Blu-Ray Review- Dracula Untold
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Street Date: February 3rd 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Ever since my father introduced me to Universal’s 1931 Dracula (starring the legendary Bela Lugosi), I have been enthralled by the undead romanticism of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire. There is an eternal enchantment the original film leaves with the viewer, begging to be watched time and time again. Other iterations of the source material have proved successful and enjoyable as well, such as Hammer Films’ series starring the commanding Christopher Lee, as well as Universal’s 1979 reboot starring Frank Langella. In addition, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 screen version of the novel exhibited wonderful special effects, fine performances, and beautifully gothic set design.
As you may be able to discern, in my eyes, Dracula has had a pretty good track record on the big screen. It was with that mindset that I walked into Universal’s latest reboot Dracula Untold with an open mind. Unfortunately, this film has to be one of the most ridiculously awful adaptations of the character that one will ever witness.
In Dracula Untold, Luke Evans portrays Vlad the Impaler (Vlad III Tepes), the reigning Prince of Transylvania who once was a child slave and subsequent legendary warrior of the Turkish Empire. Vlad now enjoys a relatively simple life with his beautiful wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and kindhearted son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), but worries that the Turks may someday call upon him to fight again. Soon Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper), his once childhood friend and current ruler of the Turks, orders 1,000 Transylvanian boys to fight alongside his armies. Vlad’s dedication to his people, knowledge of the life of enslavement, and love for his son moves him enough to refuse Mehmed’s orders, beginning a war where Vlad’s people are far outnumbered. Fearing for his people and the safety of his family, Vlad ventures onto a nearby mountain to seek out the Master Vampire (Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance), the only man who can give him the power of 1,000 men and the curse of eternal life.
The problems with the film are numerous, and it’s a shame, because with a different script entirely, Luke Evans would have made a fabulous Dracula. In fact, his portrayal given the material is quite good. The problem lies within the execution of the film entirely, and makes one wonder why the filmmaker’s thought that Dracula’s backstory was the most interesting aspect of the iconic literary figure. The medieval European setting serves as a backdrop for numerous epic clashes between Dracula and the Turks, echoing Lord of the Rings or Excalibur more than anything associated with Bram Stoker’s creation.
With that being said, the first half of the film is somewhat watchable, but I kept waiting for the filmmakers to jump forward a few hundred years to Carfax Abby. Sadly that moment never happens. Instead the remaining time is filled with cringe-inducing dialogue, utterly predictable plot turns, and battles that offer little to wow the viewer. Dracula Untold is the definition of miscalculation, a film that shows little respect to the source material and assumes that the audience cared to see a feature length origin story of a character that is far more interesting in a more modern setting.
Though I obviously didn’t care for the film itself, this Blu-Ray edition from Universal Pictures features outstanding video quality with deep black levels, plenty of impressive clarity and fine object detail, and a stylized color scheme that looks gorgeous in High Definition.
Same goes for the 5.1 DTS-HD audio track, which regularly balances dialogue, the clang and clash of swordplay, and the score from with precision and power, making for a wonderful home audio experience.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has provided fans of Dracula Untold with a nice array of bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Commentary- Director Gary Shore and Production Designer Francois Audouy sit down to discuss the film in depth. I appreciate their dedication to various aspects of the film (costumes, design, etc.), but would have loved to hear more of the “why” behind their decision involving the origins of this character.
- Luke Evans: Creating a Legend- This nearly 20 minute featurette has Luke Evans discussing various scenes from the film. As I stated in my review above, I thought Mr. Evans’ portrayal of Dracula was fine, but would have been better served with a different storyline in tow. Hopefully any potential sequel will allow him to sink his fangs into a more traditional version of Stoker’s tale.
- Alternate Opening- A romantic alternate opening to the film, which would have provided slightly more insight into the love between Vlad and Mirena.
- Deleted Scenes- Roughly 13 minutes worth of deleted scenes from the film. I’m not sure their inclusion would have made it any better, but fans of the film may find these interesting.
- Day in the Life: Luke Evans- Nearly ten minutes of Luke Evan’s days on set, from the actor prepping in the early morning to discussing various aspects of the story on set.
- Dracula Retold- Some insight into the history behind the film.
- Slaying 1,000- A roughly 5-minute behind-the-scenes look at the first battle of the film, where Luke Evans takes on the army of Turks storming Castle Dracula.
- The Land of Dracula- An interactive map that includes various short featurettes on specific locations utilized in the film.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Universal Studios Home Entertainment features a nice glossy finish, embossed title, and the theatrical poster art featuring Evans’ Dracula in battle mode. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a brief plot synopsis, a list of bonus features, technical specifications, and details regarding the Blu-Ray exclusives featured on this release. On the interior of the packaging are two fairly plain discs for the Blu-Ray and DVD as well as the Ultraviolet Digital Copy Code insert. Collectors may want to note that Walmart will be selling a Steelbook exclusive edition with some fancier artwork.
Dracula Untold is a ridiculous venture into the origin story of Bram Stoker’s iconic character that pays little respect to the source material, offering up cringe-inducing dialogue, tired and bloated battle scenes, and predictable plot turns that do little to aid this gross miscalculation. The good news here is that the Blu-Ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment features a very solid video and audio presentation along with some decent special features. If you somehow enjoy this unnecessary and cheap exploration of a character that is much more interesting in modern times, the technical specifications and features will be a bonus to your purchase. Personally, I need a Lugosi and Lee marathon to rid my mouth of the awful taste that Dracula Untold left me with. Skip this one, at all costs.
DVD Review- Exists
Street Date: February 3rd 2015
Technical Specifications: 480P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
Runtime: 81 Minutes
If there is one mythical creature that has yet to be properly translated to celluloid, Bigfoot is certainly it. There is a great Sasquatch movie out there just waiting to be made, trust me, and someday someone will come up with an ingenious way to transfer the legend to the screen. The only one (for me at least) that has ever come close was Hammer Films’ 1957 production of The Abominable Snowman. But Bigfoot aficionados would rightfully argue that the creature depicted in that film is not the same North American Bigfoot creature that myth hunters are craving to be utilized on the big screen.
With Exists, Eduardo Sanchez (co-director of The Blair Witch Project) has crafted yet another (sigh) found footage film, and much like last year’s Willow Creek, it fails to draw the viewer into the story in any way, shape, or form. You know these characters because you’ve seen them time and time again in other (often better) Horror films; a couple of jocks, the stoner videographer, and the free-spirit girls who venture deep into the woods for a weekend of fun, sex, and drugs. Of course almost immediately our little crew is in trouble, having hit some kind of animal on the road to their Uncle’s cabin. They’re not sure what exactly it is at first, but the subsequent nights of terror that follow not so subtly indicate it was a Bigfoot. The ensuing terror is captured via go-pro cameras and handheld camcorders…leaving the viewer to wonder on several occasions why the pursued twenty-something’s keep turning around to get a better look at the beast that follows. The gang is endlessly stalked by the creature, and when it smashes their car to pieces, it appears they’ll be on their own to battle the fearsome Sasquatch.
Exists isn’t completely devoid of memorable moments, with a go-pro tracked chase between the creature and one of our protagonists on a bike standing out as a tense and exciting sequence. The creature effects and makeup are a bit on the cheap side, but decent enough for a film in this budget range. I, for one, am simply tired of the found footage genre and the repetitive tedious formula they seem to follow, and Exists simply doesn’t impress enough to warrant any repeat viewings (some may argue a single viewing would be too much). It doesn’t help that the acting and dialogue is near laughable at times, in addition to the aforementioned fact that us Horror fans have seen this film before: just swap out the creature with (insert generic monster here) and you’ve experienced Exists.
This DVD edition from Lionsgate features decent video quality for a DVD presentation that I’m not sure would have benefitted all that much from an HD upgrade (given the shaky cam found footage style). Like any standard definition experience, the clarity isn’t top notch, but the colors are accurately portrayed and it’s a clean enough print.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track included herein is likely the standout aspect on this release. You may be fooled enough into thinking this was a lossless HD experience as it simply sounds wonderful on your home theater setup. The Sasquatch’s cries in the night and surrounding crackling footsteps in the woods work very well to enhance the jump-scare experience (in the handful of moments this film has).
Lionsgate has provided potential buyers of Exists with select bonus features to accompany this DVD release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary- This audio commentary features Director Eduardo Sanchez and Writer Jamie Nash and offers viewers some insight into the making of the film.
- Deleted Scenes– Six deleted scenes are presented here for fans of the film, though beware, you may feel slightly betrayed by the misleading titles. The “alternate ending” is nothing more than the same ending of the film with a different font style for the film’s title…not sure that counts guys! The only one worth watching here is the end of credits Easter egg, which is interesting enough.
- 21 Days in the Woods: Behind the Scenes of Exists– This 30 minute documentary is split into three parts and features the cast and crew in various behind-the-scenes moments from the film. From setting up stunt shots and makeup effects, this half hour is more engaging than the movie itself unfortunately.
- Bringing Bigfoot to Life- A roughly 10 minute featurette detailing the concept design of the creature himself. The original WETA concept drawings are insanely cool, which is a slight bummer as the final product doesn’t quite resemble anything we’re shown (I’m guessing for budgetary reasons).
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this DVD edition of Exists from Lionsgate features some very atmospheric artwork featuring Bigfoot, the blue moonlit fog, and the smashed-up car from the film. I’ll give it to Lionsgate, the poster art here really made me interested in seeing the film. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a brief plot synopsis, a list of special features, cast and crew credits, and some technical specifications. The interior of the case features artwork on the disc that mimics the cover art as well as a Digital HD copy code insert.
There is certainly a great Bigfoot movie out there just waiting to be made…unfortunately, Exists isn’t it. I’ve grown quite tired of the found footage genre and the repetitive, tedious formula they all seem to follow. Between the laughable acting and dialogue, unimpressive creature design, and a 90-minute show that feels like 3 hours, Exists simply doesn’t impress enough to warrant any repeat viewings. The DVD edition from Lionsgate features decent SD picture quality and impressive 5.1 audio, and fans of the film may enjoy the insight that the special features bring. Unfortunately features and standout audio aren’t enough to recommend the disappointing main attraction. Skip this one.
Blu-Ray Review- Starry Eyes
Distributor: Dark Sky Films/MPI Home Video
Street Date: February 3rd 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 96 Minutes
Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Starry Eyes is a Cronenbergian Horror Fantasy centered on the dark side of Hollywood and the depths of despair one woman puts herself through to achieve stardom. It’s a haunting and unnerving fable with an incredible breakout performance from Alex Essoe, a brilliantly composed score from Jonathan Snipes, and plenty of chilling images and memorable gross-out moments that will be difficult to shake.
In the film, Alex Essoe plays Sarah, an aspiring actress who works at Big Taters (a clever Hooters-esque salute) by day and attends acting classes and auditions by night. Sarah lives with her roommate Tracy (Amanda Fuller), the only friend in her life that appears supportive of her aspirations in a group full of wannabe filmmakers and toxic females seeking to bring Sarah down with passive-aggressive commentary on her dream-seeking goals.
Sarah’s life seemingly changes for the better when she auditions for an upcoming Horror film titled The Silver Scream from Astraeus Pictures, but even when she completely nails the audition with a solid performance and complete line memorization, she fails to impress the casting directors. Fed up with her apparent failure, Sarah throws a messy, banshee-crying, hair-pulling fit in the bathroom of the building, only to be overheard by the female casting director, who invites her back to the audition room to have a similar meltdown.
Sarah receives a callback, and this time the casting directors want to film her naked on camera, and a subsequent callback allows her to meet the owner of Astraeus Pictures, but Sarah finally has had enough when he propositions her for the lead role in exchange for sexual favors. At first, Sarah is disgusted and repelled by the man, but soon believes that she has made a mistake and asks for a second chance at stardom, even if it involves degrading her self-worth. When Sarah awakens the next morning, she’s a changed woman, but not anywhere close to the way she expected. As Sarah begins to rot from the inside out, we learn the true intentions behind the sadistic folks at Astraeus Pictures.
I hesitate to say anything more about Starry Eyes and allow you, the prospective viewer, to enjoy it in all of its macabre glory. As a lover of classic Horror, I’m always a little skeptical going into modern day genre offerings, but the filmmakers behind Starry Eyes have crafted a truly eerie and methodically unnerving film that comes highly recommended. Alex Essoe, in particular, turns in a performance that is impressively raw and realistic (even in a fantasy scenario) and deserves every accolade she has received. Despite an ending that, in my opinion, goes a bit overboard with the gore for a film that had been stylishly creepy until that point, Starry Eyes is the first modern Horror film in some time that has captured both my attention and admiration.
This Blu-Ray edition from Dark Sky Films features a very strong video presentation with deep black levels, authentically gritty visuals respecting the theatrical source print, and no signs of digital scrubbing or unwanted artifacts. Well done!
The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track regularly balances dialogue, the wonderfully eerie musical score from Jonathan Snipes, and background sound design with ease, making for a terrific home audio experience. The score reminds me of some of John Carpenter’s wonderful soundtracks over the years, and sounds great in HD surround.
Dark Sky Films has provided fans of Starry Eyes with select bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Commentary- Writer/Director’s Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch along with Producer Travis Stevens sit down for this insightful commentary that offers behind-the-scenes anecdotes including how the concept and story came together, production locales and their intentions, and much more.
- Deleted Scenes- Some random deleted scenes that were definitely better left on the cutting room floor as they wouldn’t have added much to a picture that flows rather smoothly in the final product. There’s a scene with Sarah’s room shaking as she wakes up from a dream, Sarah driving with Tracy in her car, some party moments and drunken discussions, Sarah jogging, an extended audition callback, more jogging, Sarah leaving the Astraeus Pictures’ owner’s house, some extended vomiting and lip-pealing, and more.
- Jonathan Snipes Music Video- Not your typical music video, but some intercut scenes of Jonathan Snipes mixing the score on his computer along with footage from the film.
- Alex Essoe Audition Video- An impressive audition tape from Alex Essoe who seemed like a natural fit for the role right from the start.
- Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery- Nearly ten minutes of behind-the-scenes photos from the making of the film.
- Trailer- The theatrical trailer from the film.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Dark Sky Films features some creepy cover artwork that gives potential viewers just a hint of insight into the subject matter of the film. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a brief plot synopsis, along with a list of special features and technical specifications. The simple matte finish disc design mimics the cover of the Blu-Ray edition, and there is also some reversible artwork for those interested.
As a classic Horror aficionado, I’m always a little skeptical going into modern day genre offerings, but the filmmakers behind Starry Eyes have crafted a truly eerie and methodically unnerving film that comes highly recommended. This Cronenbergian Horror fantasy from Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer is a haunting and unnerving fable with an incredible breakout performance from Alex Essoe, a brilliantly composed score from Jonathan Snipes, and plenty of chilling images and memorable gross-out moments that will be difficult to shake. The Blu-Ray edition from Dark Sky Films features a very solid video and audio presentation along with some fun special features for fans of the film. Highly Recommended!
Blu-Ray Review- Annabelle
Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Street Date: January 20th 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 98 Minutes
When The Conjuring was released in 2013, it made me believe that quality modern day Horror films could still be made in this day and age. I’m a classic Horror fan…an admirer of everything from the Universal Monsters to Hammer Films and even the cheesy cult-classic slashers of the 80’s. But modern Horror has left me wanting so much more. Gone are the days of unsettling genre pictures filled with style and atmosphere that truly terrified audiences, and unfortunately, what we’ve been left with for the past twenty years would mostly fit into the “torture porn” category.
But James Wan crafted The Conjuring with grace and style, a motion picture filled with atmosphere, dedicated performances, and a throwback aura that mirrored that of the great Horror entries from the 1970’s (The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, etc.). When I heard that Warner Bros. planned to make a spin-off prequel featuring Annabelle (a doll expertly yet briefly utilized in The Conjuring), my hopes were high. Unfortunately without the assured direction of James Wan and a direct-to-video feel this time around, Annabelle fails to conjure up the scares of its predecessor.
In the film we meet Mia and John Form (Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton), a young married couple who have recently settled down in Santa Monica, California. The couple is expecting their first child soon as John makes his way through medical school and Mia tends to the house by day (this is the 1960’s after all). When the next door neighbors’ cult-member daughter returns home after running away years prior, she kills her parents and attacks the Form’s in the middle of the night, possessing the Annabelle doll before she dies in a hail of Police gunfire.
Sometime later Mia and John relocate to an apartment in Pasadena with their baby girl Leah, but the Annabelle doll that John discarded at their old house has somehow found its way into one of their moving boxes. As you would expect given her history, Annabelle and the demon that uses her as a conduit wreak havoc on the Form’s and their baby daughter. With the help of a local priest (Tony Amendola) and a bookstore employee with a tragic past (Alfre Woodard), Mia and John attempt to rid their home of this evil once and for all.
Annabelle is not without its share of jump-scares and creepy moments, but they are too few and far between for a film of this length, like clever architectural design choices on a building with a crumbling foundation. The story itself and the events that unfold are simply too familiar and borrowed from other, better films. The performances are all very earnest, especially from Annabelle Wallis and Alfre Woodard, but they fail to rescue the film from its sheer lack of originality. I do hope that with James Wan back in the director’s chair for the upcoming The Conjuring: The Enfield Poltergeist, we’ll get a stylish return back to feeling of the first film, as Annabelle unfortunately left me unfulfilled.
This Blu-Ray edition from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment features a very nice high definition video presentation with incredibly solid black levels, plenty of pristine fine object detail to behold, and a color palette that is pleasing to the eye. There isn’t a single instance of dirt, debris, or artifacts throughout, making for a very clean and strong presentation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD audio regularly balances dialogue, the creepy musical score, and background effects with ease, making for a terrific audio experience at home. The few jump scares the film has to offer are very effective on this surround track, and again, Warner Bros. has done a great job on the technical side of things.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has provided fans of Annabelle with some frightful bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- The Curse of Annabelle- Running about 5 ½ minutes, this short featurette focuses on the inception of this spin-off entry and the true story that inspired both films featuring the now-famous Annabelle doll that currently resides in the Warren Occult museum. Cast and crew discuss their fascination with Ed and Lorraine Warren’s careers, as well as some spooky shenanigans that happened behind-the-scenes of the film.
- Bloody Tears of Possession- This one also runs about 5 ½ minutes and details the cinematography and camera work involved in the making of the film. Much is discussed about trying to capture a suspenseful atmosphere with innovative camerawork and a particularly long-shot during the initial assault on the Form’s house in Santa Monica.
- Dolls of the Demon- This featurette runs just over 4 minutes and centers on the Annabelle doll herself, along with some discussion about various dolls in Horror cinema and their seemingly innocent nature that somehow brings the goose-bumps.
- A Demonic Process- Another nearly 5 minute featurette that focuses on the demon of the film and his gargoyle-esque look from the folks at KNB effects. The composer for the film (Joseph Bishara), who has also played the demons in both Insidious films and The Conjuring, also plays the demon here. We get some footage of the sculpting and makeup application process which is pretty fun.
- Deleted Scenes- Included here are 8 different scenes that were deleted from the film including: Meet Fuller the Landlord, Baby Bath/Fuller Fixes the Sink, Bugs in a Bottle, Infestation, Attack, Scratches & Father Perez’s arrival, Mia Wakes Up, and Demonic Kidnapping/Carnage. Everything is presented in High Definition and has final music/editing cues in place, leading us to believe that these scenes were excised at the last minute. Some of the cut scenes are surprisingly effective, and others involving a creepy landlord and bugs in the baby’s bottle were definitely better left on the cutting room floor.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray combo pack edition from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment features artwork that mimics the theatrical poster campaign with Annabelle herself on the slipcover. It’s an effective tease for the film, but I do wish that Warner Bros. had made it a lenticular one to pair nicely with their awesome lenticular “clap” cover for The Conjuring on Blu-Ray. On the back of the packaging you’ll find a very brief plot synopsis, a list of special features, and technical specifications. Inside of the case are two very plain black discs; one Blu-ray and one DVD, along with an insert featuring the Ultraviolet digital copy code and an advertisement for the upcoming game Dying Light.
Though I truly loved The Conjuring for its throwback 70’s style, genuinely unsettling atmosphere, and effective chills set against a true story, Annabelle fails to conjure up the scares of its predecessor. This spin-off entry is not without its share of jump-scares and creepy moments, but they are too few and far between for a film of this length and budget, like clever architectural design choices on a building with a crumbling foundation. The good news here is that the Blu-Ray disc video and audio quality are expertly crafted by the folks at Warner Bros., making for a great home viewing experience. Fans of the film will appreciate the special features that, while short, offer up some fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes for the film. I really wanted to like Annabelle, but unfortunately she was better left as a singular creepy element to a much better film.
Doctor Macabre’s Top Ten Hi-Def Horror Releases of 2014:
There is no denying that 2014 was a stand-out year for Horror when it comes to Home Video releases. Exciting would be an understatement. Not since my teenage years in the mid to late 90’s; saving up my lawn-mowing cash to pre-order the latest Anchor Bay tin set at Suncoast Video, has there been a time as good as this for fans of the genre. I found those sentiments echoed throughout the Horror community lately. It was simply a great year to be a Horror aficionado. And who do we have to thank for that? The fine folks at Scream Factory, Synapse Films, Scorpion Releasing, Blue Underground, Kino Lorber, and Grindhouse Releasing to name just a few. Their dedication to the genre, attention to detail on video transfers and extras, and pure willingness to go above and beyond to please the fans deserves admiration and applause.
2014 saw the release of a multitude of titles that many of us never saw coming, including the Halloween 6 Producer’s Cut and the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed. We saw the painstakingly beautiful efforts of 4K restorations on titles like Sleepaway Camp, Prom Night, and Curtains. And let’s not forget the incredible documentaries and featurettes included on these releases from the likes of Aine Leicht and Red Shirt Pictures. The bottom line is this: we were spoiled beyond belief this past year, and here’s to more of the same in 2015.
Without further ado, the following are my personal Top 10 picks for the very best 2014 had to offer when it came to Horror films on Blu-Ray (counting down from 10 to 1):
- Countess Dracula (Synapse Films)
*Besides the fact that this Hammer release is a gorgeous gothic delight all on its own (with the beautiful and sultry Ingrid Pitt in the title role), but Synapse Films delivered it masterfully in High Definition. Featuring a breathtaking new transfer and the fantastic (if short) Immortal Countess: The Cinematic Life of Ingrid Pitt featurette touching on her heartbreaking childhood spent in a concentration camp, her escape via river from Berlin (being pulled out of the water by a US soldier whom she would later marry), and beginnings in Hollywood, it’s a fascinating piece on an underrated actress. Complete with reversible cover art and a solid audio track, this one easily made my list.
- Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)
*How can one go wrong with dachshunds in rat suits chasing Scatman Crothers down a sewer drain? This movie is simply too much fun, with earnest performances and goofy practical effects, it’s pure camp entertainment that remains one of my favorite 80’s Horror entries to revisit. Producer Aine Leicht’s Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rat’s Clothing documentary is an absolute hoot too, with fun interviews and insight into the making of the film. Scorpion Releasing adds a few bonus features on this Scream release as well, rounding out this great disc (with solid picture and audio quality).
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kino Lorber)
*Along with F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, this is one of my favorite Horror pieces from early German cinema. It’s incredibly well made, with plenty of memorable set designs and costumes that have gone on to inspire Horror auteurs that would soon follow. The imagery is endlessly spooky and haunting, and it looks simply stunning in this brand new 4K scan on Blu-Ray from Kino. With two separate HD audio tracks (one by DJ Spooky!) and the captivating documentary Caligari: How Horror Came to Cinema, there is so much to love on this release for fans of the film.
- The Vincent Price Collection II (Scream Factory)
*There is nothing in cinema quite as calming or comforting to me as sitting down and enjoying a good ol’ Vincent Price movie marathon. He is, without a doubt, my favorite Horror icon. The man simply knew how to deliver the goods to his audience, and delighted in the fandom of the genre that he understood so well. With a simple tweak of an eyebrow, or escalation in his vocal tone, the man was endlessly watchable on the silver screen. Scream Factory’s Volume II collection includes some wonderful films from his outstanding career including: The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, The Tomb of Ligeia, The Last Man on Earth, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Return of the Fly, and House on Haunted Hill. They’ve also included an array of great special features on every disc including commentaries, featurettes, and my personal favorite, Iowa Public Television’s Gothic Horror introductions starring the man himself. Joel Robinson’s perfectly rendered artwork rounds out this great collection.
- The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Anchor Bay)
*From the disease spreading among Rick and his band of survivors holed up in the abandoned prison to the Governor’s assault and subsequent heartbreak for fans of the show, Season Four of The Walking Dead offers up the very best in television entertainment. Whenever I encounter someone who hasn’t seen the series and dismisses it as “that Zombie show”, I have to shake my head. This series just keeps getting better and better, and zombies are a mere backdrop in a story about human strength, weakness, and survival. Anchor Bay’s release for Season Four featured stellar video and audio quality on every episode and countless hours of commentaries, deleted scenes, and featurettes that will entertain fans of this great show.
- The House on Sorority Row (Scorpion Releasing)
*This 1983 slasher about a group of sorority sisters stalked by an unknown killer is an absolute campy hoot, with a great score and creepy atmosphere, not to mention some less-than-stellar performances that add to the fun. Scorpion Releasing treats this minor cult-classic with the utmost respect, delivering a very solid video transfer and bonus features. The two commentaries included are absolutely worth listening to, and the extended interview with Harley Jane Kozak is one of the best of 2014.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (MPI/Dark Sky Films)
*Available in a standard box-style release and the “Black Maria” truck edition, Dark Sky Films’ 40th Anniversary release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre exhibits strong video and audio (especially considering the original elements utilized) and an endless array of bonus material that perfectly pairs with the great packaging job. There are several commentaries, interviews, an alternate ending, storyboard comparisons and much more. The film itself remains horrifying and effective, even after all these years.
- Sleepaway Camp: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory)
*Scream Factory’s release of Sleepaway Camp on Blu-Ray is the perfect example of why this company is the very best at what they do. Starting with the amazing cover art by regular contributor Nathan Thomas Milliner that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the film, featuring a jaw-dropping brand new 2K-sourced transfer and strong audio, and ending with some of the best bonus content on any release this year, this is the definitive version of the film to own on Home Video. The included documentary titled At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp from Reverend Entertainment’s Justin Beahm offers fans every behind-the-scenes story and anecdote that one could ever wish to discover about this Horror classic.
- Prom Night (Synapse Films)
*With an opening that Horror fans new and old will have a hard time forgetting, the Scream Queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis (fresh off her Halloween success), Leslie Nielsen, and plenty of teenage shenanigans and kill counts to boot, Prom Night is as enjoyable as ever on Synapse’s standout Blu-Ray release of the year. The meticulously mastered 2K scan included herein is one of the best catalog treatments we’ve seen, and for that alone, Synapse deserves kudos for taking their time to get the transfer right (something they have come to be known for). But they didn’t stop there, the packaging features reversible artwork that is gorgeous to behold, a truly outstanding 5.1 audio track, and consistently top-notch bonus material. The Horrors of Hamilton High documentary features the cast and crew discussing the film at length, and we also get never-before-seen outtakes and additional footage featured in the television broadcast. Simply superb!
- Halloween: The Complete Collection– Limited Edition (Scream Factory & Anchor Bay)
*The #1 release of the year easily belongs to Halloween: The Complete Collection (Limited Edition), the result of an unheard of partnership between two home video giants: Anchor Bay and Scream Factory. Featuring every single film in the franchise and for the first time ever, the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 (on a beautiful transfer), as well as a vast array of bonus materials newly produced by Scream Factory, this is the absolute definitive set to own for fans. The artwork from Paul Shipper sets the mood perfectly, and the attention to detail with the individual black cases and original theatrical artwork on each separate film case is perfection. This is dedication folks! The fact that so much time and effort went into ensuring that fans would be happy with the results of this box set (along with the aforementioned content itself) is reason enough to select this fine release as the best of 2014, and one that will be appreciated by Horror fans for years to come.
Runners Up: Frankenstein Created Woman (Millennium Entertainment), The Blob (Twilight Time), Ginger Snaps (Scream Factory), Motel Hell (Scream Factory), The Quatermass Xperiment (Kino Lorber), Scanners (The Criterion Collection), Curtains (Synapse Films), The Final Terror (Scream Factory), and Nightbreed (Scream Factory).