Home video offerings this week are small but varied: a couple of recent theatrical releases, some DTV titles, and a few oldies hauled out of the moth balls…
Quarantine (Sony DVD & Blu-Ray)
We haven’t seen Sony’s remake of the chilling Spanish [REC], but early reports had the plot closely following Jaume Balaguero’s 2007 film. We follow a television reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) on a fluff assignment to document a typical night at a local fire station. When a 911 call comes in from an apartment building where residents report screaming from an upstairs apartment, she tags along with the paramedics to the scene. Now, if you’re at all familiar with the original, you know that things start to go very, very bad not long after they arrive at the building; reactions to Quarantine have been mixed, and it’s likely that your enjoyment of the film will be enhanced in direct opposition to how much you know about the plot going in. It suffices to say that what follows in both films owes an enormous thematic debt to Romero’s living dead films and a stylistic one to The Blair Witch Project, as the entire story is told through the lens of the news crew’s camera. While Romero stumbled badly in his attempt to use the ‘found footage’ device with the unbearably stiff and embarrassingly un-amusing Diary of the Dead, [REC] managed to get to the heart of what made Blair Witch so effective back in 1999 (and Cannibal Holocaust before that). Unfortunately, Quarantine’s Spanish forbearer is only available as a pricey import DVD, and while we’re not suited to either damn or recommend the remake, we weren’t pleased by the report by Joshua Zyber’s High-Def Digest review noting that neither the director nor producer-writer of Quarantine saw fit to even mention the original on the commentary track. Not the classiest of moves… Read CFQ’s review of Quarantine here.
Midnight Meat Train (Lionsgate DVD & Blu-Ray)
Based on a story from the revered Books of Blood series by Clive Barker – actually the first story from the first volume – Midnight Meat Train was supposed to have been given a much more ‘red carpet’ theatrical release than it wound up with. A regime change at Lionsgate knocked MMT out of a wide theatrical release and into what amounts to little more than a handful of contractually obligated screens prior to a dump on DVD and Blu-Ray this week. It would be great to be able to champion the film without reservation, but it has a host of problems all its own that threaten to upturn several very effective moments. Read full review here.
Feast III: The Happy Finish (Dimension Extreme DVD)
We really, really weren’t fond of the original Feast, the subject of the third and final season of Project Greenlight. Even though the director, John Gulager, seems a pleasant sort (and can wrangle the efforts of his father, the estimable character actor Clu Gulager to appear), the finished product oozed the worst sort of self-reflexive, Tarantino-inspired smarminess that somehow manages to pass as horror post-modernism. The simple story of a rough ‘n tumble bar in the middle of nowhere where a disparate group of patrons face off against an onslaught of man-eating monsters would have been so much better off had it just had the courage of its convictions and went for a more straightforward approach, instead of leaning heavily on winking and nudging. The good news is that one only need to watch the character “introductions” early in the film that literally spell out their stereotype and give each a life expectancy meter – see, it’s not lazy writing as long as you make fun of it – to know whether the rest of the show is worth your time. We haven’t seen either of the two sequels (both helmed by Gulager) and acknowledge that both could be an improvement on the original. Extras include a director’s audio commentary and a featurette on Gulager.
When Time Ran Out (Warner Bros DVD)
After Paul Newman’s death last September, someone at Warner Bros decided to comb through their catalog and release any remaining Newman films that they owned the rights to. Unfortunately, their previous box set, The Paul Newman Collection, managed to skim most of the cream off the top with titles like Harper, The Young Philadelphians, and Somebody Up There Likes Me, leaving the brothers Warner with a quintet of all-but forgotten films that the studio hasn’t even bothered to gather in a box set. Christened with a “Paul Newman Film Series” banner across the packaging, we get the stilted The Helen Morgan Story in which Newman has only an uncomfortable supporting role, the gorgeous-looking but dramatically inert The Silver Chalice, and Martin Ritt’s Rashomon remake set in the old west, The Outrage, featuring Newman stretching nearly past believability as a Mexican bandito. The best film of the bunch, Rachel, Rachel is actually a showcase for Joanne Woodward that was only directed by Newman, leaving us with a film that Newman himself has derided as one of the few that he actually regrets making (and made only a year after the determinedly unwatchable Quintet), Irwin Allen’s When Time Ran Out. Although made in 1980 – long after the golden age of the disaster film peaked with The Towering Inferno in 1974 – WTRO looks like a much older film; as the language of cinema grew up around him, producer Allen was still stuck in the ’60s, with flat lighting, sets, and effects that wouldn’t seem out of place on an episode of Time Tunnel. WTRO blazes new ground in the bare bones release department – no special features, no chapter selections, not even a trailer. The only choice on the main menu screen other than “Play Movie” is “Languages”, from which you can choose only “English”. Read the complete review here.
This week’s other home video releases include Bluray discs of FREDDY VS. JASON and SEED OF CHUCKY, and DVDS of THE REAL ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY QUEST and ALIEN RAIDERS. The last of these (about an apparent armed robbery in a supermarket that turns into a tale of alien invasion) took home the Best Thiller Feature Film Award at last year’s Shriekfest film festival. You can read a review of the film here.
You can purchase this week’s releases below, or find more in the Cinefantastique Online Store.