Blu-ray reviews: ‘The Nun’ and ‘Horror of Dracula’

January 11, 2019 GMT

Here’s a look at two horror films now available on Blu-ray that include some classic scary creatures.

The Nun (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, 2.40:1 aspect ratio, rated R, 97 minutes, $24.99) By far, the most terrifying apparition in “The Conjuring” supernatural movie franchise was a pale-faced, sharp of tooth, decaying female in a habit roaming the corridors of a possessed house and popping out of the darkness.

Well, extending the story of the “Conjuring 2,” fans get a prequel exploring her Gothic origins in a movie that made a killing at the box office and now debuts on high definition.

According to lore, in the 1950s, Father Burke (Demin Bichir) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) go to Romania to investigate the suicide of a young nun and find plenty of jump scares as they confront a demon named Valak lurking in an ancient abbey.

The atmosphere and fog is thick, the plot thin, and the imagery is pretty damn scary throughout. The foreboding musical score and chanting herald the horror, and the gruesome special effects bring this unholy spirit to life.

Director Corin Hardy makes a strong case for never visiting an abbey that looks like Castle Dracula or staying overnight at a haunted convent or a haunted cemetery, but his efforts never quite trumps the earlier macabre magic of the Conjuring films.

Best extras: First, those new to the series will appreciate an almost 4-minute recap chronicling the events of the film franchise.

Next, two promotional featurettes (roughly 12 minutes in total) explore shooting in Romania, such as the real Corvin Castle in Hunedoara, and a look at the production with interviews from cast and crew including the director and producer James Wan.

Finally, viewers get seven deleted scenes (12 minutes long) with the most interesting being the nuns explaining to Sister Irene about the gateway to hell existing in the abbey.

Horror of Dracula (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, not rated, 1.66:1 aspect ratio, not rated, 82 minutes, $21.99) The definitive house of horrors, Hammer Films, delivered its Technicolor take on Bram Stoker’s blood-sucking fiend way back in 1958.

Now restored on high definition and available only for order from the Warner Archive Collection website, the movie stars Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing, and the macabre Christopher Lee as the man behind the fangs.

The story twists the Stoker narrative starting with Jonathan Harker visiting Castle Dracula (not as a lawyer to the count but to kill him, and he gets bitten for his efforts) as well as the vampire traveling to Bavaria (not England) to mesmerize Lucy (now Harkens fiance not Mina).

The film conveys a level of juicy Victorian Goth, thanks to not only Bernard Robinson’s shadowy production design of the interior locations but James Bernard’s overtly dramatic musical score, period costuming and the decidedly British dripping accent of Cushing.

Eagle-eyed fans will notice actor Michael Gough (the butler Alfred in Tim Burton’s “Batman”) as the brother of Lucy Holmwood.

The Terence Fisher-directed film looks great thanks to sourcing from the Hammer and British Film Institute’s 2007 restoration effort right from the start when bright-red blood drips on Dracula’s coffin to Van Helsing’s bluish-purple coat and his deep-blue eyes and a detailed zodiac mosaic at the castle.

Although I’m a fan of the Gary Oldman-fueled “Dracula,” I’m just as smitten by Count Lee and his ferocious as well as grandeur interpretation of the horror icon.

By the way, purists looking for a dose of retro sci-fi horror should also purchase the latest high-definition release of the 1951 classic, “The Thing from Another World,” also only available in the Warner Archive Collection.

Best extras: Fans only get a badly beaten up copy of the trailer. Warner should have added an uncut version of the film that was available on Blu-ray to British audiences back in 2013.

It’s also too bad either the late Cushing or Lee were ever asked to do an optional commentary track.