Escape the terror of the times with an investment in these high-return Halloween DVDs

by Mark Rahner

The Seattle Times (MCT)

29 October 2008


Welcome back, Future Cadavers. Feeling a little threadbare? Hey, I can’t even afford to dry-clean my John Gacy clown suit. Which is just embarrassing.

But there’s a bright side to the global financial meltdown. This Halloween, you’ll pay more heed to my words of home-viewing wisdom ... because you can’t afford to go out! Think of the horror possibilities: “A Nightmare on Wall St.” Hang on - that’s a bit too Leno, and we’re not that desperate yet.

How about “28 Debts Later”? Or “Rosemary’s Bailout.” “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’s Savings?” “I Walked with a Zombie to Get Free Government Cheese.” “The Silence of the Dems.” Or, even worse, a fourth presidential debate.

But unless you’re already in debtors’ prison, Halloween is about escapism. So check out these recent DVD releases, which you can use for insulation when you’re finished.

You’ll feel better in comparison ...

“The Happening” (Fox, R). M. Night Shyamalan’s decline would look worse on a chart than the Dow. His latest is so unintentionally funny that they should have called it “The What’s Happening.” “Raj, why’s this creepy wind making people kill themselves?!” “Damn it, Rerun, just give me a second to think!” However, the film does raise some intriguing questions, such as: How does this guy keep getting financing?

“Zombie Strippers” (Sony, R). I know exactly what you’re thinking: two wonderful things together, like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of movies. Porn star Jenna Jameson headlines the horror-comedy-political satire as one of the titular creatures, who’s empowered somehow by the deadness, and Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund runs the joint. But it’s inattention to continuity that’ll ruin even the best zombie-stripper epic. Jameson’s wearing one outfit when she rises from the dead and a different one when she walks through a door in the next shot. Inexcusable.

Buy a “Go Away” doormat:

“The Strangers” (Universal, unrated). A troubled young couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) get terrorized overnight at a remote house, by masked strangers, and for no good reasons. They’re not even the student-loan people. Filmmakers claim it was inspired by a true story, like the really similar (and better) ...

“Them” (Dark Sky, R). Released this spring. Since it’s a French import, you could call it freedom fright. If you were a pandering, dimwitted politician.

“Funny Games” (Warner, R). Naomi Watts and Tim Roth in Michael Haneke’s remake of his German original. Simply being anti-social would circumvent these strangers-in-the-home problems. And if I say these flicks are nihilistic, you know what that’s code for, right? Don’t get attached to anyone.

Best title:

“The Midnight Meat Train” (FEARnet, R). From horror luminary Clive Barker, it had a dark, gory trailer that looked tolerable, until the title appeared and theater audiences laughed out loud. It sounds like gay porn for insomniacs who don’t drive! The finished product - about a photographer following a hammer-wielding killer - isn’t quite as laughable, but it was enough of a non-starter to go straight to the FEARnet channel, where you can see it for free if you’re a cable subscriber.


“Papaya, Love Goddess of the Cannibals” (Severin, unrated, 1978). If the title isn’t enough, this masterpiece also boasts “the complete Disco Cannibal Blood Orgy sequence - from an Italian print seized from the private collection of a jailed magistrate!” How many reasons do you need?

The crisis is global:

“The Mother of Tears” (Dimension, unrated). Italian goremeister Dario Argento’s insane, long-awaited wrap-up to the trilogy that began with “Suspiria” and “Inferno.” His daughter Asia plays an art student on the run from demons ruled by a powerful and topless witch.

“Shiver” (Dark Sky, unrated). Well-crafted and unpredictable Spanish thrills, about a bullied, light-sensitive boy who moves with his mom to an isolated village where something in the surrounding woods is tearing people apart more viciously than an American robocall.

“Nightmare Detective” (Dimension, unrated). Japanese import from the maker of the “Tetsuo” flicks, about a female cop and a troubled psychic who can enter dreams - both trying to stop a man who kills suicidal people. It’s this kind of redundancy that we must eliminate in the future.

Do your recycling:

“Fox Horror Classics Vol. 2” (Fox, unrated). You could call it “Box of Old Stuff That Isn’t Really Horror,” but it’s election season. Nobody cares what they call anything.

“Chandu the Magician” (1932) is great, pulpy fun with a Dr. Strange-like yogi who fixes villain Bela Lugosi’s boo-boo.

“Dr. Renault’s Secret” (1942). Let’s just say he tore a page from Dr. Moreau’s book and through a little scientific makeover came up with a Franco-simian.

“Dragonwyck” (1946). Gothic romance from Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“All about Eve”) with Vincent Price as a rich, cruel atheist who doesn’t even wait for his wife’s body to get cold before he tries to get all up in the guts of religious country girl Gene Tierney.

“Brotherhood of the Wolf - Director’s Cut” (Universal, R, 2001). Maybe I’m a francophile or I’ve sustained a head wound, but I’ve been championing this kitchen-sink hybrid since the first time it knocked the Galoise out of my yap. Atmospheric horror, lavish period settings and stylized thrilling action are crammed into director Christophe Gans’ new cut that runs a glorious 151 minutes. An 18th-century scientist and libertine (Samuel Le Bihan) and his martial-artist Iroquois brother (Mark Dacascos) investigate the rural killings of the “Beast of Gevaudan.”

“Faces of Death - 30th Anniversary Edition” (Gorgon, unrated). The infamous snuff compilation is now in Blu-ray. Because, as a cinephile, you need to see low-quality video clips in the highest possible definition.

And finally ...

“Sunday School Musical” (Arts Alliance America, unrated). If “High School Musical” terrified you, then ... On second thought, just jump.

Topics: halloween
//Mixed media


TIFF 2017: 'The Shape of Water'

// Notes from the Road

"The Shape of Water comes off as uninformed political correctness, which is more detrimental to its cause than it is progressive.

READ the article