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Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K Release of Ticks Does the Opposite of Sucking!

Feature Presentations: Episode 77

Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Vinegar Syndrome‘s release of Ticks.

The 4K artwork for Ticks.

Vinegar Syndrome is an unusual beast within the physical media community. For someone like myself who buys more than a casual Marvel film, Vinegar Syndrome is a titan in the film community. In business for over ten years, they have worked at preserving all types of film. Not just content with top-tier titles like The Amityville Horror, Road House, or The Beastmaster, their choice of movies include hardcore and softcore, regional horror, and quirky independent films. And one might think they take the masters and release them on barebones discs with love. That’s the farthest from the truth! Look no further for the care and attention they put forth than their 4K UHD/Blu-ray release of 1993’s Ticks.

You read that correctly; Ticks has a 4K release!

Ticks tell the well-worn tale of a marijuana farmer, played by Clint Howard, whose chemicals mutate the local tick population—those ticks are now on the loose and attacking a handful of teens brought together for a bonding experience. The kids and the few adults with them must fight off the increasingly pesky and unnaturally large ticks that are, figuratively, out for blood. It’s a tale as old as time.

Ticks came about during an impressionable time for me. My taste in cinema was forming, and seeing Ticks on cable more than once nestled into a soft spot in my heart. Even though I hadn’t seen the movie in many years, I recall memories of moments that stood out for me. From Clint Howard being the boss he is, the gooey effects, and the fate of Alfonso Ribeiro’s character, Panic, they’re all good memories. I was eager to revisit the film when Vinegar Syndrome announced the title, even if I raised an eyebrow at it getting the 4K treatment.

The release comes with a hardcover slipcase featuring the newly-commissioned Vinegar Syndrome artwork. Inside the cover, the disc also features a slipcase that showcases the original art. Inside the case, Vinegar Syndrome offers a reversible art wrap with the Vinegar Syndrome design on one side and the VHS design on the other.

Jarvis stands in the forest with his face swollen and bloody.

While the disc may not contain many features, the supplemental material provided is plenty for any fan of Ticks.

An archival audio commentary featuring director Tony Randel, Clint Howard, and moderator Nathaniel Thompson kicks things off. The three participants make for an excellent group as Randel and Howard reminisce about the film’s production, with Thompson chiming in to offer his thoughts while moving the conversation at an entertaining pace. Randel discusses behind-the-scenes information including the substantial reshoots involving Clint Howard, how the film got off the ground, and his thoughts on the overall product.

Clint Howard, always the character, balances a tone between joking at the film’s expense and offering his thoughts on the film. As a prominent focal point of the reshoots, having him on board helps the listener understand some of the film’s difficulties. He also discusses his experience in the Hollywood system and his overall thoughts on Ticks. I enjoyed this discussion and am glad Vinegar Syndrome included this track for this release.

Vinegar Syndrome includes a second, recently-recorded commentary featuring special effects supervisor Doug Beswick and stop-motion animator Yancy Calzada and moderated by filmmaker Joe Begos. I’m a bit more lukewarm on this track, mainly involving Begos. Beswick and Calzada are slightly more subdued than the first audio track but offer plenty of technical production information. Begos, acting as moderator and fan of Ticks, has a habit of talking over the other participants and swearing to be descriptive. I don’t care if someone curses, but using it as a descriptor instead of other words in the vocabulary comes off as a bit annoying. Also, as someone described as a fan of the film, there are many instances where he didn’t know details about the movie and had to rely on Beswick and Calzada to fill in. There’s good stuff here, but it’s not as entertaining as the Randel/Howard/Thompson track.

The only other feature is “Under the Skin,” a three-part making-of documentary. Featuring Randel, Beswick, executive producer Brian Yuzna and others, “Under the Skin” makes for a solid companion piece to the audio commentaries. The documentary compiles many people associated with the film and benefits from this by allowing more people to discuss different aspects of the film. Yuzna discusses his mild personality clashes with Randel, Beswick details the origins of the Ticks story, and editor Leslie Rosenthal talks about the challenges of cutting a film that didn’t work after the initial shoot. I enjoyed “Under the Skin” as it balanced stories told in the commentary tracks with new information to complete a full picture of how Ticks came to be.

A spike emerging from Panic's knee.

And there you have it! For people around my age, I’m sure if you’ve seen Ticks, it holds a special place for you. Revisiting it after many years brought back those special memories. No longer relegated to the bowels of VHS stores, Vinegar Syndrome showed this straight-to-video gem the love it deserves with a physical media release that does the opposite of suck.

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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