American Horror Story: The Complete First Season (2011/Fox Blu-ray)/The Barrens (2012/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1991/Synapse Films DVD)/Chained (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray
w/DVD)/Hypothermia (2011/Dark Sky
B/B- & C/C+/B- & C+/C+ Sound:
B-/B- & C+/C+/B & C+/C+
Extras: C+/C-/C-/C-/C Main
time for Halloween 2012, here are some Horror releases you might want to be
aware of, or just outright avoid…
FX cable channel series American Horror
Story: The Complete First Season (2011) has received many raves, including
for a scene-stealing Jessica Lange, but it is one of those shows that is more
compelling when you watch than when it is over and you are finished. Why? Because
it is derivative to a fault, especially in wanting to imitate Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), but even that
happened before with American Gothic
many years ago and I was not a big fan of that show either.
(Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton) buy an old house hoping to make a new
start after she caught him sexually with their baby sitter. He is a therapist and will conduct his work
from a spare room, but that will be the least of their problems as the house
has a blood-soaked history of several murders taking place there and that
includes the previous gay couple. Oh,
and the placer is supernaturally haunted.
their nebby neighbor who knows much more than she is saying and the show can be
sexually, thematically and violently bold, yet again it is everything we have
seen before to a fault. This includes
using music from other films (et al) that has nothing to do with flashbacks
that do not help the teleplays, nor does throwing in one too many clichés.
hour-long shows are still all watchable and it is at least a top rate,
competent production. Actress Jennifer
Salt, best known for her work on the TV classic Soap and in Brian De Palma films, is a co-producer on the show and
even wrote a few of the scripts. Also
the daughter of the great Waldo Salt, she has already penned a few Nip/Tuck scripts and does as good a job
as anyone penning this show.
stop here as not to ruin any surprises if you watch, but the show has its
moments and it is at least worth a look.
Extras include audio commentary on the Pilot, a piece on the home being
the Murder House and three behind the scenes featurettes.
continue his career after doing the first three awful Saw films and other duds, Darren Lynn Bousman is back with The Barrens (2012) in a would be
thriller about the killer creature known as The Jersey Devil. If this sounds all too familiar, that is
because an independent production with that name was ripped off to make the
horrid Blair Witch Project
possible. Despite some good acting and a
decent cast, this is barely better than that all-time rip-off as yet another
group of young adults go into the woods and start to get killed, even
(surprise?) turning on each other.
script is redundant, X-Men alum
Shawn Ashmore is wasted here and this is just a slightly better, larger
production of hundreds and probably thousands of the same bad tales you have
seen already, even with a touch of torture porn. Some money is on the screen, but I would have
preferred a good script. At least the
title was interesting. Stephen Meyer,
Mia Kirshner and Allie MacDonald also star.
include a lame Deleted Scene and feature length audio commentary track by
Bousman and Director of Photography Joseph White that is dull.
is the demented comedy sequel Basket
Case 3: The Progeny (1991) directed by Frank Henenlotter, who directed the
first hit film that just recently came out on Blu-ray. You can read about it at this link:
original was a competent cult film at best, but had some good moments. By this time, things are pretty played out
with dozens of latex offspring and the like being the real “stars” though there
is not much of a script here and the premises have been played out. There are also several attempts at social
satire, but it is everything we have seen and heard before. If you like old latex creatures that look
wacky, this is a film for you, but outside of genre fans, it is just not that
good and the script has nowhere new to go.
The Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.
serious is Jennifer Lynch with Chained
(2011), an attempt to do another shocking thriller about violence and the dark
side of human nature. Much like her
father David Lynch, she is a hit and miss filmmaker. I was not a big fan of Boxing Helena, but
thought Surveillance (2008, reviewed
elsewhere on this site) was highly underrated and deserves to be discovered
son and mother (Julia Ormond) go out to a film and her husband gives her enough
money for them to take a cab over a bus.
A cab shows up suddenly out of nowhere, but the driver kidnaps them and
the son is chained inside his place. We
are supposed to be shocked by the sudden brutality of the situation, but its
rings too oddly on some level, then this turns into a sort of M. Night
Shyamalan film w3ith a sense of near-torture porn to it. The twists and other events turn out to be so
convoluted that this was a big disappointment and Vincent D’Onofrio as the
kidnapper is just one creepy bad guy performance too many for him, so this
becomes more clichéd than you might expect.
because she can direct, but this is quickly forgotten and the actors are
good. Fans will want to see for
themselves. Extras include a feature
length audio commentary track by Lynch and D’Onofrio, Trailer and the unrated,
uncut Alternate Ending,
not least is James Felix McKenney’s Hypothermia
(2011) in which a group of friends (et al) spend time in the icy outdoors near
a frozen lake fishing when a giant killer creature (thing Jaws, but this is not shark) that is on the kill. The twist is that the script and visuals
suggest this creature is also supernatural and if it can get you frozen in the
water, it can achieve a visual near-supernatural (or it is an alien from outer
space?) connection with these people as if it were semi-=possessing them.
not carried out to its logical conclusion or played for the maximum of
possibilities, but with Michael Rooker and a decent supporting cast, this is
amusingly watchable as the B-Movie it knows it is making it the most watchable
of our feature releases here.
Of featurette, two additional clips and trailer are the extras.
1.78 X 1 AVC @ 21 MBPS digital High Definition image transfers on American is shot on 35mm film and its
shows as the best-looking and performing of all the titles on this list. Despite some styling down, the color, depth
and detail is impressive throughout all the episodes over three Blu-rays and a
pleasant surprise visually. The 1080p
1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Barrens
and 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Chained are runner-ups shot in HD, having more styling and more
motion blur. Color is a little better on
Barrens and I cannot imagine any of
these looking better in the format for what they are and how they were
shot. The anamorphically enhanced DVD
versions of Barrens and Chained are softer and weaker than
their Blu-ray versions, but Barrens
has the softest transfer of all the DVDs here.
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the DVDs of Case and Hypothermia are
not bad, with Case shot on 35mm film
and having a really impressive transfer here for the source, age of the film
and the format Hypothermia is an HD shoot that might even look better on a
Blu-ray. Hope it gets one.
TrueHD 7.1 on Chained just makes the
grade as the best-sounding of all the releases here, well recorded and mixed,
even if it is not breakout sound design, followed by the DTS-HD MA (Master
Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on American
and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on Barrens as
decent 2nd-place performers sonically with sound sometimes more towards
the front speakers than I mighty have liked.
All have some fine sound moments and surrounds, but they also have sound
flaws and quiet patches, especially the latter two. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Case is another nice surprise cleaned
up and sounding better than expected, but the big shock is that it can hold its
own against the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on the other three DVDs here
which lack good soundfields and disappoint.
I wonder if Hypothermia would
sound better in a lossless codec?
- Nicholas Sheffo