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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Prey, Insidious: The Red Door, Saw, Halloween, Jack Ryan, Leprechaun, The Toxic Avenger and more


Not surprisingly, this week sees a LOT of horror-themed releases out this week as Halloween is soon upon us. Check out the full slate below!

Insidious: The Red Door

The Movie: The first Insidious was a big hit at the box office, and it was quickly followed by a sequel that featured the same cast, primarily Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson. Then Sony pumped out two more sequels that were actually prequels, with only a few of the supporting cast members in them. Not surprisingly, the box office grosses shrunk a little with each outing, but as a very cheap franchise to produce, they were still very profitable. Now the series returns to its roots, with a fifth film that is actually a follow-up to Insidious: Chapter 2, once again focusing on young Dalton Lambert (now a college freshman) and his father, Josh, who have the ability to astral project into The Further, the realm of dead spirits. In this chapter, which picks up nine years later, Josh and the kids were hypnotized after the events of the first two movies to forget all of the events that plagued them, but now those walls are starting to break down. Predictably jump-filled mayhem ensues. Similar to the first two films, Insidious: The Red Door is a minor thrill ride that is okay but far from great. Directed by Patrick Wilson, this go-around, the film has some creepy moments, but it’s honestly more of the same: quiet, quiet, quiet… bang! If you’re a fan of jump scares with very little substance, It works well in that context, but you’re not getting much more than that. The best part of the film is Dalton’s female college roommate Chris, played by Sinclair Daniel, who steals the show, although Ty Simpkins (who plays Dalton) is an exceptionally talented young man as well.
The Special Features: There are just two featurettes, a retrospective/making of and a director focus on Patrick Wilson.
The Wrap-Up: People who liked the first films in this franchise will probably like this one, but I personally wish that the films were a little bit better. I lost interest in the Insidious franchise about halfway through the first film, and this entry sadly didn’t do anything to change my mind.


The Movie: There are few people alive on this planet who are bigger fans off the Predator franchise than me. So when Prey was announced, I was beyond excited. I love the idea of going back and telling the story of a Predator hunter visiting Earth in the past, something we know they’ve done. This outing sees Naru, a female Comanche tribe member, going up against a Predator back in the early 1700s, with only the weapons and hunting skills she possesses as a Native American warrior. The film gets back to the roots of the series, with just a few characters and one bad-ass alien hunter, and its works quite well. It’s tense, exciting, has some great action, and it really feels like a Predator film again, which I’m thrilled about. I do have some minor issues with the film, like why is the predator creature design so different under the mask this time around? This is a well-established alien race with some minor variations, but it looks like something almost entirely different here. I know it’s a minor quibble, but it annoyed me. Still, overall it’s a great movie!
The 4K Audio/VideoPrey comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and it looks and sounds quite good. Colors are at a premium, with the lush early American landscape lush, lively, and verdant. Image detail is incredible, and the print is free of any dirt or debris, as you would expect from a new movie. The surround soundtrack brings the action to life, utilizing the rear speakers well to surround you with wildlife, laser bursts, and other ambient sounds. All in all, a terrific A/V presentation.
The Special Features: There’s a nice little collection of extra features here, including a making-of documentary, a live panel discussion with the cast and crew from an FYC event, a collection of deleted scenes (plus an alternate opening), and an audio commentary with cast and crew.
The Wrap-Up: After the debacle that was Shane Black’s The Predator (which I was very disappointed in), it was nice to see the Predator franchise regain a little prestige. Prey is a worthy entry and hopefully the gateway to more Predator films in the future. I just hope they fix the way the Predators look in future outings.

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: I Know What You Did Last Summer was the first major post-Scream horror movie, and while that might not resonate as much 25 years later, it was a really big deal at the time. When Scream came out in 1996, the slasher genre was all but dead, and Scream completely reinvigorated it. 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer was not only the first slasher film released after Scream, it was made in the wake of Scream’s success, so it brought a lot of the same qualities to the screen: a popular and pretty young cast, a dash of humor, and some good kills that weren’t overly gory. So, it’s no surprise that it was a big hit, and it’s no surprise that a sequel was quickly made. This time around, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr. are joined by pop star Brandy and Mekhi Phifer as the four friends win a trip to an island and find themselves stalked by seemingly the same killer as in the previous film. While it’s not as good as the original, it does manage to still be a fun slasher flick that follows the conceit of the first one pretty well. So, not a slasher classic, but a fun way to kill 90 minutes.
The 4K Audio/Video: The audiovisual upgrade is definitely noticeable, even if the film does show its age a little bit. Imagery is super clear with excellent shadow delineation (a must-have for a film where large portions of it occur in the dark), while colors are strong and clarity is terrific. The surround soundtrack won’t win any awards, but it does create a nice, tense atmosphere throughout the film.
The Special Features: You get a direct’s audio commentary, an interview with actor Muse Watson, a making-of featurette, a music video, and the trailer.
The Wrap-Up: Horror sequels in the 80s and 90s were notoriously just a series of diminishing returns, often devolving into utter garbage. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer doesn’t fall into that trap, which is notable since the first film didn’t really seem to leave room for a sequel (aside from an obvious jump scare bit at the very end). If you’re a fan of this franchise, this new 4K Ultra HD 25th Anniversary Edition is worth picking up.

NCIS Hawaii: Season Two

The Show: I’ve always found the NCIS franchise to be perfectly serviceable television. I’m not a die-hard fan, but they’re easy shows to watch; who doesn’t like watching an ensemble of capable actors solve a mystery from time to time? Now, maybe it’s because I spent a week in Hawaii last year on the exact island where this show is set, or maybe It’s actually a different vibe to this take on the franchise, but I’ve really enjoyed NCIS Hawaii so far. The show doesn’t veer from the traditional formula at all: a Naval Criminal Investigative Services Team tackles murders that are in some way related to the Naval armed forces, only this time it’s in Hawaii, a locale CBS doesn’t seem to want to relinquish its stranglehold on (see: Magnum P.I.Hawaii Five-O, etc.). Vanessa Lachey plays the head of the unit, which is a nice change of pace for her, and the remaining cast, while not made up of big names, is affable and gels nicely. As usual, we get a little bit of a glimpse into their personal lives each episode but the main focus is on the crimes and the investigations.
The Special Features: You get two bonus episodes of NCIS and NICS: Los Angeles that are crossovers with NCIS: Hawaii, then you get a making-of look at the crossover episodes, plus a collection of deleted scenes.
The Wrap-Up: At the end of the day, NCIS: Hawaii is nothing new at all, but I dig it for some reason definitely will watch more of this version of NCIS than I have of the other ones.

Jack Ryan: Season 3

The Movie: The hit Amazon Prime series returns to Blu-ray and DVD this week (for those of you who aren’t Prime subscribers.) Now, I am admittedly a huge fan of the Jack Ryan movies (The Hunt for Red October through The Sum of All Fears and into Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), but by and large I have to say that the whole world of Tom Clancy fiction generally isn’t my favorite genre. That said, as a fan of the Jack Ryan movies, I wanted to check it out, and I’ve watched enough to say that I like it, but I don’t love it. This show features John Krasinski as Jack Ryan, and he’s quite likable in the lead role, but there’s a lot of techno-wizardry, terrorism, and envelope-pushing as the show tries to be timely and gritty. It’s perfectly good television, and it’s extremely well made, I just couldn’t get all that excited about it. In Season 3, Ryan is once again on the trail of a rogue nuke, this time on the run himself after a botched operation It’s an eight-episode arc that is intense and should thrill fans of the franchise.
The Special Features: Sadly, not much, just a collection of deleted scenes.
The Wrap-Up: It looks like the upcoming fourth season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is going to be its last (according to the news I’ve seen coming from Amazon), so this new Blu-ray (or DVD) collection is a great pick-up for fans.

Saw 1-8: Steelbook Collection

The Movie: Just in time for Halloween, Lionsgate has released several new horror collections on Blu-ray that are all housed in Steelbook cases and are all currently Wal-Mart exclusives. I’m going to dig into them one at a time, but the next four titles you’ll see are all part of this series, and I’ll do my wrap up at the end. First up is the Saw Collection, which collects the first 8 Saw films just in time for the new Saw X in theaters. I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of this franchise. I like the first movie a lot, which is a tense psychological thriller about two men trapped and chained in the same room, with only one seeming way out: sawing off their own foot. While it is intense and has a few tough moments, it’s a real horror film and not just a goriest. The problem is that after that the series quickly devolved into the exact same movie over and over again, where Jigsaw basically traps a bunch of people in horrible death traps, and we have to watch them all die in increasingly gruesome ways one after the other. Blech. I like a little substance in my horror movies, sorry.
The Special Features: I guess 8 movies for a low price was enough, because aside from digital copies, there are no extra features in this set.

Halloween I & II: Steelbook Collection

The Movie: I know it’s a rights issues and that’s why the only Halloween movies collected here are the two Rob Zombie films, but it hurts me to see a beautiful Steelbook case go to waste on the two worst films in my favorite horror franchise of all time. Zombie’s first Halloween is at least mediocre, even if it’s overly gritty and grimy and gives us way more of Michael Meyers’s backstory than we need. But Halloween 2 is not just the worst film in the franchise, it’s literally one of the single worst movies I’ve ever seen. I just don’t love Rob Zombie as a filmmaker, and while I can appreciate the producers trying to reinvigorate the Halloween franchise, this was the wrong way to do it, in my opinion.
The Special Features: These two films carry over a lot of the extra features from their original releases, giving you audio commentaries, deleted scenes, bloopers, music videos, and making-of featurettes for both films.

Leprechaun Collection: Steelbook Collection

The Movie: Okay, the Leprechaun films are a case of “if you don’t know what you’re getting here, you shouldn’t be watching them.” Warwick Davis of Star Wars and Willow fame stars as the titular Leprechaun, who wants to protect his gold and will kill anyone who tries to take it from him in mischievous and malicious ways The first film stars a young Jennifer Aniston and is a lot of fun for a B movie. After that, its a mixed bag, but you do get so-bad-they’re-good entries like Leprechaun in SpaceLeprechaun in the Hood, and Leprechaun: Back 2 The Hood. I mean, if you can’t have fun with movies like those, what are you even watching these for? There are eight total movies in this collection, which is pretty good bang for your buck.
The Special Features: Once again, you get eight films but no extra features.

Rob Zombie’s Firefly Trilogy: Steelbook Collection

The Movie: As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a huge fan of Rob Zombie movies, and this collection is comprised of his three non-Halloween films. So you get The House of 1000 CorpsesThe Devil’s Rejects, and 3 from Hell. Now, look, I know The House of 1000 Corpses has its fans, and if you’re one of them, that’s fine. But I could not have hated this film more. Not only does it take a lot of inspiration from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (dirty psycho hillbillies slaughtering innocent people in gruesome ways), but it ups the depravity level by about a thousand. The film is dark, disturbing, disgusting, and unpleasant in every way; legit, it’s the first time that I can remember a movie making me physically nauseous. And as it goes on, it gets more and more nonsensical from a narrative point of view, abandoning logic or realism in favor of gore and brutality. The Devil’s Rejects has an amazing first 20 minutes, wherein Zombie actually made an amazing action movie, and then he turned it into more horror that I found distasteful. 3 From Hell is more of the same, unfortunately. Let’s just say that I am not Zombie’s target audience and move on.
The Special Features: Each of the three films includes an audio commentary with Rob Zombie (and sometimes others), plus four featurettes on House of 1000 Corpses, deleted scenes on The Devil’s Rejects, and a four-part making-of documentary on 3 From Hell.
The Wrap-Up: These new Steelbook horror collections are great value for the money and the cases are all very cool looking. The Saw and Leprechaun collections give you 8 films for a suggested retail price of $49.99, while the two Rob Zombie offerings are each $34.99. For multiple-film steelbooks, that’s not bad at all. Each set also give you all of the movies included as a digital copy, which is a huge bonus. Even though I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the franchises they chose to include, a lot of horror fans will be very excited to have them.

The Toxic Avenger Collection (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: Of all of Lloyd Kaufman’s Z-grade Troma Films, The Toxic Avenger series is easily the most famous. And while I’ve always been familiar with them, I never actually sat down to watch them until this new 4K Ultra HD box set collection came across my desk. Featuring all four Toxic Avenger movies (The Toxic AvengerThe Toxic Avenger Part IIThe Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie, and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV) on both 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray, this box set represents the pinnacle of low budget filmmaking. Now, I hate to be that guy, because I can totally appreciate B-movie filmmaking), but it turns out I’m not really a fab of these movies. Not because of the low budgets, but the mean-spirited nature of them, the bad acting, the terrible scripts… there’s so-bad-it’s-good movie, and then there’s just the so-bad-it’s-bad movie, and the Toxic Avenger movies are the latter.
The 4K Audio/Video: These four movies probably have a combined budget of about twelve dollars, so it’s not like this is a sparkling example of the epitome of high definition. Image clarity is relatively goos and colors pop n some scenes, but the low-budget nature of the films reigns supreme. There is a lot of print damage in the form of nicks and scratches and dust and debris, again probably due to the original negatives being cheaply made and /or stored. The monaural soundtrack is pretty much what you’d expect, but there’s no issues with hearing dialogue or music, so no complaints there.
The Special Features: You get new introductions from Lloyd Kaufman on each film, plus two audio commentaries for each film. There are also interviews with cast and crew on most o fate disc, and an additional ten or so making-of and tribute featurettes. There’s also a mockumentary, behind the scenes footage, photo galleries, multiple short films, and even a postcard within the box.
The Wrap-Up: I couldn’t get in to the Toxic Avengers movies, but if you are a fan of the films, this is a terrific box set, with 8 discs, four movies (on two formats each) and a ton of extra features, it’s a treasure trove for fans.

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