Editorial: Who Are Echo Bridge and Mill Creek, and What’s With These Cheap Horror Movie Packs?

I’m sure that several of you here might have an interest in horror movies just as much as you would various genres of metal and other dark-tinged things that we cover. Well, I myself have been collecting these little gems for years now in the form of those small movie packs that you see at Walmart, Cosco or various dollar stores around the country. In particular, these packs turned me onto Full Moon, which is still IMO the best of the small independent movie studios out there today. Most of these collections, called “10 Movie Horror Collection” or “Man-Cave Pack” (yep, I snagged this one at a gas station) or recently, “Big Box of Horror” are all either handled by Echo Bridge and Mill Creek. But who are they?

Well, both companies are essentially acquisition firms that buy the rights to everything from classic public domain films from the fifties all of the way up to low budget indies from a few years ago that just didn’t leave a mark. You’ll notice such classic actors as Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price and even Christopher Lee prominently featured either on the front of the cases themselves, or listed in bold below the film titles on the back. What’s more, is that somehow or another Echo Bridge (now Echo Bridge Acquisition Corp) once obtained the rights to Miramax. According to Wikipedia they have since lost these rights, but when they still had them a slew of classic and actually memorable horror pictures were featured on the discs, everything from Hellraiser and Children Of The Corn to films like The Crow and The Prophecy. At one time this even included David Lynch‘s Existenz. Yes, I know – these are some of the most beloved and classic horror/sci-fi franchises being released in packs on the cheap. Best of all, the quality of these films was quite good – on par with what you’d expect from the actual DVDs themselves. If you purchase the Hellraiser Collection pack, it features very good rips of Hellraiser III-VIII, for example. It’s still one of the few Miramax packs still being released, albeit under another licensee (I believe it is Lionsgate).

Mill Creek have also had their share of hits, as they had actually gotten the rights to Merlin and it’s sequel Merlin’s Apprentice, which are both beloved cult films. But mostly you’ll find that Mill Creek have the rights to a vast number of international black and white films, including some that were never officially released on DVD and some that appear to be internet rips from some other source. A good rule of thumb to remember when trying your luck on these packs is that Echo Bridge have the newer films, feature mostly in-color and are inundated with a metric ton of weird indies, which are hit or miss. As I said, they’ve aquired so many licenses for what is more or less nothing and have redistributed these films in any way that they saw fit. But now, something different has happened with the way both companies approach these packs and while it should be illegal, I don’t think this process will change until enough complaints have been raised. They’re now allowed to package two front covers together so that the reader cannot see what films they’re getting. The same has occurred with Mill Creek, who literally designed two front covers with a different aesthetic on each side (one advertising monsters and the other advertising the undead). The viewer may think that they’re getting new horror movies by the look of the covers alone, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth: Instead, what you’re picking up is a bunch of classic films from the fifties and sixties, nearly all of them in black and white and ripped from the TV by use of some internet source. I can say this, because some of these films were only featured on the TV and even have what I would consider “old school commercials” which would more or less introduce the films. (I’d like to add that our designs for the refrigerator and range oven have not really changed since the fifties, which I found interesting).

Echo Bridge has a great deal of Full Moon films, and in prior packs released more of them in one collection. In the two recent packs I bought – I only found two. I’m not quite sure why this is, but it might be because of the amount of money that Full Moon are making from Kickstarters, DVD/Blu sales and Full Moon Streaming. In other words, Charles Band isn’t suffering as much as he may have been when he first started these acquisitions. In fact, he may have even aquired the rights back to some of the movies that he had to acquisition off beforehand. In any case, the quality of Full Moon matches the quality of their DVDs and is definitely worth a purchase if you can actually find a pack with the titles listed. That being said, either Echo Bridge or the indie production teams themselves don’t really give two shits about the quality of some of their films. A few look alright, but some are incredibly fuzzy and about at the level you’d expect from some badly ripped bootleg that you bought from a strange guy in the alley. I don’t exactly mind, so long as I can see it and get into the film – but some of you might, especially if you loved the movie and it’s tough to aquire an actual copy of the film’s long out of print DVD. Ebay helps, but it’s not a miracle worker. This being said, it’s actually kind of silly to put an FBI Warning on these discs to begin with – especially when one can see that the sources have been “legally bootlegged” in some cases, which makes it seem silly in retrospect. As the acquisitors don’t have any other source to copy from, they literally seemed to have dragged it off the internet by means of some other person’s capture. You can tell that with all the fuzz in these pictures, as only the good sources are clear.

What I find most interesting, is that for several years Echo Bridge have long referred to themselves as Echo Bridge Entertainment, but recently changed their name over to Echo Bridge Acquisition Corp. Okay, now we know what’s really been going on here and it makes more sense to the viewer/purchaser in general. So when you buy these packs, you’re essentially paying for aquisitioned property that was long lost and nearly fell into public domain. If Miramax fell into public domain, it would have been a horrible situation for them as thousands of classic and modern films would have just been thrown up right onto YouTube or the internet archives for free viewing/downloading exc. I suppose that’s one reason why they felt Echo Bridge was useful and why the two keep releasing and will continue to keep releasing these film packages every year. Halloween is usually their biggest season of course, but other compeititors are starting to see that money can be easily made by releasing their own films in such a way – like the Paranormal Activity or Leprechaun collections, for example. Cheaply priced, these films arrive in great, non-bootlegged quality and feel like they’ve been ripped right from their respective DVD’s, yes even the “In The Hood” series. Lionsgate in particular have been releasing a lot of these, and the fact that they also produce many of brand new Hollywood pictures is definitely keeping them in business as well.

Ironing out the finer points, I would stress that you wait until these DVDs are as cheap as they can possibly be – especially if you cannot find the movie lists on the back. As I said, they’ve just started doing that and spending anything more than five dollars on these packs is going to be like a wasted gamble. I work for Walmart, where we recently had a “$3.74 Sale” for dozens of DVDs, these guys included. So I picked up about three packs for around nine or twelve bucks. I feel that I got my money’s worth for the most part as there some interesting films included here, especially a few from the nineties that seem decent like “The Asylum”, “Zombies Vs. Strippers” and “Don’t Look Down” among others. But yeah, don’t go from the awesome cover artwork, as it has very little to do with the films in general – especially the artwork that they like to give to each movie cover when you see them advertised on the front and back (31 Horror Collection Pack) of these packs. They definitely have some skilled artists, which is probably one of the biggest reasons that some of these films are doing as well as they are – that eye-catching art really appeals to horror fans. Chances are that if you’re expecting some interesting indies and can’t look at the films included, you might be getting anything from Flash Gordon to Vincent Price, which while are certainly not bad choices by a longshot – are certainly not the kinds of films you were looking for. Use caution when buying these things, because there are a lot of hits and misses with them. Happy viewing!

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