New Blu-ray Releases Halloween

It’s 2019, but the films of 2018 are still trickling onto Blu-ray, and I’m here to help you sort through some of them. This week, we examine the Blu release of David Gordon Green’s Halloween, the underrated Neil Armstrong pic First Man, Joel Schumacher’s sleazy Nicolas Cage thriller 8MM, and the indie horror flick Hell Fest. These are the new Blu-ray releases and their special features you should check out this week, and beyond.

Halloween
(Now on Digital; On Blu-ray 1/15)

David Gordon Green smashed the rotting pumpkin that was the Halloween franchise, and replaced it with a fresh new Jack-O-Lantern. Green’s film can’t compare to John Carpenter‘s chilling original film, but very few movies can. Rather than try to ape Carpenter’s style, Green instead goes for something more modern, blending brutal kills with surprisingly funny jokes. At the center of it all is a killer performance by Jamie Lee Curtis, returning as Laurie Strode. Laurie has spent the last 40 years waiting for Michael Myers to return, and sure enough, he heads back to Haddonfield on Halloween night. But Laurie is no victim this time. Instead, she reclaims her own narrative, and fights back. After so many lackluster sequels and reboots, watching the new Halloween is all treat, no tricks. And the new score composed by Carpenter slams, as the kids say. It’s kind of weird that this movie is hitting Blu-ray in January, but hey, let’s just enjoy it, shall we?

Special Features To Note:

Most of the time, when deleted scenes are included on a Blu-ray release, they tend to be kind of lame. You watch them and you think, “Well, now I know why that was cut.” But many of the Halloween deleted scenes are outstanding, and I wish they had ended up in the film.  We see Allyson, Laurie’s granddaughter, out for a morning jog and encountering a dog Michael has killed. It’s a jarring and disturbing. We also get more time with the British podcasters, an explanation as to what happens to Allyson’s jerk boyfriend after their fight, and an hilarious extended moment with the so-called “Bánh mì Cops”, as they riff back and forth about their lunch. The best of the bunch, though, involves a chilling early scene with Laurie. After shooting off some guns at her homemade shooting range, she goes back inside, cleans some guns, and then very slowly puts a pistol beneath her chin, as if she’s about to commit suicide. As this happens, Green cuts to a wide shot, and we see Michael Myers standing in a doorway. Michael’s not actually there, of course – he’s yet to escape from the asylum at this point. And sure enough, when Green cuts back, he’s gone. It’s immensely creepy, suggesting how haunted by Michael Laurie is, and how depressed she’s become over the years. I really can’t figure out why this moment, of all the deleted scenes, didn’t end up in the final film.

Beyond that, we get a few very quick “making of” featurettes, where Green, Curtis, Carpenter and more talk about creating the film while also singing the praises of the original. Carpenter is, as always, the highlight, giving droll, no-bullshit answers to questions. There’s also a neat featurette on creating the new Michael Myers mask for the film.

Special Features Include: 

  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • Back in Haddonfield: Making Halloween
  • The Original Scream Queen
  • The Sound of Fear
  • Journey of the Mask
  • The Legacy of Halloween

 

First Man
(Now On Digital; On Blu-ray 1/22)

I feel a little bad for being so lukewarm to First Man when I saw it at TIFF in 2018. It’s not that I didn’t like the film. I even gave it a semi-good review. But revisiting the film on Blu-ray has made me appreciate it a lot more. Perhaps I was caught off guard by the intimate, deliberately stilted way the film portrays its characters. This is a movie about a very closed off man, and director Damien Chazelle effectively builds that feature into the film. Ryan Gosling has made a name for himself playing quiet characters who clearly have something going on behind their eyes, and his work here as Neil Armstrong might be his very best performance. There’s a moment early in the film where Armstrong completely breaks down sobbing, and it’s jarring – because he spends the rest of the film so reserved and emotionless. First Man is ultimately about grief, loss, and letting go, and that might not be what you expect when you go into a Neil Armstrong biopic. But the result is rather wonderful. First Man underperformed at the box office, and has been mostly ignored during awards season, and that’s a shame. Hopefully the film’s home video release will allow more people to reconnect with it, like I did.

Special Features to Note:

There are 8 featurettes here, but all of them are very quick (we’re talking no more than 2 minutes). My advice would be to watch them all at once to get more bang for your buck. They take you through the production, and while there’s very little meat here, you get a sense of what Chazelle and company were striving for with the film – an intimate story that both put you inside the head of Neil Armstrong, and also highlighted how fucking crazy the idea of going to the moon was.

A behind-the-scenes look at how a giant LED screen projecting images was used instead of a green screen (see above) is the most interesting featurette, as it’s the first time any film production has done something like this. The actors comment on how it’s far more rewarding than just looking at a blank green screen, and it just might be the future of movie-making. Or not.

Special Features Include:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Shooting for the Moon – Take an intimate look at the production of FIRST MAN and the collaborative relationship between Director Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling.
  • Preparing to Launch – It’s difficult to believe that FIRST MAN is the first major feature film to tell the journey to Apollo 11. Hear from Director Damien Chazelle and his cast why now is the time to tell the story of this historic event.
  • Giant Leap in One Small Step – A heroic character study, FIRST MAN sheds light on all the hard working individuals that got us to the moon and back.
  • Mission Gone Wrong – Watch as Ryan Gosling reenacts a test piloting sequence gone terribly wrong. Go behind the scenes to see how he trained to nail the landing, performing the majority of his own stunts.
  • Putting You In the Seat – Through the use of innovative technology, most of FIRST MAN was shot in-camera. Take an in-depth look behind the lens of this epic film.
  • Recreating the Moon Landing – Filmed in IMAX to show the vastness of the moon, find out all that it took to recreate the most famous moment in NASA history.
  • Shooting at NASA – Hear from Ryan Gosling and Director Damien Chazelle on how shooting at NASA brought unparalleled authenticity to FIRST MAN.
  • Astronaut Training – Go behind the scenes of the three day boot camp each of the actors underwent prior to filming FIRST MAN.
  • Feature Commentary with Director Damien Chazelle, Screenwriter Josh Singer and Editor Tom Cross

 

8MM

Joel Schumacher‘s sleazy 8MM hits Blu-ray from the fine folks at Shout! Factory. This ’90s thriller feels as if it’s been mostly forgotten, and while I wouldn’t exactly call it a great movie, it is often gripping. It’s also strange to think a major studio went ahead with this, and it’s hard to imagine that would happen in this day and age. It’s not that the film is overly-graphic – and indeed, if this were an indie picture, it probably would’ve pushed the envelope even further. But for a big studio release, 8MM is unrelentingly bleak and nasty. Nicolas Cage, giving a very restrained performance, is a private eye hired to find out if a recently discovered snuff film is real. The case sends him down a pornographic rabbit hole where he encounters all sorts of colorful characters (including a young Joaquin Phoenix as a porn store clerk, and James Gandolfini as a producer). While I enjoy (is that the right word? Maybe appreciate is better) 8MM, I think Schumacher was the wrong person to direct it, and had someone else handled it, it might have turned out even better.

 

Special Features to Note: 

A new, candid interview with Schumacher included on the disc is a hoot. As I said above, I don’t think Schumacher was right for the material. But it’s clear that he was committed to the film from this interview. He reveals that he wanted to get as far away from blockbusters and summer movies as possible at the time, and asked his agency to find him something different. They told him that there was a great script – from Seven writer Andrew Kevin Walker – floating around at Sony, but no one wanted to touch it because of the subject matter. Schumacher happily volunteered.

Schumacher wanted Russell Crowe for the lead role, and he wanted to shoot a “down and dirty” hand-held picture. Crowe was ready to sign on, but then Nicolas Cage became involved. Cage was at the height of his career at this point, and Crowe had yet to break out with Gladiator. Schumacher said he was happy to make either a more grungy pic with Crowe, or a more studio-driven film with Cage – obviously, the studio went with Cage. 

The filmmaker also gives us a piece of trivia that you can now use to impress your friends at parties: if you have a sex scene in a movie where a man is seen thrusting 4 times, you’ll get an NC-17 rating. If he only thrusts 3 times, you’ll get an R. Hooray for Hollywood!  

Special Features Include: 

  • NEW 8MM In 35MM – An Interview With Producer/Director Joel Schumacher
  • Audio Commentary With Producer/Director Joel Schumacher
  • Vintage Behind The Scenes Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

 

Hell Fest

Gregory Plotkin‘s Hell Fest has a neat premise: what if a real serial killer was stalking around a haunted attraction? No one would notice, because they’d think it was all part of the act! Cool! Unfortunately, Hell Fest never does much with that set-up. Here, a group of friends attend Hell Fest, which is a giant horror-themed amusement park (that I really wish existed, because I’d go there all the time). I could use this opportunity to explain who these young folk are, but honestly, they’re all pretty generic and only exist so they can be slashed or hacked. The only stand-out is the lead, Natalie, played believably by Amy Forsyth (Channel Zero). Forsyth has a very natural acting style here, and the way she delivers her dialogue sounds real – like a real college kid, not a college kid in a movie. It works. Other than Forsyth’s performance, Hell Fest boasts some clever production design (the themes of the various haunts the characters stumble through are fun), and a few surprisingly nasty kills, complete with practical gore. There’s a good movie in here somewhere, but this ain’t it, chief. That said, if you’re looking for a simple, no-brainer horror pic with a few bloody moments, you might enjoy this.

Special Features to Note:

Your standard “making of” featurette, where Potlkin and producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) start off by talking about Hell Fest as if it’s a real place (it’s not, as far as I can tell). Then they breakdown the plot and a few behind-the-scenes details. Production designer Michael T. Perry had experience building both haunts and amusement park rides, which explains why these elements are probably the most interesting part of the movie. 

Special Features Include:

  • “Thrills and Kills: Making Hell Fest” Featurette

 

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