HDD Goodie Bag: Your Horror Blu-rays For Halloween 2013

Posted Tue Oct 1, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT by

It's that time of the year again when High-Def Digest scrapes together a maggot-infested candy bowl of fun to help you prepare for Halloween!

What's in the Goodie Bag? --- Horror Blu-rays for this Halloween Season!

by M. Enois Duarte (The HDD Crypt Keeper)

Greetings, boils and ghouls!

The Hell-idays are upon once again and here at High-Def Die-gest, your pal, the Crypt Keeper, exorcises my top selection of gory treats in celebration of the year's most fearsome season. That's right, kiddies, instead of rotting your gray matter with useless moving pictures, full of romance and drama, I've scraped together a terror list of putrid horror tales sure to set you in the proper feast-ivities mood. It's a time to snuggle next to a warm body (you know, before it gets cold), light some hellish candles, and hang out in front of your crypt theater.

The scary stories are separated into three stomach-churning categories and in alphabetical order. The queasy gathering is organ-ized and degraded according to each title's ability to deliver a spooky atmosphere, and offer you creeps the best variety in scares and cryptic laughter. So, without further ado . . .

Frights! Camera! Hack-tion!


"Why Won't You Die!"


Arguably, Guillermo del Toro's second most well-regarded film — 'Pan's Labyrinth' being his best work yet — this little saga about a haunted all-boys orphanage is also an intelligent, spooky campfire tale on the loss of innocence. Set during the last year of the Spanish Civil War, just as the country was doomed to enter a decades-long period of authoritarian dictatorship, a newly-arrived orphan, Carlos, witnesses the cruelty of men when possessed by greed and the pursuit of power. Engulfed with an atmosphere of apprehension, an emblematic reminder of death's relative proximity resting comfortably in the middle of the courtyard, the ghost of a murdered boy that looks like a shattered porcelain doll walks the grounds, forcing the lonely, abandoned boys to confront the realities of the world.


EVIL DEAD (2013)

The biggest surprise of the year is all the more shocking because it's a remake of a much-beloved cult horror classic. Or should I say, it pretends to be a remake. The gorily twisted and intensely frenetic movie from Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez is more along the lines of a reboot and very loose continuation of a storyline surrounding the mysterious Sumerian "Book of the Dead." This vision is ultimately in the spirit of the sequel in the original series while also returning to the more straightforward tension and horror of the first movie by Sam Raimi. But whatever background info we attach to it doesn't take away the brutally visceral display of violence that'll put a giant grin on the faces of the most ardent of gore-hounds everywhere. Alvarez does the franchise justice and delivers an extremely terrifying experience.



Granted, whatever horror and scares were to be found in the 'Friday the 13th' franchise died ages ago — probably soon after the first movie signaled the rise of the holiday-themed "slasher" movie flooding theaters. Nevertheless, the movies have become a staple of the Halloween season, practically cemented into the cultural conscious so deeply that one need not watch a single 'Friday' flick to instantly recognize the hockey mask and machete of Jason Voorhees. They continue to be enjoyed not only by the devoted fanbase, but by many thinking each installment as kitsch, quaint, campy entertainment with creative kills and good special makeup effects. My personal favorites have always been 'The Final Chapter' with little Corey Feldman and 'Jason Takes Manhattan' as the last 'Friday' movie I watched in theaters.



The biggest surprise of the summer, which also became the shocking sleeper hit of the year, is this relatively low budget supernatural horror film. From James Wan, director of the first 'Saw' entry, 'Insidious' and other scary movies, the story about one family's frightening ordeal with increasingly bloodcurdling paranormal activity in their newly purchased farmhouse is a sensational spectacle of old-school frights. The plot is inspired by one of many reported cases of unexplained hauntings by Ed and Lorraine Warren, the same married team of paranormal investigators that also studied 'The Amityville Horror' hauntings. With minimal use of spectacular special effects or CGI, Wan splendidly creates a macabre, spine-chilling atmosphere where mysterious noises and pitch-black shadows are incredibly creepy, making for an awesome Halloween treat to enjoy.



It's great seeing long-time favorites like this 1944 supernatural classic from Lewis Allen given the Blu-ray treatment. Similar to the above, this wonderfully macabre hair-raiser follows a pair of hapless siblings, Ruth Hussey and Ray Milland, vacationing in an affordable seaside house only to discover they are not alone. All sorts of inexplicable sounds haunt the dark hallways, a chilling air feels like the presence of death and things move in the shadows. It's the chilling atmosphere and an endless sense of dread about the house, like someone is in the room, which really makes the film incredibly creepy and nerve-wracking. Allen, who is probably best known for his work in such TV hits as 'Bonanza,' 'The Fugitive' and 'Mission: Impossible,' was in top-form here, generating a frightful mystery we want to solve along with the brother-sister duo.



Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
Black Sabbath, The Blob (1958), The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition, Eyes Without a Face, The Fly (1958), Halloween: 35th Anniversary Edition, Maniac (2012), A Nightmare on Elm Street Collection, One Hour Photo, A Tale of Two Sisters, The Vincent Price Blu-ray Collection


"I'll Be Right Back"


What's Halloween without a barrel of fun and lots of laughs, and what better way to do so than in a monster movie franchise that has embraced its chewy, corny, campy center with a cheeky sense of humor and lots of goofy action. In a horror series revolving around a kid's doll that looks creepily similar to the My Buddy doll and possessed by a twisted serial killer, the unintentional comedy seems rather inevitable. The first movie is undoubtedly the best of the bunch since it attempts to be a straightforward scary actioner in spite of its sillier moments. It's the terrible sequel where we see a sudden shift towards the ridiculous and absurd, with part three introducing more satire and black comedy. Once we enter into 'Bride of Chucky' territory, the franchise becomes an outlandishly campy horror comedy that's enjoyed more for its over-the-top silliness and Chucky's inappropriate wisecracks than any remote possibility of being scared, making it a great choice for fun this spooky season.



Anytime a Hammer Films classic is made available to own, it instantly becomes a must for Halloween in my book. Horror cinema has never looked as stunningly beautiful or gorgeously stylish as it did during the short period when the independent British production company was at the height of popularity. Their films, and this is especially true for the two 'Dracula' features with Christopher Lee in the starring role, are gushing with a gothic atmosphere, oozing with a highly melodramatic bent and teeming with an understated sense of eroticism that's arresting. While horror fans in Great Britain welcome the release of a special edition to the first 'Dracula' movie (known in the U.S. as 'Horror of Dracula'), American audiences will have to make do with the sequel, 'Prince of Darkness.' And for Hammer purists, the delectable 'The Brides of Dracula,' which lacks Lee's Dracula but features the brilliant Peter Cushing playing Van Helsing, as he does in all three movies, is also available on Blu-ray in the U.K. Whatever your pleasure, all three can be enjoyed as standalone flicks and are a great way to celebrate Halloween.



In keeping with the supernatural theme of the above section, why not continue the trend with another classic, especially one that used to haunt the childhood dreams of this reviewer. I can still remember after watching this spooky adaptation of the Shirley Jackson book waking in the middle of the night and seeing weird things in my house. Director Robert Wise ('The Day the Earth Stood Still,' 'West Side Story,' 'The Sound of Music') generates an air of mystery and suspense with the strange and freaky goings-on in a creepy mansion that seems to have a mind of its own. Working closely with cinematographer Davis Boulton and editor Ernest Walter, Wise's camerawork is absolutely marvelous, utilizing a rich variety of camera shots, angles and tricks to awe-inspiring effectiveness. It's a beautifully crafted horror picture of psychological terror that's both spectacular and scary.



And the laughs keep coming in a laugh-a-minute, end-of-the-world comedy. Yes, the apocalyptic movie by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg is really more of a direct comedy than it is a straightforward horror flick, but the surprise box-office hit of the summer offers plenty of scares to enjoy along with the endless amount of raunchy humor. One of the cleverest aspects of the story about six friends trapped inside James Franco's house while the Biblical apocalypse erupts all around is a cast of actors poking fun at themselves and their Hollywood personas. It's a laugh riot of chaos and panic, a frantic ball of sheer madness when poor Jonah Hill is violated, Craig Robinson turns into whimpering baby, Danny McBride's dark side is really disgustingly dark and Hermione steals everyone's food supply. 'This Is the End' is a great blast of comedy and some funnily scary moments — and I'm not only referring to Satan's schlong either.



Admittedly, this apocalyptic vision of a worldwide zombie pandemic is ultimately more an action blockbuster spectacular than a straightforward fright-fest, but sometimes we like thrills and things that go boom mixed in with the blood, gore, and scares. It adds a bit flavor and spice to this life we call horror cinema. Of course, the original theatrical cut of the movie lacks a smidge of the excitement and graphic violence expected of your standard zombie flick, but spectacles of complete chaos and panic are in abundance. In light of that fact, some readers may wonder its inclusion to the list; however, the extended unrated version puts back the missing carnage and bloodshed, making it the preferred, recommended way to watch. Starring Brad Pitt and his scarf on a sightseeing mission to the glamorous sites of zombie mayhem, the movie is a decently entertaining watch this season.



Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
The Amityville Horror Trilogy, The Awakening, The Burning, Castle Freak, Creepshow 2, Day of the Dead (1985), Demons, Demons 2 (or the Demons/Demons 2 (Limited Edition Steelbook)), The Devil Bat, The Fog (1980), Fright Night 2: New Blood, From Beyond, Idle Hands, House of Wax - 3D, The Howling, In the Mouth of Madness, The Lords of Salem, Prince of Darkness, Prison, Psycho II, Psycho III, Sinister, Stoker, Subspecies: The Blu-ray Collection, White Zombie


Dead End Ahead (Stay Away!)


The spoof movie has become a popular trend lately for some bizarre reason. I suppose cheap production costs with huge profit returns have as much to do with it as actually having an audience gullible enough to fork out the cash to watch them — which is really pretty sad. I just can't figure out why. Unfunny garbage like 'A Haunted House' and 'Scary Movie 5' lack satire, comedy, or any clear understanding of the movies being ridiculed. The filmmakers really don't have a clue of what exactly they want to parody or why. They're ultimately nothing more than an excuse for gross-out gags involving various bodily functions, for being as raunchy as humanly allowed by the MPAA or simply to capitalize on an audience wanting to waste their money. You know Marlon Wayans is doing this just to stay relevant; Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan do it to remind TMZ viewers they're still alive; and Ashley Tisdale does it because she is convinced she's a good actress moviegoers want to see on the big screen.



It seems like a regular pattern that once an actor hits mainstream success they must follow it up with something so far from left field that it's bound to be complete and utter garbage. For the highly-promising talent Jennifer Lawrence, this flimsy, dopey psychological thriller is one for the record books, one which she can proudly show off on her resume. Lawrence spends her time on screen rolling her eyes at literally everything and making grumpy, humbug faces as a nosey, troublesome teen in desperate need of a spanking. More shocking and terrifying than the movie itself is the fact that filmmakers actually think being a maddeningly irritating brat is perfectly acceptable as the heroine, but by story's end, I was disappointed she wasn't on the list of the killer's victims. The narrative is essentially a moronic, nonsensical array of very convenient plot devices, and the final twist in the end, as unexpected as it admittedly was, makes no sense since it only gives rise to more questions as to how that would even be possible.



My general dislike of this ridiculously stupid movie is summed up by Jessica Chastain's even more ridiculously stupid performance as some kind of heartless, self-centered Gothic punk rocker. For a good chunk of the time, she was an annoying imbecile witha god-awful wig that I wanted to rip off her head and burn — along with the movie itself and my memory of ever having to sit through this asinine piece of garbage. Making matters worse is seeing Guillermo del Toro's name attached to this disastrous dreck of the same old hat trick, aggravating jump scares and one of the lamest, most irritating ghosts I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing on screen. How in the world is it that a horror film manages to annoy and frustrate more than scare? And just to add insult to injury, why not finish with an over-the-top, completely senseless conclusion.



This is another in a string of modern horror movies which spew the usual tired and uninspired clichés to scare audiences but only manage to bore horror hounds to sleep. It's a shame, really, because this is a sad missed opportunity at bringing the first possession freak show based on Jewish folklore to the big screen. Inspired by the creepy legend of the dybbuk box, a cabinet that serves as a prison for malevolent, exorcised demons, the story follows a little girl's resisting one such evil spirit from taking over her body and soul. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick star as the parents needing to work out whatever personal issues they may have with one another in order to save their daughter. From producers Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, the plot attempts to be a subtle metaphor for the psychological damage of divorce on children, but in the end, even Matisyahu can't save this abysmal marriage of Jewish folklore and horror.



I'm convinced we're living in a rather sad and depressing era for movies and filmmaking in general. Sequels, reboots, and remakes are really nothing new in Hollywood, but in the last couple decades, the practice has grown to the point of an accepted business tactic of regurgitating what worked in the past rather encouraging originality and creativity, producing more bad movies than good. Even worse, this new habit has spread into the horror genre like some sort of incurable infection with very few making the effort to treat or remedy the problem.

So, I'd like to take a brief moment to scream hysterically at this year's crop of crap, starting with two god-awful attempts at reviving Tobe Hooper's 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre': one returning 'The Beginning' while another adds a third dimension. One 'Grave Encounters,' the boringly idiotic low-budget supernatural bomb, was bad enough, and we definitely did not need a worse, doubly idiotic follow-up. Ignoring the confusing title for a moment, 'The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia' is lacking in ghosts, scares, decent filmmaking or pretty much anything to make this mess worth revisiting. 'The Last Exorcism Part II' and 'Silent Hill: Revelation' are sequels to mediocre movies no wanted or even watched. And I'd much rather sit through a battle between Victor Crowley ('Hatchet III') and Pinhead ('Hellraiser VII: Deader') where the two finally die and take up permanent residence in hell, next door to 'Paranormal Activity 4' .



Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
The ABC's of Death, The Awful Dr. Orlof, Dark Skies, Dead Souls, The Demented, Embrace of the Vampire, The Grapes of Death, The House of Seven Corpses, Oasis of the Zombies, Phantasm II, The Purge, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Under the Bed, X-Ray / Schizoid, Zombie Lake


WANTS FOR NEXT YEAR (Now, This is What I Can Sink My Teeth Into)

This past year saw quite an abundance of scary movies released in high definition, so here's hoping for the best and that studios will take note of what horror aficionados really hunger for, of what will truly please our insatiable appetites. Some of these are available on Blu-ray in other parts of the world, but since they are region locked, this list is offered in hopes of one day receiving an announcement of a North American release. Please share your own wish lists in our forums.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Alone in the Dark (1982), The Beyond, Blood and Black Lace, The Brood, Candyman, Cannibal Apocalypse, The Changeling, The Children (1980), Dellamore Dellamorte (Cemetery Man), Don't Look Now, Eden Lake, Freaks (1932), Ginger Snaps, Hell Night, The Hunger, It's Alive (1974), The Legend of Hell House, Martyrs, May, Night of the Living Dead (1968), Nightmare City, Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Peeping Tom, Phantasm, Prom Night (1980), Scanners, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Stepford Wives (1975), Shadow of the Vampire, Sleepaway Camp, The Tenant .


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