Halloween is a holiday, even more so than Christmas, that makes you want to stay inside, curl up in your favorite oversized sweater, and just watch movies.
Not only is it a holiday devoted to all things scary, meaning it's the perfect opportunity to catch up on horror movies both new and classic, but the weather is changing and that chill in the air gives you a perfect excuse to stay inside and mainline some movies. Thankfully, there are a bunch of great new Blu-rays (remember those?) that will scratch that Halloween itch.
'Deep Rising' (Kino, $29.95)
It is somewhat surprising that Kino, a high-end label behind countless classic and silent film releases, chose to tackle Stephen Sommers' “Deep Rising,” the marginalized 1998 monster movie. It’s also downright shocking that they tackled it with such gusto.
That’s right, this is the release us “Deep Rising” die-hards have been waiting two decades for. And you know what? It’s worth the wait.
In addition to an absolutely gorgeous transfer of the movie, which stars Treat Williams as a pirate who intercepts a cruise liner right after it suffered a crippling attack by a giant sea creature (just go with it), this thing is loaded with special features, including interviews with actors like Kevin J. O’Connor and some of the special effects technicians that brought the film to life. (It had a notoriously difficult post-production phase, with multiple visual effects houses brought in to finish the movie and get it out on schedule.) If, for some reason, you’ve ever wanted to see ILM’s digital bubble tests, this is the disc for you.
'Sisters' (Criterion, $39.95)
If you've never seen Brian De Palma's early, Hitchcock-aping masterpiece, well, now is the time. Inspired by a real-life tale of Siamese twins, "Sisters" stars Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, and a truly deranged William Finley (one of De Palma's creepiest regulars). It was, at that time, the most clean distillation of the filmmaker's various influences and fetishes (everything from the French New Wave to grade-Z exploitation fare), establishing himself as a fearless, uniquely talented artist and one of the great pop culture synthesizers. If you bought the region-free Arrow release from a few years ago, this disc is equally packed but with different features, and boasts a brand new 4K re-mastered transfer approved by De Palma. Criterion's collected features include a new half-hour interview with Salt, a vintage AFI Q&A that runs for more than an hour-and-a-half, and an incredibly charming Margot Kidder clip from "The Dick Cavett Show" (alongside the usual collection of posters, radio spots, and promotional materials). Killer.
'Mandy' (Image Entertainment, $29.97)
"Mandy" is one of the year's very best horror movies. Even though it was released concurrently on VOD, the Blu-ray is very much worth grabbing instead.
For one, "Mandy" is the type of movie you're going to want to let your friends borrow with the caveat that, "this movie is totally crazy, you have to watch it." (Nicolas Cage stars as a lumberjack who, following the brutal murder of his wife, starts out on a quest for bloody revenge against a new age cult leader and a biker gang of inter-dimensional ghouls. So, you know.)
This new Blu-ray looks beautiful, capturing the rich, airbrush-mural-on-the-side-of-a-van aesthetic wonderfully. It also sports a pair of special features that are very much appreciated -- one is a making-of documentary just as impressionistic and oddball as the movie itself, full of voice over and illustrations; the other are a small collection of deleted scenes that give additional depth and character detail to the film (there's a great moment between Cage and a local sheriff). Plus, the cover art is reversible so if you're not feeling the home video art, you can flip it around to reveal the art from the official one-sheet.
'Maximum Overdrive' (Vestron Video, $32.95)
One of the great home video surprises of the past couple of years has been the return of trailblazing home video Vestron Video, in a series of collector's edition Blu-ray releases (ordained by now-parent-company Lionsgate). Earlier in 2018, they released a bells-and-whistles version of Stuart Gordon's sorely underrated "Dagon," but the crème-de-la-crème is their brand new release of Stephen King's "Maximum Overdrive" (out on October 23rd).
Somewhat infamously, "Maximum Overdrive" is the only film that King ever wrote and directed, and the way he talks about it now, it was orchestrated mostly in a cocaine-haze. (King has said recently that it's the worst adaptation of his work.) And while the movie's reputation has overshadowed the movie itself (the cinematographer lost an eye due to a flying piece of debris, King fought unsuccessfully to have Bruce Springsteen star in the lead role). But the film itself is not without its considerable charms, from the sheer WTF-worthiness of its plot (the machines revolt against humanity, obviously), abundance of gross-out gore (they kill a kid!), and kick-ass AC/DC soundtrack (the "Who Made Who" album, which gave us such immortal hits as "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "Hells Bells," came from this movie).
And the new Blu-ray makes you appreciate it even more; the transfer makes the comic book-y colors really pop and the special features, including an interview with an AC/DC historian and producer Martha de Laurentiis (nee Schumacher back then), give you a begrudging appreciation for what is obviously a very lowbrow film.
'Creepshow' (Shout Factory, $39.95)
There are few movies as wonderfully suited to the Halloween season as “Creepshow,” Stephen King and George Romero’s hellzapoppin’ horror anthology inspired by old, blood-soaked comic books from the mid-1950’s like EC Comics. Seriously, where else can you find ghoulishly delightful stories starring Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, and Ted Danson? Plus, there’s one section where King plays a redneck who gets infected by an intergalactic fungus. It’s just so much fun!
This new disc -- from our friends at Shout Factory imprint Scream! Factory -- is loaded to the gills, with a new 4K remaster of the film, two new audio commentary tracks (alongside a classic commentary track featuring Romero and make-up wizard Tom Savini), plus tons of special features, including a roundtable discussion of the film with some of its key creatives, to an interview with a collector who actually owns the comic book from the movie (he also owns one of the crates!) This disc is appropriately epic and very, very Halloween-y.
'Trick ‘R Treat' (Shout Factory, $34.93)
"Trick 'R Treat" is having a very good year. Not only is it one of the biggest houses at Halloween Horror Nights -- at both the Hollywood and Orlando Universal Studios parks -- but this new Blu-ray release is stuffed with new special features and enhanced by a sparkly 2K re-mastered version of the film (it's never looked better). Not bad for a movie that was released direct-to-video two years after it was completed.
This colorful horror anthology, very much in the same vein as "Creepshow," features interconnected stories of tortured souls, misbegotten murderers and a mischievous mascot in the form of Sam, a little trick-or-treater in a burlap mask that in recent years has become a hipster Halloween icon a la Jack Skellington. There are new interviews with various cast and crew, including writer-director Michael Dougherty, and a new 2K restoration of "Season's Greetings," the short film that inspired the feature. Also, when you watch this movie again, please remember that Brian Cox supposedly modeled his performance (and look) around John Carpenter.
The 'REC' Collection (Shout Factory, $59.97)
Every Halloween needs a good horror box set, and this year's is the Scream! Factory release that collects all four films from the Spanish found-footage zombie saga "REC."
Each film gets its own disc, and each disc has an exciting volume of extra features -- from commentary tracks on the first two films (in Spanish with English subtitles), to a feature-length documentary on the making of the third film (that movie is very, very underrated), this pretty much has everything you could want (and more). And if you've never seen one of these films (or maybe just seen the first one), this is a great excuse to stay up late and marathon them.
That is, if you're not too scared.