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Pick of the Week
Fear No Evil [Scream Factory]
What is it? A troubled young man is revealed to be the antichrist.
Why see it? Frank LaLoggia’s best known for his smart little ghost story The Lady in White, but his somewhat rougher debut is every bit as entertaining. It’s less atmospheric than that other film and more traditional horrifying as it gets bloody, the undead rise, and the evil punk is challenged by angels, but it’s good stuff. It’s a very Catholic horror film, blended with some homoerotic aspects, and it’s not shy on either front in addition to being occasionally hokey. It was one of the first horror movies I felt a connection to as in addition to LaLoggia being from my hometown and filming much of the film around there, the film also features a castle on an island on the St Lawrence River that I visited several times as a kid tourist. Walking the same grounds as the horrors that unfold here makes an impact.
[Extras: New 4K master, interview, commentary]
Hellraiser [Arrow Video]
What is it? A young woman faces off against demons and her dead uncle.
Why see it? Clive Barker’s directorial debut remains a stellar slice of indie horror with an endless imagination, some highly memorable visuals, and the introduction of both Ashley Laurence and Pinhead. Claire Higgins’ turn as a wicked stepmother is equally strong, and the film as a whole still stands up despite some dated effects and budgetary limitations. Arrow’s standalone release — they put out a box set a couple years back — is worth the pickup for horror fans.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentaries, documentary, interviews]
Hellbound: Hellraiser II [Arrow Video]
What is it? Pinhead and friends are back for more.
Why see it? This sequel picks up where the first film ended and sees poor Kirsty dropped off at an asylum, but soon the demons are back thanks to a mad doctor and a mute girl. The film ramps up the production design big time by moving beyond a simple house and sending viewers to hell itself. Arrow’s new Blu-ray is a delight in its picture and extras.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentaries, interviews]
Killer Crocodile [Severin Films]
What is it? A killer croc terrorizes people near the water.
Why see it? As far as Jaws riffs go, this Italian slice of nature horror is one of the fun ones. The croc is giant and manages some bloody terror as a dedicated group of folks try desperately to stop the onslaught, and while the effects are a mixed bag their cheesiness is part of the entertainment. Severin’s new Blu-ray is a beauty, and it’s packed with new interviews shining a light on the scaly absurdities.
[Extras: New 2K scan, interviews]
Local Hero [Criterion Collection]
What is it? An American heads to a small Scottish town on business but finds something else instead.
Why see it? Bill Forsythe’s lovable nod to fish out of water tales and stories about culture clashes remains a sweet gem of a film without an ugly bone in its body. Pacing is casual, befitting of the small coastal town where it mostly unfolds, and it just pulls viewers in with warmth, wit, and an appreciation for the Scottish people and culture. A dry humor pervades much of the film as conversations reveal laughs alongside the humanity, and it’s ultimately a movie that has you smiling throughout. Criterion’s new disc is packed with fun, informative extras too.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, interviews, documentaries, TV show excerpt]
The Set-Up [Warner Archive]
What is it? A man risks his life and wife on a boxing career.
Why see it? Rocky, Raging Bull, and Creed are some of the most often referenced movies about boxing, but one of the best remains Robert Wise’s 1949 entry into the sub-genre. This raw and realistic tale finds the heart in both the sport and the people who call it home, and while it’s melodramatic it remains a grounded and affecting drama. Warner’s new Blu-ray is worth a pickup for the film itself, but the commentary featuring both Wise and some guy named Martin Scorsese is also a selling point.
What is it? Anna is a model… and an assassin?!
Why see it? The newest from Luc Besson feels in a lot of ways like a rehash of his own La Femme Nikita, but it’s a far lesser rehash. Lead Sasha Luss is fine, and the limited action is equally okay — a restaurant fight is fantastic though — but the film jumps around in time so frequently that it becomes laughable. Worse, it becomes dull as at a certain point flashbacks become irrelevant time-fillers adding to the film’s two hour running time. Meh.
What is it? A doll becomes a killer doll.
Why see it? This reboot of the Tom Holland gem changes up the storyline some as far as origin goes, and it’s not really for the better. What was a fun, silly tale of magic and murder becomes a commentary of sorts on consumerism and corporate morality. It’s not a lot of fun, but there’s enough here to entertain genre fans with low studio horror requirements.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes]
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 [Arrow Video]
What is it? Young people are terrorized by mutants!
Why see it? Wes Craven’s original film is a grim affair, but his sequel takes a more entertaining route. Does that make it a better film? That’s for you to decide, but it does feature a dog having flashbacks so I think you know the answer. It’s never dull, so there’s that, and Arrow’s new limited release is a slick affair complete with a new making-of documentary.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, featurette, booklet]
A Score to Settle
What is it? A man is released from prison and sets out for vengeance.
Why see it? If you watch this direct to video flick the odds are you’re doing so for star Nicolas Cage. It’s his first of four films released in 2019, and it’s not terrible. The action is fairly minimal, but Cage sells the drama of a dying man using his last breaths for revenge. He manages a few highlights including a Robocop reference (“Bitches leave.”) and another beat where he shoots a guy in the junk and then holds his hand to his ear to listen to the guy’s screams. It’s fine.
Vampires [Scream Factory]
What is it? A squad of vampire hunters meets their match.
Why see it? Look, not all John Carpenter movies are winners, and while this action/horror romp sits higher than the likes of Village of the Damned and The Ward it’s still not great. James Woods — he blocked me on Twitter! — is the charismatic lead of the hunters, and Carpenter sets much of it like a western as the two sides clash. It’s perfectly okay, but it’s definitely one of the filmmaker’s more obnoxious set of characters.
[Extras: Interviews, commentary, featurette]
The Wax Mask [Severin Films]
What is it? A killer stalks a wax museum.
Why see it? What started as a Lucio Fulci film ended up as a Sergio Stivaletti joint with Dario Argento producing, and the result is a film that feels reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera as the masked figure stalks a pretty lead while dispatching those around her. Atmosphere, nudity, and gore — all Italian horror trademarks — help pass the time, but there’s more to enjoy in the extras as the disc includes several interviews with various players including Argento himself.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentary, interviews]
What is it? A man discovers he’s the only person who knows The Beatles.
Why see it? There’s a clever conceit at the heart of this Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis joint, and the film succeeds at delivering a sweet little rom-com. It’s a bit humorous, and there’s heart in the music and characters, but it lacks the weight — comical, romantic, lasting — of the filmmakers’ bigger and better films.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Also out this week:
Awake, The Black String, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – The Complete Fourth Season, Diamantino, First King, In the Aftermath [Arrow Video], The Letter [Warner Archive], The Major and the Minor [Arrow Academy], Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud, The Tracker, Un Coeur en Hiver, The War at Home
Related Topics: Home Video