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Everything You Need to Know About Horror on DVD

DVD Stalk: Monster Squad, Zodiac, and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
DVD Stalk Special Report

Horror fans everywhere have been waiting for this for a VERY long time. If you've been keeping up with the DVD Stalk Blog, you know that this past weekend we finally got a copy of The Monster Squad: Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition DVD in our hands and we even did a couple fun, unboxing videos (which you can also see below). While Francis Rizzo III should have a more complete look at the long-awaited disc, and its contents, up on the site soon, I wanted to give everyone a little taste of what they can expect from one of most requested DVDs of all time.

The Monster Squad: Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition is, without a doubt, worth all the years of waiting. Sure, it may not be the perfect disc that every fan has been begging to have since 1998, but it's pretty darn close (and probably the most complete disc on the film you're ever likely to see). I know everyone's all upset that Lionsgate didn't use the original cover art for the DVD, but if you put that fact aside for a moment, you can see just how excellent this little package really is.

Not only do we finally get to see the film in its 2.35:1 widescreen glory, but it's also the best the film has ever looked in my opinion. We're talking about a fairly low-budget, 20-year-old film here so reference quality this disc is not. But it easily surpasses every previous transfer you may have seen. Not to mention the well-balanced and engaging Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track (yes, the original stereo audio is included as well for the purists).

But what really makes The Monster Squad: Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition a must-have DVD are the excellent special features. It's clear that Writer/Director Fred Dekker has had a hand in the proceedings because he's all over this disc. Not only does he appear in both commentary tracks (which are engaging, informative, and a heck of a lot of fun), but he also takes part in the feature-length five-part retrospective documentary Monster Squad Forever!, and even writes a poignant little insert for the DVD. The hour-and-a-half long documentary is the real prize here, but there's so much quality material here to dig into, any Monster Squad will be in genre bliss. We have a few deleted scenes, animated storyboards, the original theatrical trailer and TV spot, and A Conversation with Frankenstein. If you're a fan of The Monster Squad from way back (like me), you're going to have a great time just wading through the second disc of this DVD set.

I could sit and tell you about the plot of the film (but chances are you already know it), about how fun, funny, silly, hilarious, classic, etc, etc the film is (but chances are you've already heard it), about how many times I watched it as a kid (but you probably did too), and how much it means to finally have it on DVD (but you, more likely than not, feel the same way). The Monster Squad is one of those films that my sister and I watched over and over until we wore out the VHS tape. People have called it the "poor-man's Goonies," but I think it's so much more than that. It's pure '80s entertainment at its very best. It's a mix of so many things genre fans love with a little bit of heart, and a whole lot of nostalgia. And, really, what more could you ask for from a film?

So you want me to bottom line it for you? You want to know if The Monster Squad: Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition is not only worth picking up on DVD but worth all the year's of waiting? My answer for you is a resounding YES. It's worth all those years, and more. If you've been waiting since 1998, when you picked up your first DVD player, to find out if Wolfman's still got nards, well you'll have your answer pretty much as soon as you open the case. As Fred Dekker also says in his excellent little insert essay, Wolfman does, indeed, still have nards. And The Monster Squad is still just as fun today as it was when you were a kid. I can't recommend the disc highly enough. Kudos, Lionsgate. Thanks for finally giving us Monster Squad fans something to cheer about.

If you didn't get a chance to check it out this weekend, I've included the smaller version of the little unboxing we did (and a few of the images) below. If you want to see the larger versions, head on over to the DVD Stalk Blog. Without further adieu, here it is: The Monster Squad: Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition on DVD.

Amazingly beautiful for something we've all waited so long for. The Monster Squad: Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition hits the streets on July 24th. Keep an eye out on the site for Francis Rizzo III's complete take on the DVD coming soon. We've waited years for this, Monster Squad fans. Enjoy it!

Horror DVD Review Highlights of The Week

We kick off this week's batch of horror DVD reviews with Francis Rizzo III's take on the David Fincher's latest film, Zodiac. Fincher's film didn't get nearly the attention it deserved during its theatrical run and Francis is here to tell us just how good the film is. "Zodiac kind of sneaked up on me, as I hadn't heard much buzz about it, and I certainly hadn't heard that it was David Fincher's return to the box office, following the stylish thriller Panic Room. As a big fan of Fincher's work, especially his visual style, and a fan of movies and books about serial killers, I was excited to see what Fincher would do with the story of the Zodiac. What I eventually saw wasn't at all what I expected, but was a welcome surprise from a director who obviously doesn't want to be pigeon-holed as an MTV-generation editing junkie, after establishing himself as the king of the MTV-generation editing junkies with his previous films...As a result of the lack of connection with the killer, the film gets to know his hunters well, including Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) and inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo.) Each man invests a great deal into discovering who the Zodiac is, way more than anyone should have, considering the progression of the case. Working together, but mainly on their own, they spend years chasing down every lead, and every time they seem to get close, they realize how far away they are. The effect the case has on their professional and private lives takes up the bulk of the second half of the movie, but it's no less intriguing than the killings in the beginning. The nitty-gritty of the investigation is as engrossing as the graphically depicted murders, with one scene, in which Graysmith simply visits a possible informant (played to horrifying perfection by Charles Fleischer) being one of the most frightening in the entire film...Though Gyllenhaal is the star of the show, and he does well as the ultimate boy scout, showing extreme enthusiasm for bringing the killer to justice, no one is as fantastic in this film as Downey, who is perfect as a drunken lout of a reporter, the epitome of the crime beat writer who does his work on the streets and in the gutter. The energy he brings to the film with his performance is invaluable, and he stands as a important contrast to Gyllenhaal's naive rookie. On the other end of the spectrum is Ruffalo, who plays his cop character with restraint and slow-burn intensity that makes his ongoing travails more personal and relateable. He's the most down-to-earth of the three, looking simply to do his duty and frustrated by an inability to finish the job. Between the three men, there's a complete portrait of obsession, which is the real story here...Instead of taking the legendary tale of cat and mouse and applying his bag of visual tricks to it, Fincher created one of his most straightforward films, using his gift for detail to take audiences back to the days of the killings, going so far as to show the studio logos before the film in the style of the time. While the film is as stylish as Fincher's previous efforts, it's an understated style, and doesn't take away from what is his first period piece, injecting you directly into that time, in much the same way Se7en and Fight Club took you into those worlds...Zodiac shares more in common with The Game than any of the other films in Fincher's filmography, and is easily his most complete film, from beginning to end, thanks to a focus on storytelling instead of visual acrobatics. Fincher's finest directing work, an enthralling story and an outstanding cast make what could have been an overlong exercise in indulgent filmmaking into one of the best serial killer films ever."

"Try to imagine smell. Now, I'm not referring to the food, cloth, or wood manifestation that pops in your head when scent tickles your nose, but the actual olfactory sense flying through the wind. Though any sense would be difficult to harness on film, Tom Tykwer has given us a wonderfully dark and emotionally twisting film in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer that harnesses the most difficult to imagine. To say the least, the director of the electrically charged film Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run) has meticulously crafted an adaptation of Patrick Süskind's novel "Das Parfum" packed with sprawled resonance...What starts out as an intriguingly humorous anti-development story about an unguided youth very quickly evolves into something short of a tense nightmare. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, in turn, shifts tones from being dark with humor to pure, decadent darkness akin to some of the strongest horror tales imaginable. It's the best kind of campfire tale, one that might grapple younger audiences with its gratuity and one fully capable of wrangling older crowds with a rich story and a rich history. And boy, this is a powerhouse tale to tell. Once everything starts to unravel and Jean-Baptiste's epitomized motives leak out to his unflinching desire, you'll be even more hard pressed to peel from the screen as you were from the start...Seamless in dramatic transition and carrying a fluent grace in visual style, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a film with every dirty staple and grotesque stitch impeccably placed...What makes Tykwer's film so haunting isn't just the way he harnesses smell on screen, but his manipulation of the olfactory sensation. As humans, we rely on scent as somewhat of a pleasure organ. From picking up fluttering scents escaping food to the undeniable rage of erotic flavor, he keeps us fully aware of the nose as a way to grasp unbridled wonder from the world. He then poises us into a surreally uncomfortable twist between scent's eroticism and an underdeveloped, imploded passion raging within Jean-Baptiste. I absolutely loved how he accomplished such discomfort by meddling and serving up an utterly discombobulating feeling while soaking in these swirling eccentricities...Perfume: The Story of a Murderer's naturalistic tension and unabashed absorbance make this one of my favorite films of the year. It's evocative, horrific, and quite humorous with a twist in the gut. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer's not without light imperfections, namely a possibly interpretive conclusion that's either hard to swallow or hard to grasp. However, if you're game to letting the swirling scents of an unusually enveloping tale of horror seep into your nasal cavity, then Tykwer's film should be worth your time from first scent to the final bold flavor."

"While Stuart Gordon has adapted the works of H.P. Lovecraft more than a few times with films like Dagon, From Beyond and Re-Animator his work in the world of Edgar Allan Poe isn't quite as recognized (though The Pit And The Pendulum has its fans and for good reason). That should all change with this latest entry, The Black Cat, done for Showtime's Masters Of Horror series as it's not only the best episode of the second season but it's one of the best episodes of the entire series so far...While kitty lovers the world over may cringe during a couple of realistically simulated scenes of animal violence, The Black Cat turns out to be a very well-paced and extremely well-acted piece of gothic horror. Gordon lays the atmosphere on thick using shadows and fog to play with the lighting and by ensuring that the scenes which play out in the basement remain claustrophobic and eerie. The cat, cute at first, becomes quite menacing as the picture moves on thanks to some expert use of sound and a few strong special effects sequences. While it would be unfair to call this a gore film, it should also be noted that a couple of scenes are definitely quite strong in terms of carnage and bloodshed but not to the point where they feel particularly gratuitous - instead they accent the more horrific and emotional aspects of the story, just as they should...he end result is a creepy and very entertaining movie that will reward horror buffs regardless of their familiarity with Poe's life and work. That said, if one is at least marginally familiar with his biography there's a lot to enjoy here but either way, Combs is so good, the movie so well-shot and photographed and the story so interesting that it would hard not to appreciate what Gordon and company have crafted here...Definitely one of the best episodes of the entire series so far in its two season run, Masters of Horror: The Black Cat is a solid slice of gothic atmosphere with a great performance from Combs and some fantastic direction from Gordon."

"Released on DVD some time ago in Europe by the Belgian Film Archive, director Harry Kumel's (best known for Daughters Of Darkness) truly strange Malpertuis finally receives its due on domestic DVD thanks to Barrel Entertainment in one of their typically impressive definitive editions...There are two very different versions of the film included on this set. The first is the Cannes Cut which Kumel has disowned. This is the version that was assembled out of his control and which played briefly at the festival and which gave the film its unjustly deserved bad reputation. The second, and longer, version of the film is Kumel's preferred Directors Cut (it's roughly twenty minutes longer) which Kumel re-cut in 2000 after which it played a few festivals before finally landing on home video where it will hopefully become the better known version of the picture...Regardless of which version you prefer, Malpertuis proves to be a very rewarding experience. Blending straight horror with erotic overtones and stylish moments that border on the surreal, Kumel has crafted a rather alien picture that sucks you in and holds you there until the completely twisted ending. Performances are uniformly strong across the board and while the top billed Welles doesn't have a whole lot of screen time her certainly makes an indelible impression in the picture. Susan Hampshire's performance(s) are unique and interesting and the rest of the cast rise to the material as well. Visually the film is gorgeous, using colors and visual symbolism very effectively and framed in a rather painterly method ensuring the movie looks fantastic from start to finish. If the film is a little too heady for some audiences, so be it, but for those who like a little art with their horror, Malpertuis is about as good as it gets."

"Tales From The Crypt had it all - a fantastic roster of directorial talent, great writers, some amazing casting choices, and of course, a wise cracking undead puppet host voiced by John Kassir to open and close each episode. Steeped in the rich tradition of William M. Gaines' horror and suspense comics from the fifties - Tales From The Crypt, The Vault Of Horror and Shock Suspense Stories respectively - the series, which lasted seven seasons on HBO, has remained a fan favorite from the time its first episode aired on June 10, 1989 until it went off the air on July 19, 1996. Thankfully, once again the undead host and his friends have found new life on DVD and thanks to Warner Brothers the complete seasons of the show are now being made available completely uncut though this fifth season sees a lot less in the way of supplements than we've seen on prior sets. Season Six isn't a good example of the best that the series had to offer but it's still definitely better than average material and some interesting guest stars and behind the camera talent add to the show's already considerable appeal...Just like the notorious comic books that they were based on, the episodes almost always blended a twisted sense of black humor with the gore and shock scenes and twist endings that they became known and subsequently reviled by parents for. Critics would often blast the comics for being too intense or too depraved for the younger audiences that they were aimed at, despite the fact that there was very often an obvious moral to the story and that usually the stories were quite tongue in cheek. With the TV show the creative teams didn't have to worry about that so much. Since the series aired on HBO and not on a regular network, the show was free from the standard censorship issues inflicted on regular broadcast television and as such, the series was aimed primarily at adult viewers - just like it should have been...Overall, Tales From The Crypt: The Complete Sixth Season isn't quite as impressive as the seasons that came before it but even lesser Tales From The Crypt is still better than most genre programming and the few truly stand out episodes in this set make it worth owning despite the lack of extras."

" When confronted with films as cynical and baldly manipulated by cash as is the superfluous The Hills Have Eyes 2, it's all you can do to stay awake throughout its skeletal run time. Existing for no other reason than to capitalize upon the success of Alexandre Aja's 2005 update of Wes Craven's 1977 The Hills Have Eyes, this lazy, brainless sequel to Aja's remake is tenuously linked to the 2005 effort by a few title cards that are so blase, it feels as though the filmmakers added them as an afterthought ("You think people would notice if we didn't connect the two films?")... Stocked with a largely unknown cast, directed by music video hack Martin Weisz and working from what has to be one of the shoddiest scripts Wes Craven's ever put his name on (he even dragged his son Jonathan into this mind-numbing mess), The Hills Have Eyes 2 doesn't waste any time killing off characters -- plenty of blood has spilled before 10 minutes are up. I've nothing against graphic violence and gore, but at the same time, if you aren't even a little invested in the soon-to-be corpses, who really gives a shit how bloody the kills are? That's the most glaring problem with The Hills Have Eyes 2: any sense of identification with the bland, interchangeable characters is lost, as is tension and the nerve-jangling air of mystery that so effectively pervades Aja's 2005 film... In its lowest moment, The Hills Have Eyes 2 indulges in an ugly, completely unnecessary rape sequence that's meant to recapture the gruesome tension of Craven's original, but also the infamous trailer scene in Aja's 2005 remake. It's this shameless attempt to not only reach back to an earlier, more successful film but the fact that the The Hills Have Eyes 2 creative team somehow thought that the trailer scene was worth repeating. That particular sequence worked because you were invested in the characters; here, it's a brutal, needless indulgence that just makes you feel slimy all over...The Hills Have Eyes 2 is worthless - I can't imagine even watching this on cable, bored out of my mind. There's not a shred of compelling story to be seen and despite the actors' emoting for all they're worth, you'll never give a damn who dies when or how."

"Once, only artists and professionals were allowed into cinema's holy domain. But with the advent of VHS (and now, DVD), any dork with determination could and continues to make their own damn movies. Thanks to a direct to video market hungry for product, and an audience willing to accept sometimes limited entertainment returns just to watch actual films in the comfort of their homes, untested talent could make a quick buck and/or name for themselves releasing their hackneyed homemade efforts. Two of the better believers in this theory are Mark and John Polonia. From adolescence onward, they strove to find a way to express their fear fandom, and the result has been one of the more peculiar creepshow canons in all of horror. A good example of their idiosyncratic charms is their first videotape epic, Splatter Farm. New to DVD from Camp Motion Pictures, it shows the brothers in all their miscreant glory...Sick, twisted, and just a tad troubling, the Polonia Brothers' 1987 slasher spectacle Splatter Farm is like watching a selection of Sawyer family home movies. In the tradition of such tawdry backwoods frightfests as Mother's Day, Last House on the Left, and any version of the seemingly eternal Ed Gein story, the underage auteurs, responsible for such Super VHS schlock as Feeders, Terror House, and the priceless Peter Rottentail, put their tentative talents to the test as they overdose on gore and pile on the perversity. Aside from the standard slice and dice, Splatter Farm also delivers rape, sex with the elderly (implied, thankfully), feces fun, corpse grinding, and oral pleasure with a decapitated head. If you weren't so sure that the Polonias were just a couple of horror fans working out their inner dread for the sake of their brand new camcorder (they used to work in Super8), you'd think you had stumbled upon a deviant's vomit-inducing video diary...Splatter Farm is about as far from classic as a self-helmed horror film can be. But it does deliver what most outsider efforts can't - a plausible premise effectively realized. The Polonias should be proud of that fact...Like taking a trip back in time to the days when magnetic tape magic was just a visit to the Mom and Pop video store away, Splatter Farm is some nicely nasty nostalgia. It represents the first forays into full blown filmmaking from a pair of brothers obsessed by the artform, and exudes enough sleazoid stink to fill a string of seedy grindhouses."

"Tarantino and Rodriguez' ode to trashy seventies exploitation movies may not have set the box office on fire but it did manage to convince a few home video companies to follow in their footsteps by releasing some interesting 'grindhouse' themed releases. BCI Eclipse is one of those companies, and this entry in their Welcome To The Grindhouse double-feature line pairs up the notorious Black Candles with the lesser known Evil Eye. Euro-cult fans will definitely be more familiar with these films than the average Joe-on-the-street but hopefully the 'bang for the buck' factor will encourage the curious to check these releases out, which in turn will allow for BCI to continue the line as they're truly a treat for genre buffs and you really can't beat the price...Writer-Director Jose Ramon Larraz (best known for Vampyres and The Coming Of Sin has a knack for helming skin-tastic and atmospheric movies and Black Candles definitely fits into his niche quite nicely. For a film made in 1982 the picture definitely has a strong seventies vibe to it that is evident in the music and the fashions up on screen. Larraz doesn't pace the film particularly well in that it moves a little slow but at the same time it has a rich, dreamlike quality to it that makes the picture more than just a little surreal (whether or not this was intentional or not is probably up for debate). While the characters are fairly on dimensional and the English dubbing, which periodically goes out of synch, doesn't help the film any the visuals are at least interesting and the strange layers of psycho-sexual horror that get piled up towards the end of the film definitely give cult movie fans exactly what they're after - plenty of skin, some mild gore, and an evil goat!...That said, is Black Candles genuinely good? Not really, though it certainly entertains...Those who dig on sleazy seventies European imports should definitely enjoy both films as there's plenty of skin, blood and craziness on hand...Welcome To The Grindhouse: Black Candles / Evil Eye comes recommended."

"Debuting in May, 2002, Most Haunted follows a trio of investigators - sort of a live-action Scooby-Doo "Mysteries, Inc." without the laughs - who travel all over England, visiting haunted castles, bars, rooming houses, halls, houses, and anywhere else ghosts and apparitions have been rumored to be seen...If I sound dismissive of the show, I'm not alone. The series has been challenged by experts who question the science involved in the show, as well as the manipulation that necessarily goes into any reality series. Judging for myself, and taking the series at its own, I wasn't convinced I saw one genuine "paranormal" experience that couldn't have been accounted for by legitimate scientific explanations. And indeed, the show itself is very careful to couch its conclusions and conjectures in plenty of "maybes" and "perhaps" and "judge for yourselves" terminology. So let me be equally careful and state that maybe Most Haunted: The Collection is a big, fat fake, and perhaps the realities of mounting such a show based on the supernatural demands some fudging of the facts...The show itself is depressingly rote, with the same set-ups episode after episode. The artificially flashy production - colored lights, the switch from black & white to color, the creepy green eyes of the hosts from the night vision cameras, the lightning-fast editing that makes "ghosts" look like bobble-heads on acid, the jump cuts between master shots, the goofball music cues - all signal "desperation" to me, and an obvious attempt to cover up a thin premise in bells and whistles. Really, the whole series is just showing the location, and then having the "medium" act like he's communing with the afterworld. Oh, and Yvette gets to screech and squeal and generally act like an idiot on cue, once the lights go out. While I'm sure that true believers in this kind of stuff will stand by this nonsense, that's their business. More power to you, and enjoy yourselves; Most Haunted: The Collection will probably delight you. I found it rather dull though, with little to recommend it unless you happen to buy all that crap. Its production was as unconvincing as its 'science.'"

Cineplex Scares: Current Theatrical Horror

Horror DVDs Released in the Past Two Weeks

DVD Stalk Blog

We here at DVD Stalk are incredibly proud of all the great horror news, reviews, and commentary we've been able to bring you over the past year or so and we've grown by leaps and bounds, but we're not done quite yet. DVD Stalk Blog is the latest part of that equation, and an important one at that. Some of the things you're likely to see in the new DVD Stalk Blog include: Shorter, capsule reviews of films (and DVDs) that might not quite fit into the column. News and press releases from all across the world of horror. Interaction with you, the DVD Stalk readers, including giveaways, contests, polls, etc. And, most importantly, a forum for the people behind DVD Stalk to voice their thoughts on current horror films, books, comics, and pretty much anything horror related. We hope to make this blog a place that you'll not only check every single day (as we hope to have new content up daily - or at least nearly daily), but also pop into your favorite RSS reader, tell all your friends about, and link to like crazy little horror freaks.

Upcoming Scares

DVD Stalk Apparel Store

Just wanted to drop a note to let everyone know that you can now order your very own DVD Stalk apparel!! All you have to do is head on over to the DVD Stalk Apparel Store and pick out what you want. The shirt up there at the top is only one fine example of some of the DVD Stalk apparel that you can get your hands on. What better way to say Happy Holidays to a loved one or friend than with a DVD Stalk shirt?

What do you guys and gals think? We're pretty excited about it, and we hope you'll be too!

Editor's Note

As DVD Stalk continues to grow, we hope to bring you more great features and even a few surprises. We've 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. We've also just recently started Twittering, so if you've got a Twitter account make sure you friend us over there as well.

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 join us at DVD Stalk on MySpace.

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


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