October 19, 2007: Another crop of scary movies on DVD, this new batch once again spans the
past 75 years, hailing from all over the world.
1. Masters of Horror: Season One (Anchor Bay Entertainment, $79.98)
Anchor Bay Entertainment has released a spectacular, 14-disc box set
containing the complete first season of "Masters of Horror," including a
new bonus disc. (The box comes in the shape of a mausoleum and should
spice up your shelf quite nicely.) Mick Garris, probably best known for his television
adaptations of Stephen King, concocted the idea for this series, which
would allow thirteen horror directors, ranging from veterans to
newcomers, to do anything they wanted with an hour's time for the small
screen. For his first season, he assembled the following new films:
Chocolate (Mick Garris), Cigarette Burns (John Carpenter), Dance of the
Dead (Tobe Hooper), Deer Woman (John Landis), Dreams in the Witch-House
(Stuart Gordon), The Fair-Haired Child (William Malone), Haeckel's Tale
(John McNaughton), Homecoming (Joe Dante), Imprint (Takashi Miike),
Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (Don Coscarelli), Jenifer (Dario
Argento), Pick Me Up (Larry Cohen), and Sick Girl (Lucky McKee).
2. American Silent Horror Collection (Kino, $49.95)
In 2002, Kino Video released the four-disc "German Horror Classics" set,
and now they have followed up with an equally impressive American set
and, interestingly, the two best films, The
Cat and the Canary (1927) and The Man Who Laughs (1928), come from Paul Leni, a German
émigré living in Hollywood. The set also includes John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
and Lon Chaney in The Penalty (1920), plus a documentary Kingdom of Shadows (1998).
3. 1408 (2007, Dimension, $32.95)
John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, another of Stephen King's writer characters, this one a talented scribe who wastes his time writing about haunted hotels. He has never actually seen a supernatural occurrence, and so when he hears about a particularly nasty room in New York's Dolphin Hotel, he can't resist.
4. Black Sheep (2007, Dimension, $24.95)
Coming from New Zealand, this impeccably filmed comedy horror film echoes An American Werewolf in London and early Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, but it has its own unique energy, and it's a must-see. After a horrifying incident as a child, Henry Oldfield (the appealing Nathan Meister) now lives in the big city, harboring an intense fear of sheep. He returns to his family's farm to sell his share to his brother Angus (Peter Feeney), hoping to put it all behind him. At the same time, two environmental activists, the cute Experience (Danielle Mason) and the none-too-bright hippie Grant (Oliver Driver), sneak onto the farm to expose Angus's sinister biological experiments. They inadvertently free a discarded, mutated sheep, causing an outbreak of carnivorous sheep zombies.
5. Poltergeist (25th Anniversary Edition) (1982, Warner Home Video, $19.98)
In the suburbs, a young girl (Heather
O'Rourke) begins hearing voices from the television set, and is soon
abducted into the screen. Her father (Craig T. Nelson), mother (JoBeth
Williams), older sister Dana (Dominique Dunne) and brother Robbie
(Oliver Robins) attempt to find her. They hire a medium (Zelda
Rubinstein) to clean the "possessed" house, and each experiences spooky
occurrences of their own. Robbie battles a demon tree, while other
characters are plagued with things like steak. (All of these terrifying
things are found in any suburban home.)
6. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983, Warner Home Video, $19.97)
Like all anthology films, this one -- based on Rod Serling's
groundbreaking TV series (1959-64) -- has its high and low points, and
not where you'd expect. John Landis, Steven Speilberg, Joe Dante and George Miller each direct a segment.
7. Demons (1985, Anchor Bay Entertainment, $14.98)
Fans would agree that Demons is probably
Lamberto Bava's best film, not because it approaches his father Mario's work, but
because it's so ludicrously entertaining. (Dario Argento also worked on
it.) A creepy masked man invites several people to a free movie. A woman
cuts herself on a lobby display and turns into a zombie-like beastie.
After the first 20 minutes or so of watching the movie, the audience
realizes that it's trapped inside with a hoard of real monsters to deal
with (if anyone gets scratched they become infected and turn).
8. Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (35th Anniversay Exhumed Edition) (1972, VCI Entertainment, $19.98)
Before director Bob Clark scored with his horror masterpiece Black
Christmas (1974), he warmed up with this lower-budget effort. A group of
theater performers arrive on an island cemetery to perform supernatural
rituals on the dead -- perhaps for fun and perhaps not.
9. Bad Blood (a.k.a. Coisa Ruim) (2006, Tartan, $22.95)
This low-key haunted house film from Portugal has
been unfortunately repackaged for home video to look like something full
of shocks and thrills. But if you can get past expectations, it has a
nice, tense slow build and a surprising, worthwhile payoff. Xavier
Oliveira Monteiro (Adriano Luz) suddenly decides to leave behind the
stress of city life and move his family into a huge house in the
countryside that he has inherited. It turns out that terrible things once
happened in the house, and the family becomes subject to all-new, unexplained events.
10. The Film Crew: Killers from Space (2007, Shout! Factory, $19.99)
The second DVD release from The Film Crew (Bill Corbett, Michael J.
Nelson and Kevin Murphy) fares much better than their first, Hollywood
After Dark. Their latest target, W. Lee Wilder's horrible film Killers
from Space (1954), is quite a bit more fun. Peter Graves stars as a
pilot who is abducted by aliens (with big eyes cut from ping pong ball
halves) and told about a plan to take over the earth. Will anyone
believe him? Will anyone care?
11. Demons 2 (1986, Anchor Bay Entertainment, $14.98)
More of the same, this sequel takes place in a high rise apartment
building, where a television broadcast of a horror movie unleashes new
demons among the residents. Director Lamberto
Bava and co-writer Dario Argento keep things just this side of ludicrous
and the result is gory fun.
12. Unholy (2007, Anchor Bay Entertainment, $26.98)
This horror film has been received with yawns from most fans, but it has
a few passionate defenders as well. It's certainly different and not
without interest. Horror vet Adrienne Barbeau (The
Fog, Creepshow) stars as Martha, a mother of two. She arrives home just in time to see her
daughter blow her own head off. Her son Lucas (Nicholas Brendon, from
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer") arrives home to help, and they wind up in a
13. Creature Features Collection (2007, Elite, $14.98)
Elite's DVD collects three 45-minute documentaries on horror films,
focusing on "The Beasts," "The Machines" and "The Dead." I love clips
shows, but I was surprised to find quite a bit more than the usual
collection of AFI-approved snippets. Produced in France, the
documentaries are far more adventurous and obscure, and include bits
from Tim Burton's entire oeuvre, Truffaut's The Wild Child, Bela Tarr's
Werckmeister Harmonies, as well as choice clips from the silent era.
Refreshingly, there are no talking heads: just a sporadic narrator.
Gerald Cailliat, Thomas Briat and Pierre-Henry Salfati directed.