Blu-ray Review: Brian De Palma’s OBSESSION

One of Brian De Palma’s most underrated films is out now from Scream Factory

Maverick director Brian De Palma’s own obsession with Alfred Hitchcock is the farthest thing from a secret. In almost every one of De Palma’s films, the Master of Suspense is referenced and fetishized, from the basic PSYCHO meets REAR WINDOW structure of SISTERS, in which the male – as opposed to the female – lead is murdered graphically in the first reel and is witnessed by a nosy neighbor, to PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, where the PSYCHO shower scene is riffed -on, replacing a toilet-plunger with a knife, to CARRIE’s slow-burning, operatically suspenseful bucket-mount finale to DRESSED TO KILL, which amalgamates almost ALL of Hitchcock’s signature set-pieces into one over-sexed, kinky souffle.

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Blu-ray Review: DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS

Scream Factory re-releases the classic Terrence Fisher vampire film on Blu-ray

There’s a vibrancy, urgency and sense of danger about the early Hammer Gothics, especially the ones helmed by the great Terrence Fisher. The studio laid out their stylistic, thematic mission statement with Fisher’s full-color, full-blooded revisits of the Universal monster warhorses – 1957’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and 1958’s HORROR OF DRACULA, respectively – and kept that momentum up, offering more violent, sexually aware, sophisticated and lurid horror movies, a majority of them blasted onto screens in astonishing color. The look and feel of these films (and naturally, the chord they struck with audiences) birthed the later Roger Corman Poe Gothics and the early Italian Gothics of the 1960s, but there’s really nothing quite like those startling, bouncy, signature Hammer romps…

By the time HORROR OF DRACULA’s Christopher Lee returned to the cape with Fisher at the helm in 1966’s DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, the worm was already turning with both Hammer and the world of horror cinema in general and thus the picture has perpetually felt a bit late-from-the-gate, a bit trapped between worlds. Fisher had already proved he could make a Dracula picture without Lee (and without Dracula for that matter) with 1960’s thundering BRIDES OF DRACULA (still this writer’s fave of the Hammer Dracula cycle) but revisiting the franchise with the actor, who by now was an international horror movie superstar, was enough of an event that DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS was a huge hit for the studio and kept Lee in costume for the next 7 years. And while DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS pales in comparison to HORROR (and suffers from the lack of Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing save for an opening flashback of HORROR’s spastic ending), it’s still an atmospheric, stylish affair and sees Fisher directing with vigor. And Lee, despite playing the part totally mute (according to him because he hated the dialogue, though others have insisted the part was written as such), reminds us why he’s the screen’s definitive Count Dracula.

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Blu-ray Review: The CRITTERS Collection

Scream Factory Shines a Loving Light on this Fascinating Film Series

In the wake of Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg’s cheeky 1984 monster kid romp GREMLINS, all sorts of savvy producers plotted their own little mean beastie flick, from Charles Band’s GHOULIES to Roger Corman’s MUNCHIE to Stephen Herek’s CRITTERS, And while many of the others have merits (and GHOULIES spun off into an amusing franchise of its own), only CRITTERS seemed to really hit with both critics and audiences, becoming a minor hit and launching three more films that actually carried over narrative arcs and characters. Collected here on this sturdy Blu-ray set from Scream Factory you’ll find all four of the official CRITTERS epics and while some are better than others, all of them serve as lively showcases for their central baddies, the quill-shooting, toothy furballs known galactically as “The Krites”.

Herek’s original 1986 flick is a major dose of country bumpkin fun, as the critters invade the small farming community of Grover’s Bend (a nod to WAR OF THE WORLD’s Grover’s Mill) and set forth to eat everything and everyone they can. Only scrappy kid Brad Brown (Scott Grimes) and his charming, slow-witted pal Charlie (Don Opper) are wise to what’s happening, that is until it’s too late and the lethal tumbleweeds overtake their house. First they eat poor old Billy Zane and then force the house’s matriarch (a somewhat wasted Dee Wallace) to wield a shotgun and protect her brood. Meanwhile, a pair of alien bounty hunters (one played by Terrence Mann, the other – who cannot settle on a human face – occasionally played by Opper) have come to do what they do best: kill Krites.

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