'Scared to Death - Horror Movie Collection'
(Kate Beckinsale, Emily Blunt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Olivia Munn, et al / 4-Disc DVD / R / 2018 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Calling all Horror film fans! 21 modern and classic features together in a killer bundle of thrilling, chilling movies!
DVD Verdict: Featuring horror movies such as: 'I Know What You Did Last Summer,' 'When A Stranger Calls,' 'The Cave,' 'Vacancy,' 'Wind Chill,' 'Devour,' 'Insanitarium,' 'The Plague,' 'Vinyan,' 'The Corpse Vanishes,' 'Night Fright,' 'Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,' 'Tales of Frankenstein,' 'Lights Out: The Passage Beyond,' 'Killers from Space,' and more, this collection is just perfect for ALL bloodthirsty fans of the genre!
Delving into a handful of my own personal favorites here, I'll start first with the always-brilliant-to-watch 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' (1997). Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe and Freddie Prinze, Jr. play a group of friends who are drinking and having a good time but on the way home they accidentally run over a man and kill him.
They decide it's best not to go to the police fearing murder charges so they dump his body but a year later they begin getting harassed. Thanks to the success of Wes Craven's 'Scream,' the horror genre got a boost and soon after one slasher after another was being released. Out of all of them this one here is the best in my opinion.
That's because Kevin Williamson's screenplay goes away from all the self-mocking and instead delivers a very good story that works perfect as a drama; but it also features the horror elements that slasher fans would come to expect.
Throw in a very good cast and some likable characters and we're left with one of the better horror films to come out of this period. If 'Scream' was a classic like 'Halloween' then 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' is more like a good stepchild in the same vein as a 'Friday the 13th.'
Another of my go-to fav's is the creepily fantastic 'Vacancy' (2007). A suspenseful horror shocker that follows a young disputing couple on their way home from an anniversary party, it brings us Amy and David Fox (Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson), who have just recently lost a child and are about to enter a divorce.
The bickering couple end up stranded outside a small service station in the middle of nowhere, and decide to check into the Pinewood motel, a cheap little place for them to spend the night until they can get help the next morning. The quirky desk clerk gives them their room, and they find it to be a complete dump.
But their dingy motel room is the least of their problems, when they find videotapes of homemade snuff movies where previous guests were filmed as they were brutally murdered.
A rather lovely flashback in the genre is 'Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde' (1931). An exceptional cast and intelligent direction seals the quality of the first 'talkie' version of Robert Louis Stevenson's tale.
Often hailed as the best of the many screen adaptations of the story, director Robert Moumalin exploits the symbolic potential of the tale as well as boldly tapping into popular Freudian trends concerning sexual repression.
The result is not a by-the-numbers rendition but an effective interpretation with quirks and dimensions of its own. Yet the film belongs to, in my humble opinion, Frederic March, who scooped an Oscar for his sensational dual role.
Another delightful flashback is 'The Corpse Vanishes' (1942) aka 'The Case of the Missing Brides'. This low-budget cheapy is from the days when Bela was pretty hard up for roles, but it has a certain charm. The basic plot is that Lugosi is a mad scientist with an aging wife whose beauty he is determined to preserve forever.
Apparently, the way to do this is by extracting some chemical from young women that makes them beautiful. The height of discretion, Bela decides to kidnap brides at the altar – because it's easy to find them, I guess, when they are the center of attention and surrounded by people.
His clever plan is challenged by a young go-getting female reporter who seems just as interested in using her job to secure a doctor for a husband as in solving the case, her comedy-relief photographer buddy, and the inevitable bland love interest.
Luckily, Lugosi has a dysfunctional degenerate white trash family to help him out, and he hires street people to distract the police! Yet another classic.
Lastly, I would draw your attention to 'Killers from Space' (1954). This film is wonderfully cheap, awkward, and earnest. The director has a few successful scenes where a creepy mood is achieved, and there is a kind of plausibility throughout if one is able to accept the concept of an entire universe contained on studio back lots with virtually no money. I don't know why, but the sci-fi and horror films of this cheap, primitive, paranoid era were more fun than those made nowadays.
Besides its innate aesthetic value, this film is notable for an early featured role for the great Peter Graves, who died about a month prior to me writing this review. Mr. Graves' performance here is certainly not Oscar-worthy, but if one imagines the circumstances under which this film was undoubtedly made, he acquits himself well.
Another noteworthy thing: this film features a storyline in which alien space travelers abduct a USAF pilot and perform mysterious and creepy surgery on him, leaving him with a strange scar and the gap in his memory that "ufologists" call 'missing time.' Missing time and secret alien medical procedures have become a cliché of modern UFO mythology, but this is the earliest film I have seen to feature these concepts.
The aliens are bug-eyed creatures who dress in outfits of uncanny similarity to the costume worn by 1930's newspaper comic strip hero 'The Phantom.' Their base of operations is a typical low-budget movie cave of the type favored by the villains in Republic chapter-plays, and their equipment looks mostly like various disembowelled floor-model radios and old DuMont TV sets. Despite the limitations, the scenes containing these elements are the most effective in the film.
Lovers of old-school, low-budget sci-fi and horror will likely enjoy this film, although perhaps not to the degree I did. Nonetheless, it is certainly worth a look if you are the right type of aficionado. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.