After abducting the daughter of a wealthy socialite, a group of kidnappers seek refuge in an abandoned school in the middle of a wooded nowhere. Little do they know that they’ve chosen the hunting grounds of a ravenous creature that can only be sated by ritualistic sacrifices every spring. Writer/director Padraig Reynolds’ crime thriller/slasher hybrid received mixed reviews during its short festival run, but it’s a solidly crafted piece with some good performances and impressive cinematography by Carl Herse. The one-sheet art is a thing of beauty.
Michael Cimino’s critically panned revisionist western has slowly gained a reputation as an overlooked gem. While it’s no masterpiece, his director’s cut is far better than the confusing edit originally released in 1981. Kris Kristofferson, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Christopher Walken and Isabelle Huppert star in this beautiful, overly long historical drama recounting the Johnson County War. Vilmos Zsigmond’s stunning cinematography is the main reason to give it a look.
Special Features Include:
* New, restored transfer of director Michael Cimino’s cut of the film
* New restoration of the 5.1 surround soundtrack, supervised by Cimino, in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition
* New illustrated audio interview with Cimino and producer Joann Carelli
* New interviews with actor Kris Kristofferson, soundtrack arranger and performer David Mansfield, and second assistant director Michael Stevenson
* The Johnson County War, a video interview with historian Bill O’Neal about the real-life conflict that inspired the film
*Trailer and TV spots
* PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic and programmer Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan
The poster art with the embarrassed actress covered in blue hands pretty much sums it up. This barely released haunted house film was terribly reviewed and quickly forgotten. But it’s mentioned here so we can trumpet an older film that dealt with a haunted mansion that remains the gold standard for claustrophobic spookery: The Haunting. Robert Wise’s 1963 classic still has the power to unnerve. Its last DVD release, a 2003 widescreen print, is still available from Warner Home Video. Why not skip Paranormal Activity 4 and go straight to the good stuff?
Four films from the underrated British filmmaker Pete Walker, including the wonderfully bizarre Jack Jones thriller The Comeback. Best known stateside for his gory shocker Frightmare (a.k.a. Cover Up and Frightmare 2), Walker was responsible for several superior UK grindhouse features. Many of them offered up subversive critiques on the religious and social mores of the day. In addition to literate scripts, his films were always cast with solid character actors who gave weight to the often bizarre narratives. One of his best, House of Whipcord (a variation on the women-in-prison subgenre), is included in this set. Two of his lesser efforts, Die Screaming Marianne and Schizo, are also represented. All four are available for the first time in high definition.
ParaNorman (2012) Universal Studios Blu-ray and DVD Available Now
This little gem, from the same production team behind Coraline, was one of three horror-themed stop-motion films released in as many months. While it lacked the crowd-pleasing voice talent (and monster royalty) of Hotel Transylvania and the brand name recognition of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, it excelled in originality and heart. In fact, ParaNormanis one of the few animated features from the past few years that isn’t based on some other source material. The inclusion of a gay character ruffled the feathers of several Christian groups, ruining any chance of a Pope endorsement on the DVD artwork. Incredible visuals and an inspired voice cast make this a must-see for fans of horror and stop-motion animation.
Special Features Include:
* Preliminary animatic sequences
* Peering Through the Veil: Behind the Scenes of ParaNorman
* Feature commentary with writer/director Chris Butler and Director Sam Fell
The film world can breathe a collective sigh of relief now that the first three Puppet Master films have been remastered in high definition. The original 1989 film, the only one that feels like a proper feature, has its charms. It revolves around a group of psychics (including American Graffiti’s Paul Le Mat) who are compelled to meet at an old inn where a former colleague has recently committed suicide. While investigating his death, they are each hunted down by psychotic puppets that have been given life through an ancient Egyptian spell. Each puppet has its own unique “personality” and favorite method of murder. (The Leech Woman in particular is both amazing and ridiculous.) Directed by David Schmoller (Tourist Trap), Puppet Master is a fun Old Dark House type thriller – only with killer puppets. It was a huge hit on video and provided a dependable franchise for Charles Band’s Full Moon production company. Parts 2 and 3 are typical Full Moon productions and care little for continuity or quality.
An Asylum rip-off of the box office failure Battleship starring “Action Jackson” himself, Carl Weathers. Songstress Vanity does not make an appearance. It’s not been a banner month for DVD releases…
They Live (1988) Scream Factory Blu-ray and DVD Available Now
John Carpenter’s entertaining critique of Reagan-era politics gets the Scream Factory treatment. Unemployed drifter Nada (a lively Roddy Piper) comes to L.A. in search of work. He discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to uncover an alien plot to trap humanity in a mindless state of consumerism. A memorable score by Carpenter and longtime collaborator Alan Howarth gives the satirical proceedings an added edge. While not embraced by the movie-going public at the time, it’s developed a rather large cult following much like the director's earlier box office disappointment The Thing. David Keith and the hypnotic Meg Ryan co-star.
Special Features Include:
* Audio commentary by director John Carpenter and actor Roddy Piper
* New interview with Carpenter and Piper
* Vintage Featurette: The Making Of They Live
* Original Theatrical Trailer
* TV Spots
This pricey eight-film collection includes all of Quenten Tarantino’s directorial efforts plus True Romance (for which he contributed the script). High definition versions of Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds are all present and accounted for. The 10-disc set also features two discs with over five hours of new bonus features. While the set is impressive, fans are still awaiting the stateside release of Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, the full, uncut linear version of the saga, which premiered at Cannes in 2006.
Rashomon (1950) Criterion Blu-ray and DVD Available Now
Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1950 drama finally gets a proper Criterion release. An exploration of multiple realities, Rashomon is the story of a violent crime and the contradictory stories of several witnesses. Shot with stunning poetic vision by Kazuo Miyagawa (Yojimbo), it’s a film every fan of the celluloid medium should see.
* New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
* Audio commentary by Japanese-film historian Donald Richie
* Video introduction by director Robert Altman
* Excerpts from The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, a documentary on Rashomon’s cinematographer
* A Testimony as an Image, a sixty-eight-minute documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
* Archival audio interview with actor Takashi Shimura
*Original and rerelease trailers
* New English subtitle translation
* Plus: A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Stephen Prince; an excerpt from director Akira Kurosawa’s Something Like an Autobiography; and reprints of Rashomon’s two source stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” and “In a Grove”
Criterion region-locks their blu-rays, which blows.
I don't know if players now are region-free as a standard like DVD players are, but mine is one of the first ones available here. So I'm, as yet, unable to enjoy the wonderfulness that is the Criterion Collection.
And damn you, Bradley! When I saw that picture of THE HAUNTING I thought for a second that it must have gotten a blu-ray release and I was all like...