Best Blu-ray & 4K UHD horror movies: 'Fright Night,' 'Night of the Living Dead, 'Poltergeist' & more – Washington Times

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The mad Count Zad is back as Halloween approaches to offer his best home entertainment movie disk picks for the scary season.
Night of the Living Dead (Criterion, not rated, 1.37:1 aspect ratio, 97 minutes, $49.95) — Horror filmmaking maestro George Romero’s black-and-white cult classic that defined the modern-day zombie mythology debuts on the ultra-high definition format in a three-disc set packed with an overwhelming collection of extras.
The director shocked audiences back in 1968 as he relayed a story about the dead coming back to life and roaming the earth, craving human flesh.
A group of humans attempts to hide from the ghouls in a farmhouse, led by the mild-mannered and rational Ben (Duane Jones). only to realize that they have as much to fear from one another as the horde of the undead.
Viewers get the meticulous restoration done by the Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation for Criterion‘s high definition release back in 2018 (supervised by Mr. Romero) only now in its native 2160p format making for quite a detailed and disgusting evening of “zombitainment.”
Frightening extras: The abundance of digital treats, culled from the 2018 Blu-ray release will consume a film connoisseur’s life as he examines nearly every aspect of the production.
The best include a pair of optional commentary tracks (on both the 4K and Blu-ray disc) from 1994 and featuring Mr. Romero, co-writer John Russo, production manager Vincent Survinski, producer Karl Harman and actress Judith O’Dea (Barbara).
Next, three legendary directors Guillermo del Toro, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Darabont spend 24 minutes exploring the legacy of “Night of the Living Dead” and its impact on modern-day filmmakers.
Viewers also get featurettes created in 2017 covering editing, cinematography, the zombie actors, script and musical score with interviews from the original crew, cast and historians.
Fans get two interviews with Mr. Romero, one on the “Tomorrow Show” with Tom Snyder from 1979 (19 minutes) and one from the Toronto International Film Festival from 2012 (46 minutes).
Finally, the set even includes a rare, 21-minute audio interview with Jones and the 16mm uncorrected work print version of the film that was then titled “Night of Anubis.”
The packaging includes a nightmare-inducing, double-sided mini-poster of a zombie girl with other side offering a critical essay by Stuart Klawans titled “Mere Anarchy is Loosed.”
Fright Night: Limited Edition Steelbook (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 106 minutes, $38.99) — One of Count Zad’s absolute favorite vampire films finally gets the 4K treatment and highlights director Tom Holland’s 1985 tongue-in-cheek embrace of the horror genre.
Viewers get sucked into the life of Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), a normal 17-year-old living in the suburbs with his mom and a huge fan of the late-night horror movie television show “Fright Night” hosted by a washed-up actor Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) playing a faux vampire hunter.
Life gets complicated when a real vampire (Chris Sarandon) moves in next door. After losing his friend (Stephen Geoffreys) and girlfriend (Amanda Bearse) to the bloodsucker, Charley decides to fight back with help from the reluctant Mr. Vincent.
The irresistible blend of horror, humor and some ghastly make-up and special effects make for a true fright night classic for the Halloween season.
A scan from the original camera negative restores the film to new life highlighted by an appreciation of Evil Ed’s ghastly transformation and the vampire’s detailed haunted mansion and lair, especially crisp and clear during the nighttime encounters.
Frightening extras: Sony delivers a fan fest’s worth of digital goodies housed in an additional pair of Blu-ray discs.
Some of the new extras include a never-before-seen trailer of the film discussed by Mr. Holland, storyboard comparisons, the only deleted scene and a 43-minute discussion with Miss Bearse.
The crown jewel is a 157-minute read-through of the film over Zoom from 2020 by cast members and guests Rosario Dawson as a vampire and Mark Hamill as Peter Vincent. The extra cool part is the director shows off some of the original props used in the film that he owns.
However, the jewel is slightly tarnished by the unabashed begging to contribute to the Michigan Democratic Party, the group that unfortunately sponsored the event.
Sony also includes many of extras from Twilight Time’s 30th Anniversary Special Edition and Sony’s 2019 limited-run Blu-ray edition that first included a pair of optional commentary tracks with the director and most of the cast such as Mr. Sarandon and Miss Bearse.
Next a nearly hourlong reunion panel from the 2008 Fear Fest has the cast and director talk about their experiences and take questions from moderator Rob Galluzzo.
Equally worth watching is a massive, 147-minute documentary on the production and a 20-minute homage by cast and crew to the late McDowall.
Now finish off the gift-worthy package with the steel case featuring the haunting poster art on the front and a memorable image of the vampire with fangs sprung.
Poltergeist (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 114 minutes, $33.99) — Who would have thought that the man who gave the world the horrifyingly adult and visceral “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” would end up directing one of the greatest haunted house movies ever created, and PG-rated no less.
Well, Tobe Hooper did it back in 1982, with a little help from some guy named Steven Spielberg, and his effort is now finally available in the terrifying 4K format.
Viewers learn about the unlucky world of the Freeling family, living in an idyllic California suburb and in a new home courtesy of real estate developer dad Steven (Craig T. Nelson).
Strange things begin to happen. First, a television talks to their 5-year-old daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke), then wife Diane (JoBeth Williams) witnesses magic tricks in the kitchen, and son Robbie (Oliver Robins) has a terrifying encounter with a tree.
The aggressive attacks escalate until Carol Anne is taken into the spirit world while the family fights to do all it can to rescue her. Here’s a tip: Do not build a housing development on a burial ground.
Not only is the film a scare-filled, roller-coaster ride filled with supernatural special effects, but it stars one of pop culture’s most famous lines, uttered by Carol Anne: “They’re here.”
The remastering of the film does not have too much to highlight within a normal house in the suburbs, but the effects such as the muddy skeleton attack, “Ghostbuster”-style apparitions and some intense strobe effects in a doorway are all enhanced masterfully, giving the film a brand new visual life just in time for the Halloween season.
Frightening extras: The slim collection of digital goodies, found on the Blu-ray disc, spotlights a two-part, 31-minute-long segment culled from the 2008 high definition release featuring paranormal investigators and mediums validating the existence of the spirit world. It’s a perfect complement to watch with the film after a long night of trick or treating.
Flatliners: Limited Edition (Arrow Video, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 115 minutes, $49.95) — Director Joel Schumacher’s 1989 psychological horror film debuts in UHD format to offer a stellar cast of budding performers in action but not much in the fright department.
The promising tale has medical student Nelson Wright (Kiefer Sutherland) cajoling a quartet of fellows classmates to kill and resuscitate him so that he can briefly experience the afterlife.
His success leads to three others in the group trying the experiment, but all soon learn that each resurrection brings along some unwelcomed consequences and required atonement for their sins.
Performances from the ensemble shine throughout with not only Mr. Sutherland delivering the brooding goods but his fellow actors Julia Roberts as Rachel Manus, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt as the quirky students.
More atmospheric and creepy and devoid of scares and frights, “Flatliners” is still a Halloween treat for adults looking for reasons to philosophically discuss death and the great beyond.
The 4K restoration from Sony Pictures sourced from the original 35mm camera negative allows some Chicago landmarks to beautifully shine including the Museum of Science & Industry, Loyola University and Graceland Cemetery.
Frightening extras: Arrow packs all the digital goodies on the solo 4K disc and starts with an optional commentary track with critics Bryan Reesman and Max Evry.
Of the remaining six featurettes (almost 80 minutes in total) covering specific aspects of the production and shot last year, most enlightening and important to watch are segments with the writer Peter Filardi and cinematographer Jan de Bont with lighting designer Edward Ayer.
The packaging includes a color booklet with a couple of critical essays, and the cardboard cover and slipcase insert offer newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
Event Horizon: 25th Anniversary Steelbook Edition (Paramount Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 96 minutes, $30.99) — Director Paul W.S. Anderson stylish and gory, haunted house in space film from 1997 makes a glorious return in the 2160p format.
The sci-fi horror story explores the ill-fated mission of the crew of the rescue vessel Lewis and Clarke in the year 2047.
With a mandate to answer a distress call from the starship Event Horizon, supposedly lost on the outskirts of Neptune for the past seven years, they find an empty ship, a murdered crew and something far more evil that will feed upon each of their worst fears.
The impressive cast does its best with the bloody material and features Laurence Fishburne as Capt. S.J. Miller, the commander of the Lewis and Clark; Kathleen Quinlan as medical technician Peters; Joely Richardson as executive officer Lt. M.L. Starck; Jason Isaacs as medical office D.J.; and Sam Neill as Dr. Billy Weir, the designer of the Event Horizon.
With the remastering of the film, the visual spectacle is far more impressive than the story. Viewers can appreciate the ornate detail of the Event Horizon’s spinning bands of its magnetic drive’s core and gooey dimensional gateway; any of either ship’s outside structure; a frozen human body shattering’ a neon-green metal corridor; and a harrowing spacewalk
Frightening extras: The Blu-ray version of the film is included and houses all the treats, such as an optional commentary track with producer Jeremy Bolt and the director.
And even better, a five-part, 103-minute documentary on the production examines the story origins, cast and production design as well as offering plenty of face time with the director.
Under the category of slick packaging, a removable plastic translucent slipcover features mangled hands reaching toward the center of the metal case on one side and the starship Event Horizon on the back to reveal a front and back boasting giant eyeballs.
One eyeball’s retina even has a reflective image of human scratching his eyes out. The inside center spread reveals an astronaut inspecting the large, gravity drive orb. This is by far one of Paramount‘s better-looking steelbooks ever.

Universal Classic Monsters: Icons of Horror Collection Vol. 2 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated G, 1.33:1 to 2.00:1 aspect ratio, 320 minutes, $79.99) — For the second year in a row, the movie studio that helped define the horror genre blesses fans with a quartet of classic monster films remastered in the UHD disc format.
Viewers get “The Mummy” (1932) starring Boris Karloff; “Bride of Frankenstein” also starring Karloff as well as Elsa Lanchester; the Technicolor, Academy Award-winning “Phantom of the Opera” (1943) starring Claude Rains; and “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954) starring one, really cool, gilled humanoid.
Most notable of the black-and-white gems, director James Whale’s brought back key cast members of “Frankenstein” including Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein and, of course, a speaking Karloff as the legendary monster who gets a bride.
This ghoulishly gothic and expressionistic sequel is arguably as potent as the original and also features an ambitious and grandiose musical score by Franz Waxman.
All of the movies have been meticulously restored using the best original source material available. Despite some occasional film grain, the crisp imagery and balance of contrast shine in the often shadowy black-and-white films while the saturated hues really pop when watching the colorfully operatic “Phantom of the Opera.”
Adding this set to last year’s collection that included “Dracula” “Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man,” and “The Wolf Man” makes for a nearly definitive archive that celebrates the early origins of horror cinema.
Frightful extras: The eight-disc set (four 4K discs and four Blu-ray discs) arrives in a hardcover slipcase revealing a 12-page cardboard book featuring black-and-white stills and a color movie poster for each film.
The 4K and Blu-ray discs offer all of the previously released bonus content from the 2013 high definition versions of the films.
Just a few of the best include: five optional commentary tracks from film historians; the 39-minute retrospective “She’s Alive! Creating the Bride of Frankenstein”; a 39-minute documentary “Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed”; a 51-minute history of “The Phantom of the Opera”; and even the 3D version of “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (Blu-ray only).
The Lost Boys: 35th Anniversary Edition (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 112 minutes, $25.99) — Director Joel Schumacher’s 1987 dark comedic homage to the teenage vampire genre of films finally arrives in the UHD format to expose a 1980s blood pack of talent to a new generation.
Divorced Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest) and her sons Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) move to Santa Clara, California, dubbed the murder capital of the world and they quickly find out why.
When Michael runs into a teen biker gang of blood-suckers, he unintentionally gets turned into one of the undead.
Meanwhile, Sam learns his brother’s secret and aligns with comic book store owners and vampire hunters Edgar and Allen Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) to save his brother and the town from the death plague.
The ensemble cast of budding superstars and the stylish 1980s design far exceed the plot, and the movie spotlights a very young Kiefer Sutherland as the lead vampire David Powers, Alex Winter (“Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”) as his vampire pack member Marko and Jami Gertz (“Square Pegs”) as David’s gal pal Star.
The music equally shines highlighted by a great version of The Doors classic “People are Strange” by Echo & the Bunnymen.
The 4K transfer can be a bit uneven with some grain and wash, but moments such as a glowing orange table of stuffed animals, the gang hanging off of a train bridge smothered in fog and any visit to the cliffside lair of the vampires are creepily clear and dynamic.
Frightful extras: All of the treats from the 2008 Blu-ray release are ported over starting with an optional commentary track with Schumacher found on both the 4K and included Blu-ray disc.
The rest of the extras on the Blu-ray are led by a 24-minute retrospective on the film and pop-in, scene-specific commentaries with an all-grown-up Mr. Haim, Mr. Feldman and Jamison Newlander.
And, a surprising favorite, is a roughly 14-minute historical overview of the lore of vampires in other regions around the world such as Asia, Greece, India and Eastern Europe.
Scream 2: 25th Anniversary Steelbook Edition (Paramount Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 120 minutes, $30.99) — Legendary conductor of the macabre Wes Craven’s 1997 follow-up to his popular satirical slasher film returns to home theaters to deliver a familiar collection of grotesque kills and scares except now in the gloriously gruesome 4K format.
The murderous tale picks up with our survivors of the Woodsboro Massacre including college freshman Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), news reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), Deputy Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and horror film aficionado Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) having to deal with a copycat of the maniacal serial killer Ghostface.
Amid the death and attempts to unmask the lunatic, look for appearances by plenty of pop culture luminaries such as Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Laurie Metcalf (“Rosanne”), Jada Pinkett (“The Matrix Reloaded”), Liev Schreiber (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), David Warner (“The Omen”) and Tori Spelling (“Beverly Hills 90210”).
Once again, Craven has audiences by the throat as the body count piles up and the blood spills in a jump-scare extravaganza that arguably is better than the original.
The UHD upgrade delivers a crisp and clear presentation throughout, spotlighting every kill with perfect high dynamic color and shading tweaks.
Frightening extras: The Blu-ray pulls over all of the 2011 release’s treats led by a must-listen-to optional commentary track with the venerable Craven, assisted by producer Mariann Maddalena and editor Patrick Lussier. The director enjoyed watching the movie as well as discussing it, but his words are wise as he examines the scares, and it’s worth enjoying the film again.
The other notable extra is the fancy packaging. The outside of the glossy metallic case has Ghostface on the front with his knife drawn next to the mask all above a crowded movie theater, and the back has a bloodied knife and a scrawled message in green text, “Hello Sydney. Remember me?”
The interior has two halves of female faces in black and white with only each eye colored.

Paranormal Activity: The Ultimate Chills Collection (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, 1.78:1 to 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 661 minutes, $67.99) — Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the “Paranormal Activity” film franchise is not the abundance of found footage scares to be had, but the fact that seven movies exist, and, despite critics underwhelming responses to most of them, the six released in theaters were wildly profitable.
Fans get in this mega, nine-disc, Blu-ray set the original “Paranormal Activity” from 2009 (theatrical and unrated version with an alternate ending); “Paranormal Activity 2” from 2010 (theatrical and unrated version); “Paranormal Activity 3” from 2011 (theatrical and unrated version); “Paranormal Activity 4” from 2012 (theatrical and unrated version); “Paranormal Activity: The Marked” from 2014 (theatrical and unrated version); “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” from 2015 (theatrical and unrated version with an alternate ending and the theatrical 3D Version); and “Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin” from 2021 that never before been released on disc.
That’s a whole lot of paranormal shenanigans in a barebones story surrounding a demon named Asmodeus, nicknamed Tobi, infecting the lives of Katie Featherstone and her lineage.
Suffice it to report, those in love with the “Paranormal Activity” franchise and its cheap creeps will not be disappointed
Frightening extras: Owners get the 94-minute documentary “Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity” on the ninth disc that offers the complete origin and story of the franchise that reimagined the “found footage” genre of horror films and includes interviews with cast, crew and even hardcore fans.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, not rated, 1.19:1 aspect ratio, 98 minutes, $21.99) — Robert Louis Stevenson’s legendary novella about man’s internal struggle between good and evil came to black-and-white cinematic life way back in 1931 in a definitive, Academy Award-winning adaptation directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Frederic March.
The well-known tale has a kindly English doctor, researcher, surgeon and humanitarian named Henry Jekyll (March took home the Oscar) experimenting with drugs that turn him into the sadistic, violent and visual neanderthal Edward Hyde.
Viewers get to appreciate the best-looking version of the pre-code horror masterpiece through a 1080p high definition master created from a 4K scan of the surviving Nitrate elements.
Best extras: Film connoisseurs will relish watching the film two more times and enjoying a pair of optional commentary tracks.
The first, and new, offers film historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr delivering an informative and analytical deconstruction of the movie.
Next, an archival track features film expert Greg Mank who spends more time offering nostalgia and stories about the cast and crew and less on film studies, but his words are equally interesting.
Viewers also get March recreating his role for a 1950 radio broadcast and a cartoon short from 1955 starring Bugs Bunny and the transforming doctor in “Hyde and Hare.”
The Halloween 4K Collection: 1995-2002 (Shout! Factory, rated R, 1.85:1 to 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 263 minutes, $129.98) — For the serial killer Michael Myers’ home theater fan base comes the next set of films remastered in the ultra-high definition format and offering a three-film snapshot of the famed horror icons exploits.
Specifically, viewers get “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” (1995, both the theatrical and producer’s cut); “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later” (1998); and “Halloween: Resurrection” (2002).
Most notable of the set is “Halloween H20” that offered the return of the all-grown-up high school student originally targeted by the killer and eventually revealed to be Michael’s sister Laurie Strode played by scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis.
All of the movies feature 4K scans from the original camera negative and high dynamic range enhancements
Completists will also need to purchase Shout! Factory’s “Halloween” collection from last year that delivered the first five films in the 4K format ($245.99).
Frightful extras: The eight-disc boxed set (four 4K discs and four Blu-ray discs) overwhelms with bonus content mostly culled from the films’ various releases over the years.
Most worthy are the optional commentary tracks. For “The Curse of Michael Myers,” viewers get a new track with screenwriter Daniel Farrands and actress Marianne Hagan moderated by filmmaker Michael Perez for the theatrical cut and a track with Mr. Farrands and composer Alan Howarth for the producers’ cut.
“Halloween H20” features a commentary track with director Steve Miner and Miss Curtis while “Halloween: Resurrection” offers a track with director Rick Rosenthal and editor Robert A. Ferretti.
Viewers also get digital goodies such as the hourlong “Blood is Thicker Than Water” production documentary for “Halloween H20,” and a slew of new interviews for “Halloween: Resurrection,” including segments with special makeup effects coordinator Gary J. Tunnicliffe, production designer Troy Hansen and stunt coordinator Donna Keegan.
The Munsters: Collector’s Edition (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated PG, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 110 minutes, $22.98) — Director Rob Zombie’s loving homage to his favorite monster-themed sitcom of the 1960s arrives in high definition to burn the eyes out of unsuspecting victims.
In this origin story, viewers witness the building of Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips), his courtship and marriage to Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie), his strained relationship with The Count aka Grandpa (Daniel Roebuck) and their eventual move from Transylvania to Mockingbird Lane.
Imagine watching the “Groovie Ghoulies” while on LSD thanks to a neon-saturated color palette. The film revels in psychedelic hues tied to the scare season and wrapped around spooky lore, as skeletons, bats, rats, a mad scientist, a mummy, a cemetery, a full moon and even the infamous vampire Count Orlok (Nosferatu) invade the screen.
Despite most critics eviscerating the effort, I’m still recommending it as a Halloween pick because it literally embodies the spirit and tints of the holiday.
Put the movie on when the tweens come home with candy and expose them to this goofy, candy-coated visual rush.
Frightening extras: A relaxed and delighted Mr. Zombie offers a detailed optional commentary track and does a great job of explaining the production, the nuances of his story and its homage to the original television show. He does rationalize his methods to his madness throughout.
Also, a director documentary that’s more than a hour long covers most of the production down to make-up and the magnificent sets as well as showing the cast and crew having a good time in Budapest.
• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at [email protected].
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