The stand-out, no questions asked, run out and buy it recommendation for this week is undoubtedly [REC], which finally gets a nearly bare-bones release in Region 1. But that's only if you don't already own the excellent Region 2 two-disc special edition. Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, [REC] sounded like a tired premise -- I had no desire to see another shaky-cam flick shot entirely from the POV of one camera -- but it's so intelligently executed that it puts the Hollywood remake (Quarantine) to shame.
A local television reporter (the very hot and very convincing Manuela Velasco) is doing a standard "night in the life" of a firefighting crew when they're called to a medical emergency at an apartment building. Events ramp up and out of control very quickly, and that's all I have to say about the plot. [REC] is intense, grueling, and graphic, and I'm not just saying that because my boss Scott Weinberg said it first (in his own words, of course).
It's easy to deride The Haunting in Connecticut as an overly familiar ghost story. The elements are all in place: "based on a true story," creepy old house that nobody in their right mind would buy or rent, and a sordid past ready to leap out and lure unsuspecting teens to their death. But I liked the movie, and part of that is probably the empathy and good will generated by Virginia Madsen as the mother of a seriously-ill teenage boy (Kyle Gallner).
I could swallow the idea that she would unintentionally put her family in danger because renting the house was a last measure on the part of a desperate woman who had seen her son suffer enough. And the rest of the movie flows from her. Plus, it's always nice to see Martin Donovan as a struggling alcoholic, Elias Koteas is solid as a fellow cancer sufferer, and I liked the lovely Amanda Crew as a niece who moves in along with her sister. The unrated special edition has the same running time; evidently more explicit autopsy footage was included. Extras include two audio commentaries, a 'making of,' deleted scenes, and a 41-minute doc on the real-life inspiration.
Far less defensible is the execrable I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (from the director of Judge Dredd), which is only watchable for fans of Jennifer Love Hewitt's breasts. No, she doesn't bare them -- don't be silly! But I'm sure they look stunning, though still mostly covered up, on Blu-ray, if that's your inclination.
Also out this week (descriptions via Amazon):
OC Babes and the Slasher of Zombietown (2009; pictured). Orange County ladies are "trapped in a bar due to a recent zombie outbreak. Little do they know that the Orange County Slasher who has been killing people all week is trapped inside with them." With Elissa Dowling.
Door Into Silence (1991). The final film by Italian master Lucio Fulci stars John Savage "as a businessman who encounters a mysterious beauty, a relentless hearse and his own ultimate nightmare while driving the back roads of the desolate bayou" in Louisiana. With Sandi Schultz.
Black Torment (1965). "In the tradition of Hammer Horror, but in the style of '60s Italian horrors, Black Torment is an an impressive and chilling period piece that sets the mood for horror and melodrama, complemented by plenty of heaving bosoms, galloping horses and swashbuckling sword fights with 18th century aristocrats." With Heather Sears and John Turner. Directed by Robert Hartford-Davis.