Enter The Video Store: Empire Of Screams (Limited Edition Set Review)

Back in the 1980s your local video rental store was the place to be. More than just a place to rent a movie or two, it was a social experience; from unplanned meetings with a friend or neighbor, to chatting about what to watch and why. A great way to connect with others, it gave communities a common ground to communicate, share views on film, and assimilate with one another. Sadly, those days are gone, and with them important aspects of interpersonal interactions.

Now in a modern world, while we are led to believe we are more connected than ever due to the advent of the internet and moreover social media, however, it feels we are further apart and more disconnected from one another than ever before. An aspect of the human condition that should be examined further, thankfully there are some of us who understand these aspects of ourselves and yearn for the return of the video store in some shape or form. Perhaps a hype dream in the world of instant streaming, we can still hope, and with that take a glance into the cultural history of video stores.

A venue which died out in the mid-2000s, thanks to services like Netflix, the heyday of video stores not only offered social refugees, but also ample opportunity to more independent film companies. A time when smaller budget films without large sums of financial backings could get their VHS box on the same shelf as the big Hollywood ones, it was not only great for the little guy, but also for expanding consumer’s access to something different. Thus, ushering in the age of straight-to-video, with that came some real gems… and who can forget the plethora of material from Empire Pictures. A company founded by entrepreneurial Filmmaker Charles Band, some of Empire’s most memorable titles came in the form of low-budget Horror and Fantasy feature films – including Re-Animator (1985), Troll (1986), Ghoulies (1984), and From Beyond (1986). Just a few of the many to hit video stores shelves, now in 2023 Arrow Video offers fans the limited-edition box set entitled Enter the Video Store: Empire of Screams.

Set for release on June 27th, this special set comes in High-Definition Blu-Ray (1080p) presentations of five different Empire Pictures films – 1984’s The Dungeonmaster, 1987’s Dolls, 1988’s Cellar Dweller, 1989’s Arena, as well as 1989’s Robot Jox. All unique to one another, it is an interesting mix of Fantasy, Horror, and Sci-Fi themes that really gives you a solid sampling of some of Empire Pictures releases. Titles which have all been released in some form of DVD and Blu-ray in the past, this set offers each film in newly restored transfers, plus a ton of other features. For example, you get three different versions of The Dungeonmaster. Beyond this you also receive some new bonus features for each film such as new interviews. 

Tastefully put together in this limited-edition package, above everything, what really stands out are the new transfers in 2K; all of which truly bring new life to these films. That said, some of these are films which could have been overlooked or lost in the shuffle of time. And if that is the case, this is a really cool way to look back at some clever titles that are not only entertaining, but quite memorable.

Yes, you have Dolls, which is probably the most well-known feature in this set, but you also have The Dungeonmaster which is really a great watch, Cellar Dweller which is a fun, unique creature feature, while Arena is Sci-fi visual odyssey, and Robot Jox a visionary reflection of a dystopian future. 

All in all, this is a great collection to have if you know these films, or are simply looking to learn more about Empire Pictures. From the thoughtful booklet to the artwork, posters, and the carefully articulated transfers, Cryptic Rock gives the Enter the Video Store: Empire of Screams Limited Edition Set 4 out of 5 stars. 

Enter the Video Store: Empire of Screams Limited Edition Set / Arrow Video (2023)

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