The Vagrant – Blu-ray Review

4 Stars Cult 90's horror comedy returns to Blu-ray
the vagrant Screenshot

Beginning his career as a makeup artist, Chris Walas won an Oscar for his work on David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly (1986) while also making memorable contributions to Gremlins (1984) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); for the latter, Walas is partially responsible for the image of melting Nazis in the Ark of the Covenant climax. At the end of the 1980’s, Walas made the leap to the director’s chair, starting with the sequel The Fly II (1989); following a brief detour to TV to direct an episode of Tales from the Crypt, he returned to feature filmmaking with The Vagrant. Previously released on a barebones Blu-ray by Shout Factory – as part of their Scream Factory line – Arrow Video has licensed the movie from MGM for a brand new special edition Blu-ray.

The Vagrant (1992)
Released: 15 May 1992
Rated: R
Runtime: 91 min
Director: Chris Walas
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller
Cast: Bill Paxton, Michael Ironside, Marshall Bell
Writer(s): Richard Jefferies
Plot: A business man buys a house, but he has a hard time trying to get rid of its previous tenant, a dirty bum.
IMDB rating: 5.8
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: MGM
Distributed By: Arrow Video
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English PCM 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 31 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Clear keep case with reversible cover and slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 02/07/2023
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 3/5

For meek financial clerk Graham Krakowski (Bill Paxton), the American Dream is within his reach when buys a fixer upper home in a small Phoenix neighborhood. But his American Dream is about to be turned on its head due to a disheveled vagrant (Marshall Bell) living in a vacant lot across from Graham’s new home. What starts out as mind games turns more gruesome and serious as Graham’s life falls apart and is eventually suspected – by homicide Lt. Ralf Barfuss (Michael Ironside) – of the horrific murders of one of his neighbors and the real estate agent (Colleen Camp) who sold him his new home. However, after a highly publicized and very farcical criminal trial, Graham realizes that – sooner or later – he’ll have to confront the vagrant who turned his life into a living hell if he ever plans to take his life and his sanity back!

One of the most bizarre horror comedies to come out during the 1990’s, The Vagrant has attained a small cult status due to its willingness to lay on both the comedy and horror in its satirical plot. Director Chris Walas – in his last directorial effort to date – does make great use of his past work as a special makeup effects artist to create some grisly moments involving the titular vagrant; the script by Richard Jefferies melds elements of gory horror and black comedy to fashion a satire of how two vastly different social classes locked in a battle of wits and control can bring about some unexpected changes in even the most civilized among us. However, this bold and audacious blend also represents the film’s main flaw, as the competing elements are not evenly mixed well to fully capitalize on all the transgressive possibilities presented in the film. Sure enough, that uneven quality extends to some of the over-the-top performances, which will – depending on your tastes – either be off putting or sardonically funny and subversive. While it’s definitely not for all tastes, The Vagrant should absolutely be commended for daring to be darkly cartoonish while being satirical about the social struggles – of both those struggling to get by and those ambitious to climb the social ladder – of the era.

Already familiar with the horror genre with films like Aliens (1986), Near Dark (1987) and Brain Dead (1990), Bill Paxton plays to the rafters here as Graham, the financial clerk whose life is disintegrating with the escalating mind games; his status would rise higher as a character with films like True Lies (1994) and Titanic (1997) while also finding success on TV with Big Love and as a director with Frailty (2002). As the titular vagrant, Marshall Bell is clearly having a field day in the macabre characterization; the prolific character actor also had notable work with director Paul Verhoeven in Total Recall (1990) and Starship Troopers (1997). Best known for playing the killer Darryl Revok in David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981), Michael Ironside is a strong secondary antagonist as the determined Lt. Barfuss; like Bell, the prolific character actor would also reunite with Verhoeven on Starship Troopers. Rounding out the cast here are Colleen Camp as the ill-fated – and sexually voracious – real estate agent, Stuart Pankin as Graham’s boss Mr. Feemster, Mitzi Kapture as Graham’s girlfriend Edie, Mark McClure as Graham’s friend Chuck, Mildred Brion as Graham’s elderly – and equally ill-fated neighbor – Mrs. Howler and Katherine Gosney as Graham’s mother, whose impassioned plea of her son’s innocence is the cherry on top of the farcical trial.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

This Blu-ray release presents the movie in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio, taken from a brand new 2K restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative. Film grain, color palette and fine details appear to be faithfully represented and presented with minimal cases of scratches, dirt and tears present. This release is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video and easily surpasses the previous Scream Factory Blu-ray.

Audio: 5/5

For this Blu-ray release, the film’s original audio mix is presented on a 2.0 PCM track. Dialogue, sound mix and Christopher Young’s playfully macabre music score are all presented faithfully with clarity and minimal cases of crackling, popping and hissing present on the track. This release also surpasses the previous Scream Factory Blu-ray release and is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.

Special Features: 4/5

Vagrant Memories (15:52) – Director Chris Walas reflects on the making of the movie and its rediscovery as a cult favorite in this new interview.

You Are in Hell! (14:59) – Marshall Bell, who plays the titular vagrant, shares his fond memories of working on the film in this newly filmed interview.

Barfuss, Homicide. (12:16) – Michael Ironside shares his memories of working with Bill Paxton as well as other anecdotes on working on the movie in this new interview.

Handling His Property (12:08) – Colleen Camp revisits her memories of playing the sexually voracious – and ill-fated – real estate agent in this new interview.

Image Gallery (13 stills)

Theatrical Trailer (2:05)

Double sided fold out poster featuring original theatrical art and new art created by Robert Hack (not listed in the press release)

Booklet feat. essays by film critic Chris Hallock and filmmaker/Vagrant super-fan James Pearcey (1st pressing only)

Overall: 4/5

Savaged by critics and barely lasting a week in cinemas upon initial release, The Vagrant has nonetheless attracted a cult following on home video due to its daring qualities in being a horror satire. Arrow Video has likely delivered the definitive edition of the movie on home video to date, boasting a terrific HD transfer and a solid slate of special features newly created for this release. Highly recommended and absolutely worth upgrading from the Scream Factory Blu-ray.

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

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