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Pick of the Week
Bad Ronald [Warner Archive]
What is it? A disturbed young boy hiding out out in a house’s hidden room grows more deranged when another family moves in.
Why see it? TV horror movies don’t get a lot of credit for being effectively creepy, but the 70s feature a ton of titles willing to prove otherwise. This 1974 chiller offers a terrific slow-build of suspense and dread as Ronald “accidentally” kills a girl and hides from police in a secret room at his mother’s direction. She dies, though, leaving him alone in the house until a family with three teen daughters arrives. His madness grows into obsession as he watches them through holes, listens to their conversations, and imagines one is his princess. It’s unsettling, and it builds to a truly frightening sequence as his insanity breaks free quite literally. It’s a smart, well-crafted thriller that leaves us in the presence of madness throughout.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A thirteen year-old girl spends her last week of eighth grade putting on a brave face despite dreading each day.
Why see it? Good gravy is this a harrowing yet rewarding watch. Writer/director Bo Burnham channels feelings that most all of us have experienced as we tried to navigate middle school and high school, and the moves repeatedly from cringe-worthy honesty to more hopeful versions. Elsie Fisher gives a raw and emotional performance highlighting her humor, personality, sadness, worry, and more. The scene between her and her father at the fire pit is both devastating and worth celebrating. It hurts, but it also heals.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurette, music video]
Constantine: City of Demons [4K UltraHD]
What is it? Constantine lives one foot in this world and the other in the realm of the supernatural.
Why see it? The popular comic got an underappreciated feature adaptation in 2005, but while that’s fun Constantine might just be better suited for the animated format. His adventure here sees the trench coat-wearing investigator of the unknown facing off against numerous demons in an attempt to help a young woman in trouble, but it’s far from a simple case. There’s plenty of action unfolding as he fights demons,monsters, and the like with both his fists and other gifts, and the motley crew of unnatural beings brings a slice of horror too. It’s an entertaining watch, and hopefully more of these can jumpstart him back into live-action.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Evil Dead [4K UltraHD]
What is it? Friends head to a cabin in the woods for some laughs, drinks, and tree diddling.
Why see it? Look, I know I’m a minority of one here, but Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films are… just fine. (I do love the remake though!) Of Raimi’s three this first is the best in part because it actually tries to be frightening and creepy as opposed to focusing on the slapstick. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still goofy at times, but it understands it’s a horror film first and foremost and behaves accordingly. The disc is light on extras and only ports over a (great) commentary track, but if you’re buying this it’s for the 4K upgrade. To that end you’re going to be very happy. Its origin in 16mm prevents massive improvements, but the 4K improves sharpness and makes colors pop. It’s a winner on the technical front.
[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? It’s the near future, and criminals have hospitals designed just for them.
Why see it? Both budget and scope are notably small, but an affection for action and humor keeps things moving. The film’s strongest in its opening act as story and characters are introduced with an engaging wit, and watching them mesh and/or clash builds payoffs we trust are heading our way. It’s visually engaging — a heavy task as the hotel’s interior is dark and decrepit-looking — but its various high-tech upgrades periodically inject sci-fi elements into this otherwise straightforward shoot ’em up. It feels at times like a movie that started bigger before slowly being chipped down by budget restraints. You won’t think too much about your ninety-minute stay after checking (it) out, but it’s still worth the visit.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
The Man In the Iron Mask [Shout Select]
What is it? A cruel king’s plan to hide away his twin brother is interrupted — eventually — by the famed Musketeers.
Why see it? As a sucker for movies about the three Musketeers this is the kind of movie that entertains despite its self. It’s a fun romp with a handful of engaging action set-pieces, but the big draw is the cast. Forget that superior Michael York/Oliver Reed version and the inferior Charlie Sheen/Kiefer Sutherland-led flick, this movie has tons of fun with Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu, and Gabriel Byrne standing tall one for all. Leonardo DiCaprio joins in as the twins and excels at bringing the whiny brat of a king to life. Shout’s new Blu-ray restores the picture and adds a couple new interviews for fans.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New 4K scan, interviews, commentary, featurettes]
A Prayer Before Dawn
What is it? A man turns to MMA fights to stay alive in a dangerous Thai prison.
Why see it? This true story is a harrowing affair as it paints a realistically ugly portrait of not just prison life — but Thai prison life in particular for a Westerner. Violence, rape, mental abuse, and rats are just a few of the hardships he faces, but he finds focus in the ring. There’s quite a bit of brutality here, but don’t come looking for thrilling, beautifully choreographed fights. These are brawls.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? Dwayne Johnson punches a high-rise fire to death.
Why see it? You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a sequel to 2015’s San Andreas as Dwayne Johnson is once again thrown into action trying to save his family from dangers thousands of feet into the air. The big difference here, though, is that rather than be a cartoon action hero Johnson’s character is surprisingly human. Casual jokes about the film being a Die Hard riff aside, he’s playing a man who looks imposing and acts heroically but who also faces mental and physical challenges familiar to so many of us. The movie grows increasingly silly even as it gets more serious, but suspenseful action beats, a compelling performance from Johnson, and the sight of Neve Campbell kicking ass help make it an entertaining climb into hell.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]
Also out this week:
Bonehill Road, Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden, Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day [Criterion Collection], The Forest of Lost Souls, House on Haunted Hill [Scream Factory], I Married Joan, Making a Killing, Monkey Shines [UK], Night of the Creeps [UK], Ninja Zombie, The Official Story, The Originals – The Fifth and Final Season, Trick ‘r Treat [Scream Factory], Troll [UK], The Witch Files
Related Topics: Home Video