19 Genre Blu-rays That Will Help You Make It Through The Winter
If you’re patiently waiting for the winter weather to pass and you’re struggling to find ways to keep yourself busy, we have a suggestion: Blu-ray. There’s virtually no better way to pass the frigid time than catching up with the best new discs the format has to offer. While it’s difficult to keep up with the weekly barrage of new releases, here’s our attempt to scratch the surface—with 19 genre Blu-rays that will help you make it through the winter.
While the movie industry was busy celebrating 2018’s most reputable Oscar bait, genre fans were quietly celebrating movies like First Man (which did land a few Oscar nods and the award for Best Visual Effects), Halloween, and Overlord. As the extras on the First Man disc make clear, everyone involved with that production thought they were making something monumentally important. The film falls short of those lofty expectations, but it’s still essential viewing for anyone hoping to spend some quality time in space.
Halloween did a better job of delivering on its potential (the extras suggest that John Carpenter’s involvement was the secret weapon), while J.J. Abrams’ latest production, Overlord, is the kind of lively genre hybrid—a war movie throwback dripping with horror—that no one saw coming. Historical inaccuracy has never been so visceral.
Something to Scream About
As always, the leading horror authority on Blu-ray remains Scream Factory, even if their discs don’t always fit so neatly into that genre. Recent releases include unmistakable horror favourites like Dracula: Prince of Darkness—the third entry in Hammer’s Dracula series—but also movies that skew more toward action (Cobra) and thriller (Obsession) territory. Cobra is one of the standout guilty pleasures from the respective heydays of Sylvester Stallone and Cannon Films, which may explain why the film’s recent HD re-release includes new interviews with no less than five cast members.
Brian De Palma’s early Hitchcock homage Obsession gets a less exhaustive upgrade—several of these extras were included on Arrow’s region-free 2013 Blu-ray—but a pair of new interviews (with producer George Litto and editor Paul Hirsch) are full of lively gossip about De Palma, writer Paul Schrader, and legendary composer Bernard Herrmann.
As always, Severin Films digs into some very specific—and occasionally disturbing—corners of movie history with their latest batch of releases, focusing their attention on mondo movies and giallo. For those who may not be familiar with the mondo phenomenon, this was a string of provocative “documentaries” that were made by filmmakers travelling the world seeking and/or inventing provocative behaviour, in an effort to cash in on the success of 1962’s Mondo Cane. At the very least, Severin should have no trouble holding your attention with its recent pair of mondo double features: Mondo Bizarro/Mondo Freudo and Ecco/The Forbidden.
Severin has also set its sights on Italy’s proto-slasher giallo movement—in the form of a new documentary (All the Colors of Giallo) and a release of the movie it was named after (All the Colors of the Dark). Heavily influenced by the not-really-a-dream sequence from Rosemary’s Baby, the latter is distinguished by some striking imagery and a strong Bruno Nicolai score, though it may prove too unfocused for casual giallo fans. The documentary is a bit more coherent, though it plays more like an extra feature than a fully developed documentary. The real highlight of this release is its abundance of giallo trailers, an ideal primer for anyone planning a deeper dive into this divisive subgenre.
Emerging from Obscurity
Vinegar Syndrome’s recent batch of releases includes the usual assortment of eccentric obscurities (Beware My Brethren, Memories Within Miss Aggie, Pets), as well as some forgotten star vehicles (Cutting Class, Incubus) and at least one overlooked Canadian genre classic (Sudden Fury). One of Brad Pitt’s first movie credits, Cutting Class offers a rare glimpse of the actor before his charisma and confidence kicked in. As a bloody high school comedy from the ’80s, this film has some obvious parallels to Heathers, but where that film has satirical wit and sophistication, this film has to settle for gore and Brad Pitt acting bloopers.
A far more distinguished performance is delivered by the legendary John Cassavetes in 1981’s The Incubus. Although he probably took the job to finance one of his own directing efforts, this mind-bending creature feature offers some virtuoso genre filmmaking flourishes from the underrated John Hough (The Legend of Hell House, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry). A far less notable filmmaker (one-time feature director Brian Damude) made Sudden Fury, but this set-in-one-day game of cat and mouse is a classic Canadian genre film that’s ripe for rediscovery.
Reviving the ’90s (and More)
Another stellar, inexplicably overlooked genre classic, Bloody Birthday already got the Blu-ray treatment from Severin, but Arrow Video has given this slasher oddity—about a group of murderous children—a much-appreciated upgrade loaded with extras. The same can be said of the company’s recent release of Takashi Miike’s Audition, which finally corrects the shortcomings of the previous Blu-ray transfer. One of the most harrowing horror movies of the ’90s, this gem about a widower who holds auditions to find a new wife has emerged from the clutter of Miike’s filmography (IMDb lists 103 directing credits) as the director’s most celebrated work.
On the opposite end of the critical spectrum, 1995’s Waterworld was notorious before it even arrived in theatres, thanks to a severely bloated budget and producer-star Kevin Costner’s decision to take over for director (and frequent Costner collaborator) Kevin Reynolds. The film was always better than its reputation suggested, a theory Arrow Video lets viewers test like never before—by collecting the theatrical version, two different three-hour cuts (!), and a 102-minute documentary (Maelstrom: The Whole Waterworld Saga) that breaks down the whole sordid mess.