Laserblast: The Box, Cirque du Freak, The Crazies, Dead Snow, Sorority Row

Some hot horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles are laserblasting your way on home video this week. Maybe they’re not great, but there should be more than enough for the hardcore hounds to find something to sink their teeth into. For fans of writer-director George A. Romero (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD), the big news is the Blu-ray release of his 1973 verison of THE CRAZIES, timed to coincide with the theatrical debut of the remake on Friday. Romero’s original is a bit of a mixed bag: it extends and elaborates on the themes of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) in interesting ways, but it is less satisfying overall, due at least partly to interference from the men in control of the purse-strings, who vetoes his original ending (which finally appears in the new version). In a weird way, THE CRAZIES is the missing link between NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and its sequel, DAWN OF THE DEAD (1979); the jagged editing style, national guard strong-arm tactics, and colorful violence have at least as much influence on the later film as its more famous predecessor. The new Blu-ray disc offers improved picture quality but a standard monaural soundtrack; bonus features have been ported over intact from the previous DVD release.
DEAD SNOW – the S-Horror (that is, Scandanavian Horror) film about zombie Nazis (or is that Nazi zombies?) – is not quite as much fun as it should be, but it mixes laughs and horror to mostly good effect. If you didn’t see it on pay-per-view last year, or during its brief art house release, now is your chance to enjoy some creative zombie mayhem – and seriously, even though it may not be perfect, it is much better than ZOMBIELAND.
THE BOX, from director Richard Kelly (DONNIE DARKO) is an adaptation of a short story by Richard Matheson, starring Cameron Diaz and Frank Langella. The later plays a mysterious man who offers Diaz and her husband and interesting proposition: push a button on a mysterious box, and they get a million dollars; however, someone they do not know will die. It’s a great premise for a short film (and was in fact adapted for the short-lived revival of THE TWILIGHT ZONE in the 1980s), but it is hardly enough to fill out a feature. The film, which received a scant stealth release last year, arrives on Blu-ray and DVD.
On our list of films crying out for a remake, 1983’s little-remembered HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW is tied dead last with CITIZEN KANE, albeit for completely different reasons. The original slasher flick is a fairly pedestrain effort, whose only interesting point is that, unlike most of its contemporaries, the provocation for the violence is not sexual promiscuity but a prank gone wrong that leads to accidental homicide. This basic idea is retained for the remake, titled simply SORORITY ROW, which turns out to be a surprisingly effective improvement. Rather in the manner of contemporary teen thrillers like the FINAL DESTINATION flicks, SORORITY ROW provides numerous, neatly paced and technically proficient thrills. Its biggest problem is that the character with the obvious motivation is a bit too obvious, so the script offers up another character as the murderer, with a motivation that only works in the world of movie-movie logic. This also leaves the main suspect ready to go for a sequel. Ho-hum.
Other titles available this week include BLOOD FOR THE MUSE; THE OMEDGA EDITION and JUSTICE LEAGUE:CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS. The later, which arrives in a single-disc and a two-disc edition, is an animated film in which a good Lex Luthor from an alternate dimension comes to our Earth seeking help from the the Justice League in order to battle the Crime Syndicate, an organization of supervillains with powers that parallel our more familiar superheroes.
In case that’s not enough for you, shlock auteur Ted V. Mikels has a slew of titles collected into the Mikels’ Bloodbath Collection, a DVD box set containing such sub-classics as MARK O THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES, DIMENSION IN FEAR, FEMALE SLAVES REVENGE, and CAULDRON: BAPTISM OF BLOOD. See them all – if you dare.

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