Faces of Horror: 10 Movie Collection

| March 24, 2017

Mill Creek Entertainment’s Faces of Horror collection brings together ten horror films on 3 DVDs at a budget price–it’s currently less than $9 on Amazon, in fact. If you’re like me, you see these collections pop up all the time in stores, and you can’t help but wonder if they’re actually worth the purchase, given the impressively near-even dollar-to-movie ratio. Often they come in sets of 25 to 100 movies, and when that’s the case, you can safely assume you’ll find a couple movies up your alley somewhere in the bunch, even if the picture and audio quality there are typically pretty rough. When I stumble on collections of twelve or less, though, I find the investment can be a bit more of a gamble where finding something you like is concerned. With that in mind, Mill Creek wisely highlighted two strong titles in Faces of Horror that easily carry the lesser films in the collection.

These two stand-out features include the seminal killer-calling-from-inside-the-house film, When a Stranger Calls (1979), and the oft-overlooked slasher, Happy Birthday to Me (1981). As I mentioned above, people often associate these multi-film collections with low quality transfers with sometimes as many 5 films on a single disc-side. However, these two films are the only two films included on Faces of Horror’s first disc, and are thus afforded incredibly solid visuals, free of any major blurring or pixellation. They are, in fact, as fine of transfers as you’re likely to see on DVDs these days.

What’s more, the films are themselves both well worth seeking out. When a Stranger Calls is one of an elite handful of titles that routinely crops up when people are talking about the killer calling from inside the house film trope. The film stars Carol Kane as a babysitter receiving strange phone calls, only to discover, well, you know. Though it is a horror staple, When a Stranger Calls does suffer from an incredibly weak second act. The entirety of the killer calling from inside the house shenanigans are actually played out by the end of the first act and our protagonist (Carol Kane’s character) doesn’t appear again for nearly another 45 minutes. It may not be a perfect film but it’s a cultural touchstone, and at a fraction of this set’s $9, it’s well worth checking out.

The same can easily be said for Happy Birthday to Me. Released during an era when slasher films were flooding theaters in the post-Halloween/Friday the 13th days, Happy Birthday to Me is often forgotten, and yet it’s a solid example of what the subgenre has to offer. It doesn’t do anything mind-blowing, but it’s chock-a-block full of red herrings, misdirects, increasingly-more-revealing flashbacks and gnarly kills. And at the heart of it all is of course a teenage girl, here played by Little House on the Prairie’s Melissa Sue Anderson. What’s more, the filmed was directed by Cape Fear (1962)-director J. Lee Thompson from a script co-written by John C.W. Saxton, who penned Mark L. Lester’s Class of 1984, and Timothy Bond, who directed some of my childhood favorite television including episodes of My Secret Identity and the TV movie Night of the Twisters! So it’s got a pedigree tailor-made to impress the heck out of me.

While I personally find Mill Creek’s Faces of Horror collection to be worth picking up for those two titles alone, I can’t say you’ll find anything amongst the remaining 8 films other than some curious distractions. That said, if you’re a fan of sleazy, 1980s, bikini women-laden slasher films, the second disc in the set is for you. This disc boasts three Crown International Pictures, all bizarrely about fashion/lingerie models being murdered by some serial killer or another. These include Don’t Answer the Phone (1980), Double Exposure (1982), Click: The Calendar Girl Killer (1990). If you watch nothing else from this disc, check out Click’s bikinis-and-knives photo shoot title sequence. It’s one of the most hilariously 1980’s things you’re likely to encounter (the film was made in 1989).

The final, and surely least significant, of the discs collects five films—most of which I have other copies of on earlier multi-film sets around my apartment. And given that the disc includes five movies on one side, the picture and sound quality are pretty much exactly what you’d expect, looking significantly worse than the rest of the set. The films on this disc include Scream Bloody Murder (1973), Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972), Savage Weekend (1976), The Demon (1979), and The Manipulator (1981). Silent Night, Bloody Night is a staple of Christmas-based horror, so that one’s definitely worth a watch, but the others are pretty hit-and-miss. The biggest disappointment in this set for me was honestly The Demon, which boasts Cameron Mitchell but delivers precious little Cameron Mitchell.

So is Faces of Horror worth picking up? If you’re a horror fan and don’t own When a Stranger Calls or Happy Birthday to Me on DVD (the transfers mark a significant upgrade over my VHS copies of both), or if you enjoy 1980s sleaze, then I say this is $9 well spent.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).

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