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by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK

PUMPKINHEAD (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A 20 th -anniversary collector’s edition of makeup maestro Stan Winston’s 1988 directorial debut, this is as good a horror flick as any to get the Halloween season off to a properly spooky start. Reliable character actor and genre icon Lance Henriksen enjoys a topbilled role as Ed Harley, a rural shopkeeper whose world comes undone when his young son is accidentally killed by a group of (predictably) thoughtless teens on a mindless motorcycle excursion. Consumed with vendetta, Ed calls forth the title demon the exact revenge — which it most certainly does, although not without some fearful side consequences for old Ed. You can pretty much guess the rest, although this atmospheric chiller is certainly a few cuts above the usual B-movie horror schlock. It was made with a little extra care and a little extra class, and it shows. Winston, who died earlier this year, only directed a few movies and this remains the best of them. This special-edition DVD boasts lots of special features for the Pumpkinhead faithful — and there is a cult following out there. Rated R. **’½

ALSO ON DVD

“ADAM-12” — SEASON TWO (Shout! Factory): White-bread Los Angeles police officers Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) and Jim Reed (Kent McCord) encounter crime — seemingly between every commercial break — in all 26 episodes from the 1969-’70 season of the long-running NBC-TV prime-time police drama spun off from “Dragnet” and produced by the inimitable Jack Webb. As dated as this series sometimes plays now, many of the incidents dramatized were taken from actual police cases. This boxed set retails for $34.99.

“THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET — CHRISTMAS WITH THE NELSONS” (Shout! Factory): Getting the jump on the yuletide season, this DVD collection, which retails for $9.99, features five Christmas-themed episodes from the long-running (14 seasons) prime-time ABC-TV sitcom depicting the “home lives” of entertainers Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, and their sons Ricky and David. (And, yes, Ricky sings.)

CHILD’S PLAY (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A 20 th -anniversary collector’s edition of co-screenwriter/ director Tom Holland’s 1988 box-office hit, in which a young boy (Alex Vincent) comes into possession of Chucky, a “Good Guy” doll that happens to be possessed by the spirit of a deranged killer (Brad Dourif). I never liked this film (at all), but it kicked off a five-film franchise — and all the sequels were better. Leading lady Catherine Hicks later married special-effects expert Kevin Yagher. Rated R. *

THE COOK (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A group of bubble-headed college sorority sisters is unaware that their new cook (Mark Hengst) is actually a murderous psychopath who makes meals out of his victims — literally! Guess who’s next on the menu… one by one? This spoof of ‘80s slasher movies is an uneven combination of sex, drugs, in-jokes and gore, but it’s not without its fun moments. **

DEAD AND BREAKFAST (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Writer/director Matthew Leutwyler’s zealously silly gore-fest sees a group of unwary friends stumbling across a small town that is soon overrun by the living dead. The tagline says: “It’s like a bad horror movie… only worse,” but it has its fun moments. An enthusiastic cast includes Ever Carradine and real-life uncle David, Jeremy Sisto, Oz Perkins (son of Anthony), Erik Palladino, Portia de Rossi and NCSA alumnus Diedrich Bader. Rated R (also available in an unrated version). **

“DINOSAUR KING: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS” (Shout! Factory): From SEGA, the makers of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, comes this selection of five episodes from the animated children’s series that airs Saturday mornings on 4KidsTV. This DVD retails for $14.99.

EXPECTING MERCY (MTI Home Video): Writer/director Dave Hansen’s feature debut stars Heather Prete and James Wagner (in his screen debut) as a couple on the lam who decide to hole up in a remote lodge, unaware that the owners (Carrie Hitchcock and Brian Mani, both in their screen debuts, too) are experiencing serious marital difficulties that are about to explode into violence and rage. This low-budget psycho-thriller is sometimes amateurishly acted, but it’s got a few twists and kills time easily enough. Rated R. **

“EVILMAKER” DOUBLE FEATURE (Fat Cat DVD/Tempe DVD): A twin bill of lowbudget shockers: Writer/producer/editor/ director John Bowker’s 2000 effort The Evilmaker (*’½), starring Stephanie Beaton, Felicia Pandolfi and Betty Griffith; and Bowker’s 2003 follow-up, Abomination: The Evilmaker II (*), in which Pandolfi and Griffith reprise their roles. Once was enough. Two is too many. This specialedition double-feature retails for $19.99.

FINAL EXAM (Deimos/BCI): A specialedition DVD of writer/director Jimmy Huston’s 1981 shocker, in which a college campus is stalked by a knife-wielding maniac (Timothy L Raynor). This could be a quintessential blueprint for the ‘80s slasher film, but it’s not bad as these things go — and leading lady Cecile Bagdadi (in her first and only film to date) is a cutie. Filmed in Shelby, NC. Rated R. **

HOW TO ROB A BANK (Genius Products): Nick Stahl and Erika Christensen find themselves locked together in a bank vault while, upstairs, Gavin Rossdale’s robbing the bank. Outside, the cops (led by Terry Crews) wait and worry. Oh yeah, and David Carradine’s on the phone. Twists and turns follow. Slick, slight and too smug for its own good — but first-time writer/ director Andrews Jenkins may be a talent to watch. **

JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A laudable and laugh-filled feature debut for director Jon Knautz, with Trevor Matthews (who also produced) as a disgruntled plumber who finds his true calling — like the title says — as a slayer of monsters, particularly the voracious beast that his nightschool professor (Robert Englund) has transformed into. A real Halloween treat for horror fans, with Englund in top form. See related story on Page. Rated R. ***

“MEDIUM” — THE FOURTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Patricia Arquette returns as suburban psychic Allison DuBois in all 16 episodes from the 2008 season of the award-winning, prime-time NBC-TV series created by Glenn Gordon Caron (also an executive producer) and inspired by the career of the actual DuBois, who serves as a technical consultant on the series. For her recurring role, Anjelica Huston earned an Emmy nomination as outstanding guest actress in a drama series. This boxed set retails for $61.99.

“MY FRIENDS TIGGER & POOH: HUNDRED-ACRE WOOD HAUNT” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): For Halloween chills more appropriate for children, here’s a collection of four Halloween-inspired segments of the popular Disney Channel animated series that reunites the classic characters from AA Milne’s series of children’s books. This DVD retails for $19.99, and includes a bonus Halloween episode of “Handy Manny.”

NEVER CRY WEREWOLF (Genius Products): In the tradition of Rear Window and Fright Night comes this amusing but derivative shocker in which a suburban teenager (Nina Dobrev) becomes convinced that her handsome new neighbor (Peter Stebbings) is a werewolf. Kevin Sorbo’s on hand as a TV star drawn into the proceedings. A little more originality and this might’ve been a winner. **

QUEEN SIZED (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A winsome, upbeat comedy (based on a true story) with Nikki Blonsky as an overweight high-school student who is nominated as homecoming queen as a prank, but then responds — and retaliates — by deciding to run for the honor. Nice work from Blonsky, Annie Potts (as her doting mom) and Lily Holleman (as her best friend). **’½

THE TALES OF HOFFMANN (The Criterion Collection): A special edition of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger’s acclaimed and award-winning 1951 adaptation of Jacques Offenbach’s classic opera inspired by the poetry of ETA Hoffmann. Moira Shearer and Robert Helpmann, who co-starred in Powell and Pressberger’s 1948 adaptation of The Red Shoes are reunited here. Academy Award nominations for best art direction/set decoration (color) and costume design. This DVD retails for $39.95.

VIRGIN TERRITORY (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Director/screenwriter David Leland’s adaptation of The Decameron is an unsuccessfully bawdy romp more in the tradition of Monty Python, Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones and Richard Lester’s Musketeers films than Boccaccio, but this falls flat much of the time, despite the addition of contemporary songs and jokes. In the leading roles, Hayden Christensen and Mischa Barton are both very pretty, but their comedic skills could use some sharpening. Tim Roth does his snarling-villain routine once again, while Anna Galiana, Rosalind Halstead and Kate Groombridge provide decorative window-dressing on the sidelines. Some sexy moments, but few funny ones. Despite being produced by Dino De Laurentiis and its high-profile cast, this bypassed theatrical release in the US. Rated R. *’½

THE VISITOR (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Richard Jenkins gives an award-worthy performance in writer/ director Tom McCarthy’s insightful, inspired and wonderfully well-acted drama about a widowed college professor who befriends a young couple (Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira) who have unwittingly, illegally sublet his apartment in Manhattan. This ranks as one of the best films of 2008 thus far. It’s that good. Rated PG-13. ***’½

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.

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