Pundits worry that a whole class of new horror films, including the “Saw” trilogy and “Hostel,” is getting gorier than ever, but they’re a lot funnier, too.
Horro-medies make up some of the season’s best DVD releases, including “Black Sheep” (Weinstein Co., $24.95), a gross-out and laugh-out-loud New Zealand entry about a herd of sheep who go postal and attack—and devour—their human captors.
British director Jake West’s low-budget marvel “Evil Aliens” (Image, $22.98) features alien fighters who use methane gas, um, from cows’ digestive tracts to blow up invading aliens. “Severance” (Magnolia, $26.98), from fellow Brit Christopher Smith, is one of the year’s best genre films. A cross between “The Office” and James Dickey’s “Deliverance,” it’s about maniacs who attack execs of a weapons manufacturer on a woodland retreat.
“Night of the Living Dorks” (Anchor Bay, $19.98) from Germany is worth a look: A trio of high school geeks-turned-zombies use their undead powers to become popular—until their rotting appendages start to drop off.
“Murder Party” (Magnolia, $26.98), a satire of the art-student scene in New York City, is slasher slapstick about wannabes who try to turn murder into art.
In “Redrum” (First Look Pictures, $19.98), a nerdy married couple discovers that offing strangers together helps them get closer. Auteur David Arquette’s “The Tripper” (20th Century Fox, $27.98) is a violently hilarious satire about a serial killer who is obsessed with Ronald Reagan and offs hippies. In the bloody Swedish entry “Frostbitten” (Wellspring Media, $24.95), college kids mysteriously turn vampiric at a party.
“Matrix” alumna Carrie-Anne Moss is perfect as a 1950s “Stepford Wives”-ian hausfrau in the satirical “Fido” (Lionsgate, $28.98), about a society where zombies are used as family pets.
And don’t miss the two-disc, 20th anniversary edition of “The Monster Squad” (Lionsgate, $19.98), Fred Dekker’s amazing comic book story about a group of kids who thwart Count Dracula’s plan to take over suburbia.
RETRO `80S: RADICAL!
John Sayles, acclaimed director of “Lone Star,” began his career writing scare flicks, including “Piranha,” “The Howling” and the newly remastered “Alligator” (Lionsgate, $14.98). Sayles’ mordant wit elevates the 1981 creature feature above other “Jaws” knock-offs.
Once a loving dog, the pooch in “Cujo: 25th Anniversary Edition” (Lionsgate, $19.98), develops a demonic case of rabies (or was it a rabid case of demonism?) and bites the hand that fed it.
Nothing compares to Kevin Tenney’s outrageous, gross-out 1988 entry “Night of the Demons,” but its 1994 sequel, “Night of the Demons 2” (Lionsgate, $14.98), comes close: Teen babe turned Satan’s concubine Angela lures another batch of high school kids to their gruesome deaths.
“Scarecrows” (MGM, $14.98) is an overlooked supernatural slasher from 1988, featuring a gang of robbers who get their just deserts at the hands of freaky-looking scarecrows.
Fans of the Spanish horror legend, writer, director and actor Paul Naschy have BCI-Eclipse to thank for a growing library of beautifully remastered releases of the maestro’s major films, including “Night of the Werewolf,” “Vengeance of the Zombies” and “Exorcism” (each $19.98).
THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE
It’s time to forgive Winona and Keanu for their Valley-Girl-ization of the British accent in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and enjoy their lovely presence in Francis Ford Coppola’s sumptuous feast, which has been rereleased in a two-disc edition (Sony, $24.96). The BBC has finally released a DVD edition of its popular, literate—yet not staid—1977 miniseries “Count Dracula” (BBC/Warner, $14.98), starring Louis Jourdan.
The sophisticated, sexy Brit noir import “Night Junkies” (Allumination, $29.99) and the outrageous domestic pic “The Thirst” (Anchor Bay, $14.98), starring Jeremy Sisto, feature doomed couples deeply addicted to each other—and to blood. In “The Insatiable” (ThinkFilm, $27.98), Sean Patrick Flanery and Michael Biehn square off against seductive succubae who wear too much lipstick. The sexy Lucy Liu is an enraged vampire killer in the ultra-bloody “Rise: Blood Hunter” (Sony, $24.96).
Russian import “Day Watch” (Fox, $27.98) is an exciting, epic story of good and evil. The fascinating post-“Matrix” “Perfect Creature” (Fox, $29.99) posits a world where vampires live to protect and nurture mortals.
Werewolves make an appearance in two notable titles: The cult favorite “Big Bad Wolf” (Universal, $24.98) features a vile, super-violent, rapist wolf who doesn’t just growl, but taunts, teases and spits out profanities like a drunken sailor. Set in Bucharest, Romania, “Blood & Chocolate” (Sony. $26.95) is about an American naif who falls in love with the descendant of an aristocratic breed of wolf.
GHOSTS, GOBLINS ...
“Wind Chill” (Sony, $24.96), Gregory Jacobs’ follow-up to his con artist drama “Criminal,” is one of the year’s best ghost stories. It stars Ashton Holmes and Emily Blunt as college classmates who are stranded in a tundra-like landscape during a winter drive. They soon discover that dozens of cars have crashed on the same spot over the past half century. Why? And who’s that mysterious highway patrolman driving a 1950s sedan?
The ghost thriller “1408” (Weinstein Co. two-disc edition, $32.05) by Mikael Håfstrom (“Derailed”) is a rare thing: a good, smart high-concept—not to mention scary—Stephen King adaptation. John Cusack is a ghost debunker who finds the real thing in a hotel room. Yikes!
Did director Tobe Hooper actually make the flick, or did his producer Stephen Spielberg hijack it for himself? Continue the debate—and watch the film again—with the reissue of a ghost pic as close to perfection as they come, “Poltergeist: 25th Anniversary Edition” (Warner Home Video, $19.98).
“Reeker” (Showtime Ent, $24.99), by low-budget B-film specialist Dave Payne (“Alien Avengers II), is no ghost story, but it features a very nasty demonic apparition. A superior made-for-cable flick, it’s about a disparate group of oddballs stranded in the middle of nowhere and hunted by a scythe-wielding demon who smells really awful.
Low-budget winner “The Ferryman” (First Look, $19.98) stars John Rhys-Davies as a seafaring demon who switches bodies in a desperate bid to hide from Mr. Scythe himself, Death.
The flawed but interesting little film “The House of Usher” (Thinkfilm. $27.98) is a sexy, contemporary take on Poe’s classic about a pair of sickly, secretive male-female twins, which used the biblical, gothic trope of a family curse to raise questions about sexual dysfunction, sexuality and identity, gender confusion, incest and other savory topics.
... AND ZOMBIES
Enjoy the ever-expanding line of “living dead” zombie flicks? Check out the over-the-top freak show with the self-explanatory title, “Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane” (New Line, $19.98).
It might be the gazillionth remake of the George Romero classic, but “Night of the Living Dead 3D” (Lionsgate, $26.98), starring the gorgeously creepy and funny Sid Haig, has a fun gimmick: It’s in 3-D and comes with six pairs of those cardboard 3-D glasses.
Easily one of the year’s best offerings, the Juan Carlos Fresnadillo-helmed, Danny Boyle-produced sequel, “28 Weeks Later” (Fox, $29.99), doesn’t just up the stakes—and the body count—from 2003’s “28 Days Later.” It’s one of the scariest zombie pics ever conceived. Period.
They call the latest batch of `em “torture porn” because they push the envelope so far that, for many people, catharsis gives way to disgust.
You know the usual suspects: The two-disc “Hostel: Director’s Cut” (Sony, $19.94), which is packed with new features and interviews, and Eli Roth’s even more hard-core sequel, “Hostel Part II” (Sony, $28.95), which features an Elizabeth Bathory-inspired killing (torture, bloodletting, bathing in the blood) that will sicken most viewers.
The “Saw” franchise continues this week with the theatrical opening of “Saw IV”—and the DVD release of the two-disc “Saw III: The Director’s Cut” (Lionsgate, $26.98).
Roland Joffe, the (once-) acclaimed director of “The Mission,” enters the fray with the controversial “Captivity” (Lionsgate, $28.98): Elisha Cuthbert is kidnapped, tortured, manhandled.
“Vacancy” (Sony, $28.95), about a couple (Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson) who discover they’ve been cast to star in a real-life snuff film, is tame by comparison.
FROM THE TUBE
There are a few impressive shows this year, including Showtime’s excellent “Masters of Horror Series,” now in its second year. The show gives about a dozen name-brand directors a year the chance to make a 60-minute shocker.
If you missed the first season, there’s always the nifty “Masters of Horror: Season One Box Set” (Anchor Bay, $79.98), which features 13 films.
This year’s new crop includes Stuart Gordon’s macabre, dreamlike Poe adaptation, “The Black Cat”; director Tom Holland’s “We All Scream for Ice Cream,” about a ghost out for vengence; Tobe Hooper’s super-creepy “The Damned Thing”; John Landis’ “Family,” a grotesque, funny serial killer tale starring George Wendt. And there are two disturbing issues flicks. “Right to Die,” directed by Rob Schmidt, is about a comatose woman whose ghost seeks vengeance when her hubby decides to pull the plug. And “Pro-Life” is a truly disturbing meditation on teenage pregnancy helmed by John Carpenter.