With Halloween just days away, it’s no surprise to see horror properties headlining this week’s new Blu-ray releases. What may be surprising, however, is just how few of them the studios have bothered to put out this year. Have all the good horror movies already been released?
‘Deliver Us from Evil‘ – The director of ‘Sinister’ and ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ attempts to mash up another exorcism flick with a cop-buddy picture. Eric Bana stars as the grizzled detective who’s seen things he can’t explain, and Joel McHale (?!) is his partner, who still wears a backwards baseball cap unironically. From what I’m told, the movie is not a comedy. It doesn’t look very good and most reviews confirmed as much.
‘Begin Again‘ – Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley star in a new romantic drama from the director of ‘Once’. Our theatrical reviewer Phil liked a lot about the movie except the music, which seems like kind of a big failing for a musical.
‘Wish I Was Here‘ – After the ‘Veronica Mars’ movie was successfully funded by fans via Kickstarter, Zach Braff tried to get in on a little of that action with his latest far-too-self-consciously-adorable directorial effort, featuring himself and ‘Scrubs’ co-star Donald Faison as quirkily angsty thirty-somethings facing existential crises about their lives and careers. The part that Braff’s Kickstarter campaign may have glossed over a bit was the fact that the movie had already been greenlit by a Hollywood studio and he didn’t actually need to beg fans for money, except that it was a lot more to his benefit to pay his investors in T-shirts rather than back-end profit participation. As for the movie, it looks horrible and every reviewer I trust has warned me away.
‘Life of Crime‘ – Author Elmore Leonard passed away last year. Reportedly, the TV series ‘Justified’ was the only adaptation of his work that he ever liked. This latest attempt to bring one of his books to screen (from virtually unknown director Daniel Schechter) stars Mos Def and John Hawkes as bumbling kidnappers (and characters who also appear in Quentin Tarantino’s adaptation of ‘Jackie Brown’) who try to ransom a rich guy’s wife (Jennifer Aniston), only to find that the husband is glad to be rid of her. Reviews were mixed.
When I was 16, I was obsessed with Clive Barker’s fantastical monster movie ‘Nightbreed‘. I saw it again years later, and it really didn’t hold up. Barker himself apparently agreed. The author/director claimed that the studio pressured him into making massive cuts to the movie before release which he regretted. For many years, the excised scenes were considered lost, until a VHS copy of some workprint footage turned up a few years ago. From that was constructed an extended version of the movie known as the “Cabal Cut” that had some limited specialty screenings among fan circles. Finally, with assistance from Shout! Factory, the original camera negatives were recently discovered, and Barker was allowed to put together a new Director’s Cut (somewhat different from the Cabal Cut) that he says is the movie he always wanted to make.
Controversially, Shout! Factory’s sub-label Scream Factory is releasing the movie on Blu-ray in two editions: a basic and reasonably-priced disc that includes the Director’s Cut and a bunch of new supplements, or a ridiculously overpriced Limited Edition that adds in a copy of the old theatrical cut. Yes, you’re expected to pay a premium to get the old, inferior version of the movie that tanked at the box office back in 1990. To rub salt in the wound, as soon as the so-called Limited Edition came close to selling out, Shout! simply doubled the limit – nullifying any collectible appeal for the fans who paid big money to get it before they missed their chance. I expect that most casual viewers will be content with just the standard Director’s Cut release.
Other horror schlock offerings available this week include the 1976 killer worm epic ‘Squirm‘ and Mario Bava’s 1965 sci-fi chiller ‘Planet of the Vampires‘.
On a completely different theme, the Criterion Collection brings us the 1988 Dutch kidnapping thriller ‘The Vanishing‘ (far superior to the later American remake, despite having the same director) and a new box set of ‘The Complete Jacques Tati‘. The latter includes six comedies by the famed French director, including a new remaster of ‘Playtime’ (which Criterion previously issued on Blu-ray back in 2009).
Finally, Olive Films helps to lift ‘Fedora‘, legendary director Billy Wilder’s second-to-last feature, out of obscurity. William Holden plays a desperate Hollywood producer who searches for a reclusive Golden Age movie star (basically, a fictionalized version of Greta Garbo). The movie was dismissed by audiences of 1978, but has had some critical re-evaluation in the years since.
Despite my misgivings about Scream Factory’s release strategy, I preordered ‘Nightbreed’ a while back. The two Criterion releases and ‘Fedora’ will go on my wish list for later.
Will you pick up anything this week?