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Everything You Need to Know About Horror on DVD

DVD Stalk: Feast Giveaway, An American Haunting Clips, and Slither
DVD Stalk Giveaway of the Week
-Feast: Unrated-

This week we have a special giveaway from Genius Products for the unrated DVD release of Feast [Review] [Contest]. From producers Wes Craven, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris More comes the "Magna cum laude" of the Project Greenlight series - Feast - a horror film that stands shoulder to shoulder with many of the big budget large studio horror films out this year. Just a few of the great features found on the Feast: Unrated DVD are:

-The complete, unrated cut of the film-
-Commentary by Jon Gulager and the rest of the filmmakers-
-Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, and two extensive Behind-the-Scenes featurettes-

Check out our contest page for all of the official rules and enter now for your chance to win one of 5 copies of the Feast: Unrated DVD.

Horror DVD Review Highlights of The Week

We kick off this week's huge batch of horror DVD reviews with Randy Miller III's take on James Gunn's clever and, unfortunately, underseen Slither. The horror-comedy genre is a tough one to get right (and, believe me, many a film have failed miserably), but it seems that the Troma-vet has mostly made the right moves with his film. Here's a bit of what Randy has to say about Slither: "Boasting an assortment of tongue-in-cheek characters and an ample amount of disgustingly disturbing monsters, Slither should appeal to anyone who enjoys great green gobs of over-the-top schlock. It's not a perfect film, but it's still a lot of fun...With a well-rounded series of performances by the capable cast, Slither never manages to take itself too seriously. Nathan Fillion (Firefly) is perfectly cast as the laid-back, deadpan sheriff Bill Pardy, while Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) does a fantastic job as the meat-hungry Grant Grant. Supporting roles are filled nicely by Elizabeth Banks (The 40 Year-Old Virgin), Gregg Henry (United 93), Tania Saulnier (Caitlin's Way) and Gunn's wife, Jenna Fischer (The Office), creating a caricatured collection of citizens that never strays too far over the top. The small-town setting of Wheelsy, South Carolina also gives Slither an appropriately closed-off atmosphere that suits the story well." While the film's pacing could certainly use some tweaks, there's easily enough here to entertain any fan of the horror-comedy genre. In addition to the film itself, Universal has packed this disc with an assortment of quality extra material and, technically, does Slither complete justice. As Randy says, "Whether you're a die-hard follower of horror-comedy or a Firefly fan needing another Nathan Fillion fix, James Gunn's Slither is an entertaining film that doesn't take itself too seriously." In a time when way too many horror films (especially of the "indie" ilk) take themselves way too seriously, there's not much more a dedicated horror fan could ask for. Slither easily comes recommended.

Ah...the good old pointless remake. The horror genre just wouldn't be the same without it. Without it, we wouldn't have been able to witness the "greatness" of such films as The Fog (2005) or 1999's The Haunting. Well, 2006 ushered in the latest clunker in the group: The Omen (2006). And what better way to give the film a fair shake than to feed it to the horror-hungry Ian Jane? Here's what he chewed up and spit out: "This modernized version of Richard Donner's 1976 classic follows that earlier film almost to a tee. There's very little in this film that differs from what came before it and as such, if you've seen the first movie (and a lot of you have) then you'll know where it's all going and how it's all going to turn out. This results in a picture that's actually rather dull despite some stylish direction and a few accomplished set pieces (many of which are just too familiar)...This is one of those cases where the remake sticks too close to the source material and it just isn't as good as the one that came before it. It'd be tough to top a Richard Donner movie with Gregory Peck in the lead so it's curious why the filmmaker's even tried rather than to branch out in a different direction from the original film. There are plenty of ways that they could have changed things up a bit to at least make the movie more than a carbon copy of a classic – sadly that didn't happen, and we're left with unimpressive mediocrity." The casting on the current remake may be somewhat clever, but that's about all The Omen (2006) has going for it. Otherwise, it's just another tedious remake that probably didn't even need to be made. It's a shame, too, since Hollywood was finally starting to churn out some interesting remakes (e.g. Dawn of the Dead (2004)). This disc does, however, have some nice extra material so all those curious shouldn't feel too bad about giving The Omen (2006) a rental spin.

Ian Jane is back again with his take on Blue Underground's latest release, Daughters of Darkness: 2-Disc Special Edition, and finds the disc highly recommendable. Despite actually being the third time that Daughters of Darkness has made it to DVD, Blue Underground latest re-release is clearly the definitive edition of the film. There's so much extra material included on this disc that Ian has zero qualms about recommending it (even to those who own the previous releases). Here's what he has to say about the film: "While the storyline here isn't going to wow anyone with its originality (it's little different from countless other lesbian vampire films), it is so well directed and unfolds with such dreamlike pacing and atmosphere that it's hard not to get sucked into the strange world that Daughters of Darkness lies open in front of us. Danielle Seyrig steals the show as Countess Bathory and despite the fact that she doesn't have long protruding fangs we know who she is long before poor Valerie does. She has a very glamorous and rather timeless look to her that makes her perfect for the part and she contrasts nicely against the raw sensuality that Andrea Rau brings to her part and the naive charm that Ouimet offers the film. Karlen is quite good as the bastard of a husband and he too does a fine job with what is really not all that remarkable a script. The four main participants have got great chemistry together and when you couple this with the extremely stylish direction and lush European locations used for the film you've got a really interesting movie...As with the previous DVD release from Blue Underground (and Anchor Bay before them), this is the full strength uncut version of the film which runs approximately ten minutes longer than butchered counterpart which contained a lot less nudity." Daughters of Darkness is a beautifully shot mixture of horror and eroticism that is often regarded a classic of Euro-Cult cinema. This definitive edition of the film is easily one worth adding to any discerning horror fan's DVD shelf.

Also this week, Ian Jane has a chance to check out the first feature from the new Warner Bros line, Raw Feed, and calls Rest Stop: Unrated "a fairly effective and grisly little movie with a few tense moments, some good effects, and a couple of good scare scenes." The new line seems like an interesting concept, which Ian explains as such: "For those not familiar with Raw Feed...it's basically a company specializing in horror and genre fare intended for a straight to video release through Warner Brothers. Rest Stop is their first shot, and it's written and directed by John Shiban who in the past worked as a writer and an executive producer on The X-Files and this film marks his feature film debut." For a debut work, Shiban seems to have done a fairly good job with Rest Stop: "Despite the fact that the storyline is a little too familiar at times, Shiban has done a good job ensuring that there are a few good, scary moments in the movie and he's also managed to create some unsettling atmosphere in his film. The ending and a few other plot points are left open to interpretation to a certain extent which not only makes the movie a little more thought provoking than you might think but also conveniently leaves things open for a follow up movie." Rest Stop may not be a great film, but it is a decent first effort for the Raw Feed line and easily worth at least a rental.

Scott Weinberg tackles a DVD collection that includes a few titles horror fans have been waiting to see for a long time. The Stephen King Collection combines upgraded versions of two great King adaptations with two bare bones discs of two lesser King works. The good, however, in this set far outweighs the bad as the new DVDs of The Dead Zone and Pet Sematary easily make up for the lackluster treatment (and lackluster cinematic quality) of Silver Bullet and Graveyard Shift. King adaptations have always been mostly hit-or-miss, but The Dead Zone and Pet Sematary are certainly two of the very best we've seen. Here's some of what Weinberg has to say about The Stephen King Collection: "Two King classics, one half-decent time-waster, and one generally awful piece of fun garbage are what you get in The Stephen King Collection, a box set from Paramount that delivers all of the studio's King flicks in one handy package. Personally I'd have simply purchased movies 1 and 2 and left the other pair on the shelf, but if you're a hardcore horror completist, I wouldn't blame you for snagging the whole set...Call it a mixed bag. I'd proudly include The Dead Zone and Pet Sematary among my King Klassics, while Silver Bullet has just enough kitschy charm to warrant a rental. Graveyard Shift is all sorts of bad, but there's still some grungy fun to be found in there."

Dark Sky Films has done a hell of a job, so far, at bringing some interesting, little-known horror flicks to the DVD format. Their latest effort, The Devil's Rain, is (in the words of Bill Gibron) "not as bad as motion picture mythology makes it out to be, nor is it some forgotten masterwork made unimportant by years of rejection and ridicule. Instead, this is a mediocre movie turned magnificent by facets brought to the narrative by Fuest. It is also a great experiment in terror tripped up by dated F/X and sloppy scripting. Put together, the cinematic combination proves far more competent than most of the mid-range horror films from the era, and light years beyond the independent drivel that DVD seems to drag out on a regular basis. Forget what you've heard and give this perplexing gem a chance. While never very scary, The Devil's Rain is an entertaining, aggravating spectacle. It deserves respect for what it accomplishes, not ridicule for everything that it lacks...To call The Devil's Rain one of the worst horror movies ever made is just plain wrong. Granted, it hits the ground running and never takes time to fully explain its storyline, and when it comes to serious Satanism, the worship here is positively tepid. There's nary a demonic possession, a smidgen of sacrificial blood, or a worshipping of wickedness in sight. Instead, director Robert Fuest and his novice screenplay threesome aren't sure if they're making a thriller, a chiller, or a look at how religious intolerance lead to the creation of a murderous cult-like sect during Puritanical times." Give The Devil's Rain a chance and check it out for yourself. You might just find it's not quite as bad as people have made it out to be. Not to mention the fact that Dark Sky Films has done a great job filling the disc with quality extra material.

"Though not quite a lost classic, Let's Scare Jessica to Death is an impressively creepy little horror film, quite good for such a modestly budgeted work with no stars. Its origins are unclear, but it looks like an independent production acquired for release through Paramount. Its small cast of mainly theater types and relative neophyte filmmakers were almost all in their early-30s, and most would go on to mainstream if not especially stellar careers in Hollywood. The film is intelligently made, closer in tone to Don't Look Now and The Wicker Man than the usual horror thriller from the early seventies, and it wisely sticks to the kind of material doable within its budgetary limitations." So begins Stuart Galbraith IV's review of this subtle, little fright flick. Let's Scare Jessica to Death "demonstrates what can be achieved for very little money. The picture probably cost less than $400,000 to produce but delivers the goods without resorting to cheap shock effects. It's an intelligent little gem." If you've never had the chance to see it, Let's Scare Jessica to Death is well worth checking out.

How can you not possibly want to see a horror flick called My Dead Girlfriend? Well, Bill Gibron feels the same way: "Like a far less substantive Shaun of the Dead, My Dead Girlfriend is a quirky little comedy that gets by on great big globs of goodwill and a sunny script that's more slacker silliness than uproarious horror. Canadian outsider auteur Brett Kelly, responsible for several of Tempe's indie entries, including The Feral Man and the Bonesetter series, tries something decidedly different here. Instead of pouring on the brooding, atmospheric elements of your standard living dead horror film, Kelly finds the funny center to a scary situation and then cranks up the irony a couple of clever notches. The result is a sometimes clever, sometimes cloying attempt to avoid the standard zombie clichés while making the frightening and the funny pay off in ways that are noticeable, not nominal." It's not all positive, however, as Gibron also points out a few of My Dead Girlfriend missteps: "[It] does suffer from a slow start. Kelly is so desperate to get us to like his professor/student pair that he even films their first moments together in a kind of corrupt meet-cute. The uneasy feeling of sexual harassment soon shifts over into obvious in-joke territory, but for a while, we are unclear as to where this whole seemingly sordid situation is going. Once we get to the first act catalyst – the wholly ridiculous "accident" which creates our cannibal corpse – the movie moves outside the normal narrative bounds and becomes a self-referential spoof. Then it's just a matter of waiting for the next nutty circumstance to arrive." The film is, nevertheless, interesting at times and shows some of Brett Kelly's obvious potential.

Finally, Phil Bacharach finds a subtle creepiness in Showtime's release of The Roost. "The Roost is aimed at horror fans who fondly recall the heyday of drive-in theaters and pot-addled midnight screenings. Directed by Ti West, this über-low-budget pic mines the less-is-more approach carved out by the likes of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and early John Carpenter...The filmmakers deserve credit for creative thinking, even when the ideas don't work so well. The Roost is bookended by Tom Noonan as the host of a horror movie show on late-night television, but the conceit sounds cleverer than its execution. Such winking postmodern irony seems a trifle gluttonous when killer bats and zombies are already on the menu." Bacharach gives us the bottom line on The Roost with just a few quick sentences: "You've seen better low-budget horror flicks, but trust me, you've also seen much, much worse. The Roost hints at the talents of a young filmmaker with a knack for ratcheting up tension without losing a sense of humor." If you're looking for something you might not have seen before, you could certainly do worse than checking out The Roost.

Cineplex Scares: Current Theatrical Horror

DVD Stalk Horror Clips of the Week

This week we have a look at An American Haunting: Unrated Edition starring Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, James D'Arcy, and Rachel Hurd-Wood. Based on the terrifying true story of The Bell Witch of Tennessee, An American Haunting is the story of a spirit who brutally attacks the Bell family causing the death of one of its members. Years later, we are taken back to the most horrific of nights to find out the truth of the spirits nature and origin... The night it was born.

An American Haunting: Unrated Edition:
"An American Haunting Preview" | "The Beginning" | "The Mystery" | "The Making of the Film" | "The US President" | "The Bells and The Bats"

Horror DVDs Released in the Past Two Weeks

Overlooked Horror Discs

With the latest iteration (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) of the Leatherface sage currently in theaters, and getting heavily panned by nearly every critic, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at two of the more often overlooked films in the TCM canon. If you're a horror fan at all, chances are you know what a tremendous struggle it was to get The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 made. It was a full twelve years before Tobe Hooper finally decided to step behind the camera for the follow up to his groundbreaking 1974 film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And the time off sometimes shows in this second film in the series. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is clearly a very different film from the original TCM. Hooper opts less for in-your-face horror this time around and, instead, goes the route of other classic "second" films - most notably Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2 and Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead - by infusing an infecting humor that just works to make the film slightly lighter and more playful. That's not to say that Hooper doesn't deliver the goods with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. There are enough moments of gory goodness to keep the hardcore horrorhounds happy without completely dominating the film. What TCM2 might best be remembered for, however, is its cast of characters. The film did, in fact, give us the legendary Bill Moseley character, Chop Top, and the Dennis Hopper character, Lieutenant "Lefty" Enright. Not to mention the fact that we get to hear Leatherface called by his affectionate nickname "Bubba." If that's not enough for all you horror fans, I don't know what is. Previously released by MGM in a bare bones DVD, Fox (who now distributes much of MGM's catalog) recently released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: The Gruesome Edition. Not only does the film get a well-deserved technical rehaul, but the DVD also includes some really interesting extra material. This is a DVD upgrade no-brainer. Especially for the Leatherface fans out there.

A remake of the Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, wasn't exactly high on any horror fan's priority list back in 2003. In fact, horror remakes (at least at the time) were mostly horrible retreads and pointless ventures. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), however, did a damn fine job of changing all that pretty quickly and started a trend in Hollywood where horror remakes actually contributed to the mythology of their film series. Here's what I wrote about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) when the DVD was first released:

"I wasn't exactly looking forward to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) when it was initially announced. I mean, seriously, Michael Bay was attached to this project. What were they thinking?

Then I heard some rumblings. I heard John Larroquette had signed on to do the narration and my ears perked up. I heard Bay was, in fact, not even considering directing the film and that he really wanted to go back to the roots of the original film and provide some old-school horror. He didn't intend to infuse horror or any tongue-in-cheek Scream-like inside jokes about the genre. Now I was intrigued. Then I saw the theatrical trailer and my jaw absolutely dropped. There was homage everywhere in the trailer: that wrenching, grating sound of a photoflash (which is actually a tuning fork being pulled across a piano string), the slamming of the huge steel door, the shot of Biel's backside as she walked up to the house. Were they actually going to do the original film justice with this remake?

Let's just say, at this point, my curiosity was certainly peaked. And the final verdict? Well, if you look at the film as a "re-imaging" or a "re-invention" rather than a remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, things become a bit clearer. Michael Bay, Marcus Nispel, Scott Kosar, and the rest of the cast and crew had done something pretty smart. Instead of trying to improve upon or remake a horror classic, they've decided to go back to the original Ed Gein story and create their own tale. Yes, Leatherface is still around, but his family is a wholly different unit now. Yes, the title and the location are the same and there are still five youngsters walking straight into their own demise, but that's about where the similarities end. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) is a new film, a new story, and, if you separate it from the original and view it not as a remake, but simply a new horror film, it turns out that it's a damn good horror film. No, it's not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that I love so dearly, but it is better than any of the sequels that followed the original classic. No, it's not the greatest horror film you'll ever see, but it's a really good horror film and we all know that, nowadays, those are pretty rare."
As a true horror fan, what more could you ask for? Even if you're an absolute film purist and have refused to check out The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), I suggest you finally give it a shot. Nispel's film may just surprise you.

Upcoming Scares

Editor's Note

As DVD Stalk continues to grow, we hope to bring you more great features and even a few surprises. The first of which is our brand new DVD Stalk Forum. We thought a dedicated sub-forum to handle all the horror-related chatter would be a great addition to the already-thriving DVD Talk Forums. We'll also be posting horror news, quick-hit peeks at upcoming discs, and press releases in the new forum, so check it out and join in the fun at the DVD Stalk Forum.

We've also gotten some wonderful responses over at DVD Stalk's MySpace. If you've got a MySpace account, make sure you stop by and friend us.

You keep reading and we'll keep writing. If there is anything that you, the loyal reader, would love to see covered in this area, please feel free to send us a note to [email protected].

-Scott Lecter-

We'd love to read your comments and feedback. Send us your thoughts on other things you'd like to see in the space, or even random thoughts about the world of horror. Drop us a line at [email protected]. Don't forget to visit the DVD Stalk Forum to chat about all things horror-related, and join us at DVD Stalk on MySpace.

DVD Stalk Editors: Scott Lecter, Geoffrey Kleinman.
Contributors to DVD Stalk: Scott Weinberg, Eric D. Snider, Brian Orndorf, David Cornelius, Ian Jane, Bill Gibron, das monkey, Mike Long, and DVD Savant.


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