October 01, 2008

Notes From A DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

Happy October, horror fans.  This is the month in which all of the good, bad and indifferent horror movies come out on DVD.  Luckily, I’m here to point out the good stuff.

Before we get started with the horror movies, I wanted to point out one of the more interesting anime shows I’ve run across. . . a post-apocalyptic steampunk adventure in a world were androids and humans live side by side:  "Ergo Proxy".  This one went 24 episodes, and is worth checking out, now that it's available as a single box set DVD release.  The director of "Ergo Proxy" is the director who brought us the 2003 series "Witch Hunter Robin".  If you haven’t seen either of these, you might want to check them out.
Okay.  On to the red stuff.  Right off the bat, we see one of the longest anticipated sequels in the horror genre, finally hitting home video in the U.S.  Dario Argento’s third installment in the Three Mothers series, "Mother of Tears".  The first two films, "Suspira" and "Inferno" were masterpieces of their era.  Soundtracks, imagery, costuming and sets that screamed 70’s Italian horror cinema.  The good news, and the bad news is that Argento is still making films just like he did in the 70’s.  Incoherent scripts . . . nonsensical motivations and actions by the characters . . . Gorgeous grand guignol set pieces and a film score that overwhelms and intoxicates all at the same time.  "Mother of Tears" isn’t realistic in any sense of the word.  It is filled with ridiculousness and fetishized imagery that doesn’t quite acknowledge that, well, the world is 30 years older.  And this, to my mind, is a good thing.  I don’t want my Argento films to be teensploitation blood dramas or torture-porn epics.  I want Argento to be Argento, and "Mother of Tears" (much like his last two films, "Sleepless" and "The Card Player") could easily have been made and released in the 70s or early 80s.  It is vintage Argento, warts and all.  Like the other two films in the series, its main downside is the “throw a rock at the devil” ending. This is a reference to the classic Hammer film "To the Devil a Daughter," and its rather abrupt and seemingly out-of-nowhere ending.  If you like Argento, "Mother of Tears" is for you.  It’s not a great movie, but it is unabashedly an Argento movie.  If the subtle allure of "Inferno" eludes you . . well . . . You might want to give this one a pass.  This DVD release is longer and features more gore then the theatrical release (which screened one night in San Francisco, earlier this year, FYI).

For another movie that is “out of time” and features an intriguing score, be sure to check out "Wicked Lake".  Think "Last House on the Left," (or "I Spit on Your Grave") meets "Evil Dead".  It’s a classic rape revenge drama with a supernatural twist, and a score by Ministry’s Al Jourgensen.  This one has a lake . . . and zombies . . . and cute girls who are menaced by, and then kill, evil men.  What’s not to like?

In keeping with Criterion’s release of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s "Vampyr," which I mentioned last month, I thought I’d mention another “classic” adaptation of Le Fanu’s Carmila:  "The Blood Splattered Bride". This one has been lovingly restored by Blue Underground.  Vicente Aranda’s atmospheric tale of sex and violence is a classic of 70s horror films, and has never looked better.

Another classic horror film with overtly sexual themes, recently restored by Blue Underground is Andrzej Zulawski’s "Possession" starring Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill. This one explores the psychology of betrayal, and is filled with set piece imagery that would make Argento proud.  The US cut of this film was heavily redacted and the Blue Underground features the original, much longer international cut of this film.

Another creepy horror thriller from 1981 is The Shaw Brothers horror film, "Corpse Mania".  Think Italian giallo film, by way of Hong Kong.  A maniacal necrophilliac is rampaging through Hong Kong brothels, locked in a cat-and-mouse game with the police detective who’s been tasked to bring him to justice.  Good stuff.

Finally, for those of you disappointed with the rather bare bones release earlier this year of the Rob Zombie remake of "Halloween," I give you the three disk unrated director's cut special edition.  Commentary on disk one.  Disk 2 has all the deleted scenes, alternate endings and out-takes that one could want, and disk 3 has a four hour “making of” documentary that is reminiscent of the extensive shooting documentary included with "The Devils Rejects".  THIS is the way to go for all true hard core Rob Zombie fans.  Unless of course, you have a Blue Ray player . . . then be sure to check out the Blue Ray edition of this unrated director's cut.

Speaking of Blue Ray…I wanted to ask you all a question.  Sort of an informal poll.  Please email in your answers to the following questions:

Do you own or have access to a Blue Ray player, or a PS3?

Do you have an HDTV?

Do you plan on buying a Blue Ray or HDTV in the near future?

Do you buy movies on Blue Ray?

If Borderlands stocked Blue Ray movies, would you buy them from Borderlands?

Anyway . . . Those are some of the high points for this month's horror releases.  Or at least, the high points as I see them.  If you’ve got a favorite horror movie that you’ve seen this year, or that is just coming out, please drop me a line and let me know about it.

Until next month, keeping watching those blood-red-drippy DVD’s.  Someone’s got to.

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