From kick-ass boxed sets to classics put out for the first time on DVD or Blu-ray, 2010 has been a pretty damn good year for horror releases on home video, and in the following “Film & TV” section of B-D’s Black Friday Chopping List we’ve selected a few of the best ones to come out in time for the holiday season. The wide variety of titles included here – from hit T.V. shows about hunky vampires, to a bizarre Japanese film about…well, what exactly?, to the Blu-ray boxed set to top all Blu-ray boxed sets – should cover practically any horror-loving fiend on your list. As for your grandmother, it might be best just to buy her a sensible blouse at JC Penney and call it a day.
List Price: $139.99 (standard)/$149.99 (for “Egg” packaging version)
Isn’t this just one of those things that you’d have a hard time buying for anyone else but yourself? This masturbatory boxed set is positively overflowing with hours upon hours worth of bonus features that includes material from all home video releases, all laserdisc releases, the 1999 “Legacy” release and 2003′s Alien Quadrilogy DVD boxed set. In addition, there are four hours of features that have never before been seen on any previous Alien release, period. If you’re feeling especially generous you can go the extra mile and splurge on the version encased in that nifty-looking “Egg” packaging, which also comes with a special edition “Alien” version of the Fox 75th Anniversary poster. So, are you salivating yet? Are ya? It’s ok, me too – just try not to drool all over the gift wrapping.
For the version with “Egg” packaging click here
List Price: $34.99
In case you hadn’t had enough with the original theatrical version, the “version you’ve never seen”, or any of the other versions of The Exorcist you’ve been able to get your hands on over the years, we now have The Exorcist on Blu-ray (finally!) with several hours of new extras. Disc 1 includes the 2000 “Director’s Cut” version, a new 3-hour making-of documentary on the movie (including never-before-seen footage from the set), and commentary by director William Friedkin, among other bonus extras. Disc 2 features the original theatrical version, along with commentaries by Friedkin and screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty and the feature-length 1998 documentary Fear of God: The Making of `The Exorcist’. To top it all off, the discs are enclosed in a glossy hardback “book” that includes background information on the film, production stills, and actor and filmmaker bios. It’s a must-have for any serious horror fan.
List Price: $19.99
Dark Night of the Scarecrow, now being released for the first time on DVD (indeed, the first time in any home-video format), is a superb 1981 made-for-T.V. movie that has been virtually forgotten for far too long. Starring the excellent Charles Durning, the film is about a mentally challenged man accused of hurting a young girl in town, who is then tracked down and shot to death by a group of good ol’ boys as he hides inside the disguise of a scarecrow in his mother’s field. After the men responsible for his wrongful death – the girl in question was actually mauled by a dog – are let off scot-free by the local judge, they’re systematically hunted down and killed by a mysterious assailant, who foreshadows his arrival by planting a mysterious scarecrow near each of their homes before he comes for them. Overall, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a terrifically atmospheric, criminally underrated classic that’s now finally being released to a new generation of horror fans, and it would make a great gift for anyone on your list who appreciates under-the-radar gems.
List Price: $39.95 (Blu-ray)/$29.95 (DVD)
Released for the first time ever on any home-video format in the U.S. just last month, House, a completely gonzo 1977 Japanese horror “classic” (depending on how you view that word) directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, is a film that defies easy description. Essentially, the story involves a teenage girl who travels with six of her friends to the old home of her ailing aunt, where they are set upon by all manner of bizarre supernatural beings and possessed household items, including a bloodthirsty piano, deadly mattresses, and man-eating light fixtures. The effects are charmingly low-tech (apparently Obayashi intended for them to look as if they were drawn by young children) and the acting is, shall we say, not exactly of the highest-caliber, but nevertheless the psychedelic, batshit-insane nature of the film has given it quite a cult following through the years. The disc includes a commentary from House of the Devil director Ti West (an admirer of the film), an experimental short titled “Emotion”, and a featurette on the making of the movie in which Obayashi is interviewed. Best gifted to lovers of experimental, kook cinema.
List Price: $69.97 (Blu-ray)/$59.98 (DVD)
While it may not garner as much watercooler buzz as that other primetime vampire series True Blood, The Vampire Diaries has its own legion of fans (mostly of the “teenybopper” variety) and manages to score solid ratings week by week. Based on the book series of the same name by L.J. Smith, this is essentially the T.V. version of Twilight, with a gorgeous young cast and a storyline that follows a similar love triangle as the Stephanie Meyer series. The DVD set includes all fifteen episodes from the first season of the show, as well as numerous extras including unaired scenes, a gag reel, background information on the show’s development, commentary by series creator Kevin Williamson, and a downloadable audiobook of the novel Vampire Diaries: The Awakening, written by Smith. If you happen to have a teen/”tween”age girl in your household who can’t get enough of the “hunky” breed of vampire currently dominating pop culture (or perhaps an older friend of yours who counts the show as a guilty pleasure), then this is the gift for them.
List Price: $79.98 (Blu-ray)/$59.99 (DVD)
The “adult” equivalent of The Vampire Diaries, HBO’s sultry, over-the-top, nudity-loving True Blood is now in its third year and going stronger than ever. This set collects all 12 episodes from the second season, which continues to follow the supernatural goings-on of Sookie, vampire lover Bill and the rest of the quirky inhabitants of Bon Temps. In addition to the episodes the set boasts seven audio commentaries from cast and crew, including Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Ryan Kwanten, and series creator Alan Ball, as well as “The Vampire Report”, which gives an overview of the biggest “vampire news stories” from the past year.
I feel bad for people who never saw Grindhouse in the theater, the way it was meant to be seen…but at least the Blu-ray release gives them the next best thing. After a DVD release that saw both Death Proof and Planet Terror being put out individually, the Grindhouse Two-Disc Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is here to save the day, bringing the films are back together again the way they were meant to be seen. Extras include a behind-the-scenes look at the Planet Terror makeup effects, commentary by Robert Rodriguez, and two making-of featurettes that give a behind-the-scenes look at the production of both the Don’t and Thanksgiving trailers (directed by Edgar Wright and Eli Roth, respectively). While it was admittedly enjoyable to see the extended versions of both Death Proof and Planet Terror in their separate DVD releases, these two babies were meant to be viewed as a cohesive whole, making this a must-have for both fans of the films and anyone who missed out on the theatrical experience.
List Price: $29.97
While sequels Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness were released on Blu-ray previously, fans had to wait until this past August for the original to enjoy the same treatment. With transfers supervised by Sam Raimi, this Anchor Bay release looks and sounds spectacular, without thankfully losing the gritty feel of the original version. Sadly, however, it’s rather skimpy on the extras: while it includes all-new audio commentary from Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and producer Robert Tapert, the “Limited Edition” Blu-ray (which is now tough to come by) actually included a second DVD disc that featured an hour-long retrospective on the making of the film, alternate takes, a reunion panel between the cast, and more. That’s the version to buy if you can manage to get your hands on it, but the single-disc edition alone is still worth the price for fans – at least until the entire trilogy is released in a boxed set.
List Price: $49.95 (Blu-ray)/$39.95 (DVD)
1955 classic The Night of the Hunter – sadly the only film actor Charles Laughton ever directed – has gotten the deluxe Criterion treatment in its Blu-ray release, with a gorgeous digital transfer of the film’s stunning black-and-white cinematography and a host of extras, including a full 2