by Bryan Theiss
Lions, graboids and killdozers, oh my! This week we got in some new and old horror that may enhance your seasonal celebrations, plus a timely mini-series from the creators of The Wire, a crime movie directed by the RZA, new and old works from director Stephen Frears, two Jess Franco movies, two Imelda Staunton joints, political documentaries, an inspirational chess drama, and much more.
British horror film about a homeless veteran (Alec Secareanu) who’s offered a place to stay in an old house with a woman (Carla Juri) and her dying mother (Anah Ruddin), but “begins to suspect something unnatural is living there, too.” It’s the feature directing debut of actress Romola Garai (Atonement, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights) and it co-stars Imelda Staunton.
THE APE (1940)
Boris Karloff plays a nice doctor who is trying to cure polio and gets some questionable ideas about how to do it after an ape escapes from the circus and breaks into his house. You know how it is. With two new audio commentaries by film historians Tom Weaver and Richard Harland Smith.
COBRA: SEASON 1 (2020)
Six part Sky One series about a British government team working together to deal with power outages causing chaos after solar flares hit Europe. With Victoria Hamilton, Richard Dormer and Robert Carlyle. Not to be confused with the Sylvester Stallone character, who would’ve dealt with the problem more violently.
CRITICAL THINKING (2020)
John Leguizamo directs and stars in the true story of the first inner city team to win the U.S. National Chess Championship. (He plays the coach, not the team.)
CUT THROAT CITY (2020)
Four friends return home to New Orleans’ decimated Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. Desperate to get by, they reluctantly agree to execute a dangerous heist. Directed by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, with an excellent cast including Shameik Moore, T.I., Terrence Howard, Ethan Hawke and Wesley Snipes. Noel Murray of the Los Angeles Times called it a “thoughtful and personal film, concerned with how systemic racism — and zoning ordinances — can kill more people than a gun.” Matt Zoeller-Seitz wrote that it’s “worth seeing and talking about, and made with sincerity and imagination.” Includes behind the scenes and deleted scenes.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
DEEPSTAR SIX (1989)
A crew on a mission to establish a secret Navy base on the ocean floor run into trouble, because “Not all aliens come from space!” This Kino Lorber special edition of the sci-fi horror film from director Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th) arrives with a boatload (get it? I mean it’s not really a boat, but I think you get it) of extras including director and screenwriter commentaries, isolated score selections, interviews with composer Harry Manfredini, FX artists, cast, stunt coordinator Kane Hodder, original electronic press kit, extended vintage interviews, behind the scenes footage, and more.
DOCTOR WHO 034: THE FACELESS ONES (1967)
Some of the original episodes of Doctor Who were not maintained in any archive, so they no longer exist. Decades later, the snippets, fragments and photos that remain have been used along with animation and the original soundtracks (which they do still have) to re-create them. This is the mostly missing eighth serial of the fourth season of the show. Patrick Troughton plays the Doctor, who faces a race of identity-stealing aliens called the Chameleons. Anyway, it goes to show that it’s important to keep physical copies of everything, don’t you think?
ELI ROTH’S HISTORY OF HORROR: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (2018)
The Hostel director hosts AMC’s horror history documentary series with each episode focusing on topics like zombies, vampires, “killer creatures” and slashers (a two-parter). Interviewees include Rob Zombie, Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King, Diablo Cody, Mary Harron, Bruce Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jordan Peele, among many others.
FEAR NO EVIL (1969) / RITUAL OF EVIL (1970)
Louis Jourdan stars as occult expert Dr. David Sorell in two movies, investigating a man possessed by a spirit in an antique mirror and a cult of wealthy devil worshippers. With commentaries by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani.
FLESH AND BLOOD (2020)
“Lives of three siblings are disrupted when their recently widowed mother declares she’s in love with a new man. Tangled web of secrets, lies, rivalries and betrayals eventually leads to a murder.” Starring Imelda Staunton; as seen on PBS’ Masterpiece.
THE GUNFIGHTER (1950) (CRITERION)
Gregory Peck stars as an infamous gunslinger who wants to start a new life, but can’t escape the cycle of violence. In a review at the time, critic Bosley Crowther called the character “one of the most fascinating Western heroes as ever looked down a six-shooter’s barrel.” Criterion’s edition includes an interview with filmmaker Gina Telaroli about director Henry King, a video essay on editor Barbara McLean, and audio excerpts from interviews with King and McLean from 1970 and 1971.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
THE HIT (1984) (CRITERION)
Terence Stamp plays a gangster turned snitch hiding out in a Spanish village, hunted by hitmen played by John Hurt and twenty-something Tim Roth. Criterion’s edition includes a 2009 commentary with director Stephen Frears, co-stars Hurt and Roth, screenwriter Peter Prince and editor Mick Audsley, plus a 1988 interview with Stamp from the TV show Parkinson One-to-One.
HOW TO FIX A PRIMARY (2020)
Grassroots vs. the establishment documentary spending a year on the campaign trail with Michigan doctor Abdul El-Sayed as he attempts to become the first Muslim governor in U.S. history.
Clint Walker, Robert Urich and Neville Brand star in the legendary TV movie about a bulldozer that comes to life and hunts down construction workers on an island off the coast of Africa. Includes new audio interview with director Jerry London and commentary with film historian Lee Gambin and film critic Jarret Gahan.
LIVING DEAD (2019)
Sometimes you think it’ll just be a simple robbery and then you and your accomplices hide out in a castle with an ancient curse and supernatural entities and what not. Also known as Are We Dead Yet.
LORNA THE EXORCIST (1974)
Businessman Patrick (Guy Delorme) is tormented by his ex, Lorna (Pamela Stanford), who has a strange power over women, including his 18-year-old daughter Linda (Lina Romay). Directed by Jess Franco.
(DVD or Blu-Ray)
OLD DRACULA (1974)
Count Dracula (David Niven) converts his castle into a tourist attraction to lure victims as he tries to find the right blood to resurrect his bride Vampira. When he does, he’s surprised to find “she’s been unintentionally transformed into a soul sister,” as Vinegar Syndrome puts it. She’s played by Teresa Graves from Get Christie Love. Includes an interview with cinematographer Anthony Richmond.
OUTSIDE THE LAW (1920)
Before his famous horror movies like Dracula and Freaks, Tod Browning directed quite a few melodramas about female criminals, including this one starring Priscilla Dean as a jewel thief whose father is framed by a criminal played by Lon Chaney. Includes commentary by film historian Anthony Slide, score by Anton Sanko and alternate ending.
THE OWNERS (2020)
Some youths think they can get some easy money by breaking into a safe in an empty house. But the elderly couple that owns the place come home early and give them what for. Starring Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), who is holding a sledge hammer on the cover, so I’m certain there will at least be some injuries.
George Peppard plays a private detective who gets framed for murder while working as a bodyguard to the mistress (Gayle Hunnicut) of a shady millionaire (Raymond Burr). With commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell.
(We got this on DVD recently and have now added a Blu-Ray)
PICTURE MOMMY DEAD (1966)
After the death of her mother (Zsa Zsa Gabor) and three years in an asylum, Susan (Susan Gordon, daughter of director Bert I. Gordon) reunites with her dad (Don Ameche), who she suspects murdered her mom. With commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA (2020)
The story of a New Jersey working class Jewish family in an alternate history where Charles Lindbergh defeated FDR in the 1940 presidential election, making antisemitism more acceptable and sending the country on a course toward fascism. David Simon and Ed Burns, the creators of The Wire, adapted Philip Roth’s acclaimed 2004 novel into this six-part HBO limited series starring Winona Ryder, Zoe Kazan, David Krumholtz and John Turturro.
Mourning father Lance Henriksen seeks the help of a witch. Instead of bringing back his son, she summons a vengeful demon monster that goes after the teenagers responsible for the accident. Scream Factory’s special edition of the ‘80s monster gem directed by FX legend Stan Winston includes commentary with co-writer Gary Gerani and creature creators Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis, interviews with co-writer Richard Weinmann and actors John D’Aquino and Andrew Hurley, a tribute to Winston, a six-part making of documentary and even a featurette about the making of a Pumpkinhead action figure.
This mini-series directed by Stephen Frears (The Grifters, Dirty Pretty Things) tells the story of a former British army major (Matthew Mcfadyen) who was caught cheating on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
SCARE PACKAGE (2019)
This anthology of horror shorts is intended to “subvert well-known horror tropes while also paying homage to them” and is framed by a discussion at a small video store called Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium. Support your local video store, real or fictional. Directors include Emily Hagins (My Sucky Teen Romance), the actor Noah Segan and the comedian Baron Vaughn.
SINNER: THE SECRET DIARY OF A NYMPHOMANIAC (1973)
“Ortiz (Manuel Pereiro) is suspected of killing Linda Vargas, a stripper he met during a show. Visiting a friend of the dead, Countess Anna of Monterey, Rosa (Jacqueline Laurent), Ortiz’s wife, learns how Linda has fallen into a spiral of sex and drugs after being assaulted on a fair ride by Ortiz, while she was young.” Another one directed by Jess Franco.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR (1997)
Sigourney Weaver plays the wicked queen and witch in this dark, R-rated take on the fairy tale. Co-starring Sam Neill, Monica Keena and Gil Bellows.
SOMEONE SOMEWHERE (2019)
Two strangers in Paris (François Civil and Ana Girardot) live parallel lives, riding the same subway, sharing many problems and longings, seeking companionship, always near each other… but will they ever meet? From director Cédric Klapisch (Little Nothings, The Spanish Apartment, Russian Dolls).
SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER (2018)
A tailor (Bill Nighy) has spent years looking for his son Michael, who has been missing since storming out during a game of Scrabble. Now he must repair his relationship with his other son (Sam Riley) and identify an online Scrabble player he thinks could be Michael. Also starring Jenny Agutter.
A psychotic rideshare driver (Joe Keery from Stranger Things) has dreams of going viral, so he equips his car with cameras and livestreams himself as he murders passengers. Former SNL cast member Sasheer Zamata plays a passenger who tries to stop him.
TREMORS 7: SHRIEKER ISLAND (2020)
When graboids are smuggled to a resort island for rich people to hunt, Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) has to go save everybody. Also starring Jackie Cruz, Jon Heder and Richard Brake. This is the third Tremors sequel directed by Don Michael Paul, who has also done a Lake Placid, two Jarheads, two Snipers, a Kindergarten Cop, a Death Race, a Scorpion King and a Bulletproof.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
From Dutch director Dick Maas (The Lift, Amsterdamned, Saint) comes a funny, gory monster movie about a huge lion sneaking around Amsterdam eating people. Highly recommended. Original title: Prooi (Prey).
WOLF HOUSE (2016)
Some campers think they killed a Sasquatch – which is not a nice thing to do! – but in fact they have unleashed an ancient army of supernatural evil or somesuch.
XY CHELSEA (2019)
British documentary about the life of Chelsea Manning, the trans woman soldier sentenced to 35 years for leaking documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Joel Keller of Decider writes, “XY Chelsea is not a treatise on WikiLeaks or Manning’s actions. It’s an intimate portrait of a very intelligent, complex person who did what she thought was the right thing, despite the consequences.”