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Review: This week’s releases follow a path of disobedience (Includes first-hand account)

Eli Roth’s History of Horror: Season 1 (Blu-ray)


RLJE Films

Award-winning horror film director, writer, producer and actor Eli Roth brings together the masters of horror — the storytellers and stars who define the genre — to explore its biggest themes, and reveal the inspirations and struggles behind its past and present. Each one-hour episode takes viewers on a chilling exploration of how horror evolved through the years and examines the genre’s impact on society, as well as delving into how horror maintains its fan base and why audiences are addicted to fear. Interviewees include Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Linda Blair and many others.

Each episode of this docuseries is like watching a film essay that dissects movie themes and their impact on audiences. From exorcisms and possession to vampires and other monsters, the season examines some of the most prevalent horror subgenres. For anyone with a keen interest in horror cinema, there isn’t a lot that’s very revelatory, though there are a few moments of discovery — but the presentation is very engaging. Roth has made so many connections over the course of his career, almost anyone of note who’s been involved in the genre over the last 50 years has their say… while there are also some distinctly missing voices as some of the masters passed away in recent years. Each episode is very enlightening, and will captivate viewers hoping to learn more about horror cinema or just listen to its icons converse on the subject.

Special features include: five featurettes; and extended interviews. (RLJE Films)

Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo! (DVD)


Warner Bros. Animation

Scooby-Doo and Shaggy’s favorite holiday is upon us! With fake monsters and candy galore, Halloween is heaven for these hungry foodies going door-to-door. But this year, their sweet holiday turns sour when the neighborhood pumpkin patch is infected by toxic ooze, creating high-flying jack-o-lanterns, and a king-sized pumpkin leader squashing everything in its path. It’s up to Scooby-Doo and the gang as they team up with their pals, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, to solve this mystery of gigantic proportions and save Crystal Cove.

In this new original movie, the Scooby Gang gets some help from a couple of very notable personalities. Bill Nye breaks Fred’s heart with his souped-up version of the Mystery Machine, though its gadget upgrades do come in handy. In the meantime, Elvira’s Halloween parade is interrupted by the evil pumpkins and she joins the team to help uncover the culprit… and find Daphne the perfect Halloween costume. The self-aware picture plays on the classic formula of “those meddling kids” foiling the bad guy’s plan, while the evil jack-o-lanterns wreak havoc on the already spooky holiday. The bonus features also include three other cartoon capers from different periods of the show’s lifespan, featuring varied versions of the animation style.

Special features include: three bonus cartoons. (Warner Bros. Animation)

The Pale Door (Blu-ray)


RLJE Films

The Dalton gang find shelter in a seemingly uninhabited ghost town after a train robbery goes south. Seeking help for their wounded leader, they are surprised to stumble upon a welcoming brothel in the town’s square. But the beautiful women who greet them are actually a coven of witches with very sinister plans for the unsuspecting outlaws — and the battle between good and evil is just beginning.

The film begins with a tragic event in the brothers’ childhood that would inform their adult relationship, but not stop them from becoming bandits. The elder brother rightfully tries to keep the younger one on the straight-and-narrow, but he eventually gives in since their next job is supposed to be relatively easy and payout big. But as another member of the gang lightheartedly points out later, the kid is bad luck and things just go from bad to worse. The brothel setting has a very From Dusk Till Dawn vibe with the pretty prostitutes suddenly becoming intensely hideous. They attack from every direction, and the men try to fend them off with their guns and anything else they can find. The ambiguous and somewhat innocuous ending isn’t really the payoff audiences are hoping for after all the carnage, but it definitely goes against the grain.

Special features include: commentary by filmmaker; making-of featurette; and “Editing The Pale Door.” (RLJE Films)

The Secret Garden (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital code)


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Set in England during a new time period in 1947, the film follows Mary (Dixie Egerickx), a young orphan girl, who, after being sent to live with her uncle (Colin Firth), discovers a magical garden on the grounds of his estate.

This is the 2020 adaptation of the beloved young adult novel, which was also adapted in 1993. In spite of the tragedy she’s experienced, Mary’s curiosity does not wane. Her uncle and the head servant, Mrs. Medlock (Julie Walters), believe she’s mischievous and a corrupting influence on her cousin, Colin (Edan Hayhurst). But really, she’s just a regular child that refuses to sit in her room and do nothing all day — and she refuses to let her supposedly bed-ridden cousin do that anymore either. Since the story was written in 1911, Mary and her friends amuse themselves by playing outside and using their imaginations. Consequently, the simplicity in contrast to today’s high-tech, indoor playtime is somewhat refreshing and heartwarming.

Special features include: “Characters”; “Concept to Reality”; “Page to Screen”; and official trailer. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Star Trek: Picard: Season One steelbook (Blu-ray)


Paramount Home Entertainment

After the destruction of the Planet Romulus, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) tracks down a series of mysteries about his past and sets out on a new adventure against a legion of dangerous foes, with the help of a few returning characters — Data, Riker, and Seven of Nine — and a whole new crew.

This new series picks up 14 years after Picard retired from Starfleet. He’s living the typically quiet retiree life, tending a garden and staying out of politics. But when trouble literally finds him, he’s drawn back into the fray… though he’s not welcomed back with open arms as his departure and comments since then were not exactly genial. Nonetheless, rounding up some former allies, he sets out to right a wrong he’s never forgiven himself for, even though it was never in his control. The storyline was inspired by Stewart’s request for a character arc that linked to his past, but would take him in a new direction. Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will be pleased to see some familiar faces, as well as recognize some of the subtler influences on some of the personalities. It’s an excellent first season that appropriately brings back a beloved character and sets up a path for exciting new adventures.

Special features include: deleted scenes; “Star Trek: Short Treks: Children of Mars”; “Story Logs”; “Aliens Alive: The x8s”; “Picard Props”; “Set Me Up”; and gag reel. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

The Tax Collector steelbook (4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray)


RLJE Films

David (Bobby Soto) and Creeper (Shia LaBeouf), are “tax collectors” for the crime lord Wizard, collecting his cut from the profits of local gangs’ illicit dealings. But when Wizard’s old rival returns to Los Angeles from Mexico, the business is upended and David finds himself desperate to protect what matters more to him than anything else: his family.

Writer/director David Ayer is an action filmmaker, focusing on dramatic character development in tense situations. Not much is known about David’s and Creeper’s pasts, but they appear to be very close, climbing the ladder of organized crime together. However, they are very different people. David is a deeply devoted family man with a wife and kids, while Creeper is a cold-blooded loner who acts as David’s muscle and follows through on their threats… because he enjoys it. This drug war turns very ugly very quickly, leaving blood and bodies (parts) strewn across both sides. There isn’t much of a connection to any of the characters in the picture, which allows viewers to keep the violence at arm’s length. However, it also makes some of the most significant losses cringe-worthy, but not as impactful as they might’ve been if the audience was more engaged.

Special features include: deleted scenes. (RLJE Films)

To Your Last Death (Blu-ray)


Quiver Distribution

After emerging as the sole survivor in a deadly revenge game set up by her father to punish his children, Miriam (Dani Lennon) receives an offer from a supernatural entity to go back in time and try again. Now, Miriam must survive both her father’s (Ray Wise) blood lust and the Gamemaster’s (Morena Baccarin) ever-changing rules to save her siblings as she relives the worst night of her life.

This is an adult animated movie filled with lots of blood, Saw-like torture devices and many dead people. Miriam and her siblings certainly have their issues, which their father outlines in his speech, or rather while delivering their death sentences. The appearance of the Gamemaster is a surprise, but the purpose of her omnipotent presence is not solely to help Miriam upend her father’s plans. While Miriam is given seemingly endless attempts to outsmart her dad, outrun his goons and rescue her siblings, the Gamemaster changes the rules to suit her bosses’ desires and make things more difficult for Miriam. It’s a fun narrative with lots of twists and the benefit of unfolding in a cartoon world that doesn’t reflect potential budget constraints.

There are no special features. (Quiver Distribution)

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Written By

Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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