We’ve all heard of Christmas in July but Halloween in September? That’s what you might think as DVD and Blu-ray releases this week pile on the horror movies, coinciding with the calendar’s Friday the 13th.
“Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1980-2009; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; 10 discs, $129.95, 12 movies, Blu-ray and digital versions, 3D version of “Friday the 13th: Part 3,” deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes; 3D glasses, “Camp Crystal Lake” iron-on patch, 40-page photo book, book-style packaging, collectible tin case). Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” started the “slasher” genre, but it was given a boost by “Halloween” in 1978 and then two years later, “Friday the 13th,” which deservedly garnered the “splatter” sub-genre label. (“A Nightmare on Elm Street” arrived four years later.)
The sequels nullify a plot twist at the end of the first “Friday the 13th” picture, taking them into what Roger Ebert called at the time “dead teenager movies,” and they’re all quite interchangeable, virtually the same film over and over again as hockey-masked Jason butchers teens beginning with the promiscuous and working his way up to the virtuous. Young Kevin Bacon shows up in the first film.
Oddly, a new documentary, “Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th, is not included here but is being released separately (Warner/Blu-ray/DVD combo, $29.95).
“Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell” (Warner Archive, 1974, R for violence, $18.95, audio commentary). The monster is a goofy looking hairy ape-man that shows up about halfway through this one, the last, and arguably the least, of the Hammer “Frankenstein” movies. But with Peter Cushing heading the cast and Hammer’s production values it’s worth a look for fans. (Available at the Warner Archive website.)
“The Best of the Worst” (Mill Creek, 1943-76, b/w and color, three discs, $9.98, 12 movies). More bad but mild horror movies, the kind of thing “Mystery Science Theater 3000” regularly rips into (and I think they’ve actually done most of these); young Jack Nicholson, middle-aged Bela Lugosi and aging Boris Karloff all show up. The titles tell all: “The Beast of Yucca Flats,” “Track of the Moon Beast,” “The Incredible Petrified World,” etc.
“American Horror Stories” (Mill Creek, 1959-80; R for violence, language, sex, nudity; $9.98, 12 movies). Half of these are R-rated ’70s pictures (“Don’t Look in the Basement,” Drive-in Massacre,” “Silent Night, Bloody Night”); the rest are familiar, before-ratings oldies (“House on Haunted Hill,” “A Bucket of Blood,” the original “Little Shop of Horrors”). Vincent Price, Jack Nicholson, Peter Cushing, Barbara Steele, Christopher Lee.
“Scanners II: The New Order”/“Scanners III: The Takeover” (Scream/Blu-ray, 1990/91, R for violence and sex, $26.99, Blu-ray and DVD versions). Sequels to David Cronenberg’s horror yarn about super-intelligent mind readers aren’t up to his vision but “New Order” is a fair continuation of the story of good scanners vs. bad scanners; “The Takeover” is pretty weak.
“Zombies Unbrained” (Mill Creek, 1932-84, b/w and color; R for violence, language; three discs, $9.98, 12 movies). Undead movies, ranging from Bela Lugosi in “White Zombie” (1932) to George Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) to a myriad of others, including the made-in-Salt Lake City “Carnival of Souls” (1962). Two are rated R; the rest are violent but relatively tame. Boris Karloff and Vincent Price are also here.
“Freakshow Cinema” (Mill Creek, 1991-2012, three discs, $9.98, 12 movies). These are more recent low-rent gorefests. None are rated but most could be R for violence, sex, nudity, language. The titles tell all: “Zombie Genocide: Legion of the Damned,” “By the Devil’s Hands: The 666 Killer,” “Order of One: Kung Fu Killing Spree,” etc.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com