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This week’s releases reimagine classic scary stories

This week’s releases include revisiting a horror legend; a slasher version of a classic tale; a body switch movie from the vault and more.

A scene from 'Candyman'
A scene from 'Candyman' courtesy of Universal Pictures
A scene from 'Candyman' courtesy of Universal Pictures

This week’s releases include revisiting a horror legend; a slasher version of a classic tale; an unusual terror in the home; a fatal car trip through the desert; and a body switch movie from the vault.

Candyman on 4K
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Candyman (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & Digital copy)

For decades, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green were terrorized by a ghost story about a supernatural, hook-handed killer. In present day, a visual artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) begins to explore the macabre history of Candyman, not knowing it would unravel his sanity and unleash a terrifying wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.

This is an interesting addition to the franchise as it builds on the original narrative, while also creating a new branch of the lore. Most people forgot the name Candyman, while others applied it to more contemporary racial injustices. Either way, his existence is still the manifestation of racism and oppression in America. Where the first film explored the gentrification of the projects, this movie presents the results of those efforts — expensive high-rises, middle- to upper-class tenants and the burying of history, which is then sought and commodified. The Candyman’s appearance is still disturbing, but the new actor lacks Tony Todd’s screen presence. One of the most captivating aspects of the film is its use of shadow puppets to recount the Candyman legend, implying all the grisly horror and leaving the rest to the viewers’ imagination.

Special features include: alternate ending; deleted and extended scenes; “Say My Name”; “Body Horror”; “The Filmmaker’s Eye: Nia Dacosta”; “Painting Chaos”; “The Art of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe”; “Terror in the Shadows”; And “Candyman: The Impact of Black Horror.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Heaven Can Wait on Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment

Heaven Can Wait (Blu-ray & Digital code)

Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) is a Los Angeles Rams quarterback who is accidentally summoned to Heaven by an overly zealous celestial escort. Pendleton is returned to earth in the body of another man, who is a corporate giant. While practicing to once again play for the Rams, Pendleton must escape attempts on his life while romantically pursuing a beautiful Englishwoman (Julie Christie) who protests the destruction caused to her village by one of his many corporations.

This was a popular scenario in the ‘70s and ‘80s as people’s spirits – living or dead – would somehow end up in the bodies of other people. It gave some actors the opportunity to act against type… or at least gave the impression that that’s what they were doing. In this movie, Beatty never really stops being the quarterback since audiences always see Joe even though he’s in the businessman’s body. The entertainment comes from the football star trying to run a boardroom with sports metaphors, all the while avoiding assassination attempts by his inner circle. As was usually the case, the ending is hand-wrapped with a nice bow to tie up all the loose ends and deliver a happily ever after.

There are no special features. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

The Hills Have Eyes on 4K
Arrow Video

The Hills Have Eyes (4K Ultra HD)

Taking an ill-advised detour en route to California, the Carter family soon run into trouble when their RV breaks down in the middle of the desert. Stranded, the family find themselves at the mercy of a group of monstrous cannibals lurking in the surrounding hills. With their lives under threat, the Carters have no choice but to fight back by any means necessary.

Wes Craven followed up his cult hit, The Last House on the Left, with a terrifying tale of mutant cannibalism in the American desert that came about because his producer was going to be in Nevada for a stint. It was once again unapologetic for the gruesome violence it portrayed, featuring disturbing rapes by monstrous men and torturous murders. Commenting on the demise of the nuclear family, Craven tears them apart using a far from traditional brood. In addition, the gas shortage, and the contrast of the haves and have-nots could not be plainer contributors to the violence that occurs. Craven proves he is fearless when it comes to screen images, which is a trait that would inform the rest of his career — though it would become slightly less grotesque in his later years. The “looking back” featurette provides a lot of amusing anecdotal information about the production, which occurred at the start of many of their careers.

Special features include: 4K restoration supervised by producer Peter Locke and viewable with both original and alternate endings; commentary by actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Susan Lanier and Martin Speer; commentary by academic Mikel J. Koven; commentary by director Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke; alternate ending; “Looking Back at The Hills Have Eyes”; “Family Business”; “The Desert Sessions”; never-before-seen outtakes; trailers and TV spots; image gallery; original screenplay; six postcards; reversible fold-out poster; limited edition 40-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens and a consideration of the franchise by disc producer Ewan Cant; and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper. (Arrow Video)

Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge on Blu-ray
Arrow Video

Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (Blu-ray)

High school sweethearts Eric Matthews (Derek Rydall) and Melody Austin (Kari Whitman) are so in love, but their youthful romance is cut tragically short when Eric apparently dies in a fire that engulfs his family home. One year later and Melody is trying to move on with her life, taking up a job at the newly built Midwood Mall along with her friends. But the mall, which stands on the very site of Eric’s former home, has an uninvited guest — a shadowy, scarred figure that haunts its airducts and subterranean passageways, hellbent on exacting vengeance on the mall’s crooked developers.

Watching the bonus features, there’s no doubt filmmakers would hate this synopsis as much as the addendum to the title. They took the classic Phantom of the Opera story and transported it to a mall, adding a slasher element to the narrative. However, the distribution company that purchased the film took all the mystery out of the phantom’s identity and made the film sound like a sequel to a movie that didn’t exist. Nonetheless, in spite of the teenage leads and the added blood and violence, the narrative plays out very close to its inspiration. In addition to revenge for the fire, Eric wants Melody’s dreams to come true… so they can eventually enjoy them together — forever. One of Pauly Shore’s earlier pictures, it’s interesting to see him perform before he fully embraced the stoner persona for which he’d become known.

Special features include: original theatrical cut, TV cut and bonus fan cut; alternate and deleted scenes; commentary with director Richard Friedman, moderated by filmmaker Michael Felsher; commentary with disc producer Ewan Cant and film historian/author Amanda Reyes; “Shop Til’ You Drop!: The Making of Phantom of the Mall”; “The Vandals Go to the Mall”; image gallery; domestic and international trailers; 60-page fully-illustrated perfect-bound book featuring new writing by Daniel Budnik and Amanda Reyes; six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions; and large fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn. (Arrow Video)

The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch on Blu-ray
Arrow Video

The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (Blu-ray)

A young girl named Sayuri (Yachie Matsui) is reunited with her estranged family after years in an orphanage — but trouble lurks within the walls of the large family home. Her mother is an amnesiac after a car accident six months earlier, her sullen sister is confined to the attic and a young housemaid dies inexplicably of a heart attack just before Sayuri arrives… is it all connected to her father’s work studying venomous snakes? And is the fanged, serpentine figure that haunts Sayuri’s dreams the same one spying on her through holes in the wall?

This is a very unusual Japanese horror movie inspired by scary children’s stories. From the start, it’s odd Sayuri’s parents would come to claim her after so long, but as strange things continue to happen one wonders if she would’ve been better off staying at the orphanage. The family’s maid is very nice, guiding the girl through the house’s many rules that seem to hide dark secrets. Sayuri’s mother quickly asks her to harbour other unusual secrets that causes the girl to wonder, but she pushes away those thoughts in an effort to simply be a good daughter they’ll want to keep in their home. Her thoughts are relayed as voiceover, which really helps viewers engage in the narrative as they’re often thinking the same thing after certain occurrences. Sayuri’s positivity is uncanny as she takes everything in stride, even when it appears she’s being stalked and pushed out of this life she only just gained. The horrors of the house gradually reveal themselves and that’s when this movie gets really weird.

Special features include: commentary by film historian David Kalat; “This Charming Woman”; image gallery; and theatrical trailer. (Arrow Video)

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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