The New Blu-Ray Releases You Should Check Out This Week

(Welcome to Not Dead Yet, a feature dedicated to what's new on Blu-ray and what special features you should be excited about. Because yes, some of us still like to own physical copies of our movies.)

It's time for another physical media round-up! Look, I get it – you're trying to declutter, you don't want a bunch of Blu-ray discs all over your place. "Why buy a physical copy when I can just stream everything?" you might ask. Maybe I'm crazy, but I still think there's something sacred about physical media. To be able to have the film you want when you want it, no hassle – unless you consider getting up and popping a disc into a player to be a hassle, in which case you're just being lazy. It's worth remembering that not every movie is available to stream. And even things that currently are streaming always stand the risk of expiring. That'll never happen with your physical media.

This week on Blu-ray, there's a sequel to the longest running horror franchise, a sequel to the lamest running Disney franchise, an existential haunted house movie and the directorial debut of Freddy Krueger. These are the new Blu-ray releases you should check out this week.

Cult of Chucky

The Child's Play franchise has somehow survived all these years almost entirely intact. While other horror series' found themselves rebooted, Chucky the killer doll almost always stayed the same, with main creative force Don Mancini running the show and Brad Dourif providing the voice of Chucky. Cult of Chucky, the seventh film in the franchise, might be the weirdest film yet – and that's saying something. It's also the least self-contained film in the franchise; if you haven't seen any of the Child's Play films before this, especially the previous film, Curse of Chucky, you're going to be completely baffled by what goes on here. Hell, you might still be completely baffled by what goes on here even if you have seen the films.

Set almost entirely in an insane asylum, Cult of Chucky sees the return of everyone's favorite murderous Good Guy, and he's brought some unexpected friends along for the ride. As a bonus, original Child's Play star Alex Vincent returns as Andy, Chucky's friend to the end, although he's sadly underused here. This is simultaneously the best-looking film in the franchise and also the cheapest-looking. There's a stark, even beautiful cinematography to much of the scenes set within the asylum, al contrasted with snowy winter. But there are also times where the film's low budget is showing, particularly when Chucky has to walk around – it never looks convincing, and always looks like a particularly bad special effect. While the effects in the Chucky films were never exactly ground-breaking, there were never this cheap looking either. This is by no means the best film in the franchise, there is a certain charm in the fact that Cult of Chucky is so committed to getting so weird. Also, as an unapologetic Child's Play fanatic, I'll happily keep watching these sequels as long as Mancini wants to keep making them.

Special Features to Note: The Cult of Chucky Blu-ray comes with a few mini-documentary features that delve into the production. In Inside the Making of Cult of Chucky, Don Mancini and company talk about their approach to the film. Mancini talks about wanting a modern, minimalist, almost desaturated look for the film  – a look that certainly sets it apart from the rest. Almost everyone involved with the production (behind the scenes, at least) lists their "favorite kill" from the film. Mancini's is a moment involving Chucky and a power drill. Another feature goes into the creation and operation of the various Chucky dolls used throughout the film. It apparently takes at least four people to operate the robotics in Chucky's head alone, along with a whole team of people in green screen bodysuits operating various parts of Chucky's anatomy.

The best feature of the bunch, however, is one called The Dollhouse, which is less about the film and more about the franchise as a whole, and how the people who have been working on the Chucky series all this time have become something akin to family. Some might see it as overly sentimental, but it's rather sweet and a nice contrast to all the blood and gore the films provide. In one of the segments best moments, Fiona Dourif, who starred in in Curse and Cult of Chucky, sits side-by-side with her father Brad Dourif, AKA the voice of Chucky. "She's got her feet and she doesn't need me anymore," Dourif says of his daughter's career, leading Fiona to instantly reply "I still need you!" It's a nice little moment that highlights the heart behind all the madness of the Chucky series.

Special features Include

  • Digital Copy of Cult of Chucky
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director/Writer/Executive Producer Don Mancini
  • Inside the Insanity of Cult of Chucky
  • Good Guy Gone Bad: The Incarnations of Chucky
  • The Dollhouse
  • Feature Commentary with Director/Writer/Executive Producer Don Mancini and Head Puppeteer/Associate Producer Tony Gardner

A Ghost Story

David Lowery's gorgeous, depressing, existential dream A Ghost Story is one of those movies you can instantly tell a lot of people won't like. That's not to say the film is bad – on the contrary, it's one of the best films of 2017. But A Ghost Story is so deliberately obtuse; so committed to being introspective; so unconcerned about operating within the confines of traditional narrative that most casual moviegoers are going to take one look at this thing and run shrieking in confused terror. Those willing to willfully embark on the journey Lowery (who helmed the wonderful Disney film Pete's Dragon) has mapped out, however, will be rewarded with a lovely, sad movie that's somehow both very small and very big.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are a couple going about their daily lives when an event changes everything – Affleck's character dies. (Spoiler! Only not really). Affleck returns from the grave as a ghost draped in a sheet, a concept that might seem kind of silly but surprisingly isn't. From here, Lowery's film drifts through time and space, always with Affleck's ghost in the background. Oh, and there's a scene where Rooney Mara eats an entire pie. It could be easy to label A Ghost Story as pretentious hogwash, but it's really a rather lovely film, one that will haunt you more than any specter a gothic novelist could dream up. "This movie is a very explicit attempt to deal with time passing," Lowery says in press materials for A Ghost Story. "[I]t's going to move forward whether I like it or not, and eventually everything I've worked towards or achieved will become meaningless...We all strive to make sure whatever we're doing in life is built to last...This is a universal aim, the sense that we are constantly trying to affect the world around us, (fighting our impermanence)."

Special Features to Note: In A Ghost Story and the Inevitable Passage of Time, Lowery, Affleck and various members of the production sit in a circle in a supposedly haunted building in the dark (it's shot in night vision) and run through almost every aspect of the film. It's an informative segment but a part of me wonders if it's explaining too much. It almost feels like some executive producer somewhere insisted this be shot so that everyone coming away from the film wondering what the hell they just saw would have some definitive answers. Still, it makes for an enjoyable feature, with Lowery talking about how he had always wanted to make a haunted house movie with a ghost in a sheet, because he thought that was funny. He also says he was having something like an existential crisis thinking about time, and that combined with the ghost in a sheet idea to form the framework of the film. Costume designer Annell Brodeur talks about how getting the sheet that covers Affleck to look right was a lot harder than simply throwing a sheet over someone; she and Lowery wanted it to feel "elegant" as opposed to a child in a costume. Lowery goes into why the film is presented in a 1:33 aspect ratio rather than a traditional cinematic (or rectangle) ratio – it was a way to both make the film visually distinct and also represent the trapped nature of Affleck's ghost.

Beyond this segment, there's an interview with composer Daniel Hart talking about how he constructed soundscapes for the film's gorgeous soundtrack. There's also an utterly useless deleted scene where Affleck silently makes some coffee.

Special Features Include

  • Audio Commentary with Director David Lowery, Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo, Production Designer Jade Healy, and Composer Daniel Hart
  • "A Ghost Story and the Inevitable Passing of Time" Featurette
  • "A Composer's Story" Featurette
  • Deleted Scene

976-Evil

There's a good reason Robert Englund, the actor who brought Freddy Krueger to life, is more well-known for his acting than his brief foray into filmmaking. Englund's directorial debut, 976-Evil, is terrible. But it's terrible in that very '80s sort of way, where it's somehow really bad yet watchable. 976-Evil follows a group of characters who all find their lives in mortal danger thanks to a premium-rate telephone number that supposedly offers callers their "Horrorscope." What it really does, though is...well, I'm not sure. Nothing in this movie makes much sense. The dial-in number either has the power to kill the caller or turn the caller into some sort of all-powerful demon.

I'll level with you – there's a lot of goofy shit in this movie, and almost none of it works. In the first few minutes of the film alone, a man is blown-up inside a telephone booth, causing him to flip backwards through the air, at which point we can very clearly see the wire holding him up. Still, as an unholy relic of the '80s, 976-Evil is kind of fascinating to watch. To think this film was not only made but released to theaters, and then inspired a sequel, is mind-blowing. The fact that 976-Evil is receiving a Blu-ray release at all suggests that there's some sort of demand for this movie, which is amazing in its own right.

Special Features to Note: There's not a whole lot here, but there is a commentary with director Robert Englund and Set Decorator Nancy Booth Englund. Englund is such a likable guy that you might enjoy what he has to say here, but for the most part, this is one of those director's commentaries where the director is pretty much narrating what's happening on screen rather than giving us any real details. It's also a rather sporadic commentary, with long stretches of silence in between comments. Still, there are some fun moments, like one when flies are heard in the film, Englund cheerfully pipes-up, "Don't you love those flies on the soundtrack? I've loved flies since the first time I heard 'em in a movie!"

Special Features Include

  • ALL-NEW: Commentary with Director Robert Englund and Set Decorator Nancy Booth Englund
  • Alternate home video version of the film with 12 extra minutes of footage

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Oh brother, why does Disney keep making these Pirates sequels? Of course the answer is "money", but it's probably time to bury this franchise on a desert island somewhere and forget all about it. Johnny Depp's mugging Jack Sparrow is back, and he's drunker than ever, in a new adventure that involves a bunch of nonsense thrown into a blender as an excuse to blow a ton of money making this thing.

Credit where credit is due, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales realizes that the power in Depp's Jack Sparrow relied on how infrequently he was used – he was the Han Solo of the franchise, not the Luke Skywalker. The earlier Pirates sequels realized how popular Jack was and put him front and center, to disastrous results. Here, the character is scaled back a bit. The problem with that, however, is that our new leads – Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner (son of Orlando Bloom's character Will Turner) and Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth – are painfully dull. Thwaites and Scodelario give it their all, but their characters are severely underwritten to the point that they're paper thin. The usually dependable Javier Bardem is shockingly bad as the film's main villain, Captain Armando Salazar. Salazar is yet another ghost pirate with an entire ship of ghost pirates at his disposal, but there's nothing remotely interesting about the character, and Bardem plays Salazar as if he permanently has some food stuck in his throat. The sole bright spot here is Geoffrey Rush as the sometimes good/sometimes bad Captain Hector Barbossa. Halfway through Dead Men Tell No Tales, the script decides it wants the film to really be about Barbossa, sort of the way Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was secretly really about Michael Rooker's Yondu. Unfortunately, the script here doesn't even come close to being as emotional as Guardians Vol. 2, and it's impossible for us to really become invested. Rush does his very best, though, to sell it and almost – but not quite – succeeds.

Special Features to Note: There's a treasure chest of special features included with this Blu-ray, but they're not very special. Everyone interviewed for the various behind-the-scenes looks at film are trying hard to put on a happy face, but you can tell they're all dreadfully bored and can't wait to get the heck out of there. Rush, who is so jovial and lively in the film, is droll and disconnected in the features, and Depp honestly seems like he's about ready for a nap. There's an entire segment on here called "Deconstructing the Ghost Sharks", which looks at a scene in the film where Bardem's baddie unleashes three zombie sharks on our heroes. You'd think something called "Deconstructing the Ghost Sharks " would be rather exciting, wouldn't you? Incorrect! This segment is presented with all the dull sterility of a short instructional video a high school teacher pops on with the hopes of killing a few minutes before the period ends. The only person clearly having fun here is producer Jerry Bruckheimer, which makes sense since he stands to make the most money off these flicks.

Special Features Include

  • Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Making Of A New Adventure:
  • A Return to the Se
  • Telling Tales: A Sit-Down with Brenton & Kaya
  • The Matador & the Bull: Secrets of Salazar & the Silent Mary
  • First Mate Confidential
  • Deconstructing the Ghost Sharks
  • Wings over the Caribbean
  • An Enduring Legacy
  • Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Diary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Bloopers