Plus 13 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
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Pick of the Week
The Blackcoat’s Daughter
What is it? Three teenage girls, one deadly secret.
Why see it? Writer/director Oz Perkins delivers an absolute mood-piece with this chilling and atmospheric horror film, and while it won’t be to all tastes thanks in large part to its slow-burn mentality most genre fans will relish its icy grip. It’s split between two narrative threads, one involving two girls (Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton) nearly alone at school over holiday break and the other featuring a girl (Emma Roberts) hitching a ride towards that same town. Perkins tips his hand a bit too early on one of the halves, but the end effect still resonates with terror and thrills as the pieces come together. Fans of quiet but powerful horror owe it to themselves to give this one a spin.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of]
Ghost World [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A recent high school graduate grows less and less enthused about her future.
Why see it? Scarlett Johansson has grown on to become the big breakout star from this 2001 film, but while she’s good here the film’s joys belong mostly to Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi. The two become an unlikely pair of oddballs bonding over music and a shared disdain for too much of what’s around them. It’s a funny film, but while there are a few laugh out loud moments much of the humor comes in the form of sadly humorous realizations about the lives they’ve made for themselves. Criterion’s new release comes packed with extras highlighting the film’s production and origins.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 4k restoration, commentary, interviews, deleted scenes, booklet, comic excerpt]
Malibu High [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A bored highschooler turns to prostitution and murder-for-hire, as you do.
Why see it? It’s not often a T&A flick (from the ’70s or otherwise) ends somewhere completely different from where it began, but Irvin Berwick’s feature does just that. It’s a romp of boobs and bullets that shifts effortlessly from a story about a teenage bad girl getting it on with every man in her life to a teenage worse girl shooting some others to death. It embraces the “sexy” quotient by opening with the high schooler waking up fully nude – as most high schoolers do – and seeing her go topless a dozen times thereafter, but the shift towards violence makes for a far more interesting film. It’s an oddity that entertains even as you shake your head at the onscreen antics.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2k restoration, commentary, interviews, Q&A, short films, reversible cover]
Obsessions [Cult Epics]
What is it? A medical student spies sexy shenanigans with a deadly twist next door.
Why see it? There are more than a few selling points to this Dutch thriller’s US debut, but the top one is probably Martin Scorsese’s involvement as co-writer of the film’s script. He focused on the dialogue as it was Holland’s first English-language film, but his work here offers an interesting footnote to the beginning of his career. All of that aside though the film is an interesting psycho-sexual thriller with its own merits as the truth behind the apparent deaths slowly comes to light against a backdrop of Amsterdam’s side streets and Bernard Herrmann’s score. Less of a mystery than an exploration of characters and their twisted interests, the film is a slickly-produced late ’60s slice of exploitation. Cult Epics’ new Blu-ray brings the film to the US for the first time and does so with a new HD transfer and some informative interviews.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Introductions, interviews, Martin Scorsese script notes]
Before I Fall
What is it? Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day.
Why see it? The main reason to see this YA drama, aside from that premise above, is the lead performance and presence of Zoey Deutch. She’s a terrific young actor capable of moving effortlessly between the serious and the humorous, and she has a charisma that has her standing apart from the crowd. She was the only element worth watching in the recent James Franco rom-com, Why Him?, but happily she’s part of a better ensemble here. The film itself isn’t up to her snuff though as the script falters and loses its way after the first act. Her character suddenly dumbs down missing the most obvious of reasons for her dilemma until the film’s ending, and that ending? Hoo boy. It’s dumb in both its conclusion and its ignorance of what surely will follow.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Blackenstein [Severin Films]
What is it? A mad scientist makes a monster out of an injured serviceman.
Why see it? As blaxploitation horror films go this one has existed pretty much under the radar. It’s been mentioned of course, but far too many of us had yet to see it. Big thanks are due for the folks at Severin Films then for bringing the film in all its glory to Blu-ray. It’s an at-times bloody, goofy, and sexy romp that follows many of the Frankenstein tropes while adding some ’70s twists of its own. Just as entertaining as the film though is the backstory behind its creation leading up to the still-unsolved murder of the man who wrote it. It won’t realign your world, but there’s fun to be had with this one.
[Blu-ray extras: Theatrical/extended versions, interviews, featurettes]
What is it? A dumbass gets into trouble with some bad guys.
Why see it? This little action picture zipped in and out of theaters with impressive speed, and having now seen it it’s easy to see why. Yes, there are some solid action beats here involving car chases and such, but they’re too frequently affected with CG enhancements that immediately dull the effect. It fares far worse outside the action as the script asks us to care about an idiot (Nicholas Hoult) whose every choice leads to more bad luck for the innocent bystanders around him. We’re meant to care about his love story (with Felicity Jones), but it’s difficult to wish him anything but death.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Dark Harvest / Escapes
What is it? Death comes at the straw-filled hands of a killer scarecrow in Dark Harvest, and a mysterious VHS tape brings terror via a VCR in Escapes.
Why see it? This pair of shot-on-video chillers from ’86-’90 aren’t necessarily rediscovered classics, but there’s an undeniably degree of fun to be had for genre fans in both. Their ultra low budgets don’t hurt the end product all that much as the filmmakers’ enthusiasm and effort is all up there on the screen. Dark Harvest in particular finds some effective sequences set against its desert backdrop — an unusual spot for a scarecrow slaughter — and its embrace of gore and T&A seals the deal.
[DVD extras: Interviews]
Evil Ed [Arrow Video]
What is it? A film editor is corrupted by the violent images on screen into becoming a mad killer.
Why see it? This splattery horror/comedy from Sweden leans heavy on the latter in its tale of a mild-mannered man whose exposure to violence, gore, and sex pushes him over the edge, but there’s plenty of gory, practical f/x fun to be found. The effects enhance attack scenes but also work to create creatures big and small that come to life in his imagination. It does run a bit overlong though — twenty minutes easy — and that’s even before you consider the newly restored extended cut. Still, the antics make the film worth a watch. Even better for fans are the copious extras that Arrow Video has included here. Be sure to watch the film’s intro too as the filmmakers are an entertaining pair.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Extended/theatrical versions, introduction, making ofs, featurettes, deleted scenes, bloopers. booklet, reversible cover]
What is it? A somewhat less funny, far less creative, and highly unofficial “remake” of Three O’Clock High.
Why see it? Charlie Day can be a funny guy, and Ice Cube has his moments, but even together they can’t quite carry this comedy across the finish line. There are laughs of course, but far too much of the film consists of loud noises, things crashing, and a desire to find humor in other people’s pain and suffering. It doesn’t work as well as it wants to. The focus is on the two teachers, but we’re supposed to be laughing equally as much at the students getting away with all manner of cruelties and outrageous behavior around them. I love immature humor as much as anyone, but this is more often than not just too mean-spirited for my tastes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes]
Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD [Severin Films]
What is it? A documentary looking at the people behind Judge Dredd and other popular comic characters.
Why see it? I’m not a big comic guy and was unfamiliar with the UK’s 2000AD before seeing this doc, but their story is an entertaining and engaging one all the same. Talking heads including Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and more all share memories of their relationship to the comic label, either as fans or employees, and the doc does a good job setting the comic’s history alongside the historical context of England at the time. It’ll mean most to die-hard comic book fans, but even casual observers like myself will find something to enjoy in the various commentaries on the industry and the times.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, extended interviews]
The Hearse [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A woman inherits a house which unfortunately comes with a satanic car, ghosts, and horny teens.
Why see it? Director George Bowers’ only horror film is an atmospheric horror picture offering up some solid turns and effectively creepy sequences. He uses POV well both inside and out of the house, but even better is the film’s division of threats. There are supernatural concerns, crazy locals, evil neighbors, and the possibility that Jane is in fact a nutcase. The film overcomes its issues – some minor repetition, budgetary restraints, an abrupt ending – to deliver a devilish little chiller well worth a watch for genre fans. Trish Van Devere is fine in the lead, and the supporting players offer a bevy of familiar faces including Joseph Cotten, Med Flory, Perry Lang, and the feature film debut of the great Christopher McDonald.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2k restoration, interview, reversible cover]
What is it? A man is treated like a child while visiting God.
Why see it? I’ll say right up front that I am not the audience for condescending messages like these. At its core the film is about a man who loses his faith after his daughter’s murder only to have it restored when God tells him to get over it and move on. There’s little effort made to “explain” what good a god is who chooses to allow such awful tragedies to occur, and instead the onus is put on the man to forgive the killer and trust that god won’t drop the ball again. It’s a fantasy that puts the hard work and effort on people while expecting the credit to go towards this higher power. Again, not for me. On the plus side though Sam Worthington gives a solid performance.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scene, commentary]
Tough Guys [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Two ex-cons, the last men to ever rob a train, are released after thirty years and return to what they’re good at.
Why see it? This is every bit an ’80s comedy, but in addition to some fun gags involving Eli Wallach the heart of the film comes down to Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster having an absolute blast as old guys who refuse to accept the premise that they’re past their prime. We get some entertaining action beats along the way building up to a pretty impressive train bit, and while the film never nears the realm of a must-see it remains an enjoyably harmless little comedy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
Also out this week:
Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 2 [Criterion], Queen Sugar – The Complete First Season, The Sheik, The Son of Sheik, Spotlight on a Murderer [Arrow Academy]
Related Topics: Blu-ray, Home Video