Color, 1989, 89/67 mins.
Directed by Emmanuel Kervyn
Starring Florine Elslande, Danielle Daven, Robert Du Bois, Catherine Aymerie, Caroline Braeckman, Richard Cotica
Troma (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 NTSC), OMG Entertainment (Holland R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), Laser Paradise (Germany R2 PAL), Shock (Holland R2 PAL)
Color, 1989, 89/67 mins.
If Peter Jackson and Walerian Borowczyk decided to drop acid and do a bottom of the barrel zombie film with wretched dubbing, the end result would look a lot like Rabid Grannies, a trashy, gory epic that starts off like gangbusters but degenerates into a repetitive, plotless series of gory dismemberment gags. Of course, that's exactly what makes it fun today for nostalgic gorehounds.
Here's the entire plot: a bunch of unpleasant relatives convene for a party at the home of two sweet old aunties. An evil old woman arrives at the gate and delivers a mysterious box, which the aunties promptly open. Aunties turn into bald, clawed demons, then run around and tear everyone to pieces. The end.
Though hardly a great stylist, Belgian director Emmanuel Kervyn does a decent job of keeping things moving at a nice and bloody clip. Too bad the headache-inducing British accents (a necessity since most of the cast couldn't speak English and delivered their lines phonetically) are haphazardly dubbed and ruin much of the admittedly eye-catching visual atmosphere; turn down the volume, however, and at least the avalanche of special effects makes for a decent party film.
Unfortunately, the film's release history has been something of a mess with American distributor Troma circulating it in at least three different versions, none of them complete. Their VHS edition was almost completely bloodless, while the 2000 DVD release is still the clearest and sharpest option around and reinstates some the gore. However, it's still far less complete than the edition on Danish video (circulated on the U.S. video underground), which clocks in at 81 minutes rather than the 89 of the DVD thanks to the vagaries of SECAM conversion. However, most of the gore is included on the DVD -- as a separate reel of splattery outtakes with lots of jumps and splices. This long, long sampler of limb-tearing mayhem includes most of the deleted footage, though for some reason the last shot of the film is still trimmed down to omit the sound of an arm being torn off. Other DVD extras include an incomprehensible commentary by Kervyn (though it does contain some nice nuggets of trivia if you pay attention), as well as a funny outtake reel of flubs and gags. To round things off, you get the usual Troma tour and T.I.T. test, as well as a dippy interview spoof with a "real rabid granny." Click here for a frame grab from the DVD for comparison.
The full version first appeared in Germany as part of the "Red Edition" series - alas, without an English language option - and in English with Dutch subtitles as part of the Shock DVD series. That complete Dutch-subtitled version, flat letterboxed at 1.66:1, also fills the first disc of the dual-platter "25th Anniversary Limited Edition," which also includes an interview and FX demo with James Desert, a gallery, and the original trailer. Disc two has a fascinating new variant, a "new remastered and re-edited version." Running a much speedier 75 minutes, this director's "recut" essentially drops most of the padding from the opening act of the film, and it's surprising how little it's actually missed. The opening credits have also been completely overhauled to move along more quickly, and the whole film has been reframed shot-by-shot to 2.35:1. Shockingly, some of the compositions actually hold up pretty well but it's also been given a major color grading overhaul with lots of heavy golds and blues saturating the majority of the film, also resulting in a significant loss of sharpness. Some video-created fade outs are also a strange distraction.
When Troma announced a Blu-ray/DVD combo release for 2015, the big question was exactly which version would make it onto the HD option. (As with past releases, the included DVD is the exact same one we've always had.) Well, here's where things get really weird. The packaging cites it as an "HD Transfer from Original Materials," which is technically true if that material is disc two of the Dutch DVD. It's the reworked, drastically shortened, faux scope edition, which at least has all the gore intact for the first time in America. That version kicks in if you select the "Play Movie" option and now clocks in at 67 minutes presumably thanks to some weird speeding up during the conversion process. Then there's the option to play a "producer's cut," which is... the exact same thing, except there's 90 seconds of black at the beginning for no apparent reason. The "deleted scenes" gore reel is also repeated here, which is now redundant since all that material is now back in the film, and the producer interview from the DVD is ported over as well. The whole shebang takes up 11 GB, well under half the real estate of the 25 GB disc.