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As it seems my lot in life to enjoy movies that everyone else dislikes, I thought it would be fitting to start my list off with such an entry. I was skeptical about THE RAVEN for several reasons, which is why I skipped it in the theater. And I didn't hear any particularly good buzz about it, so I figured it was a non-starter. But as I am a masochist and often watch movies because I think I won't like them, I gave this one a go anyway. Needless to say, I am glad that I did.
In the movie, a brilliant madman forces Poe to write about his exploits, lest Poe's betrothed be the next victim. I am not a particularly big Poe fan, but I quite liked seeing John Cusack in such disparate role for him. I found the movie to be somewhere between a darker SHERLOCK HOLMES and a less tedious FROM HELL, and I was quite surprised at how bloody it was. The Blu-Ray transfer is really sharp for a movie set so much in the shadows. It has a decent selection of special features, including a nice nuts and bolts commentary and a couple of . But only on the Blu-Ray. The DVD has only the commentary and none of the featurettes. So na na if you're living in standard def land.
Okay, this is sort of a loophole, but the RE-ANIMATOR disc of which I am speaking was released in 2012 so it counts. This DVD doesn't have all of the features of the previously released 2-disc special edition, obviously, but I tell you what: it has most of them. Amongst which are two commentaries (one informative, and one more of a party vibe) and featurettes on all aspects of production.
As far as the mechanics of the disc, it looks and sounds as good as it ever has on DVD. You'll not miss a second of Jeffrey Combs in his iconic role as Herbert West, the dour, arrogant little scientist bent on defeating brain death. If you've never seen it,you know that quest includes a twice - resurrected cat, a morgue-massacre, and a headless surgeon performing cunnilingus on a fresh young Barbara Crampton. If you already own the 2-disc, move on: nothing to see here. But if you don't, this slightly cheaper version might be a good deal for you.
Switching from big budget Hollywood to low budget New Zealand, I am including THE DEVIL'S ROCK mainly because I think not enough people have seen it. It takes places during WWII, and two Ozzie soldiers on a diversionary mission find themselves fighting an evil far more intimate than Der Fuhrer. They were simply on a nuisance mission, a fly buzzing around Hitler's face, and end up battling a demon with an insatiable thirst for hot, salty human blood.
This is one of those films where the low budget actually adds to the quality, as it forced the filmmakers to get creative, and to show you what they could and imply the rest. I think the best example of their resourcefulness is a time-lapse feature on the disc showing how the two main sets in the film were both constructed on the same stage: they built one, shot what was needed, broke it down, then rebuilt it as the second. No pick-up shots for these guys; it was a one and done venture. I haven't seen the Blu-Ray, but the disc looks and sounds good, and has featurettes covering all aspects of the production, as well as an informative commentary by the writer/director.
Having uploaded my list last, I already know that Andre and Ammon also selected CABIN IN THE WOODS for their lists. A fact which gave me not a second's pause in including it here. That unanimity should be a clear indication of how great it is. If you haven't seen it yet, it is a batshit insane movie that bursts from the chest of the kids-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods horror film trope like a xenomorph with a bad attitude. I think the less you know about the film going into it the better, but suffice it to say that director Drew Goddard and Geek God Joss Whedon knocked it way, way the hell out of the park.
A film such as this, with all the twists and turns and frankly bizarre machinations happening in the background of the film proper, should get an excellent Blu-Ray treatment, and I'm happy to report that that is absolutely the case here. The movie looks and sounds excellent (thankfully Whedon held fast against a crappy 3D retrofit) and it is jamming with features, including a great commentary and some great featurettes on the monsters. Oops, did I say monsters? Yeah, there are more than a few here. All in all, $20 for this Blu-Ray is a steal. Better yet, I hope Santa leaves it under your tree, even though we both know you've been naughty.
THE WOMAN has an interesting history. A while back there was a pretty decent film adaptation of Jack Ketchum's Offspring, which seemed like an odd choice considering that that book was a sequel, and no film of its predecessor, Off Season, had ever been made. The matriarch of the film's primitive, cannibalistic clan turned out to be so popular with everyone involved that they decided to base a peripheral film on her character. This seemed to me to be a strange, and possible not good idea.
I have rarely been so pleased to be so wrong. THE WOMAN is a magnificent film, and a nice shot in the arm for director Lucky McKee, who is a great filmmaker but has been dealt some blows (not the least of which was recently being kicked off another Ketchum project, RED). The wonderful Pollyanna MacIntosh reprises her role as The Woman, in this case becoming a captive herself instead of a captor, which leads to a singularly brutal, yet oddly beautiful, conclusion. The Blu-Ray is marvelous in terms of picture, sound quality, and amongst the special features is a funny animated short called Mi Burro. The only downside I can think of to this disc is that there is no commentary. Still, it needs to be in your collection.