Features and Columns · Movies

Hunt for the Wilderpeople Targets Both Your Heart and Funny Bone

By  · Published on September 27th, 2016

This Week in Home Video

Hunt for the Wilderpeople Targets Your Heart and Funny Bone

Pick of the Week

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

What is it? Ricky Baker is a real bad egg, and we know this both because it’s the name of the first chapter heading and because the child welfare officer who delivers him to his new foster parents tells them so. The inner-city boy has spent his youth breaking things, stealing things, vandalizing things, burning things, but when a tragedy results in Ricky and his foster father (Sam Neill) on the run in the forest the pair discover their need for each other goes far beyond mere overnight survival.

Why buy it? Taika Waititi’s latest is something of a kid-friendly action/comedy that feels at times like a cross between Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and 1980’s The Earthling. That’s quite the varied mix, but Waititi juggles the style, laughs, and adventure terrifically throughout. The film features laugh-out-loud moments and beats guaranteed to moisten your eyes, all used in service of a sweetly-told tale that reminds us you’re never too young or too old to find someone to love who’ll also love you back.

[DVD extras: None]

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

The Best

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls [Criterion Collection]

What is it? Three young women come to Hollywood looking for fame and fortune, but none of them are prepared for the excess awaiting them. Drugs, sex, and fluctuating sanity all come into play during their rise and fall.

Why buy it? As unrelated sequels go this is one of the best and most ridiculous (as a follow-up to the “classic” Valley of the Dolls). The Roger Ebert scripted, Russ Meyer directed film is a comedy through and through despite its turns toward tragedy as while some of those darker beats land the film’s great joy is in the copious laughs. The dialogue is witty and crass, the characters are nutty and relatable, and the over the top sex, drug antics, and violence are terrifically entertaining. Criterion’s new Blu-ray is packed with fantastic extras, but chief among them is a new thirty minute interview with John Waters that I wished would never end.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, interviews, Q&A, making of]

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Chopping Mall [Vestron Video]

What is it? A group of friends make plans to spend the night in a shopping mall knowing that it’ll be a ton a fun screwing around in the department store’s floor model beds. Unfortunately for them though they’ve chosen a mall that’s recently installed a brand new security force ‐ a trio of robots that patrol the mall’s levels armed with claws, lasers, and a strong work ethic. An electrical glitch turns the metallic guards into murderous mini-tanks, and now the teens are forced to fight for their young lives.

Why buy it? Part slasher, part home/mall invasion, this is a fun ’80s thriller that finds laughs on its way to the carnage, and once the bots start killing the action and bloodletting deliver plenty of fantastic beats. The teens do something rare for the genre in that they quickly make coordinated efforts to fight back with weapons and strategy ‐ because back in the ’80s you could buy guns in shopping malls ‐ and it makes for some exciting action sequences. It’s not an overly gory film, but we do get a pretty great exploding head scene, and that’s never a bad thing.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, interviews, featurette]

Chopping Mall [Blu-ray]

Count Dracula’s Great Love [Vinegar Syndrome]

What is it? A man and his three female companions experience carriage trouble and are forced to spend the night in an old sanitarium where Dracula once lived.

Why see it? Before Paul Naschy began directing his own films he starred in this somewhat unique take on Dracula’s legend, and while it features the expected bloodletting it also ups the ante with the lady flesh and the heart. That’s right, the title is no lie ‐ Dracula’s feelings of love is a legitimate element to the story and character here, and it’s an approach rarely seen throughout his various incarnations with romantic inclinations. The story is straightforward in that we know where it’s going most of the time ‐ although that doesn’t stop it from being entertaining ‐ but the end offers a pleasantly surprising turn. Vinegar Syndrome’s release offers some solid extras alongside a sharp picture.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2k scan, commentary, interview]

Lady in White [Scream Factory]

What is it? Frankie (Lukas Haas) is a typical kid in a typical little town in upstate New York, but as Halloween approaches young Frankie comes face to face with a long-buried sin from the past. A serial killer of children has walked the region for a decade, and one of his victims has just made a spectral appearance.

Why buy it? Frank LaLoggia’s beloved ghost story is an old-fashioned chiller with genuinely eerie sequences paired with moments of nostalgic sweetness. The film captures the period and place extremely well, and while some beats (and some underwhelming optical effects) tease a degree of cheesiness the highs are far more effective than the lows. Scream Factory’s release includes the theatrical and director’s cuts as well as an extended director’s cut adding more time with these characters.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Three cuts of the film, commentary, introduction, deleted scenes, featurette]

Lady in White [Blu-ray]

The Shallows

What is it? Nancy (Blake Lively) has dropped out of medical school after the death of her mother from cancer leaves her feeling that fighting to survive is useless. All it takes to change her mind is the realization that her solo surfing trip to a remote beach has left her trapped offshore as a smart, malicious shark circles.

Why buy it? Sharp cinematography, an efficient script, and a leading lady giving her most compelling and capable performance yet results in the second best shark movie since Spielberg’s classic. Yes she spends most of the film in a bikini, and yes the camera loves her for it, but while there are plenty of butt shots to captivate teenage boys Lively’s long, lean frame fills the frame with a believable strength and athleticism. There are some B-movie thrills here, but when she tosses her “First do no harm” credo out the window and goes to war with the shark we buy the fight she’s selling.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]

The Shallows [Blu-ray]

The Rest

Beyond Valkyrie: Dawn of the Fourth Reich

What is it? As the second world war rages a plot to assassinate Hitler moves forward, but its failure has great impact on a lesser known mission playing out in the wings. A special ops team with members from various countries slips deep into enemy territory in the hope of retrieving the man they want running Germany once the war ends, but their rescue mission shifts to one intent on assassination instead.

Why see it? Fans of historical tales and period action should be satisfied with this WWII adventure mixing action and spy thrills, but as a direct to DVD effort the budget isn’t quite enough to craft the world it’s after. The important moments work well enough though, and the cast ‐ including Rutger Hauer, Stephen Lang, Kip Pardue, and others ‐ keeps things interesting.

[DVD extras: None]

Blood Diner [Vestron Video]

What is it? A pair of brothers run a popular diner that keeps customers coming back again and again, but what the clientele doesn’t know is that the secret recipe used in their burgers is human meat. That’s not the craziest thing they’re up to though as they also have plans to resurrect their dead uncle and bring an Egyptian god to life.

Why see it? Jackie Kong’s cannibal blood-fest is a cult favorite for many, but the tone, dialogue, and acting all leave me cold despite my appreciation for goofy horror films like Frankenhooker. The final act features some fun effects and gore gags, but the big draw here for fans is Kong’s presence throughout the supplements. She provides a commentary track and is interviewed as part of a detailed making-of, and her thoughts and anecdotes offer even more entertainment than the film itself.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews]


What is it? A dying cell phone battery saves a man’s life after he’s forced to use a pay phone instead, but Clay’s only moved out of the frying pan and into the fire. A virus of some kind, transmitted through cell phone signals, is turning people into violent, homicidal maniacs.

Why see it? There are some nice beats here ‐ a guy eating a service dog stands out as a creative moment, the visual of thousands of infected bedding down for the night is striking, and it’s fun seeing John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson reunite for a second Stephen King adaptation ‐ but so much of the film lacks style or life of its own. Much of the action is presented in the most matter-of-fact and unexciting manner possible including an opening assault that feels like a series of scattershot beats stitched together and later scenes that fare no better. The script is equally bumpy as it tries to cram far too much plot into its downtime including a school headmaster who appears from nowhere with all of the answers (and exposition). Still, it’s a King adaptation, and that alone makes it worth a watch.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette]

Central Intelligence

What is it? Calvin (Kevin Hart) was the most popular kid in high school, but as an adult he’s a lowly accountant walked on by every one he meets. Bob (Dwayne Johnson) was the most-pick on kid in school, but now he’s a bulked up CIA agent who’s returned to town to enlist Calvin’s help to either break a case or break the law.

Why see it? Johnson is often the only reason to see his lesser films, and that’s the case here as his comic antics entertain while the film around him stutters and stalls. Hart once again plays the little incompetent guy who eventually proves himself, but aside from the supposed comic relief of seeing him and Johnson side by side he has little to offer. It’s an odd clash of styles and intentions, and it’s no where more evident than a scene where Johnson calls out some homophobic bullies before the very next scene sees Hart pull his trademarked gay panic shtick as Johnson’s character tries to give him a hug. For Johnson completists only.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, gag reel)

Edge of Winter

What is it? Elliot (Joel Kinnaman) is in something of a rough patch. He’s separated from his wife but refuses to let his unemployment interfere with a visit with his two boys. The boys almost immediately find his hunting rifle, and after a quick chastising for playing with guns Elliot suggests they head to the woods for some shooting practice. Despite his best intentions, Elliot is in no condition to act as guardian. Tension between the trio rises as the boys argue and their father discovers his ex’s plan to move her new family overseas. He’s a broken man, but he’s about to be beaten down some more by the harsh realities of circumstance and nature.

Why see it? The film’s visuals and performances are often compelling the script flounders resulting in a film that rarely connects. Elliot is central to the film’s issues. Kinnaman’s performance is fine, and he brings a wounded but resistant attitude to the clearly defeated character, but the film can’t decide if we should empathize with the man or fear him. The result is that we end up doing neither. Elliot may be trying, but it’s clear that he’s both incompetent and something of a prick. The question becomes how much of that is just who he is and how much is the encroaching darkness of mental illness. It’s difficult to care about the former, and we never quite buy the latter.

[DVD extras: None]

Hellbent [Vinegar Syndrome]

What is it? A punk singer in late ’80s Los Angeles is offered a management deal that seems too good to be true with a price that seems too low to ignore. A certain Mr. Tanas promises him success in exchange for his soul.

Why see it? The second of two Richard Casey films (see below) makes its Vinegar Syndrome debut, and while there are action beats involving Uzis and attitude this sophomore effort is less concerned with genre than it is with its not-so subtle condemnation of the pressures of the L.A. music scene. As familiar as the core plot is the movie moves around a bit spending time with side characters whose value isn’t always obvious, and instead it works better as a snapshot of L.A. history.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2k scan, featurette, commentary]

Highlander ‐ 30th Anniversary Edition

What is it? Russell (Christopher Lambert) owns and operates an antique shop in New York City, but he just might be the oldest thing in there. He’s an immortal, a Scottish immortal to be precise, and he’s in a constant war with others of his kind. There can be only one apparently.

Why see it? Russell Mulcahy’s best film is Razorback, obviously, but this action/fantasy hybrid is probably his most popular. Sean Connery joins the fun as Russell’s mentor while Clancy Brown takes on the role of villain, and while the plot and dialogue cross into cheesiness at times the swordplay antics make it all worthwhile. The director’s cut adds more of the former.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, commentary, making of, deleted scenes]

Horror House on Highway 5 [Vinegar Syndrome]

What is it? A madman in a Nixon mask kills a couple and disappears, but even as that mystery remains unsolved a new one arises. A trio of college students are tasked with investigating a Nazi scientist who may have relocated to California.

Why see it? As with Richard Casey’s film above, this is an oddly jumbled feature given new life by the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome. This is the more genre-oriented of the two, but while that means the scenes offer up more horror beats ‐ violence, bloodletting, weirdness ‐ it’s also maybe a bit too strange for its own good. It feels at times like some of the pieces are missing, but it’s unclear if that’s by design. Completists and serious fans of video horrors from the ’80s will want to give it a watch.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 2k scan, featurette,commentary, music video]

Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom

What is it? Little Howie Lovecraft’s father is in a sanitarium for the insane, so the boy has little reason to believe the man’s ramblings. He disregards the wrong warning though and opens a portal to another world after fiddling around with the Necronomicon. Adventures in a strange, monster-filled land commence.

Why see it? An animated kids film focused on Lovecraft as a child seems like a no-brainer right? I kid. This is an odd pairing for numerous reasons ‐ what kids know anything about Lovecraft? wasn’t Lovecraft extremely anti-semetic? who is this for exactly? None of that would matter if the movie was an entertaining romp, but unfortunately it’s an overly simplistic film that fails to engage through its humor, story, or animation.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentary]

The Mangler

What is it? An accident at an industrial laundry facility leads a detective to suspect something more sinister is at play. He’s not wrong, but he probably wasn’t suspecting satanic possession.

Why see it? There are great Stephen King adaptations, good Stephen King adaptations, and ones like this. Tobe Hooper expands King’s short story and brings a solid cast with him (Ted Levine, Robert Englund), but the grisliness and horror gets lost amid the goofiness and rough dialogue. It’s not terrible, but it’s far from the horrific thrills his fiction has delivered elsewhere.

[DVD extras: None]

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

What is it? Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) need wedding dates.

Why see it? Loosely inspired by a true story, this is a buddy comedy of sorts, two buddy comedies actually, as brothers Mike and Dave pair off against a couple of best friends (Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza) scheming for a free trip to Hawaii. Three of the four leads manage enough laughs to justify a watch, but the film’s expected detour into a heartfelt sweetness is DOA. The characters are all too one dimensional to make their arcs even remotely acceptable.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes, commentary]

The Neon Demon

What is it? Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles with the hopes of becoming a model, and despite the odds and the scathing looks from those around her she quickly finds success. It comes at a price though as more is asked of her than she can possibly give.

Why see it? Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest is a step up from Only God Forgives, but it suffers the same fate of being extremely gorgeous but decidedly empty. So much of this is filler on the way to an ending that never quite satisfies, and while there’s a Dario Argento flavor to it all it’s purely on the visual/audible front with the narrative being weak. It’s worth a watch, but Starry Eyes explored similar themes to far greater effect.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes]

Two Films from Director Douglas Sirk: A Scandal in Paris / Lured

What is it? Francois (George Sanders) was born in a prison and spent much of the life that followed there too, but after a high-profile escape leads him towards bigger and better crimes it’s only the love of a good woman that can bring him down again, in A Scandal in Paris. A killer is finding women through the classifieds, and as Sandra (Lucille Ball) goes undercover to look for him she also falls in love with a local gentleman (Sanders), in Lured.

Why see it? Cohen Film Collection presents these two Douglas Sirk-directed (and Sanders-starring) films to Blu-ray, and both deliver plenty of humor as their genre plots unfold. Ball is terrific in the latter film here showcasing both her comic timing and her acting chops, but Sanders remains the light-tongued and debonair character he mastered throughout his career. Both films are entertaining romps.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary on each film, featurette on Scandal]

Valley of the Dolls [Criterion Collection]

What is it? Three young women come to Hollywood looking for fame and fortune, but none of them are prepared for the excess awaiting them. Drugs, sex, and fluctuating sanity all come into play during their rise and fall.

Why see it? I’m an unabashed fan of the sillier and more surprising follow-up, fans of trashy novels ‐ think Jackie Collins and the like ‐ should still find some fun here. It’s played serious, and that adds some camp to the proceedings, but the drama is laid on so thick you may be left wishing there was more unintentional goofiness.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, featurettes]


What is it? The Orcan world is dying, so through the aid of a grizzled wizard they open a portal onto the human world and pour through in search of a new home. Their arrival leads quickly to war as the two species battle for supremacy, but for some members on both sides the answer rests in working together to stop an even greater menace.

Why see it? The film’s biggest fault is that there’s nothing really to love or hate about it. The film’s neither a success nor a failure, and instead it too often feels generic instead of fantastic. The story is deceptively simple enough, but it’s dense with characters who rarely achieve the level of vaguely memorable. The CG and motion-capture are solid, but they’re in service of scenes that can’t quite excite. It’s a competent-enough fantasy film, but even that goodwill is squandered by devoting too much time to setting up a sequel.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes, Blu-ray exclusives-motion comic, additional featurettes]

Also Out This Week:

Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Adventure [Shout Select], Count Dracula’s Great Love [Vinegar Syndrome], Dekalog [Criterion Collection], Reign ‐ The Complete Third Season

Related Topics:

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.