October 01, 2007

Notes from a DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

Welcome to the October edition of my DVD column.  This month, there will be a ton of really bad horror movies released on DVD.  I mean . . . just a lot of bad movies.  Because . . . well, it’s October.  And sadly, it's not a terribly good year for horror releases.  I’m going to skip most of the trash, but one piece of trash is notable, because it is the first Dark Castle production to go straight to home video (which is a bad thing) and it features Jeffrey Combs (which is a good thing).  "Return to the House on Haunted Hill".  This movie has none of the cast of the “original remake.” It’s a different director.  And as I said, it is direct-to-video.  But it has Jeffrey Combs eating the scenery, so if you’re a Jeffery Combs fan, pick it up.  Otherwise . . . well, let's move on.

"Twilight Zone, the Movie" is finally being released on DVD.  This was actually a pretty decent anthology film from 1983, wherein some of the best episodes from the original series were re-written.  You could watch this, or you could watch the original episodes.  It's your call, but I’ve got a soft spot for this movie.  I saw it in the theater, and it scared the crap out of me when I was a wee lad.

Still weaving through Sequel Land, we have "28 Weeks Later," the sequel to "28 Days Later".  Not as good or as fresh as the original, but it does have bio-zombies, and rabid anti-American sentiment as subtle as a George Romero movie, so it seems comfortingly familiar in its mediocrity.

Speaking of mediocrity . . . Michael Bay’s sprawling tribute to everybody's favorite transforming 80’s robot toys hits DVD this month.  It's not horror, but it's strangely horrific.  Kind of like a car wreck . . . if the wrecked car was a giant transforming robot.  Get the special edition of this one because all the fun is in the behind-the-scenes features where we get to see how our childhood dreams get 'transformed' onto the big screen.

Speaking of the big screen, and our childhood . . . Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez turned in one of the freshest concepts last year with "GrindHouse," and this year, each film is being released on DVD separately, with an extended cut.  While some of you may be groaning that "Death Proof" was already too long, with too much oh-so-hip-and-sultry dialogue . . . But I say nay!  You can never have too much oh-so-hip-and-sultry Tarantino dialogue.  Give me the extended cut of "Death Proof".  Give me more Kurt Russel!  Because The Kurt makes everything better.  All hyperbole aside, I really liked "Death Proof," and think that this extended cut plays to Tarantino’s strengths.  (In case you were wondering. . . I know the segue about our childhood has nothing to do with Tarantino, or Rodrieguez, or "GrindHouse" . . . I was just teasing you.)

On the other side of the double bill, we have "Planet Terror," which is an unapologetic bio-zombie extravaganza!  This is the movie that “Resident Evil: The Sleepinducer” wishes it was.  I think Rodriguez has totally outdone himself with this one.  Pure fun.  Pure zombies.  Pure sexy sultry silliness.  Get it.

And, it wouldn’t be October if you didn’t put a Mario Bava movie into your DVD player at least once.  The good folks at Anchor Bay are releasing the Bava Box Set Vol. 2, which features "Four Times That Night," "Dolls for an August Moon," "Roy Cold and Winchester Jack," "Bay of Blood," "Baron Blood," and "Lisa and the Devil".  At least 3 of these are classics that should be on any horror fan's shelf.

Also out this month, after a criminally brief theatrical run, is "Day Watch," the Russian import fantasy/horror movie.  This sequel to "Night Watch" further develops the mythology and cosmology that was introduced in the first film and provides a similarly frenetic editing style that keeps one engaged even when the plot seems a bit hazy.

Finally, there are two really good Halloween pick-ups this year.  The first is the Season One box set of "Masters of Horror," which comes to you in its own mausoleum packaging.  Get all the movies from season one of this Showtime horror series in one place.  This is worth it, if you haven’t been picking them up individually.

The other "Masters of Horror" disk that you need to run out and get is the brand new Tobe Hooper episode, "Damned Thing". This installment alone makes the entire series worthwhile.  It’s the best movie Hooper has done in years, based on a script by Richard Christian Matheson, adapted from a short story by Ambrose Bierce. Great cinematography that transcends the usual low budget look and feel of this series, and an excellent set of performances cap off an outstanding production.  If you see one horror film this October, this one should be it.

Next month, I’ll focus on something besides horror.  I promise.

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