plain odd…but it is fun, regardless.

These films look dated (and obviously, they are), yet the HD transfer for each looks excellent. There are a few grainy spots evident in each, but that cannot be helped, given the state of the source material. The sound quality is also very good. I had no trouble understanding any of the dialogue, and the ambient sound is decent.

My favorite film of the three has to be THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA. While not traditional horror (it’s more of a thriller with some horrific elements), the mystery of the plot kept me enthralled. As the movie concluded, I couldn’t tell if what I had just witnessed was a fever dream, or if it actually happened (from the character’s point of view). This ambiguity stayed with me, for some reason, and the resulting consideration left me pleased.

AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT, VOLUME 1 is a huge win for me, and I cannot wait to see what comes next. In addition to the picture and sound restoration, you’ll get a slew of extras that include:

•Brand new 2K restorations of the three features
•High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentations
•English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
•Reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
•American Horror Project Journal Volume I – Limited Edition 60-page booklet featuring new articles on the films from Kim Newman (Nightmare Movies), Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) and Brian Albright (Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990)

•Brand new interview with director Christopher Speeth
•Brand new interview with writer Werner Liepolt
•Draft Script (BD/DVD-ROM content)
•Production stills gallery

•Audio commentary with director Matt Cimber, actress Millie Perkins and director of photography Dean Cundey
•Brand new interview with director Matt Cimber
•Brand new interview with Dean Cundey
•Brand new interview with actor John Goff

•Audio commentary with director-producer Robert Allen Schnitzer
•Brand new interview with composer Henry Mollicone
•Interview with actor Richard Lynch
•Three Robert Allen Schnitzer short films: Vernal Equinox , Terminal Point and A Rumbling in the Land
•4 Peace Spots
•Trailers and TV Spots


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