Dark Whispers, Volume 1 (2019) [Final Girls Berlin Festival]

Megan Riakos’s anthology “Dark Whispers” touts itself as a horror film with tales directed solely by women. The last film “XX” that explored the concept was a swing a miss, so I had my doubts this time. Thankfully “Dark Whispers, Volume 1” is a very good anthology with some outstanding horror shorts that often feels episodic like “Vault of Horror” and “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.” The gallery of female filmmakers on display here are all sharp storytellers, and bring something new and unique to the table that frighten while also evoking genuine emotions every now and then.

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When “Hansel & Gretel” were Ass kicking Witch Hunters

Hollywood loves to look for new angles on public domain fairy tales and intellectual properties. They’re always looking for a platform for a brand new franchise, and they either go the horror route or the action route. If one fails, they automatically revert to the other a few years later. “Cinderella” and “Snow White” have been brought to the big and small screen as pseudo-horror movies and action bonanzas, with varying degrees of success. The one fairy tale that hasn’t dodged the massive overhaul for a new generation is “Hansel and Gretel.”

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White Snake (Bái Shé: Yuán Qǐ) (2019) [Blu-ray/DVD]

I originally checked out “White Snake” when it was at the Fantasia Film Festival last year, and it’s not what I’d call the best anime movie to open 2020 with. While I love and appreciate the brilliant animation, “White Snake” is somewhat of a shallow and dull anime epic that packs in a lot of sub-genres and themes involving demons, war, the supernatural, dragons, and a very exhaustive reliance on ancient mythology. It would probably help the experience of “White Snake,” but having to do research to enjoy a movie is not appealing, even for movies that garner my interest.

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Black Christmas (2019)

At the end of the day you can’t even call “Black Christmas” a remake. It’s not even a re-imagining when you get down to it. At first it bears a slight resemblance to the original film’s themes, but once it shows all of its cards, it’s just aping the title for brand familiarity. And it fails, big time. “Black Christmas” has good intentions with a very relevant message, but it forgets story, suspense, and inherent terror, in exchange for a silly, preachy, and convoluted premise.

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House of the Witch (2017)

There’s something kind of charming about Alex Merkin’s “House of the Witch.” It’s a straight up rip off of “Night of the Demons” while also feeling a lot like a fan film for “The Blair Witch Project.” It’s part are all from much better movies made before, but even at its most clunky, I didn’t have a bad time. “House of the Witch” is that kind of movie you could probably appreciate as a passing treat on a random night if you had absolutely nothing to do. I also found the final scene to be pretty damn clever, as it at least gives us a reason for the seemingly random series of events that unfold.

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Simon, King of the Witches (1971)

The explanations I’ve read on online for “Simon, King of the Witches” insist that the obscure Andrew Prine movie is not meant to be taken seriously. It’s strictly dark comedy. But then you watch one of the most nonsensical unnecessary opening monologues ever filmed, and wonder if the writer himself was high while creating this genre confused tedious mess. “I really am one of the few true magicians,” Simon insists in the prologue, while declaring his affinity for magic, and aspirations to be a god. It is then followed by the man being arrested for vagrancy while being hulled away from his home: a sewer.

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The Ringu Collection [Blu-Ray]

One of the most influential J-Horror movie series has been compiled on to Blu-Ray for the first time in typical Arrow Video deluxe fashion for cineastes and fans alike. Anyone that loves the “Ringu” movie series will enjoy how the series is compiled in basic chronological order rather than release date order (Oddly enough the 2002 American remake and “Sadako vs. Kayako” are not included). Despite “Ringu” being one of the most influential entry of its kind (giving way to the superior remake, which rocketed the big J-Horror boom of the aughts), the movies have never really seen a Blu-Ray release. But that’s changed as Arrow has brought fans a wonderful new set. 

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The Wizard of Oz (1939) [4K UHD/Blu-Ray/Digital]

1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” is and is still widely considered the definitive fantasy masterpiece that has barely aged after so many decades. Even film fans that don’t care much for older films still have a hard time turning down “The Wizard of Oz” and ignoring its indefinable charm, and sense of adventure. Victor Fleming’s “The Wizard Of Oz” remains one of the most influential and engaging masterpieces, one filled with awe, surrealism, and a healthy sense of mystery, even eighty years after its initial release.

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