Snakes Are for Handling in our Pick of the Week

Plus 23 more new releases to watch this week on Blu-ray/DVD!
Header Them That Follow

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Pick of the Week

Them That Follow

What is it? A small, religiously-minded community sees challenge from outside and dissent from within.

Why see it? Alice Englert plays a young woman, daughter of the community’s snake-handling preacher (Walton Goggins), who’s betrothed to faithful member of the flock. She has other plans, though, and it’s that conflict that sits at the heart of this terrifically acted and engrossing character drama. It’s a remarkably suspenseful film too as it builds towards its final act, and the combination of sharp writing/directing and a cast that also includes Olivia Colman, Kaitlyn Dever, Thomas Mann, and an unlikely turn from Jim Gaffigan makes for a memorable film.

[Extras: Interviews]

The Best

An American Werewolf in London [Arrow Video]

What is it? An American becomes a werewolf in London.

Why see it? John Landis’ career features a handful of films that have become comedy classics, but this remains his absolute and utter triumph. It’s probably the best horror/comedy of all time and delivers big laughs even as it shifts towards darkness. There are some brutal beats here complimented by tremendous gore and f/x work from Rick Baker which help elevate it beyond a mere comedy, and all of it works together beautifully to create the rare perfect film. Yeah, I said it. Arrow has given the release the treatment it deserves too with a sharp picture and an absolutely packs collection of special features new and old. The movie is always worth watching and re-watching, but save some time to dig into these extras and you’ll find several more hours worth of engagement.

[Extras: New restoration, commentaries, documentary, interviews, featurettes, outtakes, booklet]

Beyond the Door III [Vinegar Syndrome]

What is it? A young woman is drawn towards a devilish destiny.

Why see it? This late 80s horror thriller has as dreamy feel to it at times, but the core story comes clear fairly quickly — believers in the old country await the arrival of a marked girl destined to fornicate with the devil, and when she arrives with her friends the group is quickly targeted. The back half of the film sees the group on a runaway train, and we’re treated to lots of fun miniature work as it plows through everything. Even better, the movie is heavy with bloody gore goodness including some train-related carnage that is glorious. Be sure to check out the Bo Svenson interview too as the guy has some funny tales to tell.

[Extras: New 4K scan and restoration, interviews]

The Blob [Scream Factory]

What is it? A meteorite brings something nasty to a small town.

Why see it? Chuck Russell’s late 80s gem is terrific ammo against anyone who claims remakes suck — because this remake is a goddamn blast. Kevin Dillon headlines alongside Shawnee Smith, but the big draw here are the special effects that bring the blob to life alongside its melty, gooey victims. Some minor optical work aside this is a masterclass in awesome practical f/x. It’s a fun movie with action, horror, and more genre beats spilling over from the frame, and Scream Factory has given it the glorious Blu-ray release it deserves.

[Extras: Commentaries, interviews, featurette]

Days of Wine and Roses [Warner Archive]

What is it? A couple’s hard turn to alcohol threatens to ruin their lives.

Why see it? Blake Edwards is best known for his comedies, but his early career saw him directing a handful of dramas too of which this is one of the most acclaimed. Jack Lemmon stars alongside Lee Remick in what amounts to a tragedy. His heavy drinking pulls her in until she becomes an alcoholic too, but while he has the ability to stop she might lack the strength. There’s humor and life here too, but the core is a hard-hitting drama that lands with the intentional weight. Be sure to check out the interview too as it’s a video of Lemmon on the phone answering an interviewer’s questions that we never hear.

[Extras: Commentary, interview]

The Devil Rides Out [Scream Factory]

What is it? A devilish cult pursues those who oppose it.

Why see it? Christopher Lee headlines this Hammer joint as a protagonist, and it’s a joy to see him in heroic mode rather than a villainous one. The film is a solid thriller with supernatural themes and lines running throughout, and it works as both a cult drama and a horror movie thanks to some of the shenanigans that erupt late in the film. Scream Factory has packed the disc with quality extras deserving of attention including a commentary track with Lee himself.

[Extras: New 2K scan, commentaries, interviews, featurettes]

It’s a Wonderful Life

What is it? A sad man sees that life is worth living.

Why see it? There’s no denying the “classic” status of Frank Capra’s holiday favorite, and its feel good message and passion for humanity are evident throughout. Comedy and drama blend well together, and James Stewart’s performance leaves viewers unable to turn away. It’s just an enjoyable, affecting film highlighting the importance of the people in your life, and that’s never a bad message.

[Extras: New 4K UltraHD remaster, b&w/color versions, featurettes]

Matewan [Criterion Collection]

What is it? The true story of a miner strike in 1920 West Virginia.

Why see it? Writer/director John Sayles’ 1987 film is a masterclass in both acting and film-making as he brings this little-known true story to the screen with heart, intensity, and an eye for both the beauty and the pain. The cast is aces including Chris Cooper (in his debut), David Strathairn, James Earl Jones, Will Oldham, Mary McDonnell, and more familiar faces, and they work to bring a story to light that still feels far too relevant today. Corporations are never your friend, and while they no longer send goons to shoot those looking to unionize they might be sending police — ie goons bought and paid for by the system. It’s a tough, beautiful watch, and Criterion’s new Blu-ray is a must-own.

[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, documentaries, interview, featurette]

Ringu Collection [Arrow Video]

What is it? Three of the major films in the Japanese horror franchise.

Why see it? Hideo Nakata’s modern horror classic jump-started an entire sub-genre of ghostly, long-haired girls creeping people out around the world. Jump scares and atmosphere collide for the dark story, and while the sequels that follow aren’t equally as good they still deliver some thrills and chills. Arrow’s fantastic box set also includes Spiral (1998), the sequel that nobody cared about, as well as numerous extras including a booklet essay by our own Kieran Fisher. If that doesn’t make this set worth owning then I don’t know what would. (Just kidding, the movies themselves offer up a great collection for horror fans.)

[Extras: 4K restoration of Ringu, bonus feature Spiral, commentaries, interviews, deleted scenes, booklet]

Watch Me When I Kill [Synapse Films]

What is it? A woman is stalked by a killer.

Why see it? There are seemingly more Italian giallos than hours in the week, but the discovery of another one that’s new to me is always welcome. This time the film comes courtesy of director Antonio Bido, and all of the sub-genre’s elements are present from the mysterious killer to the stalking set-pieces to the terrific score. It looks great too, but more than any of that the film succeeds thanks in large part to a well-crafted mystery involving the killings. It’s good stuff, and thanks go to Synapse for giving it new life.

[Extras: New 4K transfer, commentary, interview, short films, soundtrack CD]

Werewolf in a Girls Dormitory [Severin Films]

What is it? A werewolf is in a girls dormitory.

Why see it? This early 60s thriller isn’t very well known, in part possibly because it’s an Italian/Austrian co-production filmed in black & white, but it deserves more eyeballs. The werewolf slicing up nubile young women is a draw, obviously, but the film does great work with the mystery as well leaving viewers unsure until the end who the beast actually is. It’s an attractive film too, and Severin’s new Blu-ray does it justice so if you’ve yet to see it this is the way to go.

[Extras: New 2K scan, interview, commentary, booklet, soundtrack CD]

The Wizard of Oz

What is it? A teenager takes a trip.

Why see it? Look, this movie is a masterpiece, and if you don’t already own a copy to watch and share then you can hardly do worse than this new 4K upgrade. The film has always been a visual feast, but it pops even more now while still delivering with a story and set-pieces that continue to work like gangbusters. It’s a thrilling, creative, and entertaining watch… each and every time.

[Extras: New 4K UltraHD remaster, commentary, featurettes]

The Rest

10 Minutes Gone

What is it? A crook tries to recall what happened while he was knocked unconscious.

Why see it? As direct-to-video Bruce Willis movies go this one falls under the category of movies where he plays a crime boss who films most of his scenes in one day. I don’t get Willis’ need for this kind of fare, but hey, fans of Michael Chiklis will at least get their money’s worth. The thriller is pretty slight when it comes to, well, thrills, but it serves its purpose for those who enjoy this kind of fare.

[Extras: Interviews]

Berserker [Vinegar Syndrome]

What is it? Friends camping in the woods face off against an angry viking.

Why see it? There’s definitely a unique angle to this otherwise familiar setup, but there are also some odd choices. The film plays its kills as if they could be the work of a bear — there’s no less than ten minutes of footage of a bear walking around — before revealing the killer is actually the viking we knew it would be. Hell, the characters walk around a lot too leaving little time for kills or other worthwhile slasher antics, and while individual beats entertain the whole never really comes together.

[Extras: Interviews, commentary]

Byleth [Severin Films]

What is it? A man possessed to murder also loves his sister.

Why see it? At its core this is a story of possession as a well to do duke finds himself caught under the spell of an otherworldly presence, but that’s really the least of his worries as he also loves his sister. Like, a lot. He watches her bone other dudes, but that’s not really satisfying enough so things get even more unsettling from there. The film blends that tinge of the supernatural with some giallo-like kills, lots of naked sex, and the aforementioned incestuous lusting into a movie that delivers some attractive thrills. Just be sure to close the curtains before pressing play.

[Extras: New 2K scan]


What is it? An ex-soldier returns to seek amends for war crimes.

Why see it? There’s an intriguing premise at the heart of this drama involving one man’s search for forgiveness and/or justice. He would prefer the former but will accept the latter, and it’s his journey with the aggrieved that will decide his fate. The film ultimately underscores its message in the end with an act — graphically captured — that shows a disregard for lives that aren’t human, and while others will disagree the result is a neutered emotional conclusion.

[Extras: Interview]

Man of a Thousand Faces [Arrow Academy]

What is it? The story of film legend Lon Chaney.

Why see it? James Cagney doesn’t seem like the obvious choice to play an actor known for changing up his appearance — Cagney is always and immediately identifiable through his look and mannerisms — but he does good work here honoring the legend who gifted the world with both the hunchback and the phantom. It’s a straightforward biopic, and its intentions are purely ones of love and respect.

[Extras: New restoration, commentary, interview]

Mr. Nice Guy [Warner Archive]

What is it? A celebrity chef is pulled into a fight with a criminal overlord.

Why see it? Jackie Chan movies, particularly those made last century, are almost all worth watching. His arrival in the US in the form of re-edited films were a gift to those of us who hadn’t experienced his magic yet, but it’s always worth seeking out the longer international cuts. Thankfully, Warner Bros. includes both for this 90s action flick, and while it’s far from his best there are some fun action beats throughout. How it gets away without having a final face off between Chan and Richard Norton is beyond me though.

[Extras: Original cut and US version]

Paganini Horror [Severin Films]

What is it? A female rock band tempts the devil with their latest song.

Why see it? As Italian horror films go this is one of the more classically minded as it sees a girl group struggling to find their next hit settling on adapting an unreleased piece of classical music with disastrous results. It’s far from a straightforward devil pic, though, as there are other forces at play here leading to an ending that’s both ridiculous and great fun. The pieces may not all hold together, but genre fans will find more than enough to sing along to here.

[Extras: New 2K scan, interviews, deleted scenes]

Red Heat

What is it? An American detective partners with a Russian cop to take down a visiting baddie.

Why see it? Walter Hill’s films are always worth watching, and while this “unlikely duo” action/comedy is a lesser treat from him it’s still a treat. Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Belushi are as unlikely as they come, but both deliver with their respective strengths as Hill tears the city apart with gun fights, bus shenanigans, and naked brawls. It’s no 48 Hours, but the vibe works to deliver some fun.

[Extras: New 4K remaster, featurettes]

The Thing

What is it? An alien being is found, unfortunately.

Why see it? It’s expected to shit on this prequel as being unnecessary and too heavily reliant on CG, and while both of those things are true it’s also a perfectly okay horror flick. Much of it feels redundant as a prequel to John Carpenter’s masterpiece, but if you can separate yourself from that earlier film and take this one on its own merits — something you should do for every movie — then you’ll see a solid enough movie with a pair of solid leads in Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton. The CG is meh, but the film is okay.

[Extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes]

Two Evil Eyes [Blue Underground]

What is it? Two tales by Edgar Allan Poe.

Why see it? George Romero and Dario Argento are legendary horror directors, and while they’ve previously collaborated — sort of, Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was given a new European edit by Argento —  this two-story anthology is their only true collaboration. Both men adapt a Poe story, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” and “The Black Cat” respectively, and both are solid enough tales. Neither is a true gem, though, as being stretched to fill a two hour movie does the tales an injustice and tempers their energy and interest. Still, it’s an okay film given a fantastic Blu-ray release by Blue Underground, and fans will want to pick it up asap.

[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, soundtrack CD, booklet]

Undertaker [Synapse Films]

What is it? The apocalypse is a job creator.

Why see it? This Japanese zombie flick isn’t quite the expected slice of apocalyptic horror that a thousand other films would lead you to believe. Instead, the film uses the setting and situation to tell a more dramatic story about a young boy who grows up in this new world forced to face new losses every day in order to stay alive. It’s bleak with occasional bursts of energy and won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but if you’re on its wavelength it offers something new into the sub-genre.

[Extras: Featurette, short film, deleted scenes]

Unmasked Part 25 [Vinegar Syndrome]

What is it? A masked serial killer wishes his life had more meaning.

Why see it? The premise behind this UK comedy/slasher is solid and makes itself known after an initial round of stalk and slash complete with bloody gore beats. The deformed killer then meets a blind woman and the two fall in love, but it’s here where things take a tumble with stretches of comedy that’s neither all that funny nor all that interesting. His return to murder brings some fun again (including a fantastic eye bleed), but it’s a case of too little too late.

[Extras: New 4K scan and restoration, commentaries]

Also out this week:

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish, Godzilla: The Show-Era Films 1954-1975 [Criterion Collection], Life with Mikey [KL Studio Classics], Nightmare in Badham County [KL Studio Classics], The Swan Princess

Rob Hunter: Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.