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Everything You Need to Know About Horror on DVD

DVD Stalk: Final Destination 3, Lady in the Water, and DVD Stalk Giveaway of the Week
DVD Stalk Giveaway of the Week
-Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Fourth Season-

This week we have a special giveaway from Warner Bros. for The Fourth Season DVD release of Tales From The Crypt [Review] [Contest]. Just a few of the great features found on The Tales From The Crypt: The Complete Fourth Season are:

-14 complete uncut episodes on three discs-
-Commentary by the Cryptkeeper (voice by John Kassir), writer Alan Katz, and Digby Diehl-
-Stars of Season 4 montage hosted by the Cryptkeeper-

Check out our contest page for all of the official rules and enter now for your chance to win one of 3 copies of the Tales From The Crypt: The Complete Fourth Season DVD.

Horror DVD Review Highlights of The Week

We kick off this week's huge batch of horror DVD reviews with Ian Jane's take on the third installment of the Final Destination series. This third film (subtitled Thrill Ride) is only more evidence that "James Wong and company [are] not afraid to accent their movies with healthy doses of gore, gore, and more gore courtesy of some of the most creative kill scenes in the history of the sub-genre that is the slasher film." Final Destination 3 may not be a deep or intelligent film, but it does make good on the promises made by the entire series so far. Each film has had its own unique way of disposing of its characters, providing some really fun popcorn entertainment, and grossing its audience out. Final Destination 3 is no different, as it delivers all the killing, gore, and gratuitous nudity you could ask for in a horror flick. The film is just another mindless bit of fun in the horror genre (that's what we love about the Final Destination films) and New Line's 2-disc special edition DVD provides tons of extra material which only helps make this disc a must-have for any fan of the series.

It'd be almost impossible for me to explain why a film as kooky and strange as Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare is worth watching, so I'll let Adam Tyner do the honors: "...the movie ranks somewhere up there with the best-worst ever, among the hallowed ranks of indescribably funny, endlessly rewatchable schlock like Troll 2 and A*P*E or that it has one of the most bafflingly out-of-left-field plot twists in the history of film or that even with all of the shameless padding to bring this seven-day, $53K production to feature length, it's too campy and fascinatingly strange to ever feel boring." Exactly. Enough said, right? Well, Tyner has an even better idea for his review of Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare. He gives us enough screenshots to see what's indescribably interesting about the weirdo flick, and even goes on to explain just how good the Synapse Films DVD is with its remastered audio-visual presentation and its loaded extra material. Do yourself a favor and, as a discerning horror fan, check out this oddity at least once.

TLA Releasing has decided to package together three of their most successful J-Horror titles (2LDK, Suicide Club, and Moon Child) as the Danger After Dark Collection. The films each have something slightly different to offer, but Bill Gibron gives us the lowdown on the package as a whole: "Dealing with violence, blood, crime, culture and heavy doses of Japanese customs and traditions, the three films that make up the Danger After Dark Collection all offer a unique approach to the many problems facing contemporary Asian society." Each film is worth seeing - with one film (2LDK) being exceptional - and some horror fans may already own the flicks separately. If that's the case, there's not a whole lot in this package worth double-dipping for. If not, however, you could certainly do much worse than these three films in a nice little three-disc set.

Canada's Fantasia International Film Festival has long been a genre fan's playground. Often discovering unique, innovative, and overlooked talent, the festival has made quite an impact on the horror genre over the last ten years. Synapse Films, fortunately, had the foresight to know that a DVD of some of the festival's best and brightest offerings would be a great idea. Small Gauge Trauma is that very DVD, and it provides so much great material that Bill Gibron even calls it "one of the best DVD packages of the year." The thirteen included shorts total nearly three hours of genre entertainment, macabre stories, and some truly unique stylistic approaches. The quality of the short films themselves would have been enough to warrant a purchase, but the care and dedication that Synapse Films has put into this project (each film has its own little set of extra material) easily makes this a highly recommended disc.

Ian Jane also takes a look at the next two titles in the Pete Walker Collection line from Media Blasters. The British filmmaker's first foray into the horror genre, Die Screaming Marianne, is "a decent first effort that entertains but fails to fire on all cylinders." There is, however, the beautiful Susan George (of Straw Dogs fame) in the film to keep your attention. While it may not be quite as good as some of Walker's later work in the genre, Die Screaming Marianne is still a decent thriller with a quality performance from George and a few stand out moments.

Media Blasters also gives us a DVD release of Walker's The Flesh and Blood Show, a film that Ian Jane says "used some William Castle style marketing ploys to land people into theater sets," while making no attempts to hide the fact that it was a straight horror film. Ian goes on to explain: "What makes The Flesh and Blood Show interesting is how, like Mario Bava's Bay Of Blood, it manages to include a lot of the staples of the slasher genre in its running time before the slasher genre really existed...and how, in this earlier horror effort, we see the seeds of the anti-social stabs on the establishment that Walker's later efforts would become famous (and rather controversial) for." Walker would certainly go on to make better, and more interesting, films, but The Flesh and Blood Show is still a decent film with a decent treatment from Media Blasters.

It looks like Tartan Video is back at it again with another entry in their Asia Extreme line. Holly Beeman takes a look a their latest offering, Cello, and finds it to be "an admirable attempt...a unique addition to the ever-growing genre, but unfortunately, it also has its fair share of faults." The film, nevertheless, boasts some stylish imagery, an excellent cast, and beautiful soundtrack. Tartan does their usual top-notch job with the material, and have included enough interesting extra material to make Cello worth at least a rental.

Ah...those good old Halloween sequels. How we horror fans love them, right? Hmm...Well, Anchor Bay certainly thinks we do at least. This time around, they're giving us all new Divimax special editions of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, and our reviewers aren't all that thrilled. Bill Gibron claims that Michael Myers is "one killing machine that should have been dismantled and mothballed long ago," while Scott Weinberg calls Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers "a pretty stale affair." Weinberg also goes on to say: "We get a few semi-creative dispatches and half-hearted gore-droppings, but the flick's not dark or intense enough to generate all that much enthusiasm for the nastiness. I can see how the hardcore Halloween-heads can find some small nuggets of fun in this particular sequel but, in my eyes, the series ended with the explosion in Halloween 2." These entries in the series, nevertheless, get some nice DVD treatments from Anchor Bay. Both Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers each feature a nice collection of extra material and adequate audio-visual presentations. It's just a shame that the films themselves are so lackluster.

Ian Jane has a chance to sit down with TLA Releasing's Feed and finds that the film is a decent thriller, but not much more. "Directed by Brett Leonard," Ian says, "the man behind The Lawnmower Man and, believe it or not, Man-Thing and written by Kieran Galvin Feed plays around with a lot of great ideas but ultimately gets buried in its own hyper-stylized cinematography and post production editing tweaks." The film, however, has some nice moments and although TLA's disc could have used some more care and attention, Feed is still worthy of a rental.

Finally, Bill Gibron wraps up our horror DVD review highlights of the week with a look at Tempe Entertainment's vampire flick, Dawn, and finds it to be more disappointingly derivative than unique and novel. While the film may look good with its monochromatic cinematography, Gibron says that "there is really nothing original about this parent/problem child dynamic. Sure, there may be a little neck nibbling involved, and the ending is as fatalistic as it is flimsy, but this is really just a purposeless road movie without a lick of suspense, or moment of sense. Jay Reel may actually have some talent as a writer and filmmaker. You would never know it by watching Dawn, however. It's a thoroughly unsatisfying experience." It's a shame, really, because who doesn't like a good vampire flick? This one's worth a rental at best.

Cineplex Scares: Current Theatrical Horror

While it's not exactly clear whether or not M. Night Shyamalan's latest film is truly a horror film, Lady in the Water has certainly been a horror for Warner Bros. so far. Easily Shyamalan's worst opening weekend since he hit it big with The Sixth Sense, this "bedtime story" not only caused his breakup with Disney, but has also provided the director with the harshest reviews of his career (yeah, even worse than the ones he received for The Village). With a complex (and often times downright silly) storyline, Lady in the Water has failed to catch to connect with audiences so far, and may go on to become Shyamalan's least successful film. Horror or not, there are certainly some genre elements in the film and it might be worth checking out if for nothing more than the lack of horror films currently in theaters. If you're looking for a genre-related flick that the whole family can enjoy, however, there is one more film currently in the cineplex: Monster House. The animated film about a house that's really a living, breathing monster has scored some excellent reviews and is doing well enough at the box office to call it a hit. So load up the kids and introduce them to your favorite genre at an early age with the innovative and clever Monster House.

Horror DVDs Released This Week

Sporting the usual group of excellent directors and interesting guest stars, Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Fourth Season is widely considered by fans to be one of the very best of the entire series. Some of the major players to come aboard for the fourth season include: Treat Williams, Tom Hanks, Dylan McDermott, William Friedkin, John Frankenheimer, and the late Christopher Reeve. With unique (and eclectic) talent like that it's hard not to want to see what they can do with the show's format. Almost always infusing a heavy dose of black humor along with its more frightening moments, Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Fourth Season is easily the most enticing of the four seasons that have been released so far. This Warner Bros. release is similar to their other discs in the Tales from the Crypt series with an adequate (if not all that great) audio-visual presentation and the inclusion of a few interesting extra features. There are a few more goodies thrown in this time around, however, making this a highly recommended release.

Also in stores this week is the Amicus Productions release, Asylum, from the always-excellent DVD studio Dark Sky Films. Similar to Hammer Films, in their modest budgets and genre offerings, Amicus Productions virtually owned the horror-anthology subgenre in the 1960s and '70s. While the quality of these films often varied, Amicus certainly had their fair share of hits. Among these high points in quality is the 1972 anthology film Asylum. Penned by horror fiction icon Robert Bloch, and directed by Roy Ward Baker, Asylum is notably subtler than most of the Amicus Productions films. Stuart Galbraith IV puts it best by noting that the subtle differences "...[are] most apparent in the first and overall most successful segment, "Frozen Fear," with direction and editing that maximizes the potential of the material without becoming distractingly showy, and which for the most part avoids the kind of special effects that would have been impossible with this budget. It's quite well done, quietly unsettling without being at all gory." Along with a quality audio-visual presentation, Dark Sky Films, as usual, has also added some great extra material to this disc, making it well-rounded package. The film is even tame enough for most of the family to enjoy a few scares.

Also on DVD this week:

Overlooked Horror Discs

Leave it to Lloyd Kaufman to create a superhero from the toxic waste dumps of Tromaville, New Jersey. Well, you have to hand it to him for jumpstarting an entire career with one schlocky, unforgettable character. Troma truly is the house that Toxie built. Every single thing that Troma represents is present in The Toxic Avenger. The film is all about the underdog finally getting to break out of his shell and become a superhero (no matter where those superpowers may have originated from). And, in the game of cinema at least, Troma has always kind of been the underdog, living on the far, far outreaches of the film community. If you've never had the pleasure of seeing The Toxic Avenger (or any other Troma film, for that matter), you had better already be opening up your Netflix queue in another browser window right now. Especially if you consider yourself an independent film aficionado. (If you think you're a big time independent film geek and have never seen The Toxic Avenger at least one time, I'm afraid you've got a lot to learn). The film is, without a doubt, a virtual clinic on how to make a film with little or no money. Kaufman does it by creating effective characters, cheesy special effects (including some great gore), and an endearing story. All this in one of the schlockiest films you're ever likely to see. But that's what horror fans love about The Toxic Avenger. It's just got so much charm and hard work stamped all over it that it's hard to dismiss it as z-grade cinema. If you're looking for a film that will remind you why truly independent film is often groundbreaking, interesting, and can even be fun, The Toxic Avenger is the one to do just that. It's a charismatic little cheesefest which basically launched a studio that's still pumping out some of the most "interesting" worst movies you've probably ever seen.

With M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water getting lambasted by nearly every critic under the sun, I thought it might be a good time for me to explain why I think the writer/director's other critically-bashed film, The Village, gets an unfairly bad rap. What happened to both critics and the viewing public when The Village was released in theaters is, in my opinion, a direct result of marketing and viewer expectations. Ever since the incredible success of Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, Disney had been crafting an image of the director as "the guy with the twist ending that will blow you away." It's an unfortunate thing for Shyamalan to be saddled with, as it's nearly impossible to live up to those kind of expectations in every film he would create from there on out. Which is, unfortunately, exactly what happened with The Village. Disney marketed the film as another of Shyamalan's suspense thrillers where the director would turn the tables on his audience in the very last moments of the film, leaving his viewers gasping for breath. Well, someone forgot to tell Disney that, just because there is a "twist" near the end of the film, it doesn't mean it's a complete surprise to the audience. The Village is a character study. It's a slow burn of a drama that unfolds and reveals its mysteries to the audience little by little. By the time we reach the climax near the end of the film, we pretty much know where the film is going. The difference, however, is that Shyamalan doesn't give his characters the same information. He, instead, sides with the elders in his film, and lets the younger generation go on believing what they believe. The true "twist" of the film is that the twist is happening not to the audience, but to the characters in the film themselves. This is, unfortunately, what turned a quietly interesting drama into a critical failure. "We saw it coming. It was so obvious." Well, of course you saw it coming. You're supposed to see it coming. That's the whole point. His characters, however, are the ones who aren't (and don't) see it coming. Or maybe I'm just too easy on Shyamalan. It's worth watching The Village again if for nothing more than to find out if you see it in a different light.

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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