Tomorrow night is Halloween, and for a film geek it's a time to sit at home and re-watch some genre favorites. Here are a few new releases that are worth trick or treating for, perfect for that night of candy dispensation to the neighborhood hooligans.
2. "Night of the Creeps" (Sony, DVD and Blu-ray, $19.95 and $24.95) This 1986 B-movie throwback from director Fred Dekker, would end up being one of only a handful of films he'd ever direct. (He's also responsible for the charming "Monster Squad," released a year later, and the largely forgettable "RoboCop 3.") While "Night of the Creeps" hasn't aged particularly well (veteran character actor Tom Atkins, when facing down a zombie, yells "It's Miller Time!") and the young actors are sometimes painful to watch, "Creeps'" goofy, go-for-broke sentiment is still noteworthy, commendable, and loads of squishy fun. Where else can you find space aliens, an axe murderer, zombies, parasitic slugs, and naked sorority girls in the same movie? Actually, this is starting to sound like a William Castle movie…
3. "Trick R Treat" (Warner Bros., DVD and Blu-ray, $27.98 and $35.99) Warner Bros. produced this anthology horror yarn from "Superman Returns" co-writer Mike Dougherty back in 2007. It sat on a shelf, collecting dust, occasionally rolled out for the odd screening. (We saw it last Halloween at a free Fangoria screening, crammed into the now-defunct Two Boots theatre.) This is odd because, well, the movie (a sort of post-modern cross between George Romero's "Creepshow" and Paul Haggis' "Crash") is really, really good. Also, just think about all the crappy horror movies Warner Bros. has released in the years since "Trick R Treat's" inception - stuff like "The Reaping" and "Whiteout" were really considered to have more precedence than this? With a cast of great character actors (among them Dylan Baker, Leslie Bibb, a pre-"True Blood" Anna Paquin, and Brian Cox doing an impression of John Carpenter), buckets of blood, and a witty, inventive script, this is a future class that was unfairly buried alive.
4. "Happy Birthday to Me" (Anchor Bay, DVD only, $14.95) This low-grade slasher movie is notable for a couple of reasons, the most obvious being that it was directed by legendary genre filmmaker J. Lee Thompson, who had previously directed "The Guns of Navarrone" (which got him an Oscar nod) and "Cape Fear" and two of the later "Planet of the Apes" sequels. Thompson had a hardboiled approach that he brought to this film, a kind of no-nonsense style that aided the film dramatically. The other thing about the film is the brutality of the murders. While most slashers of the time had a wink and a nod, these were straight-up grisly (albeit witty and inventive just the same). This new disc from Anchor Bay represents a coup for fans of this underappreciated chiller — the original soundtrack has been reinstated, after being replaced in an early Columbia DVD. Also, the great original poster is back for the DVD cover.
5. The Hannibal Lecter Collection (MGM, DVD and Blu-ray, $29.98 and $69.98) This is a nice little collection, comprised of Michael Mann's "Manhunter," Jonathan Demme's "Silence of the Lambs," and Ridley Scott's "Hannibal." (Mercifully, "Hannibal Rising" is nowhere to be found.) "Silence of the Lambs" is the only film that really holds up completely, and with the Blu-ray it's like watching the movie for the first time. "Manhunter" and "Hannibal" offer sporadic joys, but serve as a reminder of the evolution of filmmakers - with "Manhunter," Mann was at the top of his game, while "Hannibal" is like watching a formerly great athlete player sporting a flabby paunch. Still, it's better than "American Gangster."
Also out - this summer, Criterion put out Roman Polanski's great horror treat "Repulsion," which is recommended Halloween viewing; while reactions differ at The Playlist, the Blu-ray presentation of Sam Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell" is highly recommended — it'll give your surround sound setup a workout for sure; also, the not-that-bad evil kid movie "Orphan" (released in theaters this past summer) has made for a fine DVD/Blu-ray release, complete with a bonus feature about the history of evil children movies. — Drew Taylor