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Everything You Need to Know About Horror on DVD

DVD Stalk: Masters of Horror, The Omen: CE, and Horror Movie Collectible Figures
Horror DVD Review Highlights of The Week

Ian Jane kicks off our highlights of the week with an early look at the next two DVD releases in the Masters of Horror series. John Landis may be an excellent filmmaker, but what makes him a "Master of Horror" is clearly his one legendary entry into the genre: An American Werewolf in London. Landis's hour-long effort for the Showtime series, Deer Woman, though an entertaining and fun little tale is actually more quirky black comedy than it is horror and suspense. The film's oddball story is perfect in the handles of Landis as he injects Deer Woman with his usual off-kilter sense of humor, making it one of the least truly scary entries in the series, but one that is definitely easy to enjoy. Anchor Bay has packed this disc, much like their other Masters of Horror releases, with an excellent commentary track, an extensive interview, and some worthwhile featurettes.

Lucky McKee also takes a stab (pun completely intended) at the hour-long horror format for the Showtime series with his film Sick Girl. McKee isn't exactly a "master" of the genre quite yet but his previous effort - the underrated (and often overlooked) May - is a creepy, twisted look at a very shy girl (Angela Bettis). Re-teaming with Bettis for Sick Girl, the director crafts a gory horror-comedy about a lesbian relationship and a very nasty bug. Ian Jane agrees that Sick Girl isn't one of the best entries in the Masters of Horror, but fans of McKee might enjoy it for its cool gore effects and the mostly bug. The DVD is, of course, just as packed as all the other Masters of Horror discs, and is easily worth at least a rental.

With John Moore's nearly shot-by-shot remake currently in theaters, what better time than now for Fox to release their big "2-Disc Collector's Edition" of Richard Donner's original classic. Some horror fans might see the release of this disc as an easy cash-in double-dip by the studio, but this brand new DVD is a very worthy second release for The Omen. Not only do we get most of the extra material from the original disc, but this new DVD features a insightful new commentary track and the incredibly exhaustive documentary The Omen Legacy. Clocking in at 101 minutes, the documentary covers the entire Omen franchise in intricate detail, and is probably worth the price of the new collector's edition DVD alone.

A hard-to-find cult favorite for many years, Equinox comes to DVD for the first time in a fully packed Criterion special edition. Growing from the germ of an idea by four Famous Monsters of Filmland fans, Equinox is actually a 1970 B-grade reimagining of the friends' original homemade movie The Equinox...a Journey in the Supernatural. Criterion not only provides a huge wealth of extra material here, but they also do the smart thing by providing both films in this DVD release. While Equinox may not be a great film, it is a truly interesting experiment in filmmaking and, as Bill Gibron puts it, a look into the "...life lessons in working within the misguided movie business." Criterion has done a bang-up job, once again, bringing another unsung and difficult-to-find film to DVD.

What would you do if you woke up and discovered that you were the very last person on Earth? Geoff's Murphy's highly intriguing The Quiet Earth tries to answer that very question. The film (all the way from New Zealand) tells the tale of a New Zealand scientist, named Zac, who wakes up and finds no trace whatsoever of humanity lurking around. That is, until Zac makes a startling discovery which I won't ruin for everyone, but suffice to say that it's mind-blowing. Scott Weinberg says it best when he says The Quiet Earth is "...a soft-spoken, fascinating, and impressively mounted sci-fi drama. It unfolds like a particularly cool episode of The Twilight Zone and it keeps the apocalypse interesting up to and including the deliciously ambiguous finale." The film is one of those buzzed-about films that you've probably heard about from your friends but never had the opportunity to see. Now's your chance. The Quiet Earth is on the street this week.

Holly E. Ordway takes a look at the recently-released Riddick Trilogy and calls it "the definitive Riddick collection." Not only do Riddick fans get the unrated, extended versions of Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, but we also get the 35-minute animated short The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury. This dark sci-fi series takes a bit of a turn with the second installment, but still remains a very entertaining group of films. The Riddick Trilogy is a solid package, and a bargain for anyone who doesn't already own the films separately.

For all the J-Horror fans out there, we continue our coverage of the genre with a trio of Asian thrillers. John Wallis checks out 3 Extremes: Vol. 2 (the semi-sequel to the horror anthology film Three...Extremes) and calls it an uneven, but overall interesting, anthology film. Some stories, of course, are better than others, but the general quality is close to that of its predecessor. John also had a chance to take a look at a cheesy, softcore exploitation film from overseas called Naked Poison and, while it doesn't live up to the early 90s Hong Kong nasties, he still finds the film to be "serviceable sleaze." The debut film from Chan-woo Park collaborator Mu-yeong Lee, Humanist is a "dark crime comedy of the blackest variety," and is also worth at least a rental. Finally, we have Naina, which isn't exactly J-Horror as it's more like a "Bollywood version of The Eye," with Indian actors and a story that follows incredibly closely to Danny and Oxide Pang's film. Scott Weinberg finds Naina a snoozefest and suggests that you go watch The Eye instead. I couldn't agree more.

Wrapping up this week's highlights, Scott Weinberg gives the 1985 sci-fi horror flick Warning Sign a spin. Despite a quality cast of familiar faces the film simply can't recover from its dry, boring beginning, and ends up a sluggish, senseless biohazard tale. If you're into chemically-altered semi-zombies, however, you might dig this silly little flick.

Cineplex Scares: Current Theatrical Horror

The only horror film you'll probably be able to find in most first-run theaters is John Moore's remake of the 1976 Richard Donner classic, The Omen. Opening on a Tuesday - to capitalize on the 6/6/06 date - The Omen (2006) certainly brought in quite an audience as it opened to over $12 million (the largest Tuesday opening in motion picture history), but couldn't seem to garner the affection of many critics. Scott Weinberg, Eric D. Snider, and Brian Orndorf each had a chance to check out the nearly shot-for-shot remake starring Julia Stiles and Liev Schreiber, and all concluded that The Omen (2006) is a lazy, dull, and ultimately unnecessary, carbon-copy remake of a horror classic. Dethroned in its first real weekend at the box office by Pixar's Cars, The Omen (2006) may not last all that long in your major cineplexes around the country (especially with all the summer blockbusters about to be unleashed). If you're really keen on seeing this flick, you may need to do so pretty soon. You may, however, just be better off picking up a copy of the new collector's edition DVD of the original film.

Horror DVDs Released This Week

Horror fans have waited so long to finally get their hands on a region one release of Cemetery Man (Dellamorte Dellamore), that we thought it was worth of not one, but two, separate reviews. Both Ian Jane and DVD Savant come away with pretty much the same conclusion; that this Italian horror film is easily worth adding to your collection. Sure, the visual presentation may not live up to that of the R2 PAL disc, but Anchor Bay has still done a excellent job of finally bringing this Michele Soavi zombie classic to domestic DVD. This certainly isn't the Rupert Everett folks here in the states are used to seeing, as he plays the groundskeeper who starts out trying to keep the dead from rising in his cemetery and soon finds himself falling in love. Not your typical zombie gorefest, Cemetery Man may be a bit twisted, but it's also a uniquely entertaining film. That, and the inclusion of an excellent half-hour making-of documentary, make this disc a must-own for any horror fan.

Also in stores this week, Scott Weinberg takes a look at the first season of the supernatural series Medium and finds that it "can be as dark, compelling, and intense as your favorite Hollywood thrillers." Medium might not be straight horror, and it might not be a great series, but it has some incredibly effective elements which makes for highly entertaining (and often spooky) television. Patricia Arquette - who won an Emmy® for her work on the series - is excellent portraying the real-life medium Allison DuBois. She is amazingly grounded and down-to-earth in her role as the women who must handle the responsibility of being both a mother (and wife) and also the conduit for some really creepy dreams about dead people. What makes Arquette's performance (and the Allison DuBois character) even more realistic and impressive, however, are the supporting characters around her. The highly underrated Jake Weber plays her skeptical husband beautifully as a man who clearly loves his wife to death - even if he often has trouble believing everything that happens to her - and takes great care of their three children. Medium also features some of the best work Miguel Sandoval has ever done. Throw in some excellent writing, a few clever twist endings, and a well rounded DVD presentation and it becomes obvious that Medium: The Complete First Season is a no-brainer for anyone that enjoys quality television (especially of the creepy, supernatural variety).

Also on DVD this week:

Overlooked Horror Discs

Larry Fessenden's Wendigo is easily one of the quietest and most overlooked horror films of the last ten years. Starring Jake Weber, Patricia Clarkson, and Erik Per Sullivan, the film is a true slow-burn of a horror film. The story is simple: a caring, but distant, father takes his wife and kid on a long weekend in snowy, rural New York. Wendigo starts slowly by showing George and his family encountering some trouble on the way to their cabin, and then dealing with the ramifications of that trouble as they settle in on their property. By allowing the film to slowly open up its subject, and reveal its true nature, Fessenden gives his characters time to grow and relate to each other. We actually start to care for this family before Wendigo starts weaving its supernatural threads. When they do kick in, however, Fessenden's film becomes more dream-state than reality. After learning about the Indian legend of the Wendigo (a shapeshifting half-man, half-deer creature), young Miles begins to think that the mythical creature might just have something to do with his family's misfortune. What makes Wendigo so interesting - and probably what makes it so overlooked as well - is the fact that the story unfolds so slowly that you hardly realize that the perspective is shifting from George to Miles. The father may own the first part of the story but Miles gives his own little spin to the rest of the film, imparting the myth of the Wendigo on his unsuspecting parents. It's something that's easily missed the film time around, but once you realize just how delicately Fessenden handles the Father/Son relationship in his film, Wendigo becomes a much stronger horror tale. The film, unfortunately, falls apart a bit near the conclusion, but is still definitely worth checking out if you haven't seen it already.

Director Mark Romanek's creepy One Hour Photo certainly isn't straight horror - a lot of people might not even call it horror at all - but it does contain some incredibly frightening images and ideas. It may not be a horror film in the sense of truly visceral horror (gore, guts, and violence), but it's probably one of the scarier films you'll find in your local video store. What Romanek does (and, admittedly, a great deal of credit must also go to Robin Williams for a very creepy, effective performance) in One Hour Photo is create a film that seeps into your mind and shows you all the things that scare you. It then wraps those things up in a nice little package and puts them into the most seemingly gentle and caring person you could ever imagine. When that person (and your neat little package of fears) is finally revealed to be something you never expected, it's one of the most frightening moments possible. Sy Parrish is a nobody. Romanek and Williams make the character so pathetically unsuspecting and nondescript that he actually blends into the surroundings at his local SavMart (where he works in the photo processing department). It's an amazingly effective way to great tension, and Romanek knows exactly how to manipulate not only his characters, but also the look of his film to get this very result. Some may not call it a horror film, but what we learn about Sy Parrish as One Hour Photo unfolds makes for some of the creepiest moments you're ever likely to see.

In the mood for a horror/comedy/drama that's full of creepy bugs, Elvis sightings, killer mummies, an African-American JFK, and some strangely poignant emotion? No? How about if I throw Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, and the director of Phantasm into the equation? Still not sure? OK, your loss then, because Bubba Ho-Tep is one of the most strangely satisfying genre mixes of the past decade. Don Coscarelli manages to take one of the most oddball ideas ever and weave it into a truly touching film about aging, mental degradation, creepy mummies, and...Elvis. Not only that, but MGM gives the film an excellent DVD presentation featuring two commentaries, four featurettes, and a bunch of other goodies. All that, along with the film itself, you can't go wrong. Bubba Ho-Tep is silly, spooky, and actually quite sweet, too. Check it out today. Trust me.

Upcoming Scares

Severed Limbs: Various Horror Odds & Ends
-Horror Movie Collectible Figures-

This week's Severed Limbs section focuses on one of my very favorite geek-pleasures: toys. In the first of what will be a semi-recurring feature on Horror Movie Collectible Figures, here at DVD Stalk, we take a look at the selection of horror collectibles from the SOTA Toys Now Playing series. Some of the most original and visual stunning figures on the market, SOTA Toys has done a great job of bringing a few of our cult-favorite films to the collectible market.

Of all the Now Playing figures currently available, probably the most visually interesting is the Killer Klowns from Outer Space collectible. From the cult-classic movie of the same name, this figure features the colorfully creepy Killer Klown poised atop a star-painted base with his blaster and a hanging man-filled cotton candy cocoon. Now Playing also released an alternate-color version of this popular figure as a Tower Records exclusive, which has become quite a rare find. This visually stunning dynamic Killer Klown is a 7-inch scale replica from one of the funniest horror flicks around, and will add a nice touch of bright color to your shelf of collectibles.

Some of the other films (and their corresponding figures) featured in the Now Playing scale series include The Creeper (Jeepers Creepers 2), Imhotep (The Mummy Returns), Darkman, Nightmare Demon figures (An American Werewolf in London), and Toxie (The Toxic Avenger).

Also available are Now Playing's two Mega Scale figures. The incredibly realistic Lord of Darkness not only looks amazing, but also speaks five different phrases. The other Mega Scale collectible is an 18" Pumpkinhead figure that will be available in September 2006.

If you've already managed to grab all of the currently available Now Playing collectibles, you'll only have to wait a few months to round out your collection with their next series of figures. Along with their upcoming resin collectibles, the next series will feature 7-inch scale replicas of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Dune), Meg Mucklebones (Legend), and Werewolf (Dog Soldiers). The most highly-anticipated Now Playing item, however, might be their big R.J. McReady vs. Dog Thing (The Thing) box set. As you can see, from the picture on the left, this box set is a dynamic, realistic, and gorgeously rendered collectible. Like many horror fans out there, I can't wait to get my hands on one.

Reader Responses

Thank you to every single person who wrote in to tell us what you thought of DVD Stalk. We've gotten a ton of great reader responses so far, and I can't even begin to express how thrilled I am that so many people seem to be enjoying the new column. Here are a few more of your emails:

"Keep up the great work at the Stalk! I'm glad to be a cog in the manglin' machine!" - Scott Weinberg (DVD Stalk Contributor)

"I am enjoying your reviews. Keep up the good work." - Jeffrey (DVD Stalk reader)

"Thanks guys for giving us true horror fans a place to hang out and drool about all the new horror to hit the screen. You have done an awesome job on reviews and picking out some of the newer pics to come to DVD...Sure helps sorting through the ones I thought would be good and the ones I know are gonna be good and scary. Saves me $$. Thanks again." - Brian (DVD Stalk reader)

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].

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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