DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE EXORCIST (Warner Home Video)
William Friedkin’s groundbreaking 1973 adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s bestseller is considered by many to be the scariest movie ever made — and time has diminished none of its impact.
Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) is a young girl with a big problem. Her actress mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn), having exhausted all medical options regarding Regan’s inexplicable behavior, becomes convinced she’s possessed and consults troubled young Jesuit priest Damien Karras (Jason Miller), who in turn contacts the title character, Father Merrin (Max von Sydow).
A fascinating, relevant and even timeless meditation on good and evil, the story is conveyed in shockingly visceral terms and steeped in a contemporary setting, lending it a credibility uncommon in the genre (then or now). The special effects remain startling, and a superb cast includes Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran (in his final role) and Mercedes McCambridge, whose contribution as the voice of the demon cannot be underestimated.
In addition to kicking off a spate of Satanic shockers (Beyond the Door, The Omen, et al), The Exorcist won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay (Blatty) and Best Sound, with additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Burstyn), Best Supporting Actor (Miller), Best Supporting Actress (Blair), Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration.
The new 40 th anniversay Blu-ray edition ($49.99 retail) includes both the original cut and the extended director’s cut (released to theaters in 2000), plus a myriad of special features. Rated R.
“AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASY- LUM” — THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A collection of all 13 (appropriate!) episodes from the 2012-’13 season of the acclaimed FX Network series, with an different storyline and setting than in the first season, but with some of the same cast. The ensemble includes Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Joseph Fiennes, Chloe Sevigny, Sarah Paulson. Frances Conroy, Lily Rabe, Evan Peters and James Cromwell, who won the Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie. Also a win for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or Special, with an additional 15 nominations including Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Lead Actress (Lange), Outstanding Supporting Actor (Quinto) and Outstanding Supporting Actress (Paulson) in a Miniseries or Movie. The DVD retails for $49.98, the Blu-ray for $59.99.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR TRIL- OGY (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A three-disc Blu-ray “deluxe collector’s edition” ($69.97 retail) of the original big-screen shockers based or inspired by Jay Anson’s bestseller: 1979’s The Amityville Horror (rated R), which earned an Oscar nomination for Lalo Schifrin’s superb score, 1982’s Amityville II: The Possession (rated R), and 1983’s Amityville 3-D (rated PG).
ANTIVIRAL (IFC Midnight): Celebrity obsession takes on a whole new biological dimension in this futuristic psycho-thriller starring Caleb Landry Jones as a “broker” who sells celebrity viruses that he cultivates within himself. Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg’s award-winning debut feature certainly echoes the work of his father David, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sarah Gadon, Wendy Crewson, Sheila McCarthy, Nicholas Campbell (who appeared in David’s films) and Malcolm McDowell (whose presence here seems apt!) co-star. Darkly satirical, starkly clinical, and not without its queasy moments.
CHILLING VISIONS: 5 SENSE OF FEAR (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Selfexplanatory horror anthology with each segment from different directors: Smell (Nick Everhart), See (actor Miko Hughes’ directorial debut), Touch (Emily Hagins), Taste (Eric England) and Listen (Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton). The DVD retails for $14.93, the Blu-ray for $19.97.
THE CONJURING (Warner Home Video): Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga star as reallife parapsychologists Ed and Lorraine Warren in James Wan’s effective chiller, called to aid a couple (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) whose family has just moved into a haunted house. Sincere performances lend believability, and Wan delivers some impressive scares. Good spooky stuff. Rated R.
CREEP VAN (Inception Media Group): Gory, good-humored shocker about a serial killer who stalks victims in a van rigged with lethal booby-traps. Brian Kolodziej plays the hapless hero, with Amy Wehrell, Gerald Emerick, Collin Bernsen and Lloyd Kaufman, founder of Troma Films, where director Scott Mckinlay started. Good score by Dennis Dreith. A pleasant surprise for horror fans.
HORROR STORIES (Artsploitation Films): Filmmakers Ji-Yeong Hong, Sun Kim, Gok Kim, Beom-sik Jeong, Dae-wung Lim and Kyu-Dong Min have joined forces for this self-explanatory Korean-language anthology, originally titled Moo-seo-woon I-ya-gi. The DVD retails for $29.95.
MY AMITYVILLE HORROR (IFC Films): Producer/director/editor Eric Walter’s fascinating documentary follows the life of Daniel Lutz, the oldest child of the family that moved into the infamous house at 112 Ocean Ave. on Long Island, then fled 28 days later claiming the house was haunted. A personal, often painful story that answers — but also raises — a lot of questions. Herman Witkam’s original music is effective. A must for Amityville aficionados.
“PRIMEVAL NEW WORLD”: THE COM- PLETE SERIES (E1 Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the 2012-’13 (and only) season of the Syfy fantasy series, in which North America is threatened by the inexplicable appearance of prehistoric creatures thought to be extinct. Spun off from a popular British series, the regular cast included Niall Matter, Sara Canning, Miranda Frigon and Amanda Crew. The DVD boxed set retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $39.98.
RESOLUTION (Tribeca Film/Cinedigm): Peter Cilella tries to help friend Vinny Curran kick a drug addiction in a cabin in the woods… and then strange things begin happening. This award-winning thriller, co-directed by writer/producer Justin Benson and cinematographer Aaron Scott Moorhead (both of whom appear) never follows through on its potential and the dialogue feels mostly improvised (not in a good way). Nice turn by Bill Oberst Jr. as an eccentric scientist.
SILENT BUT DEADLY (Inception Media Group): Jason Mewes headlines this botched black comedy (with cheesy CGI effects) as a loon who lands a gig with filmmakers shooting a low-budget film, then goes on a rampage when his beloved goat ends up as the crew’s lunch. Leading lady Kim Poirier is a cutie, but William Sadler (as Mewes’ nasty dad) exits early.
SNUFF (Blue Underground): Notorious bargain-basement trash in which Mansonlike cult leader Enrique Larratelli and his female followers stalk Hollywood actress Mirtha Massa while she’s on location in South America. Much of the footage was taken from an unreleased — and pretty unwatchable — 1971 shocker called The Slaughter, then re-dubbed and re-edited with the notorious ending in which a female crew member is supposedly murdered on camera. (It’s obvious she isn’t, by the way.) Needless to say, the resulting controversy yielded big box-office in 1976 — and beyond. A triumph of marketing and a tragedy of moviemaking, it might be unintentionally funny if it weren’t so boring. Originally rated X with no onscreen credits whatsoever (adding to the infamy). No stars.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.