Laserblast 10/5/10: Splice, The Exorcist, Beauty & The Beast


Click to purchase
Click to purchase

Tuesday, October 5 is overflowing with horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles of all shapes and sizes arriving on home video in various formats: DVD, Blu-ray, and iTunes downloads. The best of the new releases is SPLICE, which arrives in two versions, DVD and Blu-ray. When it hit theatres earlier this year, Vincenzo Natali’s sci-fi horror opus was a bit misrepresented by its advertising campaign, which suggested a SPECIES-type monster movie. Instead, audiences got a thoughtful science fiction film with an overlay of dark satire.
Also out this week is A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the unnecessary (and unnecessarily dull) remake of writer-director Wes Craven’s 1984 classic. The new version is slickly made but typically soulless. Somewhat less typically, it is also almost entirely devoid of shocks and suspense. Give this one a pass.
click to purchase
click to purchase

This is one of those rare weeks when classic titles are overwhelming new releases, thanks to some deluxe editions that surpass and eclipse previous home video versions. Horror fans disappointed by the ELM STREET remake can take solace in Warner Brothers Home Video release a two-disc Blu-ray of THE EXORCIST (1973), which includes the original theatrical cut and the so-called “Extended Director’s Cut,” plus three new documentaries. The film is also being made available for download via iTunes for the first time. The extended cut is just a new name for the 2000 theatrical re-issue of the film, which at the time was dubbed “The Version You ‘ve Never Seen” – a sobriquet that hardly makes sense ten years later. Even if (like me) you have previously purchased both versions of the film on DVD (including the excellent 25th anniversary edition), you will find much worth viewing on this disc, thanks to previously unreleased behind-the-scenes footage that provides an amazing glimpse at the making of this horror classic.
Click to purchase
Click to purchase

If your tastes run more toward fairy tale fantasy, you are in luck: Walt Disney Home Video is releasing a 3-disc Diamond Edition of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, their 1991 Oscar-nominated blockbuster, which has been unavailable in any form since 2003. (This combo pack will be followed seven weeks later by a 2-Disc standard definition DVD on November 23.) The 3-disc set includes one DVD and two Blu-rays. The DVD features an all-new digital restoration, three versions of the film, sing-along mode (with subtitles for the lyrics), and an audio commentary. The first Blu-ray disc includes the DVD bonus features and the three versions of the film (in high-def, of course), plus more extras, including previously unseen alternate opening and a deleted scene. The second Blu-ray disc offers the bonus features from the old Platinum Edition DVD, plus some new Blu-ray extras, including “Beyond Beauty – The Untold Stories,” “Enchanted Musical Challenge Game,” and “Bonjour, Who is This” – a game in which you use your phone to receive secret messages and guess players’ identities before they guess yours.
In a move no one could ever have expected, the abysmal TROLL 2 receives a Blu-ray release this week; the format seems altogether too refined by the cheezy little movie, which has gained some cult notoriety this year, thanks to the art house release of BEST WORST MOVIE, the documentary tracing the lives and reunion of some of the TROLL 2 cast members.
MGM Home Video offers the MGM Sci-Fi Movie Collection. Unfortunately, the company’s 1956 classic FORBIDDEN PLANET is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we get one  (WAR GAMES) and a bunch of forgettable duds (SOLAR BABIES, ALIEN FROM L.A. with Kathy Ireland, HACKERS with a  young Angelina Jolie film, SPACE CAMP, and a WAR GAMES sequel).
Apparently, bargain days have arrived this week, with several previous available titles re-released in two-packs: GROUNDHOG DAY and SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER, HANCOCK and GHOST RIDER, THE GRUDGE and SILENT HILL, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA and WOLF, FANTASTIC FOUR and X-MEN, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and I ROBOT, plus several others.
But wait, there’s more! Also on store shelves this week:

  • THE SECRET OF KELLS on DVD and Blu-ray
  • GRINDHOUSE two-disc collector’s edition on Blu-ray
  • DELGO on DVD and two-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo
  • THE EVIL/TWICE DEAD, a two-pack of Roger Corman Cult Classics
  • FINGERPRINTS on Blu-ray
  • THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS, a deluxe edition
  • SISTERS on Blu-ray (no not the Brian DePalma original but an unnecessary remake)

And the list goes on and on… All are available in the Cinefantastique Online Store. Click the links below to check them out, or go here.

Laserblast DVD & Blu-Ray: Day the Earth Stood Still, Bedtime Stories, 2010, Final Destination

This is one of those busy weeks when th, ere seem to be more science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies released on DVD and Blu-ray than you can count. Actually, there are not that many, but when new titles come out in three iterations (e.g., single-disc, double disc, and Blu-ray), the number of releases can seem overwhelming. Below we try to perform the valuable public service of separating the cream from the crop…
The Day the Earth Stood Still(Fox DVD & Blu-Ray)
Even though this presented a rare example of Keanu Reeves casting being spot-on, not many critics  felt all warm and fuzzy about Fox’s spectacle-sized update of Robert Wise’s classic science fiction film of cold war paranoia and religious symbolism. Cinefantastique Online even went so far as to trash it twice, once in a review by Steve Biodrowski and once in a review by Dan Persons (who complained of “brainless storytelling “). Par for the course these days, DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL arrives in three versions: a two-disc widescreen DVD, a three-disc widescreen DVD, and a three-disc Blu-ray set (thank god the HD-DVD format is gone, or there would be one or two of those, as well). One thing we especially like about the Blu-ray set is Fox’s decision to include Wise’s original film (also available separately) as the third Blu-Ray disc; in other words – it’s the best extra of 2009!
Bedtime Stories (Blu-ray & DVD)
This Adam Sandler film (about an uncle telling bedtime stories that come through) was a hit in theatres last year. It arrives on home video in three different versions: a single-disc DVD, a two-disc DVD (+Disneyfile); and a three-disc Blu-ray & DVD combo (including a digital copy). DVD bonus features include a blooper reel, deleted scenes, and two featurettes. The Blu-ray ports these over, adding BD-Live asthe only exclusive Blu-ray bonus feature. (NOTE: Amazon announced this title for last week; currently, they list a release date of April 5 for the Blu-ray and April 7 for the DVDs.)
2010: The Year We Make Contact(Warner Bros Blu-Ray)
What should have been the silliest sequel ever produced actually turned into a relatively interesting Sci-Fi think-piece in the hands of cinematographer-director Peter Hyams. In 2010(“The Year We Make Contact” is just a promotional title), Roy Scheider picks up the reigns of Dr. Heywood Floyd (following William Sylvester’s turn in Kubrick’s 2001), who has been made a scapegoat of sorts after the HAL incident and the deaths of the astronauts aboard the Discovery spacecraft. Without notable career prospects and with nuclear conflict between America and the U.S.S.R. seemingly drawing closer (remember, the movie may have taken place in 2010, but it was filmed in 1984), Floyd jumps at the chance to hitch a ride aboard a Russian ship to investigate what actually happened on Discovery’s mission. He’s joined by fellow Americans John Lithgow and Bob Balaban and Russian Helen Mirren before arriving at the derelict Discovery still in orbit around Jupiter. While in orbit, Balaban, the designer of the HAL 9000, manages to reactivate the long-dead supercomputer (still voiced by Douglas Rain, without whom the producers would probably have had to junk the idea of revisiting HAL at all) and Scheiderreceives a most unexpected visitation – Dave Bowman himself (a returning Keir Dullea).
Based on a novel by Arthur C Clarke, 2010 wisely dispenses with a visual or intellectual approach that might seem to echo Kubrick’s style in 2001, and instead fashion a sturdy adventure tale of the sort that Hyams can excel at when given the right equipment (see his superior Narrow Marginfor an additional example). We’ve enjoyed the film on cable and look forward to viewing Hyams’ carefully designed photography on Blu-Ray (like the work of the great British cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, Hyams’ smoky, filtered style can look awful when transferred to video without care). The only extras are the trailer (which is actually quite good) and a vintage featurette.
Final Destination(New Line Blu-Ray)
Forget about the 17 sequels that we’veseen birthed by the studio in the nearly 10 years since Final Destination was released, the original film is still the same effectivelittle shocker that gave us the giddy thrills that all grade ‘B’ horror films are supposed to. Even Tony Todd, who has sleepwalked through more of these movies that any 20 of you have seen, seems engaged in the material. New Line’s Blu-ray offers the same special features as the previous editions (back when seeing an “alternate ending” as an extra on a DVD was actually exciting!)
Those are the top-tier science fiction, fantasy and horror home video releases for this week, but there are many more DVDs and Blu-rays for eager fans looking for subject matter as diverse as animation or cult horror.

  • House is a new direct-to-video thriller starring Bill Mosely and Michael Madsen. The DVD is reviewed here.
  • Dog Soldiers arrives again, this time in a DVD with Steelbook Packaging. Read a review of the film here.
  • Tales of Desperaux, an animated family fantasy about a talking mouse arrives on DVD and Blu-ray.
  • The Boys from Brazil, an early cloning thriller, starring Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier, gets another DVD release.
  • Nosferatu (1922) proves the dangers of being in the public domain, with yet another DVD release. This one includes a t-shirt with poster art, in case that’s enough to get you to purchase the film again.
  • The Giant Spider Invasion arrives in a Director’s Cut DVD (something we never expected) and a Two-disc Director’s Cut DVD (something we really never expected).
  • And also, a bunch of DTV titles you probably never heard of.

Check them out below or in the Cinefantastique Online Store.

The Day the Earth Stood Still – Preview

Remaking a classic film – especially a classic science fiction film like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL – is somewhat akin to a mad doctor’s experiments in gene-splicing: the filmmakers take DNA from the source and combining it with new material to create a hybrid – and hope the result is not a mis-shapen monstrosity that horrifies fans of the original and terrifies ticket-buyers looking for modern movie entertainment. For director Scott Derrickson and actors Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly, this experiment was complicated by the unique status of their source.
The 1951 DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (along with Howard Hawks’ THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD) is one of the films that launched the lucrative sci-fiboom of the 1950s, an era when alien invaders, over-sized insects, radioactive dinosaurs, and malformed mutants replaced vampires, werewolves, zombies, and mummies as the monsters of choice; however, DAY stands apart from those films. Although clearly science fiction, the story’s roots lie more in message-movie melodramas; the original DAY is a serious effort about a serious subject. As director Robert Wise noted in the bonus features for a previous DVD release, the plot of the film is specifically designed to lead up to the scene wherein the alien Klatuu (Michael Rennie) openly states the film’s message to an assembly of scientists and by extension to the audience as well. That message  (about the need for international cooperation in a world where nuclear power provides the posibilty of worldwide destruction) resonated deeply in 1951, but it was very much of its era.

Keanu Reeves with director Scott Derickson.
Keanu Reeves with director Scott Derrickson.

In the new millennium, which is haunted by fewer nightmares about Mutually Assured Destruction, International Terrorism and Global Warming are more relevant boogey-men. How, then, to reimagine the old storyline for modern audiences? At a recent press junket to promote the film’s release on Friday, December 12, director Derrickson said that he was proud of combing two elements in the film : “retro” and contemporary. He looked at the original, decided what were the essential elements that had to be retained and that fans would expect to see, and made sure they made it into the film, while omitting others that seemed irrelevent in the current social and political context. At the same time, he made sure that the new DAY supplied the sort of “tent-pole” filmmaking that would appeal to contemporary viewers looking for an exciting, action-packed science-fiction film.
One crucial element that made the 57-year jump from the 1951 version to the 2008 remake was the iconic line “Klatuu Barad Nikto” – the alien command that prevents the unstoppable robot Gort from unleashing destruction upon Earth. Actor Reeves stated that he was surprised not to find that line in the script when he first read it, but he and the director ensured that it made it into the final film (although it’s during a loud scene where some viewers may miss it). To enhance the impact, several techniques were used, including having Reeves memorize and pronounce the words backwards, which were then reversed to put them in the right order. The final mix overlays this double-reverse upon a take of Reeves reading the line in the usual order. (UPDATE: Although the line is in the film, it is buried in the mix beneath a ton of sound effects: to a casual viewer it may be apparent that the alien Klatuu is speaking in his native language to Gort; only fans will recognize, just barely, the specific words.)
Jennifer Connelly and Keanu Reeves
Jennifer Connelly and Keanu Reeves

Other elements had to updated. For exmaple, the leading lady in the 1951 film (played by Patricia O’Neal) was simply a stay-at-home mom – a traditional woman’s role in movies at the time. The 2008 version casts Jennifer Connelly as an astro-biologist, making her more integral to the story of an alien who comes to Earth seeking to deliver a message to humanity.
Reeves, meanwhile, had to deal with the problem of playing an alien in human form – a feat carried off to perfection by Michael Rennie in the original. Rennie’s performance, however, was a prime example of an actor perfectly cast: his natural voice and demeanor were perfectly suited to the roll, almost rendering acting ability beside the point. Reeves strategy, on the other hand, was to lay Klatuu as if he were an alien intelligence contained within a human body.  Reeves said he never wanted to play the characters as “neutral”; he always wanted something going on “behind the eyes,” as if Klatuu resided somewhere inside.
Old Testament-style destruction reigns down on Earth.
Old Testament-style destruction reigns down on Earth.

In the original, Klatuu was a rather blatant Christ figure (his assumed name on Earth is “Mr. Carpenter,” a reference to the historical Jesus being the son of a carpenter). In the remake, the character charts a course that takes him from more alien than human at the beginning to being more human than alien at the end. Reeves acknowledged that one might also read Biblical subtext into his vesion of Klatuu, who could be said to start off in the mold of the angry God of the Old Testament, threatening destruction (a la Noah’s flood), before transition to the kinder, gentler God of the New Testament, ready to forgive errant mankind if they repent.
One key piece of the original that did not make its way into the remake is Klattu’s climactic lecture to humanity, which blatantly spelled out the filmmakers’ message. It is a note that sounds a slightly odd tone to modern ears: intended to suggest that humanity should put its warlike ways behind in favor of cooperating not only with the nations of Earth but also with other civilizations from the stars, Klatuu’s speech has a threatening edge that sounds as if humanity would be surrendering its sovereignity to enforcer robots like Gort, one of which is apparently enough to destroy an entire planet.
As Keanu Reeves jokingly summed up the original’s moral: “It’s up to you, but also I’ve got a big stick.”
Director Derrickson explained the reason for dropping this lecturing approach in favor of letting the audiences figure it out for themselves: “I think that’s one of the things I liked that’s open-ended about it,” he said. “I definitely think that the original ending…I’ve never been able, personally, to unpack the end message that he gives, because of what Keanujust said. ‘Give peace a chance. It’s up to you. And if you don’t, we will kill you.’ Some people have accused the original of being fascist because of that ‘Peace through Strength’ message – a very Reagan-era approach to the Cold War: ‘I’ve got a bigger bomb than you so we’re all going to be nice.’ How that gels with the rest of the movie I have never been able to quite [figure], but that’s also one of the things that’s interesting about that.
“I do think that the didactic nature of the end, the directness of ‘here’s the message to the audience’ – modern audiences just won’t stand for that,” he continued. “I don’t like it as a modern movie-goer, being told ‘Here’s now what you’re supposed to think.’ I like very much the idea of being to put forth images and ideas and let audiences go away and make of it what they will. The intent of this was not to deliver a message. It was to deliver a picture of where we are. What I love about the ending is that Klatuu make this big sacrifice. He does say, ‘It’s going to come at a price to you and your way of life.’ The issues that the movie is talking about, all the crises that we’re in – the military crisis, the financial crisis, the environmental crisis – solving those problems will come at a price; they will demand sacrifice. I think the more interesting 21st century way to present those ideas is to do it visually, not to directly, to put it out there in a way that lets people talk about it.”