Features and Columns · Movies

‘Stray Cat Rock,’ ‘Nightbreed,’ ‘Beneath’ and ‘Squirm’ Are the Best New Blu/DVD Releases of the Week

By  · Published on October 28th, 2014

Welcome back to This Week In Discs!

If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon.

Grace: The Possession

Grace (Alexia Fast) heads off to college unprepared for the pressures of her peers due to a childhood that saw her raised by a strictly religious grandmother (Lin Shaye) after losing her mother during her birth. A rowdy party ends with grandma pulling her from school and bringing her back to their small, religious town, but what no one knows is that a demon is inside Grace just itching to cause some bloody mayhem.

The narrative here is mostly straightforward and will feel familiar to viewers who’ve seen any number of possession films, but what makes this one unique ‐ and what makes it highly watchable and impressive ‐ is that the entire movie is POV. (It’s not found footage though, thankfully.) We float into the back of Grace’s head early on and spend the rest of the film seeing through her eyes. It’s a cool idea, but more than that, it’s executed pretty damn flawlessly by director Jeff Chan. It’s like one of the V/H/S/2 shorts ‐ that was the great one in the franchise ‐ getting the feature treatment as the POV impresses multiple times. The script and story could have used more polish, but the performances, effects and technical aspects are solid. All that plus Alexis Knapp and Lester (Clarke Peters) from The Wire!

[DVD extras: None]


A young woman returns to the small town where her father (Jeff Fahey) still works the coal mines, and after a verbal back and forth with some of the miners she decides to accompany her dad on his final trip down the hole. She’s barely learned how to shovel coal when a drilling machine mishap opens a thin vein in the wall and brings the cave roof collapsing in around them. The survivors retreat into an emergency pod to await rescue, but they soon discover that they’re not alone down there. The oxygen is dropping, toxic fumes are taking its place and someone ‐ or something ‐ is trying to make sure none of them see the light of day ever again.

Director Ben Ketai and writers Patrick Doody and Chris Valenziano have picked a seemingly well-tread premise for their feature, but a few missteps aside they succeed in breathing fresh life into the stale environment of a terror-filled mine shaft. They deliver some genuine chills alongside a handful of wonderfully claustrophobic sequences, and the result is a film that scares and keeps viewers on their toes. It shakes off its generic trappings early on to deliver a fantastic blend of chills and thrills, and the script keeps viewers guessing in a way that never feels manipulative or cheap. Comparisons to Neil Marshall’s The Descent are inevitable, but while they’re entirely different beasts they’re both well-crafted and visceral experiences that drop viewers into a dark world of claustrophobic dread.

[DVD extras: Commentary, interviews, featurettes]

Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut

Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) is a young man plagued by dreams and visions of a dark place occupied by monsters making the only joy in his life his remarkably loyal and understanding girlfriend Lori (Anne Bobby). Boone’s psychiatrist, Decker (David Cronenberg), has him convinced that those dreams belong to a man guilty of murder, and he accuses Boone of being responsible for a series of horrific slayings. The place in question is Midian, and when Boone visits in a daze he comes face to face (and skin to teeth) with some of the creatures hiding there leading to his welcoming into their monstrous fold. His journey into the night is paired with his pursuit by Decker and locals including both authorities and drunken townspeople, but one of the main stories above it all is the love shared between Boone and Lori… between monster and human.

The director’s cut restores Barker’s intent on both the love story between Boone and Lori as well as his desire for the monsters to be the sympathetic heroes of the film, and the result is a vastly superior film to its theatrically-released cousin. The movie’s roughly 20 minutes longer than the theatrical version, but there’s actually nearly 45 minutes of new footage included as scenes were swapped out for alternate takes or replaced with whole new sequences. Boone and Lori are given more time together both before and during his journey towards the supernatural, and it’s a world of difference. We see more of Lori’s efforts to track down Boone, but we’re also treated to a musical number with her performing a rousing song onstage at a bar. We also get more of the real heart of the movie ‐ the monsters. There are a handful of scenes throughout that give brief looks at the new creatures, but the majority of them are on display in the film’s third act as Midian comes under attack. Some characters also get new fates leaving the survivors in a different stasis than we get in the theatrical cut. The new cut doesn’t fix all of the original film’s issues ‐ it’s still a fairly cheesy movie, Cronenberg is still a terrible actor, and the bit with the female motel clerk trying to pick up her disgusting creme-filled pastry is still the worse scene I’ve ever seen in a movie ever ‐ but it addresses the thematic and character weaknesses in strong fashion.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, feaurettes, Limited edition also includes deleted scenes, galleries and additional featurettes]


A small town suffers the wrath of a strong storm only to discover that the real terror is yet to come. Active electrical wires have fallen into the ground and driven everyday carnivorous earthworms up to the surface with murder on their minds. Or on whatever passes for a worm mind anyway. Also, they scream.

Writer/director Jeff Lieberman’s 1976 cult classic has been cleaned up for its HD debut (in North America) and has never looked better. The worms themselves are somehow even more disturbing in high definition, their screams even more troubling, and while the film’s inherent goofiness remains it’s also just as charming. Of course, the movie still shows some amateurish acting and low budget limitations, but they’re acceptable negatives when we still get the positives of worms wriggling beneath the skin and filling an entire room.

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

Stray Cat Rock: The Collection (UK)

A girl gang fights against other lady brawlers, male counterparts and a nefarious organization in Delinquent Girl Boss. A heist goes south in Wild Jumbo. Racism and sexual abuse force a female gangster’s hand in Sex Hunter. Competing gangs enter the business of drug dealing in Machine Animal. Hippies and revenge collide in Beat ‘71.

Japan’s Stray Cat Rock series of films were all produced and released during 1970–71, and while many of the cast members remained throughout their characters are different each time. The plots are equally different, but the core of the films remain the same ‐ female gangsters kicking ass, breaking the law and often getting their own asses beat in return. There’s some legitimate drama across the films, but the real draw is the swinging style and energetic feel of Japan in the late ‘60s/early ’70s. The music, the wardrobes and the sexual warfare fill the screen, and while I don’t recommend watching all five in a short span as they’re far too similar each of the films have their unique charms. Arrow’s box set is a limited edition (2000 copies produced) and four of the films are making their proper debut in Western markets.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New translations, interviews, booklet]


Dinesh D’Souza has been missing the point since the late ’70s, and the latest example of that is this new documentary that pretends to challenge criticisms of this great country of ours. The setup presupposes a world without the United States ‐ an admittedly interesting premise ‐ but the film drops the idea almost immediately choosing instead to list several criticisms and then refute them. It does this each and every time by ignoring the fundamental issue and then arguing against it with unrelated details. One example, the argument that capitalism isn’t perfect, is framed as the left’s war against “hot dog vendors and CEOs.” It’s an attempt to make the average American feel like they’re under attack, but anyone with a hint of common sense can see that small business owners are not the issue. D’Souza also suggests that racism is over seeing as a Black president has been elected and re-elected. He’s a professional troll, and unfortunately he’s good at his chosen profession. Because seriously, greatness can and should be critically examined, and the country’s ability to survive such “attacks” is part of what makes it great in the first place.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Complete interviews, extended scenes]

Begin Again

Gretta (Keira Knightley) is a songwriter and amateur performer who arrives in New York City with her singer boyfriend (Adam Levine) who’s on the rise, but she finds herself alone when he cheats on her with a record company employee. Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a label executive who gets booted for being more focused on the music than he is on the business, but when he hears Gretta play one night he sets out to make a record with her. I’m no fan of writer/director John Carney’s Once ‐ the music, the story, and the characters all fail to engage ‐ but his latest is an improvement in every regard. It’s still a slight story, but Knightley and Ruffalo do strong work, and even better, the music is energetic and addictive. What I’m saying is I purchased to of Knightley’s tracks off Amazon and strongly considered picking up one of Levine’s too. Crazy.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, music videos]

Blacula: The Complete Collection (UK)

An African prince (William Marshall) is turned into a vampire by Dracula himself, and a century later when his coffin is transported to America he awakes to find a world of necks just waiting to be bitten. The sequel, Scream Blacula Scream, sees the cool cat count resurrected by way of voodoo and the presence of Pam Grier. Both films have their high points ‐ the first has a good sense of humor, the second has Grier ‐ and while they’re not exactly classics they’re both fun enough. Eureka’s new Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic.

[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, booklet]

The Brady Bunch: The Complete First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Seasons

He has three sons! She has three daughters! Together they have a nosy housekeeper who lives in the kitchen! Honestly, you already know this show from its five year run on CBS or the thirty nine years of syndication its enjoyed since 1975, and this isn’t the first time the series has hit DVD. These new editions, available exclusively at Target, differ only in their bright and flashy new covers (and sleeves).

[DVD extras: None]

Child of God

Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) is a bit off in the head, and a small Southern town in the early ’70s is about to discover just what that means. He runs afoul of the law in minor ways before heading out to make his home in the woods, but he continues to cross paths with others leading to devastating consequences for all involved. James Franco directs this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, and the entire thing is very much an acquired taste. Case in point? We see Ballard taking a shit ‐ a very graphic shit ‐ within the first twenty minutes, and it only goes downhill from there. He’s an animal from frame one, shows no change along the way, and the others in the film simply fall prey to his ways again and again. There’s no narrative momentum or real character, and basically we’re just waiting for him to die or get caught or just walk out of frame.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Deliver Us From Evil

Det. Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a New York City cop used to seeing the worst mankind has to offer on the streets late at night, but his latest case makes all that’s passed feel pedestrian by comparison. It seems the devil’s minions are afoot possessing people, murdering others and causing all manner of urban unpleasantness compelling Sarchie to join forces with an atypical priest (Edgar Ramirez) in the hopes of cleaning up the city. Director/co-writer Scott Derrickson (the upcoming Dr. Strange) delivered two-thirds of a fantastic horror film in Sinister, but he can’t quite get this one off the ground thanks to a script that fails at every turn. Characters are slim and contrived, scares are obvious and flat and the events are more silly and/or dumb than engaging. The cast makes an effort, but it’s a losing battle.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary, making of]

Free Fall

Jane Porter is a high-level executive at a financial company, but when she discovers some tomfoolery in the books a bulls-eye gets placed on her head. An assassin (D.B. Sweeney) comes calling at the high-rise building where she works, and she’s forced to find her way down and out without getting fired (upon). This is a fairly generic thriller from beginning to end, but at least it’s not shy about bookending itself with its lead character ‐ again, a professional businesswoman ‐ in skimpy workout clothes and a bikini.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes]

Good People

A couple (James Franco, Kate Hudson) in financial straights discovers a bag filled with money in their dead tenant’s ceiling, but their plan to take it quietly backfires when thugs come looking for it. A local detective (Tom Wilkinson) investigating the tenant’s death comes to suspect the couple’s involvement. The plot has seen better days and better films (A Simple Plan, Shallow Grave), but the third act offers a well-crafted game of cat and mouse in their big, mid-renovation home.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of]


Robert enjoys tinkering with sound waves in his basement, but his latest discovery holds a lot of quirky, kinky and messed up promise. He’s found a way to hypnotize people and then command them to do his bidding, and his first efforts lead to some highly illegal endeavors with the couple who live next door. This Swedish black comedy is deadpan and dark, but it is slow-going for a while as Robert treads the same ground for a bit. Still, the laughs and observations make for a fun watch all leading up to a killer finale.

[DVD extras: Behind the scenes]

Life of Crime

A pair of bumbling criminals abduct a wealthy housewife (Jennifer Aniston) with the intention of collecting a ransom from her husband (Tim Robbins), but they didn’t count on the philandering hubby not wanting her back. If this sounds familiar it’s because Elmore Leonard’s novel (The Switch) was adapted into the ’80s hit Ruthless People, and both of them were highly inspired by an O. Henry story from 1907. The story beats are similar here, but the laughs and engagement are curiously absent.

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


A jilted wife attempts to remove her cheating husband’s fleshy member, but when he successfully stops her she strikes out at the son instead. The now penis-less teenager begins down a violent and twisted path lined with bullies, rape, mother issues and a very severe case of erectile dysfunction. Kim Ki-duk’s latest tells a morbid tale of family drama without a single word of dialogue ‐ something he’s toyed with before in the far more affecting and engaging 3 Iron ‐ and the actors do solid work in conveying their emotions and intentions with only their expressions and occasional grunts. Unfortunately, the end result is a story that offers little appeal as it’s occupied by a constant state of misery. People suffer here, both men and women, and there’s barely a pinprick of light to be found.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, Q&A]

The Prince

Paul (Jason Patric) is an ex-assassin who returns to New Orleans when his daughter is kidnapped only to discover that a local crime boss (Bruce Willis) with a grudge is responsible. Luckily his good friend Sam (John Cusack) is in town and more than willing to help out with guns and such. This is generic in every regard aside from the cast, but it’s that cast that makes the movie watchable and just compelling enough.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, extended scenes, behind the scenes, interviews]

Wish I Was Here

Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff, who also directed and co-wrote) is a severely under-employed actor struggling to help support his wife (Kate Hudson) and two kids, but his greatest challenge comes when his father (Mandy Patinkin) is diagnosed with cancer and an impending death well before he’s had the opportunity to avenge his own father’s murder. Now that I think about it that last bit may not be fully accurate. Anyway, Braff is sad. He caught a lot of flack for his Kickstaarter shenanigans, but if you can put the production details out of your head for less than two hours this is a somewhat entertaining and affecting film about grief, Comic-Con and adults learning to be adults. It doesn’t feel as lasting as Garden State and frequently exceeds acceptable levels of sincerity, but it’s far from the total misfire that the internet would have had you believe over the past year.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, feaurettes, outtakes, commentaries]

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

Beethoven’s Treasure Tail
Behaving Badly
The Complete Jacques Tati (Criterion)
Jamie Marks Is Dead
My Pretty Pony: Equestria Girls ‐ Rainbow Rocks
The Reckoning
Running from Crazy
The Vanishing (Criterion)
Werewolf Woman
WKRP In Cincinnati: The Complete Series

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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.