by Daniel Hirshleifer
It's that time of year again. The jack-o'-lanterns are out, the scarecrows are up, and everyone's donning costumes. Yes, it's Halloween, the scariest holiday of them all. Horror movies have always been a staple of the season, but what most people don't realize is the long relationship between the genre and 3D. In every wave of 3D, from the 50s to the 80s all the way up to the present, horror films have always taken advantage of the format.
Of course, until recently the only way to catch a 3D showing would be if a local theater ran a print. On TV, you could put up with anaglyph red and blue glasses, but those ruined the colors while also delivering a subpar 3D experience. That's all changed thanks to the introduction of 3D TVs and Blu-rays using shutter or polarization technology.
Now that you can enjoy all sorts of 3D films at home, what better place to celebrate Halloween than with the horror films that have so long been staples of the format?
Image Quality To Die For
The film itself shows the series getting long in the tooth, but 'The Final Destination' was designed to look good in 3D, and it does not disappoint. The lengths the filmmakers go to incorporate 3D into their gruesome kills is an impressive sight to behold. And the transfer translates this intention perfectly, improving not just the picture but the fun factor of the whole movie. If you need demo material, this is a great disc to grab off the shelf.
While 'Prometheus', Ridley Scott's not-exactly-a-prequel to 'Alien', was incredibly divisive, the one thing that audiences agreed on was that it displayed an excellent use of 3D. If you're a fan of the flick, then this Blu-ray is a must own, with an incredible sense of depth and a practically perfect transfer.
Director Paul Anderson (that's WS, not Thomas) returns to the franchise for its fourth outing. Say what you will about Anderson, but the man knows how to use 3D. Instead of only showing it off in a few select sequences, he naturally integrates the depth, layering elements in the foreground, middle, and background to create a true sense of space. Forget 'Avatar'; if you want a truly immersive 3D experience, look no further than WS Anderson. The image is so good that Nate Boss dubbed it, "The Best 3D Disc Yet".
A Blood-Sucking Good Time
Based on the best-selling book from the author of 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies', 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' reveals an alternate history, where Lincoln, as the title suggest, hunts vampires. For a premise that outlandish, director Timur Bekmambetov plays things relatively straight while offering stylish action sequences that really pop in 3D.
While the movie itself was a poor effort, 'Underworld: Awakening' is pure demo material heaven. The use of 3D is impressive, with plenty of layering and visual elements designed to make use of the format. And besides, where else will you ever see Kate Beckinsale wearing skintight leather in three dimensions?
Hungry For 3D?
Alexandre Aja's in-name-only remake of Joe Dante's Corman creature feature was a surprisingly fun time at the movies, offering a perfect mix of T&A, gore, and inside jokes. While the film was shot in 2D and later post-converted to 3D, the transfer looks so good that it doesn't matter.
A freak tsunami becomes a buffet line for a pair of killer sharks in this low-budget Australian disaster flick. The film isn't perfect, with a meandering second half and poor CGI, but its first half provides some good fun. The 3D presentation favors the gimmicky side of the format, with the sharks practically swimming off the screen. If you want something firmly in the B-movie tradition, then this might satisfy your hunger.
For The Little Monsters
Based on Neil Gaiman's delightful book, 'Coraline' is a marvel. Using pain-staking stop motion, the filmmakers bring not one but two worlds to life, populated with enigmatic and memorable characters. Gaiman's story is artfully adapted, resulting in a film that is mesmerizing, haunting, a little scary, and a whole lot of fun. Heck, it even has a song by They Might Be Giants! The animation, utilizing physical objects instead of CGI, offers an incredible amount of detail, which looks all the more brilliant in its native 3D.
A post-converted re-release of the Disney classic, 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' is perfect for Halloween. The film is set in Halloween Town, for heaven's sake! With memorable character designs by Tim Burton and catchy tunes from Danny Elfman, 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' is a treat no matter how old you are. As far as post-conversion jobs go, 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' was one of the earliest and still one of the best, as Disney put a lot of time into the process. The result is a pleasing Blu-ray that will get played in your home over and over.
A family film that still manages to ratchet up the tension and atmosphere. 'Monster House' may not be the all-time classic that 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' is, but it was designed from the ground up for 3D, and it shows on this Blu-ray, which sports a strong transfer with plenty of dimensionality.
The last of the classic Universal monsters, 'The Creature From The Black Lagoon' was also an early high profile 3D release. People have the misconception that early 3D was anaglyph and gimmicky, and films like 'Creature' prove them one hundred percent wrong. The 3D has a wonderful sense of depth and immersion to it, and the Blu-ray offers a strong presentation.
If straight up horror and gore isn't your thing, you might appreciate Alfred Hitchock's sole foray into the 3D format. While 'Dial M For Murder' isn't his best, his use of 3D is masterful; creating a sense of three-dimensional space that feels like looking through a window. If you didn't know better, you might believe you could reach through the screen and touch Grace Kelly, something I'm sure many audience members wanted to do during the film's theatrical release.
Best Left In The Coffin
I remember catching this one, an early entry in the new wave of 3D, in the theaters. Starring Jensen Ackles of 'Supernatural' fame, the film disappoints on many levels. However, it does feature an extended sequence where a nude woman runs away from the murderer in horror, quite the sight in 3D.
Most people don't know this, but Conan author Robert E. Howard was in close communication with horror legend HP Lovecraft, and many Conan stories feature nameless beasts that felt right at home with the Cthulhu Mythos. This 2011 adaptation of Howard's work has more than its fair share of flaws, but one thing it does not lack is monsters. From witches to a giant underwater creature, 'Conan The Barbarian' doesn't shy away from the fantastical. Sadly, the 3D is underused, leaving the whole package with much to be desired.
While Disney proved that movies based on rides could be big business, 'The Shock Labyrinth,' based on The Haunted Hospital attraction at the Fuji-Q Highland theme park, does not manage to replicate such success. Nor is it a very good horror film, with many of the set pieces coming off as laughable instead of scary. The 3D presentation is also quite poor, marking 'The Shock Labyrinth' as a film best left unwatched.
No matter which way your tastes run, from the gory to the goofy, there's a 3D horror film to satisfy your nocturnal cravings. What are your favorite 3D horror films? Which films are you still waiting to see in the format? Let us know in the forums!