Streaming might be the future, but physical media is still the present. It’s also awesome, depending on the title, the label, and the release, so each week we take a look at the new Blu-rays and DVDs making their way into the world. Welcome to this week in Home Video for January 31st, 2023! This week’s home video selection includes Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo, an Australian zombie classic, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Two fools unknowingly release an evil wendigo from its prison.
Why see it? Regional horror features are frequently charming, but they’re not always entertaining beyond that. Tom Chaney’s mid 90s (well, mid 80s technically) wildly ambitious creature feature is both charming and entertaining, and while his grasp sometimes exceeds his reach, the end result is a film that delights through to the end credits. Practical effects, including some fun miniature work, bring the nightmare to life, and those old school charms work wonders to deliver a truly entertaining romp through the woods. The extras bring light to the work that went into the film as well as its long journey to the screens.
[Extras: New 2K scan, commentary, interviews, featurettes]
Bergman Island [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A filmmaking couple enjoy a retreat to where Ingmar Bergman worked.
Why see it? Mia Hansen-Love makes breezy, compassionate films about people and emotions, and her latest is a sweetly engaging tale about the creation of art. Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth star as the couple seeking inspiration for their art, but also for their relationship, and the fictions they spin inform both. It’s beautiful and airy, and they’re joined by Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie for the look at love, art, and the creations that follow. Knowledge of Bergman’s work isn’t necessary, but it definitely informs many of the film’s scenes (and obviously the locale).
[Extras: 2k master, interviews, short film]
Flesh and Fantasy [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A trilogy of terrors, before that was a big thing to do!
Why see it? Credited as among the first horror anthology films from a U.S. studio, this early 40s entry is an intriguing mix of suspense and mystery. A woman finds misunderstood enchantment during Mardi Gras, a good guy succumbs to a fortune teller’s murderous prediction, and an acrobat is haunted by a dream portending the worst. There’s nothing linking the tales, no structure to its narrative, but they ease along with dark expectations and a strong cast including Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, and Charles Boyer. A new commentary track offers up some interesting backstory on the production as well.
[Extras: New 2K scan, commentary, featurette]
From Beyond [4K UHD, Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Arguably the best of the Gordon/Crampton/Combs/Lovecraft films.
Why see it? Like everyone else, I have a big ol’ soft spot for Re-Animator, but as much as I love it, something about From Beyond makes it my favorite from the gang. Director Stuart Gordon, stars Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs, and source material liberally adapted from H.P. Lovecraft — they collaborated a few times, but this one sticks the landing and delivers a sci-fi tale for adults complete with gory demises, astral creatures, and wild abandon. It’s thrilling, fun, and beautiful to look at — especially in 4K with HDR as the details and colors pop and pull you into another world. The extras here are numerous and cover all aspects of the film making this a stellar release.
[Extras: Commentaries, documentary, interviews, featurettes]
Attack of the Beast Creatures [AGFA]
What is it? Travelers fall under attack by little beast creatures.
Why see it? AGFA finds all manner of regional oddities, and this mid 80s romp may be one of the most successful in its weirdness. It’s a low budget affair across the board, so don’t expect to be wowed, but if you can check your lofty, professional expectations at the door there’s fun to be had here. The little bastards are puppets, and they wreak some bloody havoc along the way. It’s a silly little nightmare, one guaranteed to leave you smiling even as you shake your head in disbelief.
[Extras: Restoration, commentary, interviews, VHS version]
Curucu, Beast of the Amazon [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? An adventurer heads to South America in search of a mythical beast.
Why see it? Kudos to Vinegar Syndrome for bringing this B-movie from the 50s to home video for the very first time and in the best possible condition. The film itself is something of a bait and switch more in line with a Scooby Doo episode than an actual creature feature, but it’s still an enjoyable enough romp through Brazilian locales. To that point, its colorful scenery and costumes make it a better travelogue than monster movie. Still, it’s an intriguing offering as one of the label’s first entries in its Vinegar Syndrome Labs sublabel.
[Extras: New 2K scan, commentary, featurette]
Infernal Rapist [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A rapist is caught, convicted, and executed only to be brought back to life by a devil.
Why see it? While Vinegar Syndrome once again deserves credit for bringing a little known genre film into the light of day, this Mexican effort is something of a chore. It’s not dull, but the film — as evidenced by the premise — is essentially just a series of graphic rape scenes and murders. One or two are enough to give viewers the gist, but the film commits to several without offering any real thrills or end catharsis. Fans of the film will be happy with the new Blu-ray, though, so that’s something.
[Extras: New 4K scan, interviews]
What is it? A man goes gonzo in search of his kidnapped wife.
Why see it? There’s an entire audience out there for shot-on-video genre efforts, and labels like Saturn’s Core are doing great work for them. That said, this “action” oriented tale of revenge doesn’t quite cross over in its appeal to the rest of us. It’s rough going at times both in front of and behind the camera, and the silly enjoyment that comes from some of it isn’t enough to lift this anywhere near Miami Connection levels of fun. As is often the case, though, fans will love this release as it’s packed.
[Extras: Director’s cut and original, commentary, documentary, interviews, short films]
Made in Hong Kong: Volume One [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Three Hong Kong genre efforts starring Anthony Wong.
Why see it? It’s never a bad thing when Vinegar Syndrome (or any boutique label) restores and releases more Hong Kong films onto Blu-ray, and it’s exciting knowing this is just a first volume. The three films here vary in quality with The Demon’s Baby being the clear winner with its story about greed and lust unleashing an evil spirit with wonderfully gooey, gory, slapstick-heavy results and a heroic Wong. Erotic Nightmare goes the softcore route as Wong plays a man who dreams naughty things only to wind up in over his head with the trickster controlling his nocturnal emissions. Finally, while The Deadly Camp probably has the higher cult status as people often refer to it as Hong Kong Friday the 13th, it’s the weakest of the three as it feels more like a poor man’s Wrong Turn. Like I said, a mixed bag, but more than enough reason to be excited for a volume two.
[Extras: New 2K scans, commentaries, featurettes]
What is it? A meteorite crash kicks off a zombie apocalypse in Australia.
Why see it? The Spierig Brothers would go on to deliver winners like Daybreakers and Predestination, but everyone has to start somewhere. There’s definitely fun to be had with this energetic zombie romp inspired by the likes of Evil Dead and Bad Taste, but the action and gore aren’t enough to make up for an inconsistent tone and a bland look. I’m definitely happy to see Umbrella moving into the U.S. with their packed releases, especially when they focus on local productions, so keep ’em coming.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes, short film, booklet, poster, soundtrack cd]
When I Consume You
What is it? Siblings stand up to an evil entity.
Why see it? Perry Blackshear’s They Look Like People remains an all-timer of dread, paranoia, and intimate fear, but his latest can’t quite find that emotional connection. A brother and sister and a spectral evil should be enough, but their struggle just doesn’t grab you which in turn lets the film fall into something of a dull drama. The acting and mood are fine, but the lack of emotion hurts — and to be clear, the emotion is attempted, but the pieces aren’t landing.
[Extras: Introduction, commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, interviews, booklet]
Also out this week:
Actual People, Bones and All, Brother’s Keeper, Event Horizon [4K UHD], The First VCR/Cassettes Go HI-FI, The Grandmaster of Kung Fu, Inbetween Girl, The Italian Job [4K UHD], Kanehsatake, Mickey & Minnie: 10 Classic Shorts, Mindcage, Young Sherlock Holmes [4K UHD]
Related Topics: Home Video