Friday, September 25, 2020

Blumhouse of Horrors 10-Movie Collection, Just in Time for Halloween!

 Blumhouse of Horrors 10-Movie Collection (2013-2019) Blu Ray Review! Releases 9/29/2020 

Just in time for Halloween Blumhouse/Universal is re-releasing a massive 10 Film Blu Ray collection. I will be briefly reviewing all ten films and breaking down how they look, sound as well as explore what is one disc in terms of any extras. 

The Purge (2013)

Directed By: James DeMonaco 

Starring: Ethan Hawk, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Edwin Hodge

Set in a distant future where all crime including murder is legal for one night a year. It's called, you guessed it, Purge Night and it's supposedly designed to get peoples blood lust out of their systems. A wealthy family tries typically have no issue with surviving the night, only this year a stranger comes and with it blood and chaos. 

The Purge is one of those movies that has a high enough concept which helps carry it along despite it being a somewhat lackluster outing. The filmmakers we're clearing aiming for some lofty,  but in the end what we get is a standard gory home invasion movie that is held up by a grander message. Its' frustrating because I feel like this is such a cool premise that could have been explored in a better way.  Thankfully though, unlike the latter films the movie doesn't feel as preachy and lets the message act as background to the horror and mayhem. Interesting plot and I applaud it going for something original but could have pushed its core themes and ideas a lot further. Still, its a lean nasty little film and taken on its own terms is a entertaining outing, just not an overly  smart one. 

Picture: The film looks great on 1080p. Skin tones look natural with warm and lush colors that really stand out in the daylight shots. Grain levels are low and fairly smooth. This being a newly shot movie there is no artifacts to be found. Blacks are deep and for the most part well handled. Overall great looking movie. 

Sound: Purge includes both a Mono 2.0 track as well as a DTS-HD Master 5.1 track. The film is heavy on sound design and music cues so this 5.1 track comes through very well. Not as great as an ATMOS track but it had a fairly complex layered effect on my home theater system. 

Extras: Surviving the Night: The Making of The Purge (8min) this featurette includes interviews with the cast and crew of Purge, from the origin of the plot to the making of. 

Ouija (2014)

Directed By: Stiles White 

Starring: Olivia Cooke, Anta Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith, Bianca A. Santos, Lin Shaye 

After the death a girl named Debbie (Shelley Hennig), a group of her friends discover that a spirit board may have unleashed an evil which spells out doom for anyone who messes with it. 

     One of my favorite '80's horror outing is Witchboard (1986), which is entertaining partly because it swings big also, does interesting things to subvert horror troupes. I mention this because I think that 2014's Ouija could have a lesson from that movie. While Witchboard is far from a perfect film it makes up for its narrative and production short comings because it takes the root of the idea in this case an evil spirit board yet it strives for more. Ouija on the other hand is well made from a technical standpoint,  yet it's bland and clearly aimed at a younger audience. It's baffling that Stiles White was chosen to helm this film as he has no other director credits before or since and really was only known as a screenwriter with such turkeys as Knowing and The Possession to name a few. As I said the film isn't poorly constructed but White also wrote the screenplay so, we are saddled with a very basic by-the-number screenplay with stock characters and zero actual scares. On the flip side you have the sequel Ouija: Origins of Evil which swaps White for Mike Flannagan who also co-wrote the screenplay. The end result is a much better, fully realized movie. It proves that this concept can work but obviously you need the talent to back it up. Olivia Cooke heads up the film and while I think she is a very good actor she seems like to sleep walk through this film. But, honestly who could blame her? 

Picture: Ouija looks like it was filmed on digital and in 1080p it has a really nice look. The opening scene is darkly lit but, retains a nice warmth to it and I think this shows off how sharp and rich it looks. I`d even go as far as to say it has a film-like look to it. Skin tones look natural and overall the colors are well balanced.  The one nice thing I will say about the film is it has a nice look to it, which is at times very moody and this transfer at least captures that element. 

Sound: Ouija sports a nice DTS-HD Master 5.1 track. Per the course with 5.1 tracks it's not as amazing as 7.1 or especially at ATOMS track but it does the trick. The sound is healthy and the dialogue and sound design comes through with gusto. 

Extras: Ouija includes the following extras: The Spirit Board: An Evolution (4mins) A short featurette with the cast and crew about the history of spirit boards.  Adapting the Fear (3mins) A featurette with the cast and crew about personal experiences with Ouija boards.  Icons of the Unknown (4mins) a final featurette about the spirit boards and the psychology behind it.  

Unfriended (2014)

Directed By: Levan Gabriadze 

Starring: Heather Sossaman, Mathew Bohrer , Moss Storm, Courtney Halverson

A group find that an unknown person has invaded their chat group. Could it be the vengeful spirit of  a former friend come to pay them a visit?

    I was set to hate on Unfriended (2014) which seemed like a easy way to target the youth culture with a trendy gimmick in a highly profitable genre such as horror. Lets be clear the movie is far from perfect but damned if I didn't actually enjoy it. The set up in fairly interesting and it uses it's minimalistic style in ways that feel clever and meets the challenge of doing a film 99.9%  from the POV of the main character's computer screen. The great Alfred Hitchcock was known for liking a challenge in terms of limited spaces in his masterpieces like Rear Window (1954) and Lifeboat (1944) and, as crazy as it may sound, had the master of suspense been alive in this era, he may have found this POV limited technic very interesting. It also has a claustrophobic/voyeurisms quality that would have appealed to him as well. Unfriended also harkens back to the techno-phobia trend which was hot in J-Horror in the early-mid '00's and the creepy glitches puts me in mind of  Ju-On: The Grudge (2002). Unfriended does take a little while to really get going and I think the concept isn't as fully realized as it could be. I actually think Unfriended: Dark Web (2018) takes this core premise and wisely grounds it in more reality rather than supernatural in this outing. Yes, its hooky, but I think its entertaining and interesting even though its rough around the edges and a brisk 82 minutes never outstays its welcome. Some hardened horror fans will look their noses up at this movie but, also might give certain 80's shlock films a pass by virtual of its nostalgia. This is a fun time capsule of a horror film that is well acted, runs with a fairy cool premise that tackles issues of cyber-bullying, self esteem issues and social stigma's in an effective way. It also no doubt inspired the indie horror hit  Host (2020).  Keep an open mind, give it a shot, if you do I think you might have fun with it. 

Picture: Unfriended (2014) was shot on digital and because of that looks great on 1080p. The movie is largely on screen graphics and glitches and is very sharp looking, as is the text and on screen messages. Any kind of imperfection brilliantly works with the film and its tone and not against it. Overall a nice clean clear picture. 

Sound: Unfriended sports a DTS-HD 5.1. Much like the picture, the sound is great and dialogue and sound design are healthy and clear sounding.  

Extras: None

The Boy Next Door (2015)

Directed By: Rob Cohen 

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Ian Nelson, John Corbett, Kristin Chenoweth, Lexi Atkins

A newly single woman named Claire (Jennifer Lopez) falls in lust with a younger man. What starts off as a steamy affair quickly turns deadly in this thriller. 

   For me its hard to believe that The Boy Next Door is a movie made in 2015, because it feels like something that easily could have been made in the late 80's,90's or early 00's. I say this because a wave of lover/stalker films flooded the market in the wake of Fatal Attraction (1987).  Rob Cohen provides a painfully by-the-number thriller that seems like it was ripped right out of a Lifetime Movie. The only sort of cool thing the film does is role-reserve the obsessed person typically being a woman, but this time around is a young man (18-19 in the film but more like almost 30 in real life). Also buying Jay Lo as a English Lit teacher. Speaking of which Jennifer Lopez is...well just passable as an actor with being hilarious bad at times. If you have a soft spot for goofy, overwrought drama laced, tepid thrillers you may actually find The Boy Next Door a guilty pleasure with some unintentionally funny moments. 

Picture: Boy Next Door was shot on digital and scanned onto 1080p. This transfer looks amazing and even has a film like look which was impressive. Grain is smooth and consistent with colors looking vivid and lifelike. Skin tones are well handled as well. 

Sound: The film sports a nice 5.1 track. It's not mind blowing but its highly effective. Dialogue and sound design is well handled and comes through clear. 

Extras: Boy Next Door has a nice collection of extras. This includes The Making of The Boy Next Door (9mins), 5 deleted scenes, and probably most interesting of all a feature length commentary by director Rob Cohen. 

The Visit (2015)

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan 

Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ex Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn 

Two children visit their grandparents in rural PA. The trip is far from idyllic however as something sinister is going on at night. 

   Sometimes I get it wrong and frankly put I was dead set against even seeing this movie. Yes, I huffed and puffed and vowed that M. Night wouldn't trick me out of anymore of my time or money. After talking to some other friends/critics who loved it I finally watched it and oh, shit. I had to swallow my pride and happily admit that this movie was awesome and I was foolish for being so against it on principal . Likely, there are even some of you reading this that might feel the same way about Night's films but, honestly give this one a shot. It's a return to form to the directors roots of a stripped down creepy modern take on a Old Dark House style feature. The mystery is a solid one and Night throws in a enough curve balls and MacGuffins to keep the reveal impactful. The bleak PA winter landscape is something I am very familiar with and, for me, it gave the film a eeriness I could relate to. I also applaud the emotional weight the film carries so effortlessly. I won't let when I said this movie made me cry and, unless your totally dead inside you probably will as well.  While the entire cast is great its really Olivia DeJonge and  Ex Oxenbould that rightfully steal the show. If you have been burnt by M.Night in the past I urge you to give this film a try anyways. In my opinion it's his best film, right up their with Sixth Sense (1999) and Split (2016). Give it a chance, its all I ask. 

Picture: Visit was shot on digital and therefore has a very nice 1080p transfer. This movie has this warmth to its colors that is very inviting but, also in the more eerie wintery scenes provokes this kind of dread. Darkly lit and night scenes are also extremely well handled with this version as well. Skin tones have a natural look and no real blurring issues that I could notice. 

Sound: Visit has a DTS-Master 5.1 Track. Again, if you know anything about 5.1 tracks you know they get the job done with providing a nice robust sound level. Its not going to sound as amazing as say at ATMOS track but its still great and dialogue and sound design are clear.

Extras: Visit includes an Alternate Ending (2mins), There is also a series of deleted scenes. The total runtime is 8mins. This disc also includes :The Making of The Visit (9mins) this featurette is pretty interesting because Night talks a lot of going back to his low budget indie roots. It of course features other interviews with cast/crew and of behind the scenes footage. Rounding out the extras is  Becca's Photo's a nice gallery montage of candid pictures which runs over 1mins. A really nice array of extras. I would have loved a commentary but maybe someday. 

Split (2016)

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan 

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson

Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her "friends" are kidnapped in broad daylight but a clearly disturbed man. Yet, this man has 23 different personalities with a beastly 24th boiling to the surface in this M.Night thriller. 

    After Night proved he was back in the game with 2015's The Visit, an indie film with heart and creep to spare, I felt excited to check out his follow up, Split (2016). If Visit was a spiritual companion to the dread filled soulful Sixth Sense (1999), Split would nicely fit in with his Signs/Unbreakable phase, which is experimental and also something of a mixed bag. The plot is a bit muddled and maybe a bit cringe-worthy in its stigma of people with dissociative personality disorder. It's clear that there are some very interesting themes and core messages at play though, and it had some emotional levels that hit some incredibly heights. But of course I think this movie wouldnt be nearly as good without this specific cast.  It's clear though that James McAvoy carries this film and his mind blowing attention to detail in portraying different personas is truly something to behold.  Anya Taylor-Joy is also fantastic and she handles herself extremely well with McAvoy. I like this film but I dont love it and hence why I feel like its good but far from M. Night's best. 

Picture: Split was shot on digital and therefore looks great on 1080p. There is a warmth and depth to the colors. Images have a nice clean smooth look to them with skin tones looking natural. 

Sound: Split has a nice DTS 5.1 track. This film is heavy on sound design and this soundtrack really utilizes that to its upmost. You really get a nice range in terms of complex sound. 

Extras: Split includes a nice selection of bonus features including: Alternate Ending (32 seconds) which includes optional commentary by M.Night Shyamalan, Deleted Scenes total runtime of 14 minutes. This also has optional commentary by M.Night Shyamalan. The Making of Split (9mins) a featurette with behind the scenes footage and cast/crew interviews. The Many Faces of James McAvoy (5min) a fun interview with McAvoy exploring the different characters he plays. The Filmmakers Eye: M.Night Shyamalan (3mins) a short featurette on Night's process. 

Get Out (2017)

Directed By: Jordan Peele 

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Lil Rel Howery 

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) an African American man is dating Rose (Allison Williams) who happens to be white. The couple plan for Chris to meet his parents at their estate for the weekend. Things go from awkward and uncomfortable to deadly in this razor sharp satire horror film. 

   When it was announced that comedian Jordan Peele would tackle the horror genre I think there was a lot of people were skeptical. But...Holy crap, when Get Out was unleashed into theaters in February of 2017 fans and critics were stunned. Peele crafts a horror film that is uncomfortable, high concept and is a message film without preaching to its audience. It's the kind of movie that rewards multiple views as Peele layers the film with clever foreshadowing and symbolic clues. Every single thing is on point to the razor sharp screenplay, the amazing cast and hypnotic score. Jordan Peele seems to have a lot of glee in taking well worn troupes and subverting them at every turn.  It's one of those movies that I knew would go down as a modern classic as it was unfolding in the theater and if you have never seen it, what are you waiting for? 

Picture: Get Out is shot on digital and has an impressive depth in color and vibrancy. It doesn't quite look like film like some of the other digital video presentations in this set but it still is clearly an extremely well shot, stylish and clean looking picture. Outdoor scenes are lush and vivid with night scenes really benefiting from the 1080p uptick. 

Sound: Get Out has a DTS-51 Track. As I said with the other reviews, a 5.1 is a very reliable and healthy track. For those with sound systems, you might notice that the sound is mostly front facing but dialogue and sound design comes through crystal clear. 

Extras: Peele and Universal has provided some great extras. We get a Alternative Ending (3mins) which has a nice optional commentary feature. We also some deleted/extended scenes with a total runtime of 23mins. Again Peele has provided an optional commentary which is great. Unveiling the Horror of Get Out (8mins) a nice featurette with the cast/crew to talk about the film with some great behind the scenes footage. A special Q&A after a screening of Get Out, hosted by Chance the Rapper (5mins)  and, one of my favorite extras a feature length commentary with Jordan Peele.

Happy Death Day (2017)

Directed By: Christopher Landon 

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken 

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is the mean girl on Campus but, when she is murdered by a mysterious person in a baby mask (the schools mascot) she finds herself living the dead she died over and over again. 

    Groundhog Day (1993) meets Halloween (1978) is an very clever idea to hang your movie on but the film delivers outside of its gimmick. The film works both as a fresh and clever subversion on the slasher genre (which I didn't think was possible in a post Scream/Cabin in the Woods landscape) and damned if it doesn't have heart along with its brains. When so-called horror fan's cry about PG-13 horror ruining the genre,  the two movies I point out are The Conjuring (2013) and now, Happy Death Day as examples of how a horror movie can work in the construct of PG-13.  With excellent direction by Christopher Landon and a whip smart screenplay by Scott Lobdell and so truly great acting from its cast Death Day is the total package. Rumor of a third film still abound. Lets hope that happens someday. 

Picture: Happy Death Day was shot on digital and is incredible sharp in its 1080p form. Small details and textures really do come to life in this death filled flick. Skin tones look natural and color tones in general look great. No issues with blurring or distortion to be found as far as I could tell. 

Sound: Death Day comes out screaming with a nice DTS-5.1 track. Again, nothing new to report here just that the sound is well maintained with dialogue and sound design coming through clear. 

Extras: Happy Death Day includes: An Alternate Ending (2mins), Deleted scenes with a total runtime of 9 minutes. Worst Birthday Ever (3min) A fun short featurette with cast/crew interviews. The Many Deaths of Tree (1min) a really short featurette exploring, well, the many deaths of Tree our main heroine. 

Truth or Dare (2018)

Directed By: Jeff Wadlow 

Starring: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violet Beane, Hayden Szeto 

Summary: During a care free getaway in Mexico a stranger invites a group of friends to play a seemingly innocent game of truth or dare that turns out to be a curse that follows them home. If they dont obey the rules terrible things happen. 

This movie includes a rated and unrated version. I will be reviewing the unrated edition. 

     Despite a fairly negative response from critics I kept an open mind when popping in my Blu Ray for this review. the films credit the premise is actually kind of interesting and I liked how Jeff Wadlow folded the game most people are familiar with into a series of deadly misadventures. But...sadly if you were hoping for a fun stripped down Saw/Final Destination type film it is not. First as for that premise, while its promising idea its never explored to its fullest leaving me frustrated that this was the best thing four screenwriters could have come up with. Maybe this could have been forgiven had the tone been consistent throughout. The film doesn't quite ever find that balance of horror with the more camp elements. I would say the film takes itself far too serious for its own good. I dont think injecting some emotional weight to the affair is a bad thing, in fact I think that you should have that but the filmmakers dont understand how to have fun with the genre and its own admittedly silly story. Add in a heaping helping of eye rolling clichés, bad dialogue, not great acting and a wasted cool concept and you have what's left is kind of a meh outing.  To Jeff Wadlow's credit the film is well directed and writing wise there are some set ups that are actually paid off in an interesting way, hell I was happy with any kind of set up/pay off's in what was deemed as "among the worst horror movies of 2018." It's hard to ague against that but it does have some interesting things going for it. Had the screenplay  been given a massive overhaul which maybe allowed for some more humor, I could see this being an actually well made original film. Sadly though, the film means well enough but it's concept dies a death by a thousand paper cuts do to its muddled and under developed script. And, again it has other issues but I think the script hurts this thing the most.  

Picture: Truth or Dare was shot on digital and looks great on 1080p. Colors are great and vivid with a nice smoothness. Skin tones look natural and no noticeable blurring occurs. 

Sound: Truth or Dare has a DTS 5.1 soundtrack. Dialogue and sound design come through clear. 

Extras: Truth or Dare extras include Game On: The Making of Truth or Dare (6mins) a featurette with cast/crew interviews and behind the scenes footage. Directing the Deaths (4mins) featurette with cast/crew talking about the death scenes. Also includes a commentary with director Jeff Wadlow and actor Lucy Hale. 

Ma (2019)

Directed By: Tate Taylor 

Starring: Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, McKaley Miller, Gianni Paolo 

A lonely and a little odd woman named Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) befriend a group of teenagers. She soon lets' them crash at her "party basement" where she provides them with booze a-plenty. Of course, since this is a horror movies things aren't quite right with this grown adult partying with teens in this thriller. 

    Ma (2019) is a movie that on paper doesn't seem like it would work yet, despite itself it actually does. Unlike Truth or Dare (2018) I think where Ma shines is that it knows exactly what kind of film it is, its a silly revenge movie that is part Carrie (1976), part Misery (1990) with an updated flavor. Yes, Ma suffers from leaning in on troupes instead of trying harder to subvert them, yet Tate injects enough style and substance that I didn't even seem to mind. But, I think the true root of why I enjoyed this movie more than I probably should have is one simple thing: Octavia Spencer. Spencer is a national treasure and she knows exactly how to make us both fear and feel sorry for Sue Ann. She makes it seem seamless but I assure you juggling a character like this without going full ham is not easy. The film also features Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis and great supporting actors like Luke Evans, Dominic Burgess and Alison Janney in a small but memorable role. This movie is a fun one, it doesn't have the most original screenplay but its enjoyable enough with a stellar cast to put it over the top.  

Picture: Ma was shot on digital and looks great on 1080p. Outdoor scenes have a nice lush vibrant look to them. Color tones look good and skin tones are natural. There's no blurring and everything has a nice smooth consistent look. 

Sound: Ma has a DTS-5.1 sound track. Like I said before DTS 5.1 offers a healthy big sound with nice and clear dialogue and sound design. 

Extras: Ma's extras include an Alternate Ending (2mins), Deleted scenes which total runtime is 11 minutes. Creating Sue Ann (2mins) a fun interview with Octavia Spencer with other interviews and some behind the scenes footage. Party at Ma's (3mins) a fun very candid featurette on the making of the film. Rounding out the features is a trailer. 

Overall/Final Thoughts:  When I posted the picture of this 10 Movie Set, comments were...shall we say polarizing. Some we're excited, while other genre "fans" outright dismissed it altogether or wished me luck on what they deemed a "mixed bag".  It's true not all of these movies are outright classics and some I didn't really like if I'm being honest. But you know, I did enjoy going through and re-watching these movies because which helped me get into the Halloween season spirit. I actually only owned a few of these films prior so it was great to have an instant Blumhouse collection to explore. As I mentioned in my break-down all of these films are newer, hence they look great transferred from digital to 1080p. Sound wise they all have a nice 5.1 track and I believe only one film was barebones and most films had something be it a commentary, deleted scenes, fun featurette's etc. If you dont already own these films and wanted to see what the fuss is with Blumhouse which is either great or the worst thing to happen to horror depending on who you ask, this is a fantastic set. I for one really had a good time re-visiting some classics, some not so classics and some that fit nicely in the middle. The entire set retails for 69.99 as of my writing this and comes out to less than 10 bucks a movie. It also includes a digital copy which is a very nice touch. For me it's a good value depending on your tastes are. I very much hope they do a second 10 Movie Set in the future with some other Blumhouse horror titles. 

Thrills and Chills at a good deal, check out the Blumhouse of Horror's 10 Movie Collection. 

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