Archive for the ‘Blu-Ray’ Category
The 2003 version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre adheres to the pure and simple slasher movie formula: Introduce a gaggle of sexy young people, make vague gestures to distinguish them–Jessica Biel (Summer Catch) wants to get married and doesn’t like pot, so she’s our moral compass–then start hacking them to pieces one by one. The visual palette includes grimy crucified dolls, fly-specked pig carcasses, body parts floating in murky jars, a tobacco-chewing redneck sheriff, and many slender beams of sunlight cutting through dank, dusty interiors. The camera lovingly photographs Biel’s tank-topped bosom and sculpted abs as she’s running in terror from a bloated, chainsaw-wielding, human-skin-wearing maniac. This remake lacks the macabre comedy of the original; it’s all about the nauseating sensation of waiting for something to jump out of the dark. Also featuring Eric Balfour (Six Feet Under) and R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket, Mail Call). –Bret Fetzer
Adam (Leigh Whannell) wakes up in a dank room across from Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and the body of a guy who has blown his own brains out. Not a happy place, obviously, and it gets worse when both men realize that they’ve been chained and pitted against one another by an unseen but apparently omniscient maniac who’s screwing with their psyches as payment for past sins. Director James Wan, who concocted this grimy distraction with screenwriter Whannell, has seen Seven and any number of other arty existential-psycho-cat-and-mouse thrillers, so he’s provided Saw with a little flash, a little blood, and a lot of ways to distract you from the fact that it doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Wan and Whannell (who’s not the most accomplished actor, either) pile on the plot twists, which after some initially novel ideas become increasingly juvenile. Elwes works hard but looks embarrassed, and the estimable Danny Glover suffers as the obsessed detective on the case. The denouement will probably surprise you, but it won’t get you back the previous 98 minutes. –Steve Wiecking
Halloween is as pure and undiluted as its title. In the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, a teenage baby sitter tries to survive a Halloween night of relentless terror, during which a knife-wielding maniac goes after the town’s hormonally charged youths. Director John Carpenter takes this simple situation and orchestrates a superbly mounted symphony of horrors. It’s a movie much scarier for its dark spaces and ominous camera movements than for its explicit bloodletting (which is actually minimal). Composed by Carpenter himself, the movie’s freaky music sets the tone; and his script (cowritten with Debra Hill) is laced with references to other horror pictures, especially Psycho. The baby sitter is played by Jamie Lee Curtis, the real-life daughter of Psycho victim Janet Leigh; and the obsessed policeman played by Donald Pleasence is named Sam Loomis, after John Gavin’s character in Psycho. In the end, though, Halloween stands on its own as an uncannily frightening experience–it’s one of those movies that had audiences literally jumping out of their seats and shouting at the screen. (“No! Don’t drop that knife!”) Produced on a low budget, the picture turned a monster profit, and spawned many sequels, none of which approached the 1978 original. Curtis returned for two more installments: 1981′s dismal Halloween II, which picked up the story the day after the unfortunate events, and 1998′s occasionally gripping Halloween H20, which proved the former baby sitter was still haunted after 20 years. –Robert Horton
With dizzying cinematic tricks and astonishing performances, Francis Coppola’s 1992 version of the oft-filmed Dracula story is one of the most exuberant, extravagant films of the 1990s. Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder, as the Count and Mina Murray, are quite a pair of star-crossed lovers. She’s betrothed to another man; he can’t kick the habit of feeding off the living. Anthony Hopkins plays Van Helsing, the vampire slayer, with tongue firmly in cheek. Tom Waits is great fun as Renfield, the hapless slave of Dracula who craves the blood of insects and cats. Sadie Frost is a sexy Lucy Westenra. And poor Keanu Reeves, as Jonathan Harker, has the misfortune to be seduced by Dracula’s three half-naked wives. There’s a little bit of everything in this version of Dracula: gore, high-speed horseback chases, passion, and longing.
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a feverishly inventive movie that often overwhelms its own narrative flow, yet proves irresistible to watch. Coppola’s baroque, operatic set design, costumes, and cinematography look as lavish as they did on the film’s first release. The director’s grab-bag of visual effects are still bold and unabashed, if often over-the-top, and the actors still appear caught up in a certain hysterical pitch that feels a little forced but can be a lot of fun to watch. Gary Oldman’s imaginative performance as the titular vampire carries the weight of Coppola’s vision of Count Dracula as a tragic-romantic hero with Christ-like overtones. Keanu Reeves still looks a little lost in the pivotal role of Jonathan Harker, the London clerk who finds himself a prisoner in a Transylvanian castle while a 400-year-old vampire makes a play for his fiancée back home (Winona Ryder). Anthony Hopkins is fearless as a daft Von Helsing, and Sadie Frost is very good as the doomed Lucy. –Tom Keogh
Though never a landmark in the slasher subgenre, the Canadian-made My Bloody Valentine (1981) was a favorite among gorehounds for its plentiful scenes of bloodshed; the 2009 remake sticks closely to the original in this respect, and ups the gross factor by rendering many of them in impressive 3-D. The core plot, penned by Todd Farmer and Zane Smith, remains essentially the same–a series of gruesome murders appears to be linked to a terrible mine accident from two decades ago–but just as with the original, it’s largely just a framework on which to string the carnage set pieces, which are splattery enough to please even the most jaded Saw or Hostel fanatic. The Real-D effects deliver the required degree of heart-stopping jumps without the usual eye strain, and if one can snicker away old standbys like a tree branch crashing through a windshield, one has to admire the chutzpah of presenting actress Betsey Rue’s pursuit of a wayward bed partner while fully naked and toting a shotgun in full and vibrant 3-D, moments before the pickaxe-wielding killer descends upon her. Rue’s scenery-chewing performance is the best of the twenty-something cast, which is led by Supernatural‘s Jensen Ackles and Jaime King; character actors Kevin Tighe and Tom Atkins deliver their moments like the old pros they are. Though by no means a new horror classic, My Bloody Valentine 3-D sets the gross-out bar for all future slasher remakes to surpass. – Paul Gaita
Clive Barker has unleashed a nightmare like no other; a deliciously depraved vision of hell on earth that changed the face of horror forever. Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, and Doug Bradley — as the iconic “Pinhead” star in this extreme saga of leave after death, pleasure beyond pain, an ancient puzzle box and the legion of Cenobites that feed upon human suffering. Now for the first time ever Hell Comes to Blu Ray.
Winner of 2009 Reaper Award for Best Re-mastering.
Are you ready to get down with the sickness? Movie logic dictates that you shouldn’t remake a classic, but Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead defies that logic and comes up a winner. You could argue that George A. Romero’s 1978 original was sacred ground for horror buffs, but it was a low-budget classic, and Snyder’s action-packed upgrade benefits from the same manic pacing that energized Romero’s continuing zombie saga. Romero’s indictment of mega-mall commercialism is lost (it’s arguably outmoded anyway), so Snyder and screenwriter James Gunn compensate with the same setting–in this case, a Milwaukee shopping mall under siege by cannibalistic zombies in the wake of a devastating viral outbreak–a well-chosen cast (led by Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, and Mekhi Phifer), some outrageously morbid humor, and a no-frills plot that keeps tension high and blood splattering by the bucketful. Horror buffs will catch plenty of tributes to Romero’s film (including cameos by three of its cast members, including gore-makeup wizard Tom Savini), and shocking images are abundant enough to qualify this Dawn as an excellent zombie-flick double-feature with 28 Days Later, its de facto British counterpart. –Jeff Shannon
From legendary frightmaster Stephen King and 3-time Oscar-nominated director Frank Darabont* (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) comes “one of the scariest King films since Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining” (Tasha Robinson, The Onion A.V. Club). After a mysterious mist envelopes a small New England town, a group of locals trapped in a supermarket must battle a siege of otherworldly creatures…and the fears that threaten to tear them apart. Starring Thomas Jane (The Punisher) and Oscar winner* Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River) in one of the year’s most talked-about performances, The Mist is riveting, with “tension like an ever-tightening clamp” (Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune).
Horror-meister John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape from New York) teams Kurt Russell’s outstanding performance with incredible visuals to build this chilling version of the classic The Thing. In the winter of 1982, a twelve-man research team at a remote Antarctic research station discovers an alien buried in the snow for over 100,000 years. Soon unfrozen, the form-changing alien wreaks havoc, creates terror and becomes one of them.