Blu-ray Reviews – Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, Horns, The Guest, The Houses October Built

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Several noteworthy releases are hitting store shelves today, but literal, and digital, so I thought I’d group reviews of the most important releases to hit this week, in an effort to help you prioritize your pickups this week. From Scream Factory, we have Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh dropping this week, which is one of the better horror sequels in my eyes. We also have Alexandre Aja’s Horns hitting, which is one of the most-see titles of 2014. Image Entertainment’s Best Buy-exclusive Blu-ray release of The Houses October Built, and last, but most certainly not least, Adam Wingard’s The Guest finally becomes available to the masses. I had a chance to peruse these Blu-rays over the course of the last several weeks, and let me tell you, that they are all worth every penny. There are several other releases that hit the shelves this week, such as Boyhood, the first season of Black Sails, and the Idris Elba thriller, No Good Deed. These will undoubtedly be covered on the site throughout the week, but I wanted to make these  three a priority. Up on the block first is Scream Factory’s release of Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh.

 

It feels sort of weird, reviewing the sequel to Candyman without having the first film released to Blu-ray yet. I understand, however, that another distro company supposedly holds the rights to the film, with intentions on a Blu-ray release some time in the future, so it’s not something I’m holding against Scream Factory. I know they would have released the first film as well if given the opportunity. I just wish that other company, one that has been lighting the horror charts on fire as of late with their sold out limited edition Blu-rays, would hurry up with their release. I digress. I’ve always been a fan of Farewell to the Flesh. Perhaps even more so than other horror fans. And, I am a fan of Bill Condon. Sure, he directed a two-part Twilight movie, but he also directed Kinsey, as well as Gods and Monsters. Farewell to the Flesh is the type of sequel that takes that boogie man from the first film, and expands his mythology so you can get a better understanding as to how he came to be. Sometimes this works, and other times it doesn’t, but I really feel like this sequel is a shining example of how to do a followup like this, and do it right.

From Shoutfactory.com:

Synopsis

“Scarier Than the Original” – Fort Worth Star

His myth has endured for generations. His legacy is eternal rage. And now he’s back… with a vengeance! Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh continues the tale of the phantom-like figure who wreaks a terrible fate upon those who chant his name five times while looking into a mirror… and come face to face with grisly death.

A victim of unspeakable evil while he lived, the “Candyman” (Tony Todd, Final Destination) has become evil incarnate in his afterlife. This time, he haunts the city of New Orleans, where a young schoolteacher named Annie Tarrant (Kelly Rowan, The O.C.) is struggling to solve the brutal murder of her father. The locals insist that he was slain by the Candyman, but Annie is not convinced… until she unwittingly summons the monster forth, learns the secret of his power, and discovers the link that connects her to him. But can she stop him before he kills again? Directed by Bill Condon (Gods And Monsters, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) from a story by Clive Barker (Hellraiser, Nightbreed), Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh is “one heck of a scary movie” (Moviehole)!

 

What makes Farewell to the Flesh work, as far as giving the boogieman a backstory goes, is that the Candyman’s story is actually tragic. I’m not saying that Fred Kruger being burned alive isn’t terrible, it’s just… the guy was a child molester(get over it, it’s true). Here, we have a tragic story of love, and brutal loss. In a way, you can identify with the plight of Daniel, AKA Candyman. If something similar happened to you and/or a loved one, you might vow eternal vengeance as well. The story weaves in-and-out of present day, giving you the current day incarnation of Daniel, now known as Candyman, a sort of urban Bloody Mary, as well as giving you a hearty glimpse of him as a man, and what transpired to make him the ghoul he has become. It’s a highly effective sequel, and I’m glad to see a distribution house like Scream Factory giving it the love it deserves.

The Blu-ray itself is adequate, especially considering that low price, hovering around 15 bucks. It’s not one of their famous Collector’s Editions, so it doesn’t come brimmin with extras, but it does have several worthy of your time, including an extended interview with Candyman himself, Tony Todd. Other reviewers have claimed that the transfer is “soft”, but I can assure you, if you’ve only ever seen this film on VHS and DVD, this is a major upgrade. There are a few instances of what would appear to be print damage, or maybe even dirt that slipped through the screening process, but otherwise the film looks detailed, and the colors are crisp and poppy. As far as audio options go, you have two DTS-HD Master Audio tracks to choose from. One 2.0 track, which purists may prefer, and one 5.1 track, which is a much better exhibition of the film, if you ask me. The scope of the film feels “widened” with the enhanced surround track. However you choose to consume your classics on the new format, pick your poison and chances are you won’t be disappointed.

theguestbluNext up is Adam Wingard’s The Guest. Most of us were tortured by the overwhelmingly positive word-of-mouth surrounding this film, with next-to-no opportunity to actually see it in a theater. Unless you live near a major city, these limited releases are just not going to happen for you, which is unfortunate. Wingard did a phenomenal job at centering the story around October/Halloween, without making it feel gimmicky. I really wish I could have seen it during the month of October, but I’m just happy to have finally seen it at all. Wingard made a name for himself among indie horror filmmakers with his early works such as Pop Skull and Home Sick. I enjoyed those films, but he first wowed me with A Horrible Way To Die in 2010. He really didn’t become a household name until his mainstream hit You’re Next, which, love it or hate it, every genre fan at least has an opinion of that throwback piece of horror. Wingard, being a child of the Eighties, doubles down on the homage to the films he grew up loving with The Guest.

From the Press Release:

A mysterious stranger befriends a grieving family, but his hidden past soon puts them all in danger in the edgy, suspense film The Guest, coming to Blu-ray Combo Pack with DVD and Digital HD with Ultraviolet on January 6, 2015 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.  From director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, the masterminds behind the award-winning modern horror tale You’re Next, The Guest earned a “Certified Fresh” seal on Rotten Tomatoes with a remarkable score of 92% and starsDan Stevens (“Downton Abbey,” A Walk Among the Tombstones), who transforms himself from Edwardian gentleman to ripped modern warrior, and  a talented cast including Maika Monroe (Labor Day, The Bling Ring), Sheila Kelley (“Lost,” “Gossip Girl”), Leland Orser (Taken, “24”) and Lance Reddick (John Wick, “Fringe”). Filled with dark humor and explosive violence that critics are calling “all kinds of awesome” (Sara Michelle Fetters, MovieFreak) and “impossibly cool” (Samuel Zimmerman, Fangoria), The Guest Blu-ray Combo Pack includes behind-the-scenes bonus features that unravel thesecrets of this intense and unpredictable thrill ride.

 

The Guest is quite a unique hybrid. It’s not quite horror, it’s not quite action, but it pays homage to some of the greats from both genres. It’s a synthy sci-fi actioner that pays its respects to such genre classics as The Terminator, Friday the 13th, and in some ways, John Carpenter’s Halloween. The prominently featured quote from Vanity Fair on the front cover of the packaging claims that the film is “big, bold and badass”, and I think that’s the perfect way to describe the film. It may turn some people off, if you’re looking for nothing but microwave action, because despite a fairly busy trailer, this is a slow-burning affair. Wingard takes his time, introducing the characters before putting them in peril, but even the slow stuff is highly entertaining, and often times the highlight of the show. The action does come in the third act, though, and it is certainly worth the wait.

Dan Stevens, who is no newcomer to cinema, turns in an unforgettable performances as a returning soldier with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and it gets crazier from there. The real star of the show here is the soundtrack, however. Blended with synthy original score elements are even more synthy sounds that make up one hell of a compilation CD. I’d highly recommend purchasing the OST on the same day as the film, because trust me, you’re going to want it. The Guest is being released to Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Universal, so you know as far as PQ and AQ goes, you’re going to be getting quality. The one area where this release is lacking is the special features. There are a few on the disc, maybe more than most new releases are treated with even. But, you’re going to want more when the credits roll on this one, and I really feel like we weren’t given enough. We’ve all come to expect that from new releases, though, so that’s no reason to skip out on one of the best movies on 2014.

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Next up is a film inspired by a documentary, The Houses October Built, on Blu-ray exclusively at Best Buy from IMAGE Entertainment. This will be sort of a tag team review, since I haven’t had the opportunity to view the film yet. My partner in crime, and co-founder of HorrorSexy has, however, so here are his quick thoughts on the film itself, and I’ll chime in at the end with some tidbits about the exclusive Blu-ray.

From Doc Terror:

The first think you need to know about Houses October Built is that it is NOT a documentary about haunts around the country. No matter what you saw in the trailer that made you believe (and love) that idea, it is a work of fiction. It is shot in the found footage/POV style. Hopefully we haven’t lost you yet, but we absolutely have to clear the air before I we can start praising it.

Houses October Built starts off as a tour of haunted attractions across the country and ends in a butt-clenchingly tense moment of what might be described as Halloween karma. From open to close this is a fun movie that has all the hallmarks of an occult road movie from the 1970’s, updated for a modern audience and not starring Peter Fonda (that’s a Ride with the Devil reference right there). Enjoy the brief glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world and undercover “investigating of” haunted attractions in the beginning and stay for an ending that is well worth some shaky camera nausea.

From the Press Release:

THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT is an instant Halloween classic,” said Ward.  “This is a film that audiences will seek out year after year – and will be just as terrified each time they watch it.”

THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT takes you where no other Halloween film has gone before.  Beneath the fake blood and cheap masks of countless haunted house attractions across the country, there are whispers of truly terrifying alternatives. Looking to find an authentic, blood-curdling good fright for Halloween, five friends set off on a road trip in an RV to track down these underground Haunts. Just when their search seems to reach a dead end, strange and disturbing things start happening and it becomes clear that the Haunt has come to them …

“We found out that over 35 million people go to Halloween Haunts each year,” said writer/director Bobby Roe. “But out of all the horror films out there, no one has touched on these places. It’s untapped. So we decided to tell a story centered around the holiday and set it in the world of Halloween Haunted Houses.”

 

As mentioned above, currently the only place you can get the Blu-ray release of this film is Best Buy. This caused some confusion among those that were anticipating the film, as I have seen several reports from people who pre-ordered the DVD, because they thought it was a DVD-Only release. It is unclear as to whether or not the Blu-ray will become available at other outlets at some point in the future, but I’d say it’s highly likely. If not, I’m sure there will be plenty on the secondary markets. Though I haven’t had a chance to sit down with the full release, I did pop it in long enough to check the picture and sound quality, and peruse the special features. The movie looks and sounds gorgeous on Blu-ray, but the real star of the show here is the full-length documentary that inspired the film, which is exclusive to the Blu-ray release of the film. In addition tot hat, you also get some behind the scenes looks at the haunts featured in the movie, as well as some deleted scenes, photo galleries, and more. It appears that you can order the disc through Best Buy’s website, and it’s only 12.99 at the time of this posting. So, if you have the hardware necessary for playback, it is highly recommended that you go with the Blu-ray release of the film, over the less-packed DVD.

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The last Blu-ray release I want to talk about today, is Starz/Anchor Bay’s release of Alexandre Aja’s Horns, starring Daniel Radcliffe. I am a huge fan of Aja’s work, but he’s been more in producer mode lately, aside from the Piranha remake. Horns is actually his first directed feature since then, if you can believe that. Horns is a film that is adapted from a Joe Hill novel of the same name. It’s a non-linear love story, in a way that could only come from the Stephen King gene pool. Radcliffe plays Ig. Ig is in love with his childhood friend Merrin, played by Juno Temple. Soon after the introduction of the film, you’ll learn that Merrin has been murdered, and every person in town thinks that Ig is responsible. The film weaves in and out of past and present day, unfolding the tragic story of Merrin, and the day Ig lost her forever.

From the Press Release:

A supernatural thriller driven by fantasy, mystery, and romance, HORNS follows Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe), the number one suspect for the murder of his girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple). Hungover from a night of hard drinking, Ig awakens one morning to find horns growing from his head and soon realizes their power drives people to confess their sins and give in to their most selfish and unspeakable impulses–an effective tool in his quest to discover what happened to his girlfriend and exact revenge on her killer. Based on the best-selling novel by Joe Hill.

 

The macabre style Aja has become known for is certainly present in horns, but in reality, this is a very different beast as compared to the rest of his body of work. At its core, Horns is a love story. Granted, it’s a twisted, morbid and tragic love story, but a love story nonetheless. This might be Alex Aja’s best film to date, and that’s coming from the mouth of a person that holds his Hills Have Eyes remake in much higher regard than Wes Craven’s original. As great of a film as Hills was, Horns really hit me, on a more personal level. Who can’t relate to love and loss? Almost everybody can. Some more than others, and some merely think their story is more tragic. Whatever the case may be, if you have met the love of your life, and lost them, either in the form of a tragedy like in Horns, or simply by taking different paths in life, you will likely be touched in a way by Horns that most genre films fail to accomplish. This isn’t a Justin Timberlake romcom, however. This is still a film based on a work by Joe Hill, and directed by Alex Aja, so we go to some dark places in our quest for the truth. Aja’s adaptation of Hill’s novel is one of the very best genre films to be released in 2014. I likely won’t construct a standard top 10 of the year list this year, but if I were to do so, Horns would be on it.

Is there really a point in reviewing the sound and video quality of a new release film from a major studio? No, not really. It looks and sounds gorgeous, so you can expect quality. The only real issue with this release is the shocking lack of bonus content. As it stands, there is only a “making of” featurette on the disc, and absolutely nothing else. This is disappointing, because it’s a film you’re going to want to learn more about. Sadly this just won’t be the case. It’s not enough for me to recommend that you skip the disc, however. In fact, I’m going to give it a high recommendation based on the quality of the film alone. I just want you to be prepared for when the credits roll, and you find that your appetite for knowledge will not be fulfilled. Plus, the 12.99 price tag more than makes up for the lack of bonus content.

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