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SCARY DVD REVIEWS


None October 22nd, 2013

Friday the 13th fan. Based on Peter Bracke’s 2006 book of the same name, this documentary comes from Daniel Farrands, the director of 2008’s His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th, which ran a mere 84 minutes.


Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th

(2013)

How appropriate a history of the Friday the 13th franchise fits into a snug 13 chapters on Blu-ray and DVD. It makes me wonder if its running time of 6.66 hours also is intentional.

Crystal Lake Memories runs a punishing 400 minutes, which signals two things:

1. It’s not required to be consumed in one sitting.

2. It’s not for the casual

Friday the 13th fan. Based on Peter Bracke’s 2006 book of the same name, this documentary comes from Daniel Farrands, the director of 2008’s His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th, which ran a mere 84 minutes. This is essentially a super-sized version of that, examining each and every entry in the series, from 1980 original to 2009’s remake, and every machete-slicing spree in between.

Fans will delight in getting glimpses of gore scenes cut by the MPAA, although their quality resembles third- or fourthgeneration VHS dubs. It grows self-congratulatory at the end, but that’s easy to forgive, given its thoroughness, scope and entertainment value. — Rod Lott

Fright Night 2: New Blood

(2013)

I’m not surprised Fright Night 2: New Blood was made for home video. What does surprise me is that it is not a sequel. It’s more or less a remake of the 2011 Fright Night remake, but with entirely different actors to give it the unmistakable whiff of fan fiction.

Charley (the unappealing Will Payne) and his pal Evil Ed (the more unappealing Chris Waller)

take a class trip to Romania where they run afoul of a hot, British college professor who’s also a vampire. She’s played by Jaime Murray (TV’s Spartacus), the only thing keeping Fright Night 2 from being a total bust. She’s also, to quote Ed, “like, the ultimate she-bitch, bro!” Said she-bitch requires the blood of not only a virgin, but a virgin born at the stroke of midnight — geez, the specifics of cinematic vampire lore these days! — which is where Charley’s ex-girlfriend comes in. The boys lean on “reality”-show monster hunter Peter Vincent (Sean Power) for help; conveniently, he’s in town.

Lacking fun, Fright Night 2 is further hampered by dreadful performances from Payne and Waller. Only Murray approaches the material from the proper wavelength, giving it more juice than it deserves. — RL

Horror Stories

(2012)

Hopping aboard the horror anthology film’s current resurgence is, simply enough, Horror Stories, a slick South Korean omnibus whose six directors take a pleasingly old-fashioned approach to four chilling chapters.

In an Arabian Nights-style wraparound, an abducted schoolgirl must tell her captor stories to stay alive. The best comes first with “Don’t Answer the Door,” in which a two young siblings awaiting Mom’s arrival home find their apartment infiltrated by … wait and see. The scariest scenes reside here, as do jolts of genuine humor.

Aboard a plane, “Endless Flight” pits a flight attendant against a serial killer. A wicked fairy tale updated for our celeb-obsessed age, “Secret Recipe” pits stepsister against stepsister, and takes more than a big bite of inspiration from “Dumplings,” the sickest of Asia’s 2004 terror triptych, Three … Extremes.

Enough good exists in Horror Stories overall to merit a recommendation for Halloween viewing.

A sequel — Horror Stories 2, duh — was released in the Far East over the summer. Here’s hoping that follows soon. — RL

House of Wax

(1953)

The first 3-D movie I ever saw was 1953’s House of Wax, in a revival run in the early 1980s at Northpark Mall. My immediate love for it continues to this day, especially its famous scene of the paddle ball seemingly bursting through the screen and toward our faces. It’s a superb effect lost on previous home-video releases; absent of another theatrical re-release, Warner Bros.’ new Blu-ray (also viewable in 2-D) is as close as you’re going to get.

Vincent Price stars as Henry Jarrod, a wax artist whose extraordinary creations are more precious to him than life itself. When his greedy partner burns down the museum for an insurance scam, Jarrod takes revenge by killing people, dipping them in hot wax, and then displaying their corpses in his new, improved Chamber of Horrors. The Gothic horror classic is one of Price’s all-time best films, and creepier than most of today’s genre offerings.

Remade in 2005, House of Wax is a remake itself, of 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum, included on this Blu-ray for comparison’s sake (as it was with the initial DVD years ago). Although not packaged and sold as a double feature, it’s ripe for such viewing. — RL

Maniac

(2012)

Maniac is a rare remake that’s better than the original. William Lustig’s 1980 film of the same name long has enjoyed a sizable cult, but I found it to be a thoroughly ugly film in all respects. And I actually like slasher movies. That’s not to say this update isn’t gory — oh, boy, is it ever — but it has a style the first film sorely lacked.

Playing against his nice-guy rep, former Hobbit Elijah Wood is Frank, who preys upon lovely young women, stabs them and then slices off their scalps to place upon the mannequins with which he lives and assumes are real. (Why, yes, Frank is troubled by seriously unsettled mommy issues.)

Aside from things looking as slick as the September issue of Vogue, Franck Khalfoun’s biggest change-up from the original is putting the audience in Frank’s POV; Wood is seen almost exclusively in mirrors.

Such ambitious, impressive visual tricks help make Maniac a higher-mind exercise than viewers would expect from a string of senseless murders. Still, there’s a scene that even someone as desensitized as I found tough to watch, so peace be with the super-squeamish who attempt to give it a go. You’ll need it. — RL

The Secret of Crickley Hall

(2012)

What is The Secret of Crickley Hall? A superb BBC limited series that’ll plunk you in the proper Halloween spirit.

Based on a 2006 novel by James Herbert, Crickley Hall concerns a family in mourning. Nearing the first anniversary of their unthinkable tragedy, the foursome moves temporarily to the title abode to escape reminders of death. You know what they say about best intentions, right?

Inexplicable occurrences practically come built-in, held over from World War II, when the spacious manse served as an orphanage lorded over by a cane-whipping headmaster.

Moving seamlessly between the 1940s and the presentday, the work is anchored by Suranne Jones’ award-worthy performance as the wife and mom who pays heed to otherworldly signs. Crickley Hall excels as a Gothic-styled haunted-house tale told in a contemporary style, bristling with atmosphere and chills both literal and figurative. I was so addicted, its three hours were consumed in a single sitting. — RL

 
 
 

 

 
 
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