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by Mark Burger

 marksburger@yahoo.com

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: HALLOWEEN (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

The perfect holiday movie. Fifteen years after murdering his sister Judith, Michael Myers escapes from an asylum and returns home to Haddonfield, Ill. to continue his reign of terror on Halloween night. Donald Pleasence plays Dr. Loomis, doggedly pursuing his fugitive patient. Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis and PJ Soles play the all-American teenaged girls stalked by the masked maniac.From this simple premise, John Carpenter’s 1978 classic weaves its unbelievably suspenseful magic. Although it spawned a spate of knock-offs and essentially the slasher genre, Halloween is noteworthy for its restraint and control, to say nothing of its power. Everything works: Carpenter’s unforgettable score, Dean Cundey’s cinematography, the naturalistic performances of its cast, the small-town atmosphere. There’s nothing that could be improved upon. (Many have tried … with mostly varying degrees of failure.)The new 35 th anniversary edition Blu-ray, which retails for $34.95, includes documentaries and a new audio commentary with Carpenter and Curtis. Rated R.For an exclusive interview with Halloween star PJ Soles, turn to Page 43.

THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO’S POND (Anchor Bay Entertainment): College friends turn on each other after discovering an ancient, cursed board game hidden in the cellar of their vacation house — at which point the expected bloodbath ensues. The cast tries: Danielle Harris, James Duval, Mircea Monroe, Electra and Elise Avellan, with executive producer Robert Patrick. Rated R.

THE COLONY (Image Entertainment): Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton and Kevin Zegers lend class to writer/director Jeff Renfroe’s fast-moving sci-fi saga, set in a post-apocalyptic ice age where survivors battle plague-riddled cannibals. Nice work by cinematographer Pierre Gill.

THE DEMENTED (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Sarah Butler, Kayla Ewell and Michael Welch star in writer/director Christopher Roosevelt’s well-made but utterly routine shocker about six college friends on a weekend getaway menaced by rabid ravagers. The trick ending does neither the movie nor the audience any favors. Rated R.

EXCISION (Anchor Bay Entertainment): An unrecognizable AnnaLynne McCord gives the performance of her career as a teen outcast in writer/director Richard Bates Jr.’s award-winning feature debut, an intense, razor-sharp comedy expanded from his 2008 short. Not for all tastes but a surefire cult classic, with Traci Lords, Roger Bart, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin, Ariel Winter, Ray Wise and John Waters (as a therapist!) lending first-rate support.

EXPLODING SUN (Sonar Entertainment/ Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment): Selfexplanatory sci-fi saga (originally broadcast on ReelzChannel) as Julia Ormond, David James Elliott and Anthony Lemke try to save Earth. The DVD retails for $19.97, the Blu-ray for $29.95.

“FRANK RIVA”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (MHz Networks): International superstar Alain Delon made the leap to television in the title role of a veteran cop who comes out of a 25-year retirement to find his brother’s killers and encounters his old enemies along the way. This DVD collection ($39.99 retail) includes all six feature-length episodes of the French miniseries that ran 2003-04. In French with English subtitles.

FRIGHT NIGHT 2: NEW BLOOD (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Not so much a sequel as another remake, this slick entry stars Jaime Murray as an art historian in Rumania who is actually the notorious countess Elisabeth Bathory. After a (very) slow start, director Eduardo Rodriguez hits the accelerator and catapults the action headlong toward its climax (a literal bloodbath). Will Payne, Sacha Parkinson, Chris Waller and Sean Power are among those in line to be vampirized. Rated R (also available in an unrated version).

THE HALLOWEEN STORIES COLLEC- TION, VOLUME 2 (Scholastic Storybook Treasures): A three-DVD collection ($24.95 retail) featuring 14 scary tales for children, including The Day of the Dead (not to be confused with George A. Romero’s film!), Dem Bones and Teeny- Tiny and the Witch-Woman.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX (DC Entertainment/Warner Home Video): Time travel is the added wrinkle in this all-new, animated feature (rated PG-13) based on the popular DC Comics series, with a star-studded voiceover cast including Justin Chambers (as the Flash), C. Thomas Howell, Danny Huston, Kevin McKidd, Nathan Fillion (as Green Lantern), Cary Elwes (as Aquaman), Dana Delany (as Lois Lane), Sam Daly (as Superman) and Kevin Conroy (as Batman). The DVD retails for $19.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $24.98.

KEVIN HART: LET ME EXPLAIN (Summit Entertainment/LionsGate): Funnyman Kevin Hart takes the stage at Madison Square Garden in this R-rated stand-up comedy concert, available on DVD ($21.98 retail) or a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.99 retail).

MANIAC (IFC Films/MPI Media Group): Elijah Wood assumes Joe Spinell’s signature role in director Franck Khalfoun’s remake of William Lustig’s infamous 1980 shocker, as a sadistic serial killer obsessed with photographer Nora Arnezeder — which naturally, puts her in danger. More stylish than its predecessor — although “respectful” to the original, as it were — with the setting changed from New York to Los Angeles. The constant use Wood’s point-of-view is a neat but often-uncomfortable touch (no doubt intentionally). Definitely not for all tastes, but it frequently possesses a raw impact.

MOTHER’S DAY (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A special-edition DVD ($19.98 retail) of Charles Kaufman’s low-budget 1980 shocker starring Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce and Tiana Pierce as college roomates whose backpacking reunion in the wilds of New Jersey turns bloody when they encounter two sadistic rubes (Holden McGuire and Billy Ray McQuade) and their monstrous mother (Rose Ross). Originally produced by Troma (run by Kaufman’s brother Lloyd), the satirical elements of the story don’t outweigh the sheer unpleasantness of the it. Still, this has its devotees, including filmmaker Darren Lyn Bousman, who made the very different but not-muchbetter 2009 remake.

STATE OF EMERGENCY (Image Entertainment): A chemical-plant disaster gives rise to the living dead in this low-budget but fast-paced shocker from editor/composer/ screenwriter/director Turner Clay. The CGI effects are on the cheap side, but at least it keeps moving. A tight ensemble cast includes Jay Hayden, Kathryn Todd, Andy Stahl, Tori White and Scott Lilly.

STORY OF A WHITE COAT: INDECENT ACTS (Impulse Pictures): Yet another in the seemingly endless series of softcore sex comedies produced by Japan’s venerable Nikkatsu Studios, this one about a nurse (Mina Asami) mixed up in hospital hi-jinks. Running under an hour, it still feels endless. In Japanese with English subtitles.

WAR OF THE BUTTONS (The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay Entertainment): Laetitia Casta and Guillaume Canet star in director Christophe Barratier’s adaptation of Louis Pergaud’s classic novel La Guerre des boutons, set in occupied France during World War II, as two rival groups of children try to “capture” each others’ buttons but soon find themselves drawn into the actual conflict. In French with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.98. Rated PG-13.

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.

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