Welcome to this week in home video!
Pick of the Week
April Fool’s Day [Scream Factory]
What is it? Old friends reunite at a classmate’s island retreat and find murder awaiting them.
Why see it? This mid 80s slasher (of sorts) remains a supremely entertaining horror/comedy gem thanks to smart writing and a game cast. Deborah Foreman and Amy Steel headline this ensemble and bring great charm and personality to its playful tale that also stars 80s favorites Thomas Wilson and Clayton Rohner. We get some fun twists and turns, and even a re-watch still delivers big entertainment that stands apart from the decade’s more popular slashers. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray looks great, and the interviews offer some fun insight into the production. Should be a definite buy for genre fans.
What is it? Two soldiers undertake a desperate mission during World War I.
Why see it? The big deal made about this terrific war film has mostly been focused on its pseudo “single take” approach, but while the film is a technical marvel — and a gorgeous one thanks in part to cinematographer Roger Deakins — it’s also just a damn fine and emotionally affecting film. Action and character beats alternate as the soldiers make their way through enemy territory, and the story grows through it all leading to a powerful ending. The Blu-ray features some stellar making-of featurettes too that are well worth checking out after enjoying the film itself.
Come to Daddy
What is it? A young man reunites with his long estranged father, but things aren’t quite what they seem.
Why see it? Elijah Wood has played his fair share of weirdos over the years, but he perfects the form here as an oddball hoping to reconnect with the dad he hasn’t seen in three decades while visiting the man’s remote, oceanside home. What follows is a delirious blend of dark laughs and darker truths brought to life through sharp writing/direction and pitch-perfect performances by Wood and Stephen McHattie. The story is best discovered while watching, so avoid more information and just dive right in.
Endless Night [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A working class man marries an heiress, and one of them ends up dead.
Why see it? Agatha Christie’s bibliography and filmography consists almost exclusively of mystery tales involving murder and the effort to identify the killer, but this novel and film are different. It’s more of a moody and atmospheric build-up as as rushed love affair turned marriage sees odd and unhappy characters surrounding this young couple. By the time the death happens the film finds itself out of surprises despite its attempt to land one more. The cast (Hayley Mills, Britt Ekland, George Sanders) and score (by Bernard Herrmann) make it a compelling enough watch.
[Extras: New 4K master, commentary]
What is it? A new entry in the world of Ju-on.
Why see it? Director Nicolas Pesce knocked it out of the park with 2018’s Piercing, and his debut (The Eyes of My Mother, 2016) is gorgeously crafted, but his entry into the studio sequel world is something of a gory dud. That gore is what keeps it alive as there are some mean, bloody kills, but the film itself is a drab and lifeless chiller that lacks energy or momentum. It’s all played so overcast and dull and never grabs viewers by the throat.
[Extras: Making of, featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? A family’s arrival at their new home sees them face off against home invaders.
Why see it? The synopsis makes it sound like a pure crime/thriller, but I should probably also mention that there’s a werewolf running around killing people at times. The core idea at play here is an interesting one, albeit not a fresh one, but the execution leaves far too much to be desired. The script gives too much away through its dialogue and eccentricities, the casting of 31 year-old Katrina Bowden as one of the couple’s daughters brought along in the move is a constant distraction, and the kills are never remotely thrilling. Also, and this is important, there’s not nearly enough Thomas Jane.
My Gun Is Quick [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Mike Hammer investigates a moider.
Why see it? Mickey Spillane’s tough-talking private eye has graced the screen multiple times, and here he’s brought to life by Robert Bray. Murder, jewel theft, fisticuffs, and shootouts are the order of the day, and they’re brought together with hard-hitting dialogue and attitude. It’s a solid little thriller that ticks the expected boxes while delivering a worthwhile adaptation of Spillane’s novel.
[Extras: New 2K master]
The Passion of Darkly Noon [Arrow Video]
What is it? An injured man is taken in by a sweaty woman and a mute in the forest.
Why see it? Philip Ridley’s follow-up to the beautiful and beguiling The Reflecting Skin is something of a hot mess. The cast does good work with both Brendan Fraser and Ashley Judd giving strong performances, and there’s no denying the beauty of the visuals and score, but hoo boy — this is not good. The core idea is fine as Fraser’s character is a fundamentalist faced with isolation and temptation in the form of a sweaty, scantily clad Judd, but his journey towards a violent end just doesn’t click like it should. Again, the visual of him at the end is strong, but the effect is not. Anyway, fans of the film will love this release as Arrow has restored it and packed it with extras.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, featurettes, interviews, ]
Return from the Ashes [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A woman long thought in a Nazi internment camp dead returns.
Why see it? Ingrid Thulin plays the woman in question who returns home after years spent as a prisoner and then as a patient in a mental hospital. She finds herself engaged in something dramatic and twisted involving her husband, her stepdaughter, and an old friend, and director J. Lee Thompson captures it all. It gets a bit melodramatic at times, but it also builds to a solid conclusion.
[Extras: New 2K master]
Shooting the Mafia
What is it? A documentary about a female photographer who documented the rise and fall of Italy’s mafia.
Why see it? Letizia Battiaglia didn’t start taking photos as a journalist until she was forty, but that coincided with the mafia’s increasingly firm grip on Sicily and the city of Palermo that she called home. The doc documents her career and her life, and while the former is more interesting than the latter — at least as captured here — she remains a fascinating woman who led a dangerous life.
The Song of Names
What is it? A man searches for his best friend who went missing years before.
Why see it? There’s real heart to the story here as a boy orphaned during the holocaust grows up to become a violinist who disappears before a performance, and it’s his childhood friend who takes it upon himself to seek him out. Clive Owen plays the missing man while Tim Roth is the friend, and the film moves between their present and their past. It works, and the drama around their respective stories is somewhat compelling stuff.
Also out this week:
Frankenstein: The True Story [Scream Factory], Leave Her to Heaven [Criterion Collection], The Wizard [Shout Select]
Related Topics: Home Video