Halloween is over and, if you’re anything like me, you already miss it. Thankfully, there are some great home video releasing companies and studios that won’t let any of us sit around moping, continually releasing great horror titles year round. Here are three recently released titles that you may not have had the chance to get around to yet, but should dive into in the coming weeks whenever you get that sad little feeling you get when you remember that Halloween won’t be back around for another year.
Let’s begin with the most familiar of the selections, the recently released on home video and VOD studio sequel, The Conjuring 2. Having never seen the original and being very skeptical of modern studio horror, I went into this with zero expectations. James Wan is widely considered one of the new masters of horror, yet I can honestly say I have very little experience with his work. Thus, when I stuck through the first 20-30 minutes waiting for the film to heat up, I was pleasantly surprised when it delivered far more than I expected.
This is Wan’s second film based on the stories of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the paranormal investigators that made their name as part of the Amityville saga. The film is based on the famous story of the “Enfield Poltergeist”, one of England’s most talked about modern ghost stories (England’s history of stories about haunted houses and other paranormal occurrences is one of the world’s most robust, but there are far more stories from years gone bye than in the recent past). From top to bottom, this story that centers on the haunting of a young girl is a legitimately terrifying wild ride.
There are traditional jump scares, a haunting demonic presence, and an ever building sense of dread. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are stellar in their roles as the Warrens, who take center stage throughout most of this film. It’s a truly fantastic film to scare the Halloween spirit back into you if you start to forget why it’s the best time of the year.
The Blu-ray from Warner Home Video also features several featurettes, with “The Enfield Poltergeist: Living The Horror” being the can’t miss of the bunch. The behind the scenes features on creating the effects and the soundtrack are also quite worthwhile for fans of the craft.
No word on whether or not another sequel is certain, but you can bet I’ll be in line when the film’s scheduled spin-off film, tentative titled The Nun, hits theaters a year or two down the line. This isn’t just a strong entry compared to the dreck that the major studios tend to churn out, but it’s a strong horror entry period.
The same cannot be said about the other two films in today’s recommendations. “Then why recommend them?” you ask. That’s simple, it’s because they are a ton of fun. These two films, separated by a couple of decades, are both often included in the discussion of the worst films ever made. Much like many others in such lists, they don’t even remotely belong there when films like Adam Sandler’s Going Overboard are somewhere in the ether.
1968’s The Astro-Zombies somehow eluded ever being included on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but thankfully when Kino Lorber released a really nice looking transfer of the film on Blu-ray in mid October they included a RiffTrax commentary of the Sci-Fi/Horror disasterpiece that should bring a smile to the face of even the most dull of film watchers. That said, however, the film itself is one that really should make you smile on its own if you appreciate B-horror from the 50s and 60s or beyond.
In this schlocky gem, John Carradine plays a mad-scientist who is reviving corpses and acting all types of crazy, all the while robot zombies are killing people and the gorgeous Tura Satana is leading a group of secret agents to crack the code on what the Hell is actually going on. Calling this film crazy would be a huge understatement. It’s next-level nutty and I’d have it no other way.
The Blu-ray release came just days before the cult icon director of the film, Ted Mikels, passed away and became the second camp/gore legend to leave us in a months time. This, along with films like Blood Orgy of the She-Devils, cemented the man’s legacy as equal parts Ed Wood and George Romero. He will be missed, but thanks to releases such as this one, which features a great commentary from the man, himself, he’ll never be forgotten.
20 years after Mikel’s insane alien robot zombie extravaganza came out, one of the numerous Gremlins rip-offs hit the shelves at your favorite video rental shops, the so-bad-it’s-good cult film Hobgoblins. Since that time, it has lovingly graced the screen as hosted by both MST3K and Elvira, and it’s even spawned a fully self-aware direct-to-DVD sequel released by Shout! Factory in 2009.
The new Blu-ray special edition of this film, released last week by Vinegar Syndrome, features a brand new 2K transfer of the film from its original 35mm elements, several new interviews, the “Hobgoblins Revisited” making of featurette, and a fun look at the film’s trip to Comic-Con. The best part of this edition is that the film looks the way it was intended. The worst part… is that the film looks the way it was intended.
Every little inch of the cheesily made goblin puppets can be seen in it’s glory. Every horribly designed effect is highlighted in beautiful 35mm. The cheese oozes from every pore and the film is simply more endearing because of it. To call it a rip-off of Gremlins would be a reduction, but Hobgoblins is the type of little critter creature feature that was all the rage in the wake of the classic tale of the Mogwai and his evil siblings. And while Critters and Ghoulies are certainly better films than this one, none feels as honest and pure camp as this 1988 flick does.
What’s most interesting about these 3 films is that the best film of the bunch is probably the one that the fewest people remember in 50 years, as the others have already found their cult statuses. But, as it stands today, on November 4th, 2016, all three of these films are readily available on Blu-ray in their best editions to date. So, instead of crying yourself to sleep and gorging yourself on Halloween candy while lamenting the end of the holiday season, pop some popcorn and mix in some fun size candies while enjoying a few fun horror films.
And, never forget that if you want it to be, every day is Halloween.