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article imageReview: New on DVD for July 23 Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 23, 2013 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include a couple of strong additions to the horror genre; an enchanting story of love and loss; and a complex, eye-catching picture.
13 Eerie (DVD)
Entertainment One
Six ambitious forensic undergrads (Katharine Isabelle, Brendan Fehr, Brendan Fletcher, Jesse Moss, Kristie Patterson and Michael Eisner) are pitted against one another on a scientific expedition to a remote island, vying to win an esteemed trainee position with the FBI. Unbeknownst to everyone, the site was formally used as an illegal biological testing ground for life-term criminals who were left for dead. Even before the undergrads have started their experiments, the zombie criminal convicts are systematically hunting them down and what started as a competition for an esteemed career is now a fight for their very lives.
The Canadian horror movie has a rich past that flourished in the '70s and continues to expand its catalogue with noteworthy titles, though they are not produced with any frequency. It's not easy to stand out in the crowd with a zombie picture because there are so many and most ideas have been beaten into the ground. But this film manages to give the experimental monster a unique flavour and a complementary look. The undead have a leathery appearance and each is an identifiable creature. Based on their history, these zombies are more interested in destroying their prey than devouring them. The cast includes several of Canada's horror veterans, which, along with the tutelage of experienced producer Roger Christian, helps first-time feature director Lowell Dean create a well-crafted zombie movie.
Special features include: commentary by director Lowell Dean and producer Roger Christian; a making-of featurette; and a photo gallery. (Entertainment One)
Kiss of the Damned (DVD)
M.O. Pictures
A Hollywood writer (Milo Ventimiglia) develops an obsession with a seductive female vampire (Joséphine de La Baume), leading him into the hidden world of the eternal. When her violent sister, Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), arrives and unleashes her anger on the local town, loyalties are put to the test, and the entire vampire community is threatened.
So many movies and television shows romanticize vampires. This film juxtaposes the passion with ruthlessness. The central couple is enamoured with each other, though they also prove capable of deeply wounding the other with selfish lapses of self-control. Mimi is their opposite. Her world is ruled by selfish acts, choosing to answer to no one and pursue any endeavours that satisfy her desires. There are many elements that parallel HBO's True Blood, including the vow to abstain from human blood, the manufacturing of a synthetic plasma and the community of blood drinkers around which it revolves. The actors are "stereotypical" vampires, from the wide-eyed newbie to the voracious seductress.
Special features include: commentary by director Xan Cassavetes; interviews with the cast; and theatrical trailer. (M.O. Pictures)
The Man Who Laughs (DVD)
Métropole Films Distribution
In the middle of a harsh winter, Ursus (Gérard Depardieu), a colourful carnival boss, rescues two orphans lost in a storm: Gwynplaine (Marc-André Grondin), a young boy whose face is deformed by a scar that makes him look as though he's constantly laughing, and Déa (Christa Theret), a blind girl. A few years later, they travel throughout the land, performing a show of which Gwynplaine is the star. People come from everywhere to see “The Man Who Laughs”; he makes people laugh and enthralls the crowd. Success opens doors to the young man, he becomes famous and rich, thus distancing himself from the only two people in the world who love him for what he is.
This film is based on a novel by Victor Hugo, who also penned Les Misérables. Therefore it's not surprising happy news is met with sad developments and the characters are all inherently flawed in some way. The actors do a wonderful job in bringing their screen personas to life. Gwynplaine wears his burden in plain sight, but his personality dominates. Déa is beautiful and pure, capturing the hearts of everyone she meets -- on and off screen. The contrast of life in the caravan with high society is enhanced by the dreamlike aura of the latter, including the surreal soundtrack and over-the-top costumes. The twist is foreshadowed, as well as the conclusion, but the story remains compelling and beautiful.
There are no special features. (Métropole Films Distribution)
Pieta (DVD)
Mongrel Media
A loan shark (Jeong-jin Lee) living an isolated and lonely existence uses brutality to collect for his moneylender boss. One day, a mysterious woman (Min-soo Jo) appears in front of him claiming to be his long-lost mother. After coldly rejecting her, he gradually accepts her in his life and decides to quit his cruel job and seek a decent, redemptive life. However, he soon discovers a dark secret stemming from his past and realizes it may be too late to escape the horrific consequences already set in motion from his previous life.
The debt collector is as cold as they come, getting off on other people's misery and pain. He makes his living from it unnecessarily. There are hints that he's broken and lonely, but none more obvious than his eventual attachment to his long lost mother. His resistance is understandable, but the trials he forces her to complete are cruel. Yet her commitment never wavers – it turns out she has an important reason to follow through with the reunion. There are numerous cringe-worthy scenes in this picture, but it emerges as a solid revenge drama.
Special features include: commentary by director Kim Ki-duk; behind-the-scenes featurette; Kim Ki-duk filmography; and trailer. (Mongrel Media)
Trance (Blu-ray)
Fox Home Entertainment
After a blow to the head during his attempted robbery of a $27 million Goya painting, Simon (James McAvoy), a fine-art auctioneer, awakens to find that the painting – and his memory – are missing. Forced by his ruthless crime partner Franck (Vincent Cassel) to undergo hypnosis, Simon enters into a deadly love triangle with his seductive hypnotist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson).
The synopsis sounds quite simple, but the moving picture reality is anything but. Through a combination of damaged memories and hypnotic suggestions, this film blurs the line between real and imaginary. Bouncing around in Simon's mind, the viewer's perception becomes as shaken as his. The frustration and attraction is in not knowing who is holding the ball. However, in a rare moment of brilliance and enlightenment, as the characters unravel the story begins to finally come together. The glass walls and tight corridors create an eye-catching aesthetic. The red and orange tinted visions, and transparency assigned to secret encounters adds to the complex narrative. The contrast between daytime and night scenes is extreme, constantly reminding the viewer to pay attention to the details.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “The Power of Suggestion: Making Trance: Danny’s Film Noir, Hypnotherapy, The Look, The Final Rewrite”; Danny Boyle retrospective; and short film, “Eugene” by Spencer Susser. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Twixt (Blu-ray)
Fox Home Entertainment
Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) is a writer on a book tour who uncovers a disturbing murder that could be source material for his next novel. But as Hall investigates the killing, he finds himself confronted by chilling nightmares, including the ghost of a young girl (Elle Fanning). As he uncovers more horrifying revelations, Hall discovers that the story has more to do with his own life than he could ever have imagined.
Special features include: a documentary by Gia Coppola. (Fox Home Entertainment)
Welcome to the Punch (Blu-ray)
Entertainment One
Three years ago, master criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) escaped London during a daring robbery that left detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) physically and emotionally scarred. When a failed heist puts Sternwood's son in a hospital, the fugitive is forced to come out of hiding – giving Max his second chance to get the one criminal who got away. But as Max returns to the pursuit of his arch-nemesis, he begins to uncover evidence of a vast conspiracy that may put him in even greater danger that his personal vendetta.
Special features not available. (Entertainment One)
More about Trance, 13 Eerie, The Man Who Laughs, Pieta, Kiss of the Damned
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