Don’t just watch John Carpenter’s classic this year... try some of these new 1080p disc releases instead… or more likely as well.
Like it or loathe it, October is all about Halloween. And the distributors know it. Hence, a rush of releases all vying to make it onto your annual Halloween Horror list this year, jostling for spots in your viewing schedule alongside all the usual classics we love to watch again and again. And while this October sees some stone-cold classics making their way to 4K (Universal Monsters, The Howling, Scream, Deep Red, etc) this leaves room for some lesser-known titles to hit 1080p and try and become slightly more known to us, the discerning viewer.
So, as an extra treat this month, alongside the usual monthly Blu-ray release round up, we hope you enjoy this additional look at some of the new horror releases this month and you never know… there might just be a new horror classic in here, something to add into your Halloween Horror lists for future years to come.
A word of caution – ‘tis the time of the year for boxsets and there are a few included here. To keep the list manageable, we’ve selected individual films from the boxsets that best represent the overall content. So, all scores for these are for the individual film’s themselves rather than the sets. But enough of all that… on with the show!
(2018, Acorn Media, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 4th October 2021)
A Korean creature feature that pretty much equals the sum of its parts... part Brotherhood of the Wolf (a period piece, political scheming, outsiders brought in to investigate a mythical monster that may or may not be real, etc), part The Host (commentary on how man has the ability to impact all living things around it and not for good), part The Great Wall (stoic and a little too strait-laced at times, but decent VFX work and obvious money all up on screen).
Feudal Korea and a mythical beast may or may not be terrorising the country by bringing with it a mysterious plague. An ex-soldier and his bickering brother are asked by the king to investigate, leading to political intrigue and all manner of modern VFX fuelled monster mayhem.
Hugely entertaining. It’s a shame it loses its early comedic sense as our brothers are lured back from retirement (they give off serious Val and Earl from Tremors vibes in the opening act), but this ends up being a decent monster movie that looks super impressive and just about maintains a sense of humour through all the carnage (having the monster be called ‘Sparkles’ amuses even though it really shouldn't).
There's some decent blood and guts drenching the screen, but it somehow manages to maintain the feel of a film from an earlier time that somehow makes all this death and destruction feel fun and frivolous. And, while its narrative trappings and political melodrama occasionally get in the way, as a fun slice of monster madness, it’s a nice little success.
The disk has some really good A/V – the lossless Korean 5.1 soundtrack is thunderous with plenty of playful surround moments, while the image is pin sharp, but a bit flat due to a slightly raised black floor. No extras at all disappoints.
Film: 8/10 Video: 8/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 0/10 Overall: 8/10
(2021, Arrow, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 4th October 2021)
Sadly, the story behind the making of this very low budget cult horror is far more interesting than the end result.
Writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle had tried for years to make a film starring his sister who has severe Down's Syndrome. With a desire to show her reality and that of others like her, rather than a stereotypical view of people with learning disabilities, the story grew from there. And while he deserves a huge amount of credit for this, that doesn’t excuse the film being as derivative and plodding as it ended up being.
Katie starts a job caring for people with severe learning disabilities. However, having escaped some form of cult in her past, she becomes convinced that the demons that sought her have returned for one of those in her care…
Shifting between almost documentary style footage involving a large number of non-actors in the care home setting and flashbacks to Katie’s previous life, shown in jarring edits and with a screeching atonal soundtrack, the film never goes anywhere you don’t expect. Little backstory is given to anyone or anything with a frustrating lack of any detail about the cult, Katie or any of the other characters making it hard to care or even understand much about anything that’s unfolding on screen.
Genre legend Larry Fessenden is given top billing but is in it for less than three minutes of screen time and it all becomes very much like so many other ‘cult’ films currently being seen, from the supposed ambiguity around its existence to its not-very-shocking shock ending. Credit where its due in its ambition, it’s such a shame the end product doesn’t live up to this.
One of Arrow’s great double features, this set comes with the director’s earlier (and better) film Jug Face included on a separate disk, complete with its own set of extras. These are good for both films; the 'making of' on the Dementer disk showing the quite wonderful interactions between the cast and crew (mostly of one), which almost made me feel a lot warmer about the film itself. A/V is as expected – low budget digital photography means lots of detail, but its flat and dark scenes are milky and noisy.
Film: 5/10 Video: 7/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 8/10 Overall: 6/10
Mako: The Jaws of Death
(1976, Arrow, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 4th October 2021, part of the 'He Came From The Swamp: The William Grefe Collection')
Whilst this little curio certainly isn't as offensive as most modern-day low budget shark films, its very low-fi approach may still put some off. Feeling as if Blood Feast's Herschell Gordon Lewis was cashing in on the Jaws phenomenon, it’s got a very underground independent feel to it, not being too out of place if it was included in the next volume of The American Horror Project sets from Arrow... so it’s certainly not a look and a feel for everyone.
The story involves Baywatch's Richard Jaeckel as a shark whisperer who has some telepathic link to the local Makos that congregate around his Florida home. As those around him begin to abuse this gift of his - a local scientist wants him to get a pregnant shark for 'research purposes', a local bar owner wants to improve his very odd bar act and a couple of ne'er do well fisherman (one of which is Harold 'Odd Job' Sakata, which is exactly as he's credited) who just want to kill as many sharks as possible - he starts to become more and more convinced that his only option is to use the sharks and get his revenge on them all.
There are no model sharks here, with almost all the shark footage comprising actual sharks and they get right up close and personal with the actors. But then obviously, the attack scenes look more like inter-species cuddling interrupted by the odd squirt of red ink than anything actually dangerous.
It’s a nice riff on a shark ‘movie’ - for once, the sharks are the good guys - but its low-fi stylings might not be for everyone. Very cheap but certainly very cheerful. The set contains seven of Grefe’s films on four disks which all have the same low-fi, grungy nature, so approach this set with caution if you haven’t seen many examples of this kind of ‘local’ cinema of the period.
A/V is, as mentioned, not great – but that’s part of the design of this. Think of it as a grindhouse release rather than anything else. But extras-wise this is a blast – there’s a huge amount on this disk alone for this film, let alone elsewhere in this set, including cast interviews, a look at shark movies as a genre and all manner of 'making of' goodies included. Fans of Grefe and these kinds of low-fi treats are in for a hell of a time with this set.
Film: 6/10 Video: 5/10 Audio: 5/10 Extras: 9/10 Overall: 6/10
(2020, Acorn Media, Region B UK Blu-Ray, Release Date 4th October 2021)
Part Corman cheapy alien-warlord-on-earth, part Power Rangers rubber VFX robot fightfest, part Terminator 2 small child in heart-warming relationship with uber powerful killing machine and part Bad Taste insane splatterthon, all played for laughs.
Yes, Psycho Goreman (or PG for short) sure is a hell of a thing....
Mimi is a horribly precocious twelve-year old and with her older brother in tow, discovers a buried ancient amulet. Its discovery also wakens a similarly buried ancient alien warlord who, when found by the siblings, is overjoyed to find out he is now completely in their control… and so off we go on the kind of crazy adventure you only get when a borderline psychotic pre-teen has control of an unstoppable murder god.
I am right here for the concept of this - insane kids, masses of guts and explosions of grue, genuinely cheap but amusing space visuals done almost wholly practically and some hilariously spiky banter, all wrapped up in a tone that is kinda like Eli Roth gets to finish Explorers the way it was intended to be finished. But the execution doesn't always work: Mimi is a great creation but her snark and sass doesn't land 100% of the time; and the very Power Rangers-esque intergalactic breaks feel like their humour doesn't connect with that of the rest of the film.
But its heart is so in the right place and this gets so close to being exactly what I want it to be that I can forgive it the odd errant misstep it makes. So much so that when PG learns the true power of love from this very dysfunctional family and disappears off to use it to destroy the known galaxy, I'll be goddamned that there wasn't a little twinge in the old heart vicinity.
A big old end of T2 style thumbs up in a flaming pool of molten metal from me.
More decent A/V from Acorn on this – detailed and colourful digital images, surprisingly boisterous lossless 5.1 surround track – but backed up with a raft of great extras adding a boatload of value (commentary, 45 mins of fun interviews, pre-viz storyboards, etc), this is exactly how you put a currently streaming film out on disc.
Film: 8/10 Video: 8/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 8/10 Overall: 8/10
(2021, Acorn Media, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 11th October 2021)
Opening with one of the queasiest birthing scenes witnessed in a while, this nice little riff on the demonic child jam (more The Omen than The Prodigy) manages to find its own footing thanks to some really good performances.
Flashing forward, Andi Matichak (Halloween (2018) and Orange is the New Black) is now a single mother to a ten-year-old boy. However, one night a possible home invasion leaves her son deathly ill and modern medicine can’t help. Thinking that those responsible for this are now hunting her child, she flees with him, taking a trip into her past that may have links to yet another demonic cult… or it may all be happening in her mind. Emile Hirsch, looking so much like Jack Black here it’s scary, is a friendly police officer in desperate pursuit, torn between helping and bringing her to justice.
Matichak is brilliant here – equally convincing as a distraught mother, a survivor of a horrific past and as a possible psychopath. And she keeps the film going, even as it starts to become more generic as the run time progresses.
Things get nicely gnarly as her son starts to understand what the best/only medicine for him actually is and even as it powers towards its inevitable and somewhat obvious conclusion, it ends up being much more Rosemary’s Baby than you thought it would or could be. Which is always a good thing. It does nothing new and most will see the plot twists and turns coming, but this was a nicely effective little chiller powered by that superb performance by Matichak.
Sound-wise, this isn’t a demo disk, due to the restrained sound design, which the disk does justice to. Video isn’t quite as sharp as the other Shudder disk, but it’s got a more textured look in keeping with the gritty style of the film. Extras are limited to ten minutes of interviews and deleted scenes, neither of which are what anyone would call ‘earth shattering’.
Film: 7/10 Video: 8/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 2/10 Overall: 7/10
I Don't Want to be Born aka The Monster
(1975, Network, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 11th October 2021)
A brilliantly batty British take on the demon child craze that gripped cinema in the mid-70s, this is part The Exorcist, part It’s Alive, part groovy and rather saucy London travelogue and is an insane amount of fun.
Joan Collins gives birth with Donald Pleasance as her attending physician, uttering the immortal title over the funky opening credits, and it's not long before all hell is breaking loose. Her husband, a brilliantly accented Ralph Bates and his nun sister (played by a supernaturally straight-faced Eileen Atkins) all start to worry that there’s something wrong with the immeasurably strong and psychotically angry infant (who now is only several weeks old). And when Collins starts to dig back into her old life as a stripper (with her close friend Caroline Munro along as nothing but gorgeous window dressing) and finding a spurned little person sex pest placed a curse on her, you know this is only going to end one way.
Uproariously stupid, this sees the audience expected to swallow a three-week old baby being physically able to throw a grown woman into a lake, but without the budget to do anything decent special effects-wise, it just doesn’t bother. A ludicrous narrative that has all manner of things be responsible alongside the cursed dwarf theory – including being possessed by the Day-vil (those cod Italian accents are super amusing) or just being angry at being born – just adds to the brilliantly gauche feel of it all (it even has a surprising amount of naked flesh on show) and it ends up being as completely insane as you think it will be from its synopsis. Worth a purchase just to see what they really did throw money at back in the day.
A pretty good transfer shows the disk mostly cleaned up and looking nicely organic, if a touch soft. The lossless mono track is completely free from hiss or crackle and a commentary and about 40 mins of new interviews with the directors, editor and head of continuity round out a thoroughly decent package.
Film: 7/10 Video: 7/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 6/10 Overall: 7/10
Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters
(1968, Arrow Video, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 18th October 2021, part of the 'Yokai Monsters Collection Boxset')
Despite being about seventy-five monsters short of what the title promised, this very Japanese morality tale from the makers of the Daimajin Trilogy (also released by Arrow several months ago) is a huge amount of fun… if you can plug into its sensibilities.
Yokai are an ancient Japanese tradition of all kinds of supernatural beings, influencing so much of modern pop culture from Hello Kitty to Pokémon. And like most kaiju-type films, they are employed as a means to avenge oppression – in this instance, Feudal Japan sees a rich magistrate bullying the local villagers into stealing their land to build a brothel. To celebrate his villainy, the magistrate hosts a party whereby the tradition of telling 100 monster stories is observed. What isn’t, however, is the ‘cleansing’ ritual immediately afterwards, thanks to the presence of an angry villager seeking revenge, which sees the Yokai then return to wreak havoc on those involved.
To modern eyes, the monsters themselves may appear hokey – men in cheap suits and marionettes are the order of the day; and even their design is more Rentaghost meets Sesame Street than Onibaba or Kwaidan – an umbrella with one eye and one leg? Snigger. But it’s all so goofily entertaining, it’s hard to take umbrage against any of it. And like Daimajin, the monsters aren’t in this for a huge amount of time, the rest of the film taken up with the magistrate’s fight with the villagers. But again, that works too, the traditional rich vs poor tale engaging if somewhat unoriginal.
Not quite as good as similar creature features from the period due to its very eccentric tone, it’s still a hoot and a half to watch.
The PQ is showing its age – there’s slight wobble and print damage present and its softness and muted colours show a lack of any real restoration. The Japanese mono track is clean though and the only extra on this disk is an excellent 40 min look at the Yokai cultural phenomenon. Released as part of the four-film set, including all three original trilogy films from 1968-69 and Takashi Miilke’s 2005 remake, this and the set is the very definition of an ‘acquired taste’.
Film: 6/10 Video: 6/10 Audio: 6/10 Extras: 6/10 Overall: 6/10
(1981, Indicator, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 18th October 2021)
Expecting a cross between Duel, Breakdown and a typical ‘80s slasher, watching Rear Window set in a truck came as a bit of a shock. But settling into it, this was a really fun little B-movie - part character study (Stacy Keach's truck driver, who just because he drives trucks doesn't make him a truck driver, hasn't slept in days and his imagination maybe playing tricks on him), part horror-mystery (is the serial killer he hears about on the radio really the guy in the green van who keeps following him?), part thriller (was his hitchhiker, a never sexier but under-used Jamie Lee Curtis, really abducted or did she just leave him?), all coming together into a really tasty little concoction.
Keach is brilliant, talking mostly to his pet dingo and completely carrying the film, convincing as both the erudite driver who believes himself to be worth more than he is and as the increasingly desperate protagonist and even possible antagonist of a dangerous cat and mouse game across the Australian outback.
But the star is director Richard Franklin, his channelling of his idol, Hitch himself, done to a tee. The film takes its time, with no real standout set pieces along the way, just a growing sense of mystery and dread as it and we start to question not just what's going on but what exactly Keach's role is in it all.
Its only downsides are some implausible plot contrivances (all that road and so few vehicles…) and a rushed finale which sees the careful setting up of Keach as the possible antagonist come to a far too quick conclusion.
But overall, this is a decent little Oz-ploitationer that is far more Hollywood than most of its peers. And in this case, that’s a good thing.
As expected, this standard edition re-release from Indicator is a belter. Three commentaries and hours of video and audio supplements, there’s nothing else you could want to know. The transfer is decent, but it can't escape its source material even with a 4K restoration - there is some low-level print damage and it's fairly soft, but grain is present, and colours look suitably age appropriate. The lossless mono track has a touch of hiss at the film's chase ending but other than that it’s a solid performer.
Film: 8/10 Video: 7/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 10/10 Overall: 8/10
Anaconda 3: Offspring
(2008, 88 Films, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 25th October 2021, part of the 'Anaconda Collection')
Oi, Sony! The Asylum have called, and they want their interns and teaboys back that you borrowed to make this utter catastrophe of a movie.
I get that there were some rather large production issues - shooting this back-to-back with Part 4, a director fired with less than a fortnight until shooting and the DP parachuted in, etc - but there really is no excuse for this. The plot has some genetically mutated snakes go ape in Eastern Europe, but it really doesn’t make any difference to the cinematic horrors unfurling on screen before us.
Someone should have let The Hoff know that when you hire The Hoff you want the gurning, burger eating loon doing his best Jon Voight impression… not for him to try to actually 'act'. And hadn't we moved past writing and portraying hilariously inappropriately attired so-called 'scientific experts' who seem to be only expert in filling out rather small vests? The one here makes TWINE’s Christmas Jones look like Stephen Hawking.
They've just given up completely on the VFX front by now and resorted to using what look like animatics from the previous films rather than doing anything ‘proper’. Although extra bonus points are awarded for having the snakes now sound like velociraptors as well as look like legless versions of the dinos… at least I think they were legless, I couldn't tell from the unshaded and untextured blocks on screen what had legs and what didn't.
Completely amateurish, even the presence of a boatload of grue and not one gurning loon but two (John Rhys Davies, you really should have known better. The Hoff I expect, but you?) in the cast can't save this from being a complete mess. So bad, I gave Part 4 a swerve as I can't in good conscience subject myself to any more of this swill.
Do you really care about the A/V when this film is so bad? Whilst the first film is a camp classic, the other three in this set are varying degrees of ‘completely terrible’ and can’t be recommended at all unfortunately. Buy the first film as a standalone and burn with fire any complete sets you see.
Film: 2/10 Video: 7/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 2/10 Overall: 2/10
The Fifth Cord
(1971, Arrow Films, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 25th October 2021, part of the 'Giallo Essentials Box Set')
Up there with the very best of the giallo genre, this is as beautiful as it is insane.
When you have names like Vittorio Storaro and Ennio Morricone involved, you have some real talent behind the camera and it shows from the opening scenes. Amazing compositions (Storaro and director Luigi Bazzoni seemed to favour placing their characters in the middle of sweeping, epic architectural features), stylish tracking shots (following a small boy trying to hide from the gloved killer) and the funkiest of jazz scores all go some way in trying to both underpin and completely mask the insanely dense plot.
We open on a New Year’s Eve party as a voiceover tells us that acts of murder are about to be committed - suddenly, various attendees at the party start getting killed and its down to Franco Nero and his amazing moustache to solve the case before all fingers point to him as the killer.
Packed full of stunning looking women (including the ravishing Pamela Tiffin), Nero looking increasingly dishevelled as he drinks more and more and does less and less and some ludicrous attempt at a mystery plot (the entire police force and Nero forget the one massive clue that only a racing driver who stars in homemade porn movies seems to have pieced together) all try their best to steal the film from under the noses of Storaro and Morricone.
And they all fail. Because it really does look and sound amazing. Even the extended final chase/fight between Nero and our antagonist is superbly choreographed and put together, all with the same sense of overt sense of style the rest of the film has. It's big, it's brash, it's bonkers but mostly it’s just beautiful.
And, of course, the Arrow disc does it all justice. Another great restoration and transfer and lashings of decent extras means this is a great disc for all Arrowheads and giallo fans. And as the other two films in this set are almost as good, this is a great set for those who don’t already own the previously released individual films.
Film: 8/10 Video: 9/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 8/10 Overall: 8/10
So that’s it for Halloween for another year – some really strong releases and... some not so strong ones. If horror isn’t your jam or you just wish the 31st October would see an end to “Americanised commercialism run amok”, there’s the usual, slightly more balanced genre mix of BD releases to look at in the recently published regular October Blu-ray round-up… so see you all there!
Please let us know how right or wrong we are, and tell us what most enjoyed on Blu-ray for Halloween 2021 in the discussion!