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New Releases for Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 2

Genre: Horror/Sequel

Directed by: Rick Jacobson, Tony Tilse, Michael J. Bassett, Mark Beesley

Run time: 288 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: Now that the euphoria has subsided, and lifelong fans of The Evil Dead have seen Ashley J. Williams return to the cabin that started it all, the second season of Starz’ Ash vs Evil Dead is back to kick more ass, spray gallons of blood every episode and fly untethered in brave new directions.

Many fans – BVB included – ordered the pay-cable Starz in 2015 specifically to watch Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi and Rob Tappert revist the 35-year-old franchise, and they weren’t disappointed.

For Season 2, however, the blueprint was wide open, which allowed Campbell, Raimi & Co. to introduce some new characters (Lee Majors as Ash’s father and Ted Raimi as Ash’s childhood friend) and put series regulars Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) through some pretty brutal paces. Pablo, specifically, has a huge arc in season two.

But, in the end, the best episodes took a familiar genre trope – landing the principle cast in a mysterious mental hospital – and upped the ante by adding a killer…puppet?

Not since 2004’s “Smile Time,” the episode of Angel that featured David Boreanaz’s vampire detective as a stitched-up Muppet, has a television show had so much fun playing with dolls.

Episode 7, ‘Delusion,’ and Episode 8, ‘Ashy Slashy,’ reveal Ash’s ferocious felt id, and he’s just so freaking cute, if slightly demonic and volatile.

Ash vs Evil Dead is that rare continuation of a beloved property that actually thrives in short, 30-minute episodic chunks. The humor hits home, the special effects are impressive and at least one character per episode gets drenched in a torrent of gloop.

There’s no confirmed date for the premiere of Season Three yet – online websites have reported it may not happen until early 2018 – but based on its fantastic second outing, there’s plenty more evil to be mined.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Oh, yes.

Nudity – No. Gore – Considerable.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Deadites, man.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

The Walking Dead: The Complete Seventh Season (Starz/Anchor Bay, 441 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): It was the viewing event that sparked widespread controversy and fan angst, but the Season Seven premiere of The Walking Dead, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,” the 84th episode in the series, was well worth the wait, even if it did make some viewers abandon the show due to its brutality.

After the best two seasons of the groundbreaking show’s fantastic run, Season Seven made people wait for months to learn which characters fell at the hands (and bat) of Negan.

It was the most intense, gut-wrenching 60 minutes of television ever produced. And it accomplished its goal perfectly – to make Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s iconic Negan larger than life and deadlier than any foe yet faced by Rick Grimes and his band of survivors.

The only problem with such a bombastic kickoff is that it’s nearly impossible to maintain that level of intensity, and for much of Season Seven, The Walking Dead lacked the urgency that propelled Seasons Five and Six as it placed key characters in central roles to bring about the next significant chapter, All Out War.

Thankfully, with war about to break wide open in theTWD universe, Season Eight looks poised to return to form come late October.

Effects (AGFA, 84 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): The recent death of George A. Romero, the grandfather of the modern-day zombie movie, has left many fans still reeling.

Romero was a legend, yet he didn’t act like one. In person, he was down-to-earth and humble, affable and empathetic. His passing likely means we will see a slew of special collector’s releases of many of his most-popular movies.

The American Genre Film Archive likely never intended its high-definition release of an early, long-lost cult classic slasher flick from 1980 to be the first of those expected releases, but Romero’s death will definite boost interest in this rarity and benefit sales.

Director and co-writer Dusty Nelson, along with producers Pasquale Buba and John Harrison, all worked with Romero on various projects, including both his feature films and his television projects like Tales from the Darkside.

In 1980, the three men combined forces on Effects, a low-budget thriller about a film within a film that may in fact be a real snuff movie. Special effects icon Tom Savini also was involved, pulling double-duty as both the practical effects wizard and an actor.

Effects is grainy and gritty, like watching an old VHS cassette after years of being spoiled by high-definition, which only reinforces that it’s a perfectly preserved time capsule from the start of a decade that would forever cement horror as an unstoppable genre. It looks and feels appropriately low-budget, which benefits its central premise, that you are watching a movie about the making of a movie that might actually be an excuse for a deranged killer to actually off the naïve cast.

Effects isn’t a great movie, but that’s not the point. It’s one of those films that developed its own mythology over decades when movie geeks got together to talk about different bootleg versions of “lost” films that had allegedly seen. That alone is going to be enough for long-time, hardcore completionists to want to own it.

Now on Video-on-Demand:

Ghost House (Vertical Entertainment, 89 minutes, Unrated, VOD): Ghost House, the new paranormal thriller from the Ragsdale Brothers (Rich and Kevin), takes a page from other recent horror films (namely, 2016’s The Other Side of the Door) and finds inspiration by mining the folklore and urban rituals of another country – in this case, Thailand.

Despite its generic title, Ghost House is, surprisingly, deserving of your time.

The story follows Julie (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Jim (James Landry Hébert) on a vacation to Thailand where Jim plans to propose. After meeting Watabe, a gregarious personal driver (Wen-Chu Yang, turning a disposable roll into a standout character), the young couple explore the sights until they encounter two other ex-pats Robert and Billy, who get Julie and Jim drunk before driving them out to a secluded forest filled with ghost house altars.

For the uninitiated, a ghost house in Thai culture is meant as a reverential token, a place to keep a deceased’s spirit safely housed so that spirit doesn’t decide to haunt instead. However, anyone who disturbs a ghost house or unwisely removes anything from the altar will be cursed.

While it suffers from some predictable plot contrivances – despite just getting engaged, Julie and Jim are prone to jealousy and bickering – director Rich Ragsdale knows what he is doing when it comes to scary, and Ghost House excels at delivering a relentless torrent of unnerving imagery and well-earned jolts.

Ragsdale also benefits from a key supporting performance by veteran character actor Mark Boone Junior (Sons of Anarchy, Batman Begins, Memento) as Reno, a local shaman who agrees to help Jim try to save Julie’s soul.

Ghost House is entertaining, and surprisingly so, but more, it cements Ragsdale and his brother as a potential force. Given time, with a more polished script, they might just deliver a cult classic for horror fans to devour.

Also Available:

Blue Bloods: The Seventh Season

Whale Rider: 15th Anniversary Edition

Kill Switch

Never Let Go

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