Posted Mon Oct 10, 2016 at 01:00 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!
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 this 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!
Ritual sacrifices are paid three-fold this Blu year with a harvest of special collector’s editions of classic horror features and fan favorites for the committedly manic, such as 'Jeepers Creepers' and its direct follow-up. Horror hounds salivate at the mouth with promises of improved audio and video presentations, packed with new bonus material. 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers,' 'The Thing,' 'The Exorcist III' and 'Carrie' are to placate the most voracious amongst us. Unfortunately, 'An American Werewolf in London' doesn't appear to offer much, aside from a couple new supplements, and might turn out to be a rehash of a previous release celebrating the movie's 35th anniversary.
Speaking of pacifying ravenous genre fanatics, the voices of eager cinephiles have not gone unheeded this year. Quintessential horror classics are also set loose from their locked dungeons, some of which are seeing the Blu light of day for the first time. 'Carnival of Souls' leads the charge with a wild jubilee of dancing ghosts haunting a creepy abandoned pavilion. Making for a frightfully amusing double feature, horror lovers can follow Val Lewton's milestone in independent filmmaking with Jacques Tourneur's beautifully photographed and equally weird tale about 'Cat People.' For the more adventurous types, Universal Studios offers legacy collections of the 'Frankenstein' and 'Wolf Man' franchises. And Warner Bros fights back with an eight-film collection of some sexy, atmospheric Hammer Films favorites.
What would the spook-tacular season be without the screeching screams of fright followed by a sudden burst of hyena-like laughter! And what better way to celebrate than the chainsaw-wielding, wisecracking smartass Ash Williams versus a horde of the evil dead or seeing Bruce Willis caught in a love triangle with the forever-young rotting corpses of Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn. But if you're feeling a bit more adventurous and patriotic, you can join Tom Hanks defend the suburbs from the creepy, kooky neighbors invading or support your local Boy Scouts against the zombie apocalypse. If, however, you are more the sick and twisted type who laughs at violently gory deaths, you have the living dead returning to party, a possessed Good Guys doll hunt for a friend or Leatherface playing chainsaw swords with Dennis Hopper. All the while, Jeffrey Combs reanimates himself a bride with the leftovers.
It's always nice to enjoy the company of familiar, old-school frights during the spookiest season of the year. And fans of the classic, brooding atmosphere of old can revel in the dark and gloomy halls of the mysterious Hotel Cortez, owned by the strangely enigmatic Lady Gaga. How about an anxiety-ridden stroll down memory lane while trapped inside a claustrophobic underground bunker with an apprehensive John Goodman as your host? Perhaps, an apartment complex with questionable drinking water is more to your liking, or better yet, why not allow M. Night Shyamalan to take you for a visit to see the grandparents you never met. You can also enjoy the company of the Lady in White searching for her daughter or hang out with the disembodied presence of a mental patient roaming the halls of an abandoned asylum. But if traditional gothic tales of ole is more up your alley, then Guillermo del Toro offers a tour of the spooky, dilapidated Allerdale Hall while Robert Eggers gives a family of pilgrims good reason for clutching to their rigidly stern, faith-based way of life.
What would Halloween be without the wildly fantastic, freakishly bizarre imagination of Guillermo del Toro letting loose the dark, disturbing monsters lurking in the shadows of his brain. An excellent accompaniment to his splendidly entertaining 'Crimson Peak,' Criterion summoned together three of the Mexican director's whimsically original and macabre stories into a single box set horror hounds can sink their teeth into. Del Toro first gave us a taste of his unique blend of modernizing folklore with a thick, suffocating atmosphere of the mysterious in his vampire tale 'Cronos.' Years later, he followed his directorial debut with 'The Devil's Backbone,' a supernatural fable set inside a boy's orphanage while the Spanish Civil War raged outside the walls of their school. Arguably, he reached the peak of his imagination with the stunningly beautiful dark-fantasy 'Pan's Labyrinth,' a morbidly twisted fairy tale for adults. And Criterion also offers all three films as standalone packages.
Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
Baskin, Blood Bath, Blood and Black Lace, Bone Tomahawk, Deathgasm, Green Room, The Hills Have Eyes Limited Edition, Krampus, Manhunter: Collector's Edition, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, The Return of Godzilla, Slugs, Tenebrae, The Vincent Price Collection III
'Saw' and 'Insidious' director James Wan followed up his most successful film to date, 'The Conjuring,' with another spine-chiller based on the frightening adventures of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Hyped as the most disturbing case of their career, the heavily religious couple are invited to the London boroughs and help the Hodgson family with a rude, unwanted guest that enjoys tormenting and possessing middle child Janet. Complicating matters is a vulgar demon dressed as a nun putting the fear of God in Lorraine -- or at least, scaring the bejesus out of her and those brave enough to stomach this hair-raising sequel. Although not as good as its predecessor, which is pretty common and perhaps to be expected, 'The Conjuring 2' is a bloodcurdling good time.
As any true horror fan knows, one's love of the genre also includes a sometimes intensely passionate affection for low-budget, drive-in B-classics, starting with a double-feature of William Castle favorites. Except that only the first movie is a horror while the other a teen espionage flick. In either case, Francis Ford Coppola's feature-length debut is a great follow-up for some spooky fun. But if you prefer sci-fi for tickling your spine, the more adventurous types can cringe at the sight of a Gil-man knockoff terrorize Piedras Blancas or cower at a science experiment gone wrong from 10,000 leagues under the sea. However, if you find the invasion of Earth more appealing, then a disgruntled John Carradine and his superhuman army of dead monsters will feed your desires, or you can scream as the Earth dies from an alien gas. But the one to conquer them all is the awesome Arrow Video box set of gore classics by the late Herschell Gordon Lewis.
The epidemic saga of the B-movie invasion continues with several notable favorites from the most radical decade of all. But first, we accept a special invitation by The Merchant of Menace, the icon of horror, The King of the Grand Guignol, Mr. Vincent Price and his fantastic Theatre of Blood! It's a great way to ring in the scares before enjoying the hospitality of freaks protesting for their rights. Afterwards, take a tour of the local sights, such as the wax museum where you can become part of the exhibit or a very tasteful gentlemen's club feeding into your deepest desires. There is also a classy drive-in showing a wide array of bad movies run and operated by a friendly gang of teenage patrons. But before that, you have your choice of trendy souvenirs from a high-tech shopping mall built for your protection and security. Afterwards, check out the local diner offering a cuisine with a distinctive flavor. It makes for a fantastically gruesome and diabolical weekend of your nightmares.
Other than the fact someone dreamed up the insane notion of mixing zombies into the classic Jane Austen novel, the bigger surprise in this adaptation is that it worked. We're not talking an award-winner here or that it changed the way we see cinema forever -- though reworking literary classics with an injection of modern horror twists could prove to be quite infectious. Only, this turned out to be decently entertaining, or at least, better than initially expected. For those familiar with the original source, perhaps because you were made to read it in school, the twist here is seeing the strong-willed, feminist Elizabeth Bennett literary go toe-to-toe against Colonel Darcy, proving herself his equal in every way. It may not bring on the scares in the same way as others on this list, but it's a fun horror comedy.
Another surprise is seeing how long the 'Paranormal Activity' franchise has continued to haunt cinemas with relatively good success. While far from the best in the series, this sixth and supposedly final installment is a step up from the last two. Part of their appeal are the creative ways filmmakers explain the origins of the footage seen on screen, from being an immature paranormal investigator and home security cameras to various other recording devices. In 'Ghost Dimension,' the Fleeges family find a box of mysterious VHS tapes in their new home. Not long after watching them -- which is only natural -- the family is terrorized by a supernatural presence and the youngest is the primary target.
Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
Bad Moon, Basket Case 3: The Progeny, Bite (2015), The Black Cat, The Bloodstained Butterfly, The Boy (2015), The Car (1977), Cat's Eye, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, The City of the Dead, Curse of the Faceless Man, Death Walks Twice, Evils of the Night, Frightmare, Highway to Hell, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, Howl (2015), The Invitation, Jaws 2, Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers by Emilio P. Miraglia, Over Your Dead Body, The Pack, Raising Cain: Collector's Edition, The Revenge of Frankenstein/The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, Salem's Lot, Stephen King's It, Species II, Sssssss, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll/The Gorgon, Venom, Village of the Damned: Collector's Edition, Witchcraft
Sequels are nothing new in horror movies. They're practically a staple of the genre, but that's no reason to feed hungry fans with easy throwaway fodder which can be just as quickly forgotten as it was made. First, how many times can a classic novel be adapted before studios finally accept they will never surpass the greatest that is James Whale's 'Frankenstein' and 'Bride of Frankenstein.' However, we gotta give the filmmakers of 'Frankenstein (2015)' credit for attempting to modernize the beloved story in contemporary Los Angeles. Sadly, the same can't be said of Paul McGuigan and Max Landis directing James McAvoy as a maniacally obsessive Victor Frankenstein and aided by a neurotically anxious Daniel Radcliffe. Other terrible remakes are a completely pointless, nearly shot-for-shot redo of dumb teenagers in the woods battling a flesh-eating disease. And if you want something to churn your stomach, there's always Kevin and Michael Goetz's American makeover of Pascal Laugier's gore favorite.
Just to confuse and perhaps even annoy audiences, this year saw the release of two horror movies with the same title. And as any genre fan would expect, one is better than the other. The way to tell you've made the right choice is that the nauseatingly dull and stupefyingly dumb 'The Boy' features that actress from 'The Walking Dead' (Lauren Cohan) babysitting a life-sized, porcelain doll. The other 'The Boy' is actually about a real boy with some disturbing, possibly homicidal tendencies. The moment you see Maggie, once again, looking terrified and helpless, take out the player and chuck in the garbage. The movie commences with an intriguing premise and a couple amusing scares, but it jumps the Fonz in the middle of his jumping the shark during a ridiculously dumb and unsatisfying plot twist.
This year also saw another actress from a popular television series try to make the jump to feature films. Inspired by the Aokigahara forest in Koshu, Japan, which has the unique distinction of being nicknamed "Suicide Forest," that girl from 'Game of Thrones' (Natalie Dormer) spends most of her time wandering the creepy woods. With the help of a nosy reporter (Taylor Kinney), creating a weird "will-they-or-won't-they" vibe that turns out pointless, Dormer goes searching for her identical twin, who is either lost or more likely dead. But as seems to be a common epidemic in contemporary horror movies, first-time film director Jason Zada relies too heavily on a weak and dumb surprise twist while failing to build momentum and forgetting to scare audiences.
In the tradition of laughably cheesy haunted carnival rides and taking obvious inspiration from Tobe Hooper's cult classic, independent filmmaker Andy Palmer tries his hand at horror comedy. The result is a badly directed and poorly edited turd in a flaming brown bag. Those foolish enough to stomp out the fire are just left screaming into the night, angry their favorite loafers are permanently ruined. The idea of escaped lunatics taking over a Halloween theme park where they unleash their particular brand of torture and carnage sounds like a gore-tastic time for the whole family. But much like those haunted carnival rides charging ten tokens per person, this is a gore-less waste of time.
Incapable of creating tension, lacking the talent for scaring audiences and failing to tell a story that engages viewers in the slightest, it is a miracle Eli Roth continues to make movies. His only claim to fame is devising gorily gruesome scenarios meant to shock viewers running for barf bags. But without any real reason to care for the characters, the only reason for upchucking one's dinner is for suffering through two of Roth's terrible movies this year. The first is his attempt to bring back the cannibal film when a group of stupid college students travel to where they don't belong and are neither welcomed. Although the second technically hit home theaters in December, it still begs mentioning the eye-gouging awfulness that is Keanu Reeves inability to satisfy two young women at once, a remake of the superior 1977 movie 'Death Game.'
Others Worthy of the Cleaver:
#Horror, Beware! The Blob, Clown (2014), Contracted: Phase II, Count Dracula (1970), The Curse/Curse II: The Bite, Dracula's Daughter, Murders in the Rue Morgue/The Dunwich Horror, Freaks of Nature, The Giant Spider Invasion, Hollow Creek, The House Where Evil Dwells/Ghost Warrior, Jaws 3, Jaws: The Revenge, Kill Your Friends, The Last Witch Hunter, Nightmares, Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, Psycho IV: The Beginning, Satanic, The Shallows, Sin You Sinners/Vampire Ecstasy, Sinister 2, Species III/Species: The Awakening, The Stuff, The Terror, Zombie Fight Club, Zombie High
Bubba the Redneck Werewolf, The Darkness, The Dead Room, The Mind's Eye, The Neighbor, The Ones Below, The Sacrifice, What We Become
This past year saw an abundance of scary movies were released in high-def, 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), 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, It's Alive (1974), The Loved Ones, Martyrs, May, Night of the Living Dead (1968), Peeping Tom, Phantasm, Phantoms (1998), Pontypool, 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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