Posted Tue Oct 20, 2015 at 12:50 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!
Greetings, boils and ghouls!
We interrupt your regular terror-vision program to make a special announcement: It's that time of the year again! 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, I've scraped together another terror list of putrid horror tales for setting 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 your crypt theater.
As the dead rise from their graves and bang away at your doors with frightful delight, your fiendish host celebrates his sixth spooktacular anniversary harvesting some truly terrifying sights in high definition, as studios each screaming year 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 in spooks, scares and creepy laughter. So, without further ado . . .
Frights! Camera! Hack-tion!
Tragedy breeds madness in Jennifer Kent's brilliant directorial debut about a single mother still mourning the death of her husband seven years later. Kent, who also wrote the script based on a short film she made years earlier, follows the mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), doing the best she can to raise her over-active and possibly troubled son, Sam. On the surface of it, the story plays out much like the typical supernatural monster flick where a seriously creepy evil ghoul comes to life from a children's book and begins to haunt the lonely family. But as we continue to learn more about the tragedy that subconsciously plagues Amelia, the tale grows into a disturbing psychological horror that feeds on the misfortune and suffering that comes from losing a loved one. The film is a slow brooding and spine-chilling fable that perfectly sets the mood for celebrating the spookiest season of the year.
Champion of distributing high-quality presentations of important, sometimes defining moments of cinema, The Criterion Collection set their eyes on a few horror and thriller classics. Although 'Throne of Blood' and 'Dressed to Kill' don't immediately pop to mind when discussing some ghoulish delights, the two films still come with their share of delightful thrills, particularly in the case of Akira Kurosawa's Shakespeare reimagining with a few creepy supernatural moments. Nicolas Roeg's psychological thriller 'Don't Look Now' confronts the horror of a married couple struggling to pick up the pieces and maintain their sanity after losing their youngest child. However, if you're more in the mood for some grisly murders and gross-out body horror, David Cronenberg once gave birth to 'The Brood.' On the other hand, if eerie tales of the supernatural are more your cup of tea, then Masaki Kobayashi's gorgeously photographed 'Kwaidan' is sure to send shivers down your spine while making you fear the night.
For genre fans, this small collection of horror classics from legendary studios Hammer Films should pretty much be a given. The set from Warner Bros. may not include some of the bigger and arguably better known titles from the British production company, but no respectable horror-hound and cult collector should go without adding this to their collection. Watch as Christopher Lee terrorizes a small village and seduces a buxom beauty while wreaking vengeance upon Rupert Davies in Freddie Francis's 'Dracula Has Risen from the Grave.' Be astounded at the sight of Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein performing yet another of his experiments to bring a corpse back to life and suffer the dire consequences in Terence Fisher's 'Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed.' Avert your eyes from the Technicolor shocks of witnessing Peter Cushing do battle with Lee as 'The Mummy.' Cower in fear when a trio of adventure seekers encounter Lee's iconic vamp and are made to 'Taste the Blood of Dracula.'
As though mischievous, wayward teens being chased by some crazed masked killer were not enough to scare the pants off moviegoers, indie filmmaker David Robert Mitchell devises an even more disturbing, nightmarish scenario for those irresponsible, lustful kids. How about the ominous presence of a creepy ghostly figure following you everywhere you go for your one night of physical transgression? As warned by one character who passes the curse to another, the wraithlike creature will appear whenever it wishes — day or night — and look like anyone else in the street, perhaps even in the shape of someone familiar. The setup is deceptively simple and one of the most original concepts in years, but what really makes this feature a spine-tingling hair-raiser is Mitchell's direction. With cinematographer Mike Gioulakis behind the camera, Mitchell makes excellent use of the anamorphic frame with deviously artless compositions and intentionally workmanlike tracking shots, ratcheting the tension and suspense when a figure slowly walks in the distance or suddenly appears in the corner.
This has proven to be a great year for small independent and foreign horror films. With Jennifer Kent's skillfully constructed directorial debut winning top honors in the psychological chiller category, then the victor in the supernatural romance department rightfully goes to relatively young filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead for this beautifully well-made feature-length debut. Sadly ignored during its theatrical run back in March, the story whisks audiences away to the handsome, near-utopian beaches of southern Italy when Evan Russell takes an impromptu vacation in the hopes of escaping personal issues and rediscovering himself. But once there, the stunningly gorgeous Louise, played by Nadia Hilker, turns his world upside as he slowly discovers that her beauty comes at a primordial price. It's a great piece of independent filmmaking perfect setting the right romantic mood this Halloween.
Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
American Horror Story: Freak Show, The Andromeda Strain, Angst (aka Schizophrenia), Army of Darkness, The Beast (1975), Burn, Witch, Burn, Christine, Contamination, Count Yorga, Vampire, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th, The Dario Argento Collection, The Dead / The Dead 2, Dead Silence, The Death King, Der Samurai, Dog Soldiers, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Duel, Eaten Alive (1976), Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cats, The Editor, The Gift, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Ghoulies/Ghoulies II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: Unrated Producer's Cut, The Happiness of the Katakuris, Heart of Midnight, House of the Long Shadows, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), The Hunger (1983), Invaders from Mars, I, Madman, It! The Terror from Beyond Space, The Legacy, Let Us Prey, Long Weekend, The Lucio Fulci Collection, Madhouse, Madman, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Meet Me There, The Monster That Challenged the World, The Mutilator, The Oblong Box, The People Under the Stairs, The Phantom of the Opera (1925), The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Return of Count Yorga, Scream and Scream Again, The Sender (1982), The Sentinel, Shocker, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, Spider Baby, Strange Invaders, Student Bodies, Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, Tales of Terror, Them! (1954), These Final Hours, Vampire Hunter D, Vampire Journals, We Are still Here, What We Do in the Shadows, Wolfcop, Wolfen, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead
Antique dolls are already creepy looking on their own, especially those with shiny glass eyes that seem to follow you everywhere you go, but they're made all the more horrifying when possessed by the soul of a crazed, murderous woman. As a spinoff prequel to the amazingly spooky 'The Conjuring,' the movie should not have turned out as well as it did, yet James Wan and Peter Safran managed to weave together another spine-tingling tale that nicely balances a menacing atmosphere with several great jump scares that never feel like cheating. For fans of its predecessor, this is also an origins story, explaining how the demon-looking doll came into the possession of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, but for those unfamiliar with that couple's infamous study of a haunted Rhode Island farmhouse, it also works as a standalone feature that will leave you thinking all dolls are evil.
Zombies have been all the rage for the last few years, overwhelming and assaulting everything from videogames and comic books to television and novels. The list also includes pajamas and underwear! And so, when the walking dead have attacked and consumed all other corners of mainstream pop culture, they have nowhere else to go except invade other genres, with comedies the first to be its many victims. This Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle attempts to turn the reanimated corpse theme into an emotional melodrama as a father faces the slow death of his first born (Abigail Breslin) and grapples with the moral quandary of easing each other's pain. For the most part, the premise makes for a fascinating watch and the former Governor of California turns in one of the best performances of his career. Added to that is the impressive photography of Lukas Ettlin providing the narrative with a brooding, darkly emotive atmosphere that leaves a lasting impression.
Similar to 'Spring,' this low-budget, independent horror gem largely went ignored when it hit theaters last November, but it's a surprisingly good feature with an original concept that slowly increases in suspense until it reaches an almost unbearable sense of tension. The story is a somewhat familiar tale about an optimistic young starlet (an impressive Alex Essoe) hoping to make it big in Hollywood. Unfortunately, the strain to land the right role that could demonstrate her talents in front of the camera proves too much for the struggling actress, who suffers from screaming fits and trichotillomania. Her desperation for fame leads to a Faustian deal that has her performs skin-crawlingly uncomfortable acts while she slowly spirals into madness. Filmmakers Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer prove that a large budget isn't also necessary when you have a good story that gradually grows in intensity, apprehension and uneasiness, finishing with a conclusion that's sure to leave viewers feeling icky and horrified.
It may seem weird or surprising to some that this little picture managed to make it so high on the list, especially given my growing dislike for this long-ago played out filmmaking gimmick. However, if there's one thing I can appreciate in a genre drowning in clichés, trite gimmicks and an overall lack of imagination, it is filmmakers pushing the boundaries and experimenting with original premises. And Georgian-Russian director Leo Gabriadze definitely took a really big chance on this seemingly dumb concept about a group of friends being haunted through social media by the agitated ghost of a friend that died a year earlier. On paper, as well as from what was seen in previews, the movie should have been the year's biggest flop, but Gabriadze does an impressive job of building the scares as audiences learn more about the kids' secrets relating to the girl's death. Combined with some gruesomely violent deaths that earned it a hard R-rating, the movie is a great blend of shocks and chills.
As has been stated before, part of the Halloween fun is also the laughs, and this horror comedy from Iranian-born French graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi ('Persepolis') deserves far more attention for its excellent blend of gore and slapstick silliness. Admittedly, the movie is a bit too silly for its own good, occasionally delving into over-the-top slapstick territory for the sake of cheap laughs. But thankfully, television writer Michael R. Perry's script quickly rectifies itself with the blackest and darkest sense of humor imaginable, starting off slow and patient but quickly spiraling into a pit of insanity, fits of murder and a copious amount of hilarious gore. Adding to the mix of absurd carnage is a great performance by Ryan Reynolds, who brilliantly gains our sympathies while also making us revolt in disgust as the troubled, child-like Jerry Hickfang who lives above an abandoned bowling alley with his two devil-vs-angel pets. Satrapi's movie is a fun black comedy for getting in the Halloween spirit.
Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
Army of Frankensteins, The Atticus Institute, Blacula / Scream Blacula Scream, Bleading Lady, The Blood Lands, Blood Rage (1987), Call Girl of Cthulhu, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, Cannibal Ferox, Cellar Dweller / Catacombs, Children of the Night (1991), The Crimson Cult, Cub (Welp), Dark Summer, Dark Was the Night, Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys, Devil Hunter / Cannibal Terror, Empire of the Ants / Jaws of Satan, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, The Evil Eye, Extraterrestrial, The Fan (1982), Flesh for the Beast: Tsukiko's Curse, Frogs / The Food of the Gods, From a Whisper to a Scream, George: A Zombie Intervention, Ghost Town (1988), Ghosthouse / Witchery, God Told Me To, The Harvest, Horsehead, Horns, Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf, Island of Death, Jack's Back, John Carpenter's Vampires, The Last Survivors, Lost After Dark, Mark of the Devil, Mosquito, Needful Things, New Year's Evil, Nightmare Castle, Nocturnal Activity, Nomads, The Phantom of the Opera (1989), Play Motel, Poltergeist III, The Premature Burial, The Prowler (1951), The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, Satan's Blade, Scarecrows, Scissors, Society, Stigmata, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne, Tentacles / Reptilicus, The Thing with Two Heads, Trophy Heads, The Unwanted, V/H/S: Viral, The Walking Dead: The Complete Fifth Season, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes
If 'Unfriended' is arguably evidence the "found-footage" subgenre still provides some potential, then 'The Gallows' does the complete opposite as proof the particular style of filmmaking serves as nothing more than an economical cash-grab for Hollywood. And apparently, any Tom, Dick or Harry with the latest, newfangled cell phone and an inexpensive HD camera can do it, as long as it is done on the cheap, in a matter of days and with an artless, uncomplicated plot. Relatively new filmmakers Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing do precisely that in this nonsensical supernatural tale of revenge set in the haunted auditorium of a high school. Granted, there a few really scary moments to be enjoyed, but the narrative is riddled with plot holes that defy its own established logic. This is one horror flick that scares a viewer's intelligence when thinking too much on making sense of the story and ultimately best not to be thought of all.
It's easy to understand the reasons for why this "torture-porn" franchise always lands at the bottom of my lists. Attempts at shocking audiences and wanting to make them nauseous are not horror or the least bit scary. Nevertheless, these sorts of movies, which are technically a subgenre of body horror, which is itself a subgenre, are typically categorized as such. This final installment to Dutch filmmaker Tom Six's trilogy about a disgusting human operation is a prime example of what is wrong with this subgenre, yet superiorly more talented filmmakers David Cronenberg, Stuart Gordon, Peter Jackson ('Braindead'), Takashi Miike and even Clive Barker are capable of pulling off shock-value more effectively. Here, the main characters are vile and repulsive human beings lacking charisma or anything remotely interesting, and the plot is simply poorly conceived and mind-numbingly dumb. Watching a demented prison warden not only mistreat the prisoners under his charge but also his employees does not make for a fascinating watch. This last entry isn't horror. It's just horrible.
Lacking in tension, scares, and a story that engages viewers in the slightest, the third entry in the 'Insidious' franchise drops the paranormal ball as it follows the Brenner family after a recent tragic loss. Taking over for James Wan, Leigh Whannell makes his directorial debut often feeling as though channeling Wan for inspiration and largely imitating the style and camerawork of his predecessor rather than developing a voice of his own. The success of the previous two came from building a darkly creepy atmosphere that lead to unsuspecting scares, but here, Whannell relies too much of cheap, clichéd and conventional jump scares and never clearly establishes a sense of dread. Working from his own script, the characters themselves are either underdeveloped or grating while Lin Shaye simply goes through the motions of a very familiar personality. A dull Dermot Mulroney and an average Stefanie Scott play off each other fine, but Whannell annoyingly goes to great lengths at making the family utterly helpless while depending a loud, ear-piercing noises that succeed in delivering headaches rather than frights.
Making the leap from documentary filmmaking to horror, David Gelb's supernatural sci-fi flick aspires to the genius of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein with notions of human interference and the dangers of science run amok. Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater's plot even goes so far as to name their lead character Frank, who is also obsessed with curing the disease of death and attempts to resurrect his fiancée from the dead. But the best it accomplishes is a carelessly pieced together mishmash of random ideas that go nowhere. The production and story itself is a Frankenstein's monster of a horror film, sown from the resuscitated leftovers of 'Flatliners,' the claustrophobic hallways of 'Hollow Man,' the discarded afterthoughts of 'Event Horizon' and a teasing dash of a possible sequel, which is all the more horrifying. More of a mystery is trying to figure out what exactly attracted otherwise great actors Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde to the project, forced to deliver lines that touch on a few ideas surrounding death and the afterlife with perfunctory, superficial comments that are just as quickly forgotten as they are mentioned.
Speaking of headache-inducing horror movies, someone at Hasbro apparently thought it a good idea to convert all the company's toy lines into feature-length movies. Prepare yourselves for the thrilling excitement of "Hungry Hungry Hippos" and "Monopoly" coming soon to your local multiplex. As if the notion of watching 'Battleship' acted out on the silver screen were not silly enough, Stiles White and Juliet Snowden, the same team that gave us the sleep-inducing 'The Possession,' force moviegoers into watching a group of unlikable teenagers play with a Ouija board for 90 minutes. In the opening minutes, the story immediately contradicts its own narrative logic but treks along with a series of clichéd fright tactics and devices that miserably fail at producing a single scare. Even when characters or the supposed ghost haunting the young dolts jumps out of nowhere, viewers will sit in silence and boredom. Avoid playing this game at all cost.
Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
The ABCs of Death 2, Animal, The Boy Next Door, Burying the Ex, Carrie / The Rage: Carrie 2, The Curse of Downers Grove, Eli Roth Presents: The Stranger, Enter the Dangerous Mind, Fear Clinic, From the Dark, Haunted, The Houses October Built, The Invoking / The Wicked, The Loft, Massage Parlor of Death, Metamorphosis / Beyond Darkness, Morituris, Muck, Nekromantik 2, No Good Deed, The Outing / The Godsend, The Pact II, Peter Benchley’s Creature, Poker Night, Poltergeist (2015), Psycho Beach Party, Rabid Grannies, The Remaining, She Killed In Ecstasy, Tales of the Supernatural, Toolbox Murders 2, The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), The Vatican Tapes, Vampyros Lesbos, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, Zombie Killers: Elephant's Graveyard
Amnesiac (2015), Bloody Knuckles (2014), The Exorcism of Molly Hartley, Final Girl, Gravy (2015), I Spit on Your Grave 3, Last Shift (2014), Nocturna (2015), OLD 37, Over Your Dead Body (2014), Theatre Of The Deranged II, Tremors 5: Bloodlines
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, Candyman, Cannibal Apocalypse, The Changeling, The Children (1980), Dellamore Dellamorte (Cemetery Man), 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 (1989 TV Series), The Tenant, Them (2006), Wait Until Dark, When a Stranger Calls .
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