For cult fans, this month sees the release of an exclusive four disc box set from the Fantastic Factory label, which is bound to draw a fair amount of interest and attention. ‘The Fantastic Factory presents’ compiles four of the labels most successful films: Beyond Re-Animator (2003), Arachnid (2001), Faust: Love of the Damned (2000) and Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt (2004). Not only does the box set contain these four movies, but also a plethora of exclusive special features, plus, a number of double-sided posters containing new and original artwork. As a label that specialises in cult cinema, often with low budget production values, the resulting B-movie aesthetics and thematic concerns at the heart of this box set will divide audiences.
Two of the box set’s pieces are a direct creation of the label’s founder, Brian Yuzna. Beyond Re-Animator is the third instalment of the Re-Animator (1985) series, telling the story of crazed scientist Herbert West, played brilliantly once again by Jeffrey Combs, as he and his new sidekick Howard Philips (Jason Barry) attempt to break him out of jail. The results, unsurprisingly, culminate with a chain of knowingly over-the-top effects and tongue-in-cheek zombie attacks. Yuzna’s second directorial contribution to this compilation is 2000’s Faust: Love of the Damned. Similarly, this is not a film concerned with subtlety or understatement, opting once again for overblown effects and a distinctively dubious performance from Mark Frost as protagonist John Jaspers.
To exemplify the kind of madness at the heart of Faust: Love of the Damned one need look no further than the scene in which a woman is punished by having her breasts and buttocks blown up to such ludicrous size as to engulf her entire body. A powerful image, we’re sure you’ll agree. On top of Yuzna’s work, ‘Fantastic Factory Presents’ also includes Jack Sholder’s Arachnid, a story of monstrous, killer spiders that have taken over a Southern Pacific island. With a combination of preposterous acting, special effects and plot, it’s difficult to tell whether Sholder’s efforts are intentionally bad – in the hope of providing a sense of ironic comedy – or simply a pitiful and amateurish display of thoroughly inept filmmaking.
In my view, Arachnid falls somewhere between the two. Its moments of supposed comedy are not frequent or consistent enough, and its performances appear to be the result of poor acting, as opposed to any pretence of deliberately wooden portrayals in the hope of providing a comedic component. The final addition to the box set is Paco Plaza’s Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt. Plaza’s movie is loosely based on the true story of Manuel Blanco Romasanta, a nineteenth century, travelling salesman. Having confessed to murdering thirteen people, he subsequently avoided the death penalty by claiming he was a werewolf. This mixture of Gothic fantasy and historical reality makes for, arguably, the most successful component of this collection.
Ultimately, ‘Fantastic Factory Presents’ is more likely to serve as collector’s item for fans of the label’s output, rather than something to be bought by chance or randomly on a whim. Those familiar with the work on offer will be delighted with the vast amount of bonus features and exclusive insights into such cult classics. Additionally, if you are unfamiliar with these particular works, but are in search of the kind of horror unlikely to reach your local multiplex, then this box set could well be an essential purchase.