Halloween Horror Blu-rays: September

October is the perfect month to catch up on Halloween horror movies. Plenty of studios are opening their vaults to release classic Halloween horror titles on Blu-ray. It’s only September and there are already a ton of scary movies newly released. Here are some recommendations to start your Halloween horror viewing and I’ll have another batch of releases in October.

Cats EyeHalloween Horror: Cat's Eye

The ‘80s were a great time for Steven King short stories. We got two Creepshows and this trio of King tales. Maybe you like your Halloween horror in small doses. “Quitters, Inc.” demonstrates King’s expertise at tapping into very human fears, by coming up with something scarier than quitting smoking. “The Ledge” is a good old fashioned suspense tale with a clear goal, and plenty of obstacles along the way, or around the ledge if you will. “The General” has an Amblin feel as young Drew Barrymore’s cat defends her from a troll.

Although Cat’s Eye was released on DVD before, I’ve never seen it in widescreen and it looks positively epic. The picture is bright and smooth with the film elements restored well for HD. Seeing autumn in Wilmington, NC and 1980s Atlantic City are a time capsule. In “The Ledge” we see every specific spec in brick that nobody is supposed to be that close to, and Robert Hays’s sweat glimmers. Actually, James Woods’ sweat does too in “Quitters.” The troll costume in an oversized set is full of detail, even if the composited background doesn’t quite hold up. Director Lewis Teague gives an informative commentary that was also on previous releases.

Salem’s LotHalloween Horror: Salem's Lot

This was a TV movie so it is full frame, but it looks great. They must have restored the film elements like those Star Trek Blu-rays did. You can certainly see the grain. It makes me miss TV shot on film. The 4:3 frame actually works for scenes like jumping into a newly dug grave, and there are ‘80s freeze frames! I guess freeze frames came up in the ‘70s when Salem’s Lot was made.

Like good King, Salem’s Lot spends as much time, if not more, on character drama, not just the monsters. There are some awkward pauses, like there was no time for a second take, but it works. Director Tobe Hooper recorded a new commentary, but it’s a tad sparse as he tends to get right to the point and not vamp between scenes.

ItHalloween Horror: It

This Stephen King story really works on television because it’s not really gore or special effects. It’s just a clown. A really effing creepy clown. There are still a few money shots but director Tommy Lee Wallace is smart to cut away before we see too much. There are plenty of surreal images that still hold up, like the moon and Pennywise appearing behind branches like cracked glass. It is also a bigger ensemble and spans more cities before the characters come together in Derry.

Produced in 1990, It has even more modern looking clarity than Salem’s. The Canadian grass is bright green, substituting for Derry. The sewer is full of grimy detail. Flashbacks to the characters as children seem more grainy than the present, although not exclusively. The flashes of Pennywise gore is gooey and his changing teeth are effectively gross. HD really captures his bright white makeup and the spray of blood. An old commentary track includes the late John Ritter, and he was hilarious and deadpan.

SlugsHalloween Horror: Slugs

If you’re going to make a killer slug movie, Slugs is the killer slug movie you should make. They certainly thought of every possible way a slug could kill you, and quite a few that really wouldn’t work but they’re still fun. Attempts to have sincere dialogue, like a wife admitting she has a drinking problem, are endearing.

The Slugs Blu-ray has a beautiful ‘80s film look. You see the shiny slimy slugs, gory corpses, hand chopping and blood oozing in full HD. The blood is just pure crimson pouring liberally from corpses. A slug in the lettuce might be the grossest thing because it could be real.

Bonus features interview actors and behind the scenes personnel both in Spanish and English and they tell stories you’d expect. A commentary with the author of the book and another with filmmaker and Shock Til You Drop editor Chris Alexander keep things moving fast.

The Neon DemonHalloween Horror: The Neon Demon

Of course Nicolas Winding Refn’s surreal static images look amazing. Neon really means neon with glowing colored light. The dirty motel room is appropriately drab by comparison. Every extreme from a stark white photo studio to the dark black void is explored. When gore happens it’s deep and crusty.

Refn rightfully calls The Neon Demon a horror film because it is about the horrors we actually subject women to for the sake of our pleasure. The gory stuff that happens may just be a metaphor, but you’re going to have to decipher it for yourself. It’s highbrow Halloween horror.

Refn is surprisingly forthcoming on a commentary track with Elle Fanning, even though he says he’s only going to tell half the truth. He probably loosened up unexpectedly with the comfort of Fanning. The commentary is where you’ll get the most information. A five minute feature on the music is fine but a one minute collection of interview soundbites hardly qualifies as behind the scenes.

Aliens: 30th Anniversary EditionHalloween Horror: Aliens

This is the same release that was included in the full Alien Blu-ray set of four films, right down to the Weyland Yutani menu. The new bonus feature is digital only so there is literally nothing new on the disc. Unless you only want to own the one movie, which is conceivable.

The digital bonus feature is a solid 30 minutes of James Cameron reflecting on Aliens. Some of it may be familiar, but I don’t recall ever seeing Cameron focus this much on just Aliens stories. On other bonus features, he’s interspersed with cast and other creatives. This is the Aliens story entirely from his perspective.

Chopping Mall

I gave Chopping Mall a full review on its street date, but wanted to remind you to check out my review and please consider adding it to your Halloween horror movie nights. It’s cheesy ‘80s action fun and the closest to Die Hard in a mall I’ll probably ever get.

Chopping Mall Blu-ray Review: Veni Vidi Vestron Video

Chopping Mall Blu-raySo many things about the new Chopping Mall Blu-ray make me happy. I love that Lionsgate is bringing back Vestron Video, a logo I saw oh so many times on VHS growing up. I love seeing the exteriors of the Beverly Center in 1986 and the interiors of the Sherman Oaks Galleria that was destroyed long before I got to L.A. I love the Blu-ray quality picture showing the ‘80s in full glory.

Chopping Mall had ambitious laser effects and explosions. Back in the ‘80s, a cheap horror movie made for under a million could still look comparable to the real thing. It wasn’t all computers.

Chopping MallI always imagined an action movie set in a mall and I never really got my Die Hard in a mall. There’ve been mall scenes in action movies but not a whole movie. Chopping Mall is scrappy, and only 77 minutes including credits, but they did it. If you suspend your disbelief that those slow, there’s real suspense about which of the characters is going to survive. It’s exciting to see those teenagers fight robots. They are smart survivors finding weapons in the mall to defend themselves.

The Blu-ray transfer of Chopping Mall is consistent and clear. It still has the film grain and you could imagine watching a blurrier version of this on VHS, only now with brighter colors. It was the ‘80s and everyone dressed the part.

One interesting scene of gratuitous sex features a woman who doesn’t allow oral. Is this a male’s fantasy about a sexual partner who only wants to please him? If so, that’s a lame man’s fantasy. I chalk it up to hey, it was the ‘80s. Chopping Mall

Most of the cast return for new interviews including Kelly Maroney, Barbara Crampton, Russell Todd, Nick Segal and John Terlesky, along with writer/director Jim Wynorski and screenwriter Steve Mitchell. If you’re looking for Suzee Slater, she disappeared. They say on the commentary track that they tried to find her.

Plenty of bonus features explore the making of the film, the killbots themselves, a critical  analysis in the fan/historian commentary and even a lost scene. The historian in me enjoyed shots of big city theaters with Chopping Mall on the marquee. This was a trip back to the ‘80s I will take again and again.