video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEKNIGHT OF THE CREEPS (SonyPictures Home Entertainment): This freewheeling,cult-friendly gem was one of theunsung sci-fi/horror classics of the ’80s —a fond throwback to the drive-in B-movieera (replete with nods and in-jokes) thatnever quite found its audience. Now, writerFred Dekker’s 1986 directorial debut bowson DVD and Blu-ray in a delightful specialedition that includes audio commentaries,retrospective documentaries and more.An all-American, small-town collegecampus is the setting of these weird andwild proceedings — which involve adecades-old axe murder, some meanspiritedfreshman hazing involving acryogenically frozen corpse and alienslugs which have a nasty habit of gestatingwithin their (human) hosts after enteringthe victim’s mouth. In this case, headsdon’t roll — they explode.Jason Lively and Steve Marshall playthe bumbling freshmen who unwittinglyunleash the threat upon the campus and thenmust destroy it, assisted by pretty sororitygirl Jill Whitlow and gruff homicide copTom Atkins (in a career performance),whose past ties directly into the grislygoings-on. Night of the Creeps can be takenas a straight shocker or as a sly riff on thegenre, and works just fine either way. It’sa true winner that should finally find themainstream following it has deserved formore than 20 years. Like the man says,“Thrill me.” It does. Rated R. ***’½ALSO ON DVD’ “CAGNEY & LACEY”: THEMENOPAUSE YEARS (S’MoreEntertainment): A collection of all fourmade-for-TV films reuniting Sharon Glessand Tyne Daly, reprising their Emmywinningseries roles as New York detectivesChris Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey:“Cagney & Lacey: The Return” (1994),“Cagney & Lacey: Together Again” and“Cagney & Lacey: The View Through theGlass Ceiling” (both 1995) and “Cagney& Lacey: True Convictions” (1996). JohnKarlen also returns as Mary Beth’s husband,Harvey. The boxed set retails for $39.95 and“C&L: The Return” is also available as asingle disc ($12.95 retail).“CRASH”: THE COMPLETEFIRST SEASON (Starz Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment): DennisHopper heads an ensemble cast in thisStarz Entertainment series dramatizingthe randomly intersecting lives of LosAngelinos, based on the Oscar-winning2004 film. All 13 episodes from the 2008-’09 season are included in this four-discset, which retails for $59.97 (DVD) or$79.97 (Blu-ray).DRAG ME TO HELL (UniversalStudios Home Entertainment): Sam Raimirevisits his horror roots with this fast-paced,entertaining shocker in which poor AlisonLohman finds herself the victim of a cursethat will see her soul damned to hell inthree days’ time — and the clock is ticking.Rated PG-13 (also available in an unrateddirector’s cut). ***’ GRACE (Anchor Bay Entertainment):Writer/director Paul Solet’s award-winningfeature debut stars Jordan Ladd as a youngwidow whose newborn baby smells odd,attracts flies, and has a taste for blood.(Insert your own “dead baby” joke here.)Clearly inspired by Polanski’s Repulsionwith a little Rosemary’s Baby thrown in, thisimperfect but ambitious shocker definitelyboasts its share of chilling, queasy moments.Solet is a talent to watch. Rated R. **’½THE HAUNTED WORLD OFEL SUPERBEASTO (Anchor BayEntertainment): Rob Zombie served asdirector, executive producer and storywriter for this animated adaptation of hisunderground comic book, featuring thevoice of screenwriter Tom Papa as the titlecharacter, a maniacal, masked ex-wrestlerwho does battle with the forces of evil, suchas the diabolical Dr. Satan (voice by PaulGiamatti). This raunchy but fast-movinglittle number is about as much for kids asFritz the Cat was, but its many in-jokesshould appeal to the Zombie faithful. Otherfamiliar voices include those of RosarioDawson, Laraine Newman, Danny Trejo,Geoffrey Lewis, Ken Foree, Dee Wallace,Sid Haig and, of course, Zombie’s wifeSheri Moon Zombie. The original songs byHard ‘n Phirm are a highlight. Rated R. **’½“HEROES”: SEASON 3 (UniversalStudios Home Entertainment): The battlebetween good and evil continues in all 25episodes from the 2008-’09 season of thepopular, award-winning prime-time NBCTVfantasy series whose ensemble castincludes Hayden Panettiere, Adrian Pasdar,Masi Oka, Milo Ventimiglia and JackColeman. This six-DVD boxed set retailsfor $59.98 (DVD) or $79.98 (Blu-ray).HOWARD THE DUCK (UniversalStudios Home Entertainment): A “specialedition” of the colossally catastrophic 1986sci-fi comedy based on the Marvel Comicscharacter, a denizen of “DuckLand” who iswhisked to our world and forced to save itfrom… something. The human charactersare played by the likes of Lea Thompson,Tim Robbins and Jeffrey Jones, while ChipZien supplies the voice of Howard. It’s hardto believe this film got a PG rating, andharder (maybe) to believe it was even made.The executive producer was George Lucas.The screenwriters were Gloria Katz andWillard Huyck, the latter also directing…and he hasn’t directed a film since. A film ofmany points — all of them low. No stars.LIES AND ILLUSIONS (Anchor BayEntertainment): Pseudo-Hitchcockian spyjinkswith Christian Slater as a self-helpauthor swept up in the search for a suitcaseof stolen gems. Christa Campbell andSarah Ann Schultz are the ladies in Slater’slife, neither what they appear, and CubaGooding Jr. has fun as the bad guy. The(better) second half adopts a light-heartedtone, and is capped off by a pretty good carchase. Rated R. **’ SHADOWHEART (Anchor BayEntertainment): Producer and story writerJustin Ament plays a hard-bitten CivilWar veteran and bounty hunter bent onavenging the death of his preacher father(William Sadler) years before at the handsof a sadistic land baron (Angus Macfadyen)in a New Mexico town. This sincere,low-budget Western could have done withtighter pacing, but a familiar supporting cast(Charles Napier, Courtney Gains, RanceHoward, Ross Hagen and Daniel Baldwin)and Macfadyen’s scenery-chewing turnmake it a passable diversion for Westernfans. Director/editor/screenwriter DeanAlioto also co-stars. Rated PG-13. **THE SHORTCUT (Anchor BayEntertainment): Scary Madison Productions,an offshoot of Adam Sandler’s HappyMadison Productions, produced thislow-budget chiller (co-written bySandler’s brother Scott) about a groupof teenagers who investigate the legendof a neighborhood shortcut… and soonwish they hadn’t. Better-made and betteractedthan the standard scare fare, with aneat twist at the end and an effective turnby Raymond J. Barry as the mysteriousneighbor who lives near the shortcut. Afew slow patches but a big improvementfor Nicholaus Goossen, who previouslydirected the atrocious Grandma’s Boy forHappy Madison. Rated PG-13. **’½STRIKE (Anchor Bay Entertainment):Ross Patterson wrote and stars in thispredictable sports comedy about aslacker who finds fame and fortune onthe professional bowling circuit, until hissuccess alienates both his girlfriend (topbilledTara Reid) and his best bud (ClayneCrawford). Some 15 producers are credited,including Reid and her real-life brother,first-time director Tommy Reid. A lot offamiliar faces turn up: Ray Wise, VinnieJones, Vincent Pastore, Rachel Hunter,Robyn Lively, John DiMaggio and RobertCarradine. A few laughs, but this is noKingpin. Even the end-credit outtakes aredull. Originally titled 7-10 Split. *’½TERROR PACK (Palisades Tartan):A three-DVD boxed set ($39.99 retail)of horror thrillers from abroad: VincentCassel stars in Sheitan (France); Frank vanGeloven and and Edwin Visser co-wroteand co-directed Slaughter Night (Denmark);Koji Shiraishi co-wrote and directedCarved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman (Japan).Each film is presented in its native languagewith subtitles, and each DVD comes withspecial features.UFC 100: MAKING HISTORY (AnchorBay Entertainment): Brock Lesnar battlesFrank Mir, and Georges “Rush” St-Pierretakes on Thiago “Pitbull” Alves in this sportsdocumentary that chronicles the mixedmartial-arts Ultimate Fighting Championship.The special-edition DVD retails for $19.97and the Blu-ray for $29.97.THE WES CRAVEN HORRORCOLLECTION (Universal Studios HomeEntertainment): A self-explanatory DVDtriple feature ($19.95 retail): Bill Pullman,Cathy Tyson, Zakes Mokae and the muchmissedPaul Winfield star in Craven’seffective 1987 adaptation of Wade Davis’non-fiction book The Serpent and theRainbow (***); Michael Murphy headsthe cast of Craven’s loopy but likable 1989opus Shocker (**’½), which I saw with aparticularly animated opening-night crowd(“Get real!”) in a downtown Philadelphiatheater during my college daze; andCraven’s ambitious but muddled 1991thriller The People Under the Stairs (*’½).All three films are, appropriately enough,rated R.WILLIAM CASTLE FILM COLLECTION(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment):Producer William Castle (1914-1977) wasrenowned for his shameless but inventiveshowmanship in a career strewn with lurid,sometimes effective and often profitable,low-budget chillers and thrillers, many ofwhich featured gimmicks dreamed up byCastle himself. This collection boasts eight ofCastle’s classics, all of which he also directed:Vincent Price stars in The Tingler (1959);13 Ghosts (1960) was filmed in the processof “Illusion-O” and features Martin Milnerand Margaret Hamilton; Glenn Corbett andPatricia Breslin star in Homicidal (1961); GuyRolfe essays the title role of Mr. Sardonicus(1962); Tom Poston and Jim Backus star in thelight-hearted Zotz! (also ’62); 13 FrightenedGirls (1963) stars Murray Hamilton (not asone of the girls, of course); Poston returns forthe 1963 version of The Old Dark House,based on JB Priestley’s classic novel andco-produced with Britain’s Hammer Studios;and Joan Crawford and Diane Baker starin Strait-Jacket (1964), written by RobertBloch. This boxed set, which retails for$80.95, includes retrospective shorts, audiocommentaries (featuring filmmaker JeffreySchwarz and Castle’s daughter, producer TerryCastle), bonus episodes of the “Ghost Story”anthology TV series produced by Castle,Schwarz’ award-winning 2007 documentaryfeature Spine Tingler!: The William CastleStory, and much more.