Posted Mon Oct 20, 2014 at 04:00 PM PDT by M. Enois Duarte
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 us once again, and here at High-Def Die-gest, your pal, the Crypt Keeper, exorcises his 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 terrifying list of putrid horror tales sure to set you in the proper mood for all the feast-ivities. It's a time to snuggle up next to a warm body (you know, before it gets cold), light some hellish candles, and hang out in front of your crypt theater.
As the dead rise from their graves and bang away at your doors with frightful delight, your fiendish host celebrates his fifth spooktacular anniversary harvesting some truly terrifying sights in high definition, as studios have opened their vaults and unleashed horror titles by the hearse-load!
To make things quesy-er, 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 delivering a macabre atmosphere, offering the best variety of spooks, scares and creepy laughter. So, without further ado . . .
Frights! Camera! Hack-tion!
One of the most frightening films ever created may not be as effective to contemporary young moviegoers as it once was. But I would argue it remains one of the most shockingly and terrifyingly realistic motion pictures ever imagined, a suspenseful, methodical design engulfed in a brooding, sinister, psychological atmosphere that intensifies towards a disquieting, malevolent crescendo. William Friedkin's horror classic is admired and has endured for good reason. Sadly, the same can't be said for John Boorman's rather dull and awkwardly-paced sequel. However, the third entry in the series, directed by the original author William Peter Blatty, is a considerable improvement and quite creepy. The two prequels, directed by Renny Harlin and Paul Schrader respectively, are unfortunate disappointment, yet fans agree one is superior to the other.
This pick is pretty darn obvious, even to the most horror illiterate. Lovers of this spook-tacular season cannot go a year without revisiting Haddonfield, the birthplace of genre icon Michael Myers. Watching John Carpenter's "slasher" classic, the film that essentially started it all, is a traditional must-watch. The couple-years-late sequel couldn't match the suspense and fear of its predecessor, but it made for a strong continuation and conclusion for the night HE came home. The third is the black sheep of the series, yet it makes for a great possessed-masked treat with an awesomely creepy commercial jingle. The three entries that followed return to the Myers storyline, and while they fail for the most part, fans come back for more of the supernatural explanation to The Shape's indestructibility. 'H20' is a fun, atmospheric nostalgia trip that was sadly ruined by the abysmal 'Resurrection.' Rob Zombie's versions are included in the box set, though fans are torn between despising them or loving them.
The spookiest season of the year just isn't complete without at least one classic supernatural thriller, and this year's pick, without a moment's hesitation, has to go to one of the coolest, creepiest classics to come out of the 1960s. Starring Deborah Kerr and Michael Redgrave and directed by Jack Clayton, this beautifully shot and staged film about a governess and the haunted English country estate is the sort which slowly builds in tension and spine-tingling suspense. Based on Henry James's novella The Turn of the Screw, the mystery of the strange occurrences in the mansion and the bizarre behavior of the two children maintains audience attention while Freddie Francis's stunning cinematography complements the psychological horror with a dark, ominous shadows and chilling gothic atmosphere. Of this year's selection, this is arguably the best film of the list and a must-watch for Halloween.
Kevin Tenney's cult horror favorite is another devilishly good time that amazingly walks a thin line between hilariously bad and creatively inspired. The very low-budget but stylish production is a satisfying spectacle of ghastly delights, full of drunken teenage mayhem, bloodthirsty monsters infesting a spooky, dilapidated house, and of course, boobs! With limited resources, Tenney is able to turn what essentially feels like B-movie material, with performances to match, into an effectively scary thrill ride set inside an abandoned mortuary called "Hull House" (*wink, wink*). The plot cobbles together demons, urban legends, a murdered family backstory, evil spirits and Native Americans folklore into a cleverly disguised B-horror flick. Best of all, the gruesome pandemonium happens on Halloween night.
What's a Halloween bash without some silliness and laughter, and Amy Holden Jones's exploitation flick 'The Slumber Party Massacre' delivers the right mood of sly humor and gory absurdity. From a screenplay originally written by novelist, poet, and feminist activist Rita Mae Brown, it's a smart, tongue-in-cheek "slasher" that understatedly pokes fun at the subgenre by employing familiar clichés and conventions. Granted, the funny is mostly directed at those well-versed since several of the jabs are so subtle, they not only go over the heads of a few viewers, but some folks may even mistake the movie as a genuine horror feature, which then quickly turns to disappointment. However, the killer's brazen, flagrant and repeatedly hilarious use of a large portable power drill with an incredibly long drill bit is probably a blatant enough gag to understand the filmmakers' comical intentions.
Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
Alien: 35th Anniversary, American Horror Story: Coven, Audrey Rose, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1921), Curtains, Dan Curtis' Dracula, The Death Kiss, Dracula (1979), Evilspeak, A Field in England, Ginger Snaps: Collector's Edition, Interview with the Vampire: 20th Anniversary Edition, Lake Placid, The Legend of Hell House, Motel Hell, Ms. 45, Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Patrick, The People Under the Stairs, Prom Night (1980), Pumpkinhead, Ravenous, Scanners (Criterion), Silent Night, Deadly Night, Sleepaway Camp: Collector's Edition, Stage Fright (2014), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Toy Story of Terror!, Under the Skin, The Vanishing, The Vincent Price Collection II, The Wicker Man (1973)
On the surface, this 1998 sci-fi chiller starring Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Clea DuVall, Usher, Robert Patrick, Jon Stewart, Famke Janssen and Salma Hayek is a curious and bizarre hodgepodge of horror clichés and conventions. However, seeing as how the script comes from the knowledgeable imagination of Kevin Williamson ('Scream'), the film is a wonderfully subtle homage to the genre set against a high school backdrop. It's like enjoying and laughing at 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' occupying the John Hughes universe while pondering that eternal question asked of many teenagers: "Is my teacher from another planet?" With excellent direction by Robert Rodriguez, this subtly clever, surprisingly gory and delightful cult gem comes with lots of entertainment value and allusions any genre fanatic is sure to receive pleasure from, touching on various social concerns from bullying to fear of conformity.
As already mentioned, being scared and laughing seem to go hand in hand, so comedy and horror are often the perfect marriage between genres. This year saw one such delightful zombie farce from Argentinian filmmaker Alejandro Brugués set against the poverty-ridden streets of Cuba. Technically, the film has been around for the last three years but released in the U.S. two years ago, yet it didn't finally infect Blu-ray until this month, which explains its place on this year's list. Recalling the sly, clever sociopolitical themes of George Romero's classic horror flicks and the hilarious plot of 'Shaun of the Dead,' Brugués's story follows the mischievous, shiftless Juan and his inept, blundering best friend Lazaro as they try to survive the zombie apocalypse the only way they know how: like idiot hoodlums. Joined by other deadbeat friends, including one hilarious guy that faints at the sight of blood, 'Juan of the Dead' is an awesome, gorily hilarious surprise this Halloween.
Think what you want my ghoulish fiends, but James Wan and Leigh Whannell's 'Insidious' films have effectively given this horrorhound the heebie-jeebies. Admittedly, Wan's 'The Conjuring' is the superior film in many ways, but for this year's list of spooky features, this particular flick makes the cut with an audio quality that's disturbing, making listeners rush for the lights. Whannell's story, which essentially follows the similar path as its predecessor, is about a hair-raising woman in white haunting the same family as before. And Wan demonstrates a great eye for creating a spookily eerie vibe and using the frame for all its worth. By having the camera constantly moving, either in handheld motion or methodically slow dolly shots, he keeps his audience on edge and maintains an air of unnerving atmosphere.
It may seem weird to some that this series would make it so high on the list, but as mentioned above, part of the Halloween fun is having a few laughs along with the scares and spookiness. And unlike other franchises, although last year's Chucky series fits this bill perfectly, the green-coated Irish fairy creature with an unhealthy fetish for shiny objects is fun blend of silliness and creeps. Granted, the movies are sometimes too stupid for their own good, especially with later installments, but it's all in the name of supernatural fun. The first movie, which stars Warwick Davis in arguably his most memorable role and hilariously marks Jennifer Aniston as her first major performance, is filled with various laughs and some uproarious wisecracks. These moments are so bad and corny, you can't help but laugh at the inanity, particularly when delivered with genuine sincerity by Davis, making the movie all the funnier.
It should be said Mike Flanagan's supernatural horror flick makes it this high on the list partly because it's one of the more original spooky features released in a very long time. Loosely inspired by Flanagan's short film with a similar plot, the film's most surprising aspect is the conceit of making an antique mirror a haunted object responsible for destroying the perfect American family. Placing more emphasis on atmosphere and stage production over generic scare jumps and gory violence, the story builds on spine-tingling terror until a satisfyingly climactic and pleasingly unexpected finish. The other reason is for Flanagan's impressive direction, creating a surreal nightmarish experience that effectively blurs the lines between reality and imagination, as well as time and place. The performances are rather poor and mediocre, but the movie sets the right paranormal tone this ghoulish season.
Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
The Baby (1973), The Battery, The Blob (1988), Bloody Moon, Cannibal Holocaust, Cat People: Collector's Edition, Cauldron of Blood, Countess Dracula, The Dead 2: India, Deadly Eyes, The Demons, Die, Monster, Die!, Final Exam, Firestarter, The Flesh And Blood Show, Flowers in the Attic (1987), Frankenstein Created Woman, Frightmare, Godzilla (2014), Graduation Day, The House on Sorority Row, Jennifer (1978), Leviathan (1989), Mr. Jones, Nekromantik, Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, Rigor Mortis, The Sacrament, StageFright (1987), Squirm: Collector's Edition, Thirst (1979), The Visitor (1979), White Noise, Wolf Creek 2, The Wrong Turn Collection
To be fair, I really had high hopes for this remake of Brian De Palma's now-classic adaptation of Stephen King's 1974 horror novel. And why not? The script was adapted by playwright and comic-book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Kimberly Peirce, who also did 'Boys Don't Cry' and 'Stop-Loss.' How wrong could it possible go when the film stars two highly-talented actresses: Julianne Moore as the disturbed, overbearing, religious fanatic mother and Chloë Grace Moretz as her debilitating timid, meek and victimized daughter. Unfortunately, as good as it looks on paper, the end result is disappointment and a complete bore, turning what should have been the horrors of high school bullying and teenage angst expressed by the title's characters unknown telekinetic powers into an utterly dull teen melodrama. For delivering the chills this season, De Palma's original is the way go.
It seems as though Halloween tradition has grown in the last few decades to include all manner of spook and ghoul, from creepy dolls to gigantic, destructive monsters. In the 'Children of the Corn' series, the spooky ghouls are disturbed children that fanatically follow some bizarre cult religion and a maniacal god that demands the sacrifice of adults. Granted, the series is definitely not high on the scare-scale and frankly fails to deliver many thrills, but there is something strangely uncanny and disquieting about a group of bloodthirsty children that smile with glee at the opportunity of committing murder. And to be perfectly honest, the series as a whole is more for the cult enthusiast because in the end, the franchise is a chintzy and somewhat fun affair with a perceptive, cautionary eye on fanaticism and monomania.
Lacking in tension, scares, and a story that engages viewers in the slightest, 'The Monkey's Paw' aims to be a cautionary tale about tempting fate and being careful about what you wish for. Very, very loosely based on — more like a brief afterthought inspired by — W. W. Jacobs's 1902 horror short story, this Chiller Films production hangs by the thread of audiences believing the animated corpse of a deadbeat dad haunts the owner of a mummified talisman to wish him reunited with his son. Sadly, director Brett Simmons fails to ever turn the events, which structurally develops to a dramatic climax that pathetically finishes on a whimper, into anything meaningful, let alone remotely creepy or scary. And the weak performances, even from the likes of Charles S. Dutton and Stephen Lang, only add to the boredom. On the bright side, the movie is the perfect tool for signaling your Halloween party is over.
Granted, I did score this latest entry in the 'Paranormal Activity' franchise with decently positive thoughts and a mostly reluctant recommendation, but that's really only due to the fact that it's an improvement over part four. In truth, the movie is pretty bad and hilariously stupid in many areas. Of most interest for horror fans and loyal followers of the series, the low-budget flick marks the directorial debut of Christopher B. Landon, writer of 'Disturbia' and of the series since the first sequel. More interesting still is that Landon and his team take a slight detour from the usual demonic hauntings of suburbia and pay a visit to the highly superstitious families of the urban city. In the end, and in spite of a few surprisingly effective moments, this ghettoized sequel never reaches the level of spooky fun and chills as the original, and the connection to the original storyline borders on lazy and dumb.
It's no secret I'm not a fan of the horror anti-hero, the Jigsaw Killer. Aside from his creepy, well-dressed Nutcracker doll riding a red tricycle, his tactics and torture methods for teaching selfish people to appreciate their lives is of little interest, mostly because the plots are ridiculous excuses designed for extreme gore. And sadly, they increasingly grow dumber with each entry, offering very weak stories for making the movie as a whole worthwhile. Of course, there is a devoted fanbase out there for this franchise, especially a vehement crowd always at the ready to defend it, but for this horror-hound, every movie has been a disappointment. If there is at least one positive, it would the demented maniac fancying himself an altruist and humanitarian in the most deranged and twisted way. I will concede to that being somewhat scary, but otherwise, this franchise is not Halloween material in my opinion.
Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
13 Sins, Bad Dreams / Visiting Hours, The Beast of Hollow Mountain / The Neanderthal Man, The Believers, Beneath, Bloody Birthday, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, Dark House, Dead Kids, Dead Shadows, Dracula - 3D, Dracula 2000, The Final Terror, The First Power, A Haunted House 2, Hell of the Living Dead / Rats: Night of Terror, Here Comes the Devil, In Fear, Joy Ride 3: Road Kill, Nude For Satan: Remastered Edition, Nightmare City, Planet of the Vampires, The Purge: Anarchy, Rosemary's Baby (2014), Way of the Wicked, Werewolf Woman, Witchboard
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.
Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes), Alone in the Dark (1982), April Fool's Day (1986), 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), Fright Night Part II (1988), Frontier(s), The Gate (1987), Happy Birthday To Me, Hell Night, House (1986), The Hunger, Inside (À l'intérieur), It (1990), It's Alive (1974), The Loved Ones, Martyrs, May, Night of the Living Dead (1968), Peeping Tom, Phantasm, Phantoms (1998), Pontypool, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Shutter (2004), The Silent House (La casa muda), Silver Bullet, The Stepford Wives (1975), Shadow of the Vampire, Suspiria, A Tale of Two Sisters, Tales from the Crypt (1972), Tales from the Crypt (1989 TV Series), The Tenant, Them (2006), Wait Until Dark, When a Stranger Calls .
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