Also: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA SEASON FOUR Blu-ray, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON 8 MOTION COMIC Blu-ray & DVD Combo, Four-Film Collections
2011 begins with a bang – or at least a sulfurous blast of demonic hellfire – thanks to the home video release of THE LAST EXORCISM on DVD, Blu-ray, and Video on Demand. Although the film does not fully deliver on its promise, it is quite effective for most of its length, and those who missed in theatres should takes this opportunity to check it out. For those interested in the behind the scenes details, the discs come with some attractive bonus features.
DVD & BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES:
Actor and Director commentary with Daniel Stamm, Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian and Louis Herthum
Audio commentary with Producers Eli Roth, Eric Newman and Tom Bliss
“The Devil You Know: The Making of The Last Exorcism” featurette
“Real Stories of Exorcism” featurette
2009 Cannes Film Festival teaser trailer
In addition, the Blu-ray offers these features not available on the DVD:
“Witnesses to an Exorcism: An Audio Commentary with a Haunting Victim, Deliverance Minister and Clinical Psychologist”
BD Touch and Metamenu Remote
That’s about it for new horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles arriving on home video this Tuesday; most of the remaining releases are repackages of previously available titles.
Fans who just can’t get no satisfaction with reruns of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER will be pleased to see the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 8 MOTION COMIC, which continues the adventures of the monster-killing blonde chick, which arrives as a combo pack containing Blu-ray and DVD.
If your taste turns more toward science fiction, you may prefer the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA SEASON FOUR Blu-ray disc. There was a previous BATTLESTAR GALACTICA SEASON 4.5 Blu-ray release in 2007. I will leave it to the hardcore fans to determine whether they want to double dip.
Several economy packages hit store shelves. Clive Barker’s BOOK OF BLOOD arrives in a “Horror 2-Pack” DVD with MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN. GRAVES and ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION are joined in a “Double Feature” Blu-ray. Pacific Entertainment offers 25 FRIGHT NIGHT CLASSICS, starring the likes of Boris Karloff, Leslie Neilsen, William Shatner, and Drew Barrymore in titles you’ve never heard of and which the actors would probably prefer it stayed that way. As if that were not enough for penny-pinching purchasers, there is a series of discs bearing the label “Four Film Collection,” which true to their name offer a quadruple does of terror. Sometimes the combinations seem apprpriate; at other times, it seems like whatever was contractually available was thrown together. For example, putting LEPRECHAUN 1 through 4 in a package makes sense (or at least as much sense of releasing a LEPRECHAUN movie can), but simultaneous releasing a disc with PUMPKIN HEAD II, LEPRECHAUN, WISHMASTER, and WISHMASTER 2 is a bit of a jumble. Even more discordant is the combination of THE EYE (the American remake of the Chinese original), JU-ON: THE GRUDGE (the Japanese original that was remade with American stars), BUG (the psycho-drama directed by William Friedkin), and ALONE IN THE DARK (an obscure thriller starring Christian Slater as a private investigator who specializes in supernatural phenomena). A bit more comfortable nestled together are BORDERLAND, DARK RIDE, UNEARTHED, and THE GRAVE DANCERS: although not labeled as such, all of these titles have appeared under the After Dark Horrorfest label, which gives weekend-long theatrical exposure to films that otherwise would go straight to video. Of these, THE GRAVE DANCERS is probably the best film ever to screen as part of the horror fest. These and other titles are available in the Cinefantastique Online Store.
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.
Freelance photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper, resembling the love child of Josh Lucas and Ralph Finnes) attempts to “really capture the city” with a series of artistic photographs in order to impress gallery owner Susan (Brooke Shields in a truly dazzling bit of WTF casting) into a showing of his work. He ventures down into the Metro system of an unnamed American city and shoots the near sexual assault of a young model before chasing the attackers away. Later he learns that the young woman has been reported missing and that he was the last person to see her boarding a train. Intrigued, Leon begins hanging around the station and spots a large, formally dressed man carrying a leather bag (Vinnie Jones) who he begins to suspect may be responsible for not just the model’s disappearance, but many others going back almost a century. In spite of the warnings of girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb), Leon becomes obsessed with the man, following him to work at a slaughterhouse, and finally witnessing him brutally murdering passengers on a late night train – butchering them, almost as if for food…
Barker’s original short story was exemplary in its brevity, like much of the work in the Books of Blood volumes – short, sharp, visceral horror tales that blew the cobwebs off much that passed for literary horror in the ’80s. “Midnight Meat Train” would have made for a perfect episode of Masters of Horror, but the story can’t quite bear being stretched to 102 minutes and nearly collapses under its own length.
The film wants to create the atmosphere of a city in the grips of a fearful serial killer, yet Leon seems to be the only one noticing the staggering death toll associated with the subway system. It’s a shame that director Ryuhei Kitamura didn’t think to better exploit the claustrophobic atmosphere of a subway car; the limited locations (Leon’s apartment, Maya’s diner, and Susan’s gallery) don’t offer much in the way of a comparative reality – just a fashionably dreary world of which the meat train is yet another, more deadly element. At least Barker’s story had a somewhat interesting “why” to end the story with, one that owes a small debt to Gary Sherman’s superb subway thriller Deathline, though Midnight Meat Train’s monsters were smart enough to have their meals catered.
It’s also more than a little depressing to see the energy exerted in setting up Mahogany (the killer’s name, which I didn’t learn until the supplemental section) as a next-gen Pinhead or Candyman, a new horror avatar with a signature weapon to sprout DTV sequels for the next decade. However, the silver-metallic sheen of the subway sequences are visually striking (and a welcome respite from the underlit stalking that populate most horror shows), and Jones makes for a physically imposing figure, visually striking in a wonderfully out-of-fashion suit. Watching him calmly walk up behind his victims and brutally pound them with a massive meat hammer creates a horrifically indelible image. We were also pleased to see Roger Bart (memorable in Eli Roth’s Hostel 2) and genre favorite Ted Raimi in supporting roles.
Lionsgate offers up the “unrated” version for Blu-Ray and DVD, adding some outlandish bits of gore, most of which is, unfortunately, rendered in unconvincing CGI – a crutch that too many horror films have been leaning on of late. The Blu-Ray image offers a very pleasing amount of clarity and detail, while some of the drearier locations can appear murky on SD DVD. The image can also appear excessively grainy during indoor scenes, of which this movie is nothing but. Both feature an identical set of special features, including a commentary track featuring Barker and Kitamura, the usual EPK-style featurettes, and a slightly longer docu on Barker himself, focusing mostly on his passion for painting (and for those wondering about the author’s health, his raspy voice has apparently been the result of polyps in his throat, a condition the he discusses in brief here). Midnight Meat Train is certainly worth a rental, and is a good shade more interesting than most of the derivative junk that washes up week after week on home video, but beware the tendency to rally support around pictures merely because they were ill-treated by their studio.