Anton Bitel provides a look at six titles heading to streaming and physical media releases this month that you should add to the top of your viewing list.
It is 1945 and the war has ended, but on the contested ground of Jersey in the Channel Islands, only recently liberated from Nazi occupation, Catholic, neurotic Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) still feels “totally cut off from the world.” Her husband Charles (Christopher Eccleston) has not returned from the front, her staff have fled without warning, her large estate is shrouded in fog, and she cannot leave the property, or there would be no one to look after her young children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley).
Their extreme photosensitivity requires that the house be kept in shadow, and Grace’s proclivity to migraines necessitates quiet – but the arrival of three replacement staff members (Fionnula Flanagan, Eric Sykes, Elaine Cassidy) will coincide with escalating paranormal activity, and eventually let in some light.
With its dark old house, its persistent past and its invasive hauntings, writer/director Alejandro Amenábar’s fifth feature offers all the trappings of a classic gothic, while turning the screw with a very unusual perspective on these supernatural goings-on. Playing out in a post-war, post-traumatic daze, this ghost story shows the others reinhabiting these stuffy, repressive interiors, while family and class relations remain unchanged and eternal.
The Others is released on 4K UHD/Blu/DVD, 2 Oct via Studio Canal
In a sepia-toned all-analogue retrofuturist post-apocalyptic Paris, where food is scarce, pulses are currency and civilisation barely holds on, a dilapidated apartment building’s residents are more or less complicit in the crimes of their landlord Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who lures in strangers on the promise of live-in work, then butchers them at night to feed everyone else. For his next victim, Clapet lines up multitalented ex-clown Louison (Dominique Pinon), whose essential decency wins over Clapet’s daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac). Hoping to save Louison, Julie turns to literally underground vegetarian rebels, and chaos ensues.
The pipes and ducts of this creaky old structure reecho with the rhythms of the residents’ lives, making it a microcosm of French society, for better or worse. There are also, in keeping with Louison’s former profession, plenty of sight gags, slapstick pratfalls and grotesque, larger-than-life characters. All at once nightmarish cannibal horror and romantic comedy, good-natured fairytale, and hyper-stylised allegory of French wartime collaboration and resistance, this collective debut from Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet is dizzyingly difficult to pin down, but full of surprise and charm from bitter beginning to sweet end. A classic.
Delicatessen is released on 4K UHD/Blu/DVD/digital, 16 Oct via StudioCanal
This is a film of misnomers. Where its early working titles Morak’s Chant and Cantrell’s Messiah work, it was released in 1976 as Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre – in lurid imitation of Tobe Hopper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), despite a conspicuous absence of cleavers – and then rereleased in 1977 with a shortened version of the title but a longer version of the film (an added prologue and epilogue, in fact repurposed from an entirely different project, have Christopher Lee narrating gothic generalisations to camera). The director too, named as ‘Evan Lee’, was really Keith Burns, until he was replaced mid-production by Ed Wood (!).
When a quartet of thrill-killing male students, led by the psychopathic Mason (Larry Justin), invade the home of academic occultist Cantrell (James Habif), murdering his wife and teen children, the professor, now paralysed in hospital, summons the Gaelic god Morak to wreak vengeance upon them one by one – or are the young men just overcome by their own guilt?
Improbably blending pagan folklore with a post-Manson mindset, this is a bad trip through the paranoia of 1970s Los Angeles, where monsters and madness cohabit. It’s cheap, scuzzy and bonkers, with its own psychedelic vibe.
Meatcleaver Massacre is released on Limited Edition Blu-ray, 16 Oct via 101 Films
“Demons aren’t real – they’re parables, metaphors,” insists a priest (Clayton Hill) near the end of this second sequel to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987). Yet here demons are both. For Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his all-new, ridiculously Nineties army of Cenobites are any number of things: transgressive art come to life, the trauma of endless war made flesh, avatars of forbidden pleasure, doppelgängers of our dark side, Freddy Krueger-like dream warriors and also just plain demons who lampoon Jesus and the Sacrament for edge lord kicks.
Director Anthony Hickox relocates the action to New York City (or at least to Greensboro, North Carolina, standing in for the Big Apple), where ambitious reporter Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill (Terry Farrell) investigates a bizarre murder at the vaguely BDSM Boiler Room nightclub and takes guidance from Great War veteran/interdimensional ghost Captain Elliott Spencer (also Bradley) in how to put his id-like alter ego Pinhead back into the box. The ensuing pandemonium, lacking the bite of the previous two films, just goes through the mythic motions. Also, while Bradley is probably the best performer here, it’s tempting fate to have him utter the line: “I cannot act in your world.”
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is released on UHD/Blu as part of the Hellraiser Quartet of Torment, 23 Oct via Arrow
“They say that nightmares are dreams perverted. I’ve told them here it wasn’t a nightmare, but they don’t believe me.”
From her asylum home, Arletty (Marianna Hall) is recounting a story of the recent past, where a trip to Dune on the Californian coast in search of her missing artist father led to the discovery that this ordinary, respectable small town is falling prey to a Lovecraftian apocalypse foretold a century earlier. As the blood moon approaches (and the colour red dominates), Dune’s denizens bleed from the eyes and hunt in canine packs, gradually “spreading their sickness” beyond the town’s limits.
Or that, at least, is Arletty’s version of events, as co-writers/co-directors Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz confound life and art, reality and dreams, sanity and madness in their surreal vision of conservative America succumbing to – or biting back against – the encroaching counterculture. The townsfolk’s behaviour may somewhat recall George A. Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead, but the somnambular vibe is more akin to Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls or Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond. In this haunted community, or at least in Arletty’s nightmare in a damaged brain, nowhere – not the consumerist supermarket nor even the cinema – is safe.
Messiah of Evil is release on Blu-ray, 23 Oct by Radiance
With her husband Satoru (Shiro Shimomoto) often away for work, and her young son Takuto (Takuto Yonezu) at school all day, Yasuko Honda (director Banmei Takahashi’s wife Keiko Takahashi) spends a lot of time alone in their high-rise home, beleaguered by an endless array of insistent door-to-door salesmen. When one of these, Yamakawa (Daijiro Tsusumi), a little too keen to hand over a leaflet on English lessons, tries forcing open her bolted door, Yasuko slams it back hard on his hand – and so this man, as lonely as she is, begins an escalating campaign of harassment to reassert control and remasculate himself.
Coming out in the same year as Toshiharu Ikeda’s Evil Dead Trap, this home invasion thriller is another early Japanese slasher that, in the absence of local antecedents, makes up its own rules (although it does crib from both The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Shining). Here marginal characters sound bizarrely like they are talking on the phone. Here a frantic dash around the apartment is tracked at a high angle like a videogame – or like John Wick: Chapter 4 avant la lettre. And here Yamakawa’s intrusions are overtly sexualised, as he attempts more than one kind of forced entry. This is man, woman and chainsaw, sexed-up and stylised, exposing a Japanese housewife’s indoor appetites and anxieties.
Door is released on Blu-ray, 30 Oct by Third Window
Published 18 Oct 2023
By Anton Bitel
Ken Russell, Peter Bogdanovich and Nicolas Cage's first starring role are among this month's bevvy of exciting home ents releases.
By Anton Bitel
Buster Keaton, time travel and an unlikely romance are among the gems to take home on Blu-ray and DVD this month.