Scream Factory Issues '80s Horror Films Crawlspace and The Beast Within on Blu-ray

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Right at the tail end of 2013, Scream Factory brought a pair of 1980s horror obscurities to Blu-ray for the first time. The best of the two is the economical 1986 slasher flick, Crawlspace, which boasts a terrifically sinister lead performance by Klaus Kinski as a psychotic apartment building manager. The other is the 1982 The Beast Within, a muddled demon-spawn picture that is nonetheless redeemed somewhat by a pair of good commentary tracks.

Crawlspace benefits from its utter simplicity. Kinski plays Karl, son of a Nazi surgeon, who is a self-acknowledge murder addict. He runs an apartment building, quite a nice one, too, save for the rat infestation. He habitually crawls through the air ducts to spy on his female tenants. In the basement he holds some of these women captive, inflicting various cruelties upon them before eventually claiming their lives. Talia Balsam plays Lori, a new resident who manages to complicate Karl’s nefarious activities. There are plenty of sick, bloody effects and an atmospheric, chilling score by Pino Donaggio. But again, Kinski’s supreme creepiness is the main reason to seek this one out.

Beast Within (223x280).jpgNo such simplicity graces The Beast Within, which slogs along for a rather grueling 98 minutes (it feels a lot longer). Michael (Paul Clemens) is the teenage son of Caroline (Bibi Besch) and Eli (Ronny Cox). As we see in a rather fierce prologue, he is actually the product of a brutal rape. Caroline was victimized by an inhuman creature which is slowly emerging from her son, now that he’s a young adult. Nostalgia potential runs high for fans of this era of horror. The creative, grotesque, old school effects (the actual emergence of the beast within Michael is a highlight) are the primary attraction.

Both films look excellent in their 1080p, high definition presentations. Crisp, sharp imagery (especially in Crawlspace) reveals a great deal of fine detail. Jack L. Richards deliberately worked in low lighting situations for much of The Beast Within, which is accurately represented here. Details are sometimes lost in the shadows, but it’s by design. Overall, given the age of limited budgets of these films, they look outstanding.

Crawlspace (223x280).jpgBoth films were granted lossless audio mixes. Crawlspace’s original mono mix is presented as a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. The Beast Within is offered in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo. There’s nothing negative to report, as these are both simple, clean audio presentations that allow the dialogue, music, and effects to be heard clearly.

Simple but welcome extras are included on each disc. Commentary by director David Schmoeller is present for Crawlspace, along with a new interview with makeup artist John Vulich and a funny vintage piece called “Please Kill Mr. Kinski.” As for The Beast Within, there are two commentary tracks: one by writer Tom Holland, the other by director Philippe Mora and actor Paul Clemens. The latter is an engaging, lighthearted track with lots of good-natured jesting between the director and his star. Both discs include theatrical trailers.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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