A guide to the best horror DVDs to watch this autumn
Including Soulmate, The Purge, Afflicted, Zombeavers and Night of the Comet
Henry Northmore rounds up a fright night of movies and TV shows to jangle the nerves and scare your pants off.
Hallowe’en is almost upon us so it's the perfect time to rifle through the darkest corners of the DVD cupboard for a selection of horror movies available this October. And it's a grab bag witches brew of genres starting with British ghost story Soulmate (Soda Pictures) ●● which treads some familiar ground as Audrey (Anna Walton) heads to a remote county cottage to escape her troubled past. There are a couple of competent moments of creeping dread before she starts having conversations with her resident apparition. Watchable but lacks pace and its own identity.
Christian Slater and Vinnie Jones together at last in Way of the Wicked (Signature) ● a dreary yawnfest that takes its cues form Carrie and The Omen as Slater plays a priest trying to track down a kid with psychic powers. Jones is also completely miscast as a sensitive single dad trying to reconnect with his daughter. The terrible acting and hammy plot are the only scary things on offer here. Avoid.
Sci-fi movies usually focus on the frontline heroes leading the charge against the alien hordes. Extraterrestrial (Icon) ●● takes a different root focusing on a small group trapped in an apartment complex in Madrid. They get bogged down in petty jealousy and squabbles rather than explosions, ray guns or intergalactic beasties. Unfortunately none of the characters are very likable so it's hard to care either way. More Spanish thrills from nihilistic home invasion thriller Kidnapped (Icon) ●●●. Tense, wince inducingly nasty and gripping from start to finish as a family are terrorised by masked hoods.
Imagine a future America where any crime is legal for one night of the year. Murder, death and destruction all in the name of catharsis to keep the country safe. A great if little farfetched premise and The Purge Boxset (Universal) ●●● is full of thrills as society unleashes its inner fury. Surprisingly the sequel Purge: Anarchy is actually the stronger film.
The 80s was a golden era in horror and there are plenty of films that ape the decade's style. Any film that has the cojones to call itself Zombeavers (Universal) ●●● better have the guts to follow through. Fortunately it's gloriously stupid as a group of college kids find their cabin in the woods besieged by undead flesh eating aquatic rodents. To be honest they look like evil muppets but Zombeavers is great fun if you are in the mood for some dumb retro fun. There's some scrappy fun to be had with Lucky McKee's All Cheerleaders Die (Altitude) ●●● and its mix of high school witchcraft and zombie comedy.
For genuine 80s action Night of the Comet (Arrow Video) ●●● is a light and frothy romp as two valley girls find themselves amongst the last survivors after a passing comet turns nearly everyone else to dust and rest into raving astro-zombies. Incredibly cheesy but kinda fun. If you want to go even more retro try the Blu-ray double bill boxset of Blacula The Complete Collection (Eureka Entertainment) ●●●, William Marshall is excellent as the lead in this Blaxploitation Dracula remix.
It's impossible to talk about horror without at least one found footage feature, but wait come back Afflicted (Sony) ●●● is actually pretty good. Two pals (Derek Lee and Clif Prowse) set out on a trip round the world but one of them picks up a mysterious illness after a dodgy late night encounter in Paris. The documented deterioration is pretty compelling before it inevitably drifts into 'why the hell are you still filming this' territory.
Finally we end with two TV series. Horror on the small screen has exploded in popularity in recent years mainly due to shows like American Horror Story: Coven (20th Century Fox) ●●●●. That each series of AHS is a standalone story is a canny move and you can sink your teeth directly into this third series even if you haven't seen the other two. The first season was a haunted house, the second was set in a mental asylum and Coven finds us at a school for witches in New Orleans. A lighter and more teen-centric series (starring Emma Roberts, Taissa Farmiga and Gabourey Sidibe) but as usual it's the older cast that excel (particularly Jessica Lange). Robert Rodriguez has turned his own movie into From Dusk Till Dawn: Season One (entertainment one) ●●●. Stretching out the original 108 minute plot over ten episodes drags in places but also adds multiple layers of exposition as the murderous Gecko brothers (now played by DJ Cotrona and Zane Holz) unwittingly end up at a bar infested by vampire snake people. Just don't expect the high gloss of your usual US TV imports, this is low-mid budget but Rodriguez certainly knows how to make a little money go a long way.