Best Blu-ray & 4K UHD horror movies: ‘Re-Animator,’ ‘Cult of Chucky,’ ‘Dawn of the Dead’
Count Zad offers a few Blu-ray and 4K UHD movie suggestions for mature horror fans to appreciate during this Halloween season.
Re-Animator: Limited Edition (Arrow Video, Not Rated, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $39.95) The definitive version of director Stuart Gordon’s 1985, dark comedy, horror cult classic gets a 4K digital restoration and ton of extras surely to please devoted fans.
Loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, the movie highlights the insanity and chaos surrounding mad scientist Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) who has concocted a fluorescent-green serum that can bring the dead back to life.
Viewers get two versions of the film on the two-disc set an unrated cut (86 minutes) and the Integral edition (105 minutes).
By all means dive into the Integral version that offers all of the grotesque scenes as well as additional exposition that explains plot threads, such as Dr. Carl Hill’s hypnotic powers and Dean Halsey’s anger over a student dating his daughter.
Please be aware, Mr. Gordon’s low-budget effort revels in the grisly and bloody, while compounded by a few scenes almost too disgusting to watch. Suffice it to report, this classic is for mature fans of the genre only.
Frightening extras: Fans eyes will water with joy as they peruse the list of bonus content and stuff in the package.
Start with three commentary tracks one with Mr. Gordon and the actors from the “Re-Animator: The Musical” (I’m not kidding); one track with just Mr. Gordon; and a final one with a collection of actors and crew having too much fun remembering the film.
Next, of the over five hours of other extras, appreciate and devour a 54-minute professorial guide to Lovecraftian Cinema hosted Chris Lackey (host of H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast) and a 68-minute retrospective of the movie.
And, bravo Arrow, viewers can even listen to Mr. Combs reads the original short story (clocking in at 98 minutes) that makes a perfect Halloween treat.
Now, let’s dive into the package that contains a 92-page, full-color, 1991 micro-sized comic book adaptation of the film; a 24-page, full-color collector’s booklet featuring an essay by journalist Michael Gingold; and four postcard-sized, lobby card reproductions.
Dawn of the Dead: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory!, Not rated, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $34.93) Fueled by the creative talents of director Zack Snyder (“Watchmen” and “300″) and writer James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), this 2004 brutal remake of George A. Romero’s classic zombie movie gets a visual upgrade and bountiful supply of extras.
Viewers are privy to the harrowing lives of a group of survivors of a reanimated corpse apocalypse in a Milwaukee suburb including nurse Ana Clark (Sarah Polley), cop Kenneth Hall (Ving Rames), salesman Michael (Jake Weber and criminal Andre (Mekhi Phifer) who seek shelter in an abandoned mall.
The story mixes the challenges of fighting off the undead and dealing with desperate humans in the most stress-loaded of situations. The results are often bloody and horrifying.
Owners of the two-disc Blu-ray set get the theatrical version (100 minutes) as well as the gorier, unrated director’s cut (110 minutes) both remastered using the digital intermediate archival negative.
Zombie fans will also appreciate buying the recently released “Land of the Dead: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory!, $34.93) featuring a ton of extras, a new 2K scan for two versions of the film, and a story and direction by the father of the zombie film George A. Romero.
Frightening extras: Scream Factory! (a Shout Factory! brand) continues to set the standard for delivering digital upgrades to horror movies jam packed with bonus content.
In this case, viewers will get many extras culled from previous home entertainment releases of the film as well as over an hour’s worth of new featurettes.
Best of the new stuff includes a 10-minute interview with Mr. Gunn and a 25-minute interview with gore effects maestro David Anderson and his partner/wife Heather Langenkamp Anderson (the former co-star of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” film series).
The effects artists discuss creating the most realistic zombies of the day (refined to three stages of decomposition) and the challenges of re-killing the undead.
Best of the archival material offers an optional commentary track with Mr. Snyder and producer Eric Newman, and features the complete news broadcast of the zombie invasion (21 minutes long).
Cult of Chucky (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Not Rated, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $22.98) The legendary serial-killing doll returned in a new film this year and got to slaughter inmates at a mental institution.
The latest effort by writer and director Don Mancini now arrives to Blu-ray and offers Chucky (still voiced by Brad Dourif) infiltrating the asylum and tormenting one of his former victims Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif), while his old best buddy and original owner Andy (Alex Vincent) tries to, once again, stop him.
Fans will love the latest full-screen presentation celebrating plot threads from the almost 30-year-old horror franchise, and gore enthusiasts will appreciate some of Chucky’s grisly and bloody kills.
A guest appearance by Chucky’s bride Tiffany Valentine (who looks a lot like Jennifer Tilly) and Andy’s old foster sister Kyle (Christine Elise) cements the nostalgia and scary fun.
Frightening extras: An optional commentary track with Chucky patriarch Mr. Mancini and head puppeteer Tony Gardner delivers a satisfying historical look at the franchise as well as the current production.
Viewers will also enjoy 8 minutes of interview with key cast and crew and a five-minute look at how seven effect technicians bring the mighty Chucky to life.
The Cabin in the Woods (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 95 minutes, $16.59) Director Drew Goddards and writer Josh Whedon’s twisted tale debuts in ultra high-definition to give viewers a chance to enjoy one of the best examples of a movie melding humor, fantasy, science fiction and horror.
The story offers a group of college students (featuring the mighty Thor, Chris Hemsworth) attempting to survive in a secluded cabin while attacked by undead ghouls.
More intriguing is that, at the same time, a secret organization is trying to appease ancient gods looking to overrun the earth.
The clever plot twists, modicum of slasher-movie gore and appearance by near every genre of horror entity and creature makes it a yearly viewing requirement each Halloween.
Unfortunately, the 4K digital transfer (upscaled from 2K original source) is not eye-popping due to too many nighttime scenes, but it pays off in both increased clarity and color vibrancy as a cavalcade of horrors are released in the organization’s facility.
Frightening extras: Nearly all of the bonus content (over 90 minutes) from the previous Blu-ray release has been ported over to the 4K UHD disc.
Best of the bunch includes an optional commentary with Mr. Goddard and Mr. Whedon that is loaded with humor and insight into the creation process and a 30-minute, behind-the-scenes look at the film.
A Blu-ray disc of the film is also included and offers the missing extra from the 4K disc, a great picture-in-picture viewing mode to learn about the production, and hear from the cast and crew while watching the film.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula: 25th Anniversary Edition (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 127 minutes, $20.88) Director Francis Ford Coppola’s elegant and faithful 1992 adaptation of Stoker’s vampire novel finally arrives on ultra high-definition and enhanced with a Dolby Atmos sound technology to entertain viewers looking for some classic horror and blood-sucking seduction.
Outstanding performances from Gary Oldman as the Count, Winona Ryder as Mina Harker, Anthony Hopkins as the unyielding Professor Abraham Van Helsing and Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker help set the macabre tone.
The classis epic upscaled to the 2160p format allows viewers to meticulous appreciate the stunning effort from Mr. Coppola; production designers Dante Ferretti and Thomas Sanders; and cinematographer, Michael Ballhauseye, in bringing a suffocating and bleak Victorian era to life.
Specifically, most impacted for clarity, is examining the use of shadows and the oozing of textures in Castle Dracula and the chance to revel in the various transformative stages of Mr. Oldman’s Dracula.
Frightening extras: Viewers will need to pop in the included Blu-ray disc (culled from the 2015 Supreme Cinema Series release) to first find a pair of optional commentary tracks from Mr. Coppola (a solo with the director and one with Mr. Coppola, visual effects director Roman Coppola and makeup supervisor Greg Cannom).
They also get over two hours of previously featurettes and deleted scenes that deconstruct the production and informatively explore the source material.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 25th Anniversary Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 86 minutes, $16.99) Writer Joss Whedon’s quirky film that spawned his mega-popular television series in the 1990s returns to Blu-ray to amass a new generation of horror comedy fans.
Viewers dive into the world of vapid high school Valley Girl cheerleader Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson) as she quickly learns from a weird old guy and future mentor Merrick (Donald Sutherland) that she is the Chosen One, a powerful female that protects humans from vampires.
Besides its impetus for the TV show, the film is also remembered for being Luke Perry’s major motion picture debut as tough teen Oliver Pike and for the amusingly grisly appearance of Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens.
In fact, Mr. Reubens steals every scene he is in as the vampire Amilyn, the lead minion of blood-sucking bad guy leader Lothos (Rutger Hauer).
Frightening extras: Frightening indeed as this anniversary edition Blu-ray disc only offers a 4-minute, 1992 archival featurette introducing the film and a few trailers. It’s hardly an anniversary release, but it is worthy to add to any vampire-film-lover’s collection.