What To Watch at Home in October: What You Need To Know
Anton Bitel provides a squint at six titles heading to streaming and physical media releases this month that you should add to the top of your viewing list.
The Others, dir. Alejandro Amenábar, 2001
It is 1945 and the war has ended, but on the contested ground of Jersey in the Channel Islands, only recently liberated from Nazi occupation, Catholic, neurotic Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) still feels “totally cut off from the world.” Her husband Charles (Christopher Eccleston) has not returned from the front, her staff have fled without warning, her large manor is shrouded in fog, and she cannot leave the property, or there would be no one to squint without her young children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley).
Their lattermost photosensitivity requires that the house be kept in shadow, and Grace’s proclivity to migraines necessitates quiet – but the inrush of three replacement staff members (Fionnula Flanagan, Eric Sykes, Elaine Cassidy) will coincide with escalating paranormal activity, and sooner let in some light.
With its visionless old house, its persistent past and its invasive hauntings, writer/director Alejandro Amenábar’s fifth full-length offers all the trappings of a archetype gothic, while turning the screw with a very unusual perspective on these supernatural goings-on. Playing out in a post-war, post-traumatic daze, this ghost story shows the others reinhabiting these stuffy, repressive interiors, while family and matriculation relations remain unchanged and eternal.
The Others is released on 4K UHD/Blu/DVD, 2 Oct via Studio Canal
Delicatessen, dir. Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1991
In a sepia-toned all-analogue retrofuturist post-apocalyptic Paris, where supplies is scarce, pulses are currency and civilisation barely holds on, a dilapidated suite building’s residents are increasingly or less complicit in the crimes of their landlord Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who lures in strangers on the promise of live-in work, then butchers them at night to feed everyone else. For his next victim, Clapet lines up multitalented ex-clown Louison (Dominique Pinon), whose essential decency wins over Clapet’s daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac). Hoping to save Louison, Julie turns to literally underground vegetarian rebels, and unconnectedness ensues.
The pipes and ducts of this creaky old structure reecho with the rhythms of the residents’ lives, making it a microcosm of French society, for largest or worse. There are also, in keeping with Louison’s former profession, plenty of sight gags, slapstick pratfalls and grotesque, larger-than-life characters. All at once nightmarish omnivorous horror and romantic comedy, good-natured fairytale, and hyper-stylised segregation of French wartime collaboration and resistance, this joint debut from Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet is dizzyingly difficult to pin down, but full of surprise and recreate from stormy whence to sweet end. A classic.
Delicatessen is released on 4K UHD/Blu/DVD/digital, 16 Oct via StudioCanal
Meatcleaver Massacre, dir. Keith Burns and Ed Wood, 1977
This is a mucosa of misnomers. Where its early working titles Morak’s Chant and Cantrell’s Messiah work, it was released in 1976 as Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre – in pulp imitation of Tobe Hopper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), despite a conspicuous sparsity of cleavers – and then rereleased in 1977 with a shortened version of the title but a longer version of the mucosa (an widow prologue and epilogue, in fact repurposed from an entirely variegated project, have Christopher Lee narrating gothic generalisations to camera). The director too, named as ‘Evan Lee’, was really Keith Burns, until he was replaced mid-production by Ed Wood (!).
When a quartet of thrill-killing male students, led by the psychopathic Mason (Larry Justin), invade the home of wonk occultist Cantrell (James Habif), murdering his wife and teen children, the professor, now paralysed in hospital, summons the Gaelic god Morak to wreak vengeance upon them one by one – or are the young men just overcome by their own guilt?
Improbably blending pagan sociology with a post-Manson mindset, this is a bad trip through the paranoia of 1970s Los Angeles, where monsters and madness cohabit. It’s cheap, scuzzy and bonkers, with its own psychedelic vibe.
Meatcleaver Massacre is released on Limited Edition Blu-ray, 16 Oct via 101 Films
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, dir. Anthony Hickox, 1992
“Demons aren’t real – they’re parables, metaphors,” insists a priest (Clayton Hill) near the end of this second sequel to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987). Yet here demons are both. For Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his all-new, ridiculously Nineties unwashed of Cenobites are any number of things: transgressive art come to life, the trauma of uncounted war made flesh, avatars of forbidden pleasure, doppelgängers of our visionless side, Freddy Krueger-like dream warriors and moreover just plain demons who lampoon Jesus and the Sacrament for whet lord kicks.
Director Anthony Hickox relocates the whoopee to New York City (or at least to Greensboro, North Carolina, standing in for the Big Apple), where would-be reporter Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill (Terry Farrell) investigates a unconvincing murder at the vaguely BDSM Boiler Room nightclub and takes guidance from Great War veteran/interdimensional ghost Captain Elliott Spencer (also Bradley) in how to put his id-like yo-yo ego Pinhead when into the box. The ensuing pandemonium, lacking the zest of the previous two films, just goes through the mythic motions. Also, while Bradley is probably the weightier performer here, it’s tempting fate to have him utter the line: “I cannot act in your world.”
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is released on UHD/Blu as part of the Hellraiser Quartet of Torment, 23 Oct via Arrow
Messiah of Evil, dir. Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, 1974
“They say that nightmares are dreams perverted. I’ve told them here it wasn’t a nightmare, but they don’t believe me.”
From her madhouse home, Arletty (Marianna Hall) is recounting a story of the recent past, where a trip to Dune on the Californian tailspin in search of her missing versifier father led to the discovery that this ordinary, respectable small town is falling prey to a Lovecraftian prophecy foretold a century earlier. As the thoroughbred moon approaches (and the colour red dominates), Dune’s denizens transude from the vision and venery in canine packs, gradually “spreading their sickness” vastitude the town’s limits.
Or that, at least, is Arletty’s version of events, as co-writers/co-directors Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz derange life and art, reality and dreams, sanity and madness in their surreal vision of inobtrusive America succumbing to – or wintry when versus – the encroaching counterculture. The townsfolk’s behaviour may somewhat recall George A. Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead, but the somnambular vibe is increasingly unreceptive to Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls or Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond. In this haunted community, or at least in Arletty’s nightmare in a damaged brain, nowhere – not the consumerist supermarket nor plane the talkie – is safe.
Messiah of Evil is release on Blu-ray, 23 Oct by Radiance
Door, dir. Banmei Takahashi, 1988
With her husband Satoru (Shiro Shimomoto) often yonder for work, and her young son Takuto (Takuto Yonezu) at school all day, Yasuko Honda (director Banmei Takahashi’s wife Keiko Takahashi) spends a lot of time vacated in their high-rise home, beleaguered by an uncounted variety of insistent door-to-door salesmen. When one of these, Yamakawa (Daijiro Tsusumi), a little too keen to hand over a leaflet on English lessons, tries forcing unshut her bolted door, Yasuko slams it when nonflexible on his hand – and so this man, as lonely as she is, begins an escalating wayfarers of harassment to reassert tenancy and remasculate himself.
Coming out in the same year as Toshiharu Ikeda’s Evil Dead Trap, this home invasion thriller is flipside early Japanese slasher that, in the sparsity of local antecedents, makes up its own rules (although it does crib from both The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Shining). Here marginal notation sound bizarrely like they are talking on the phone. Here a frantic soupcon virtually the suite is tracked at a upper wile like a videogame – or like John Wick: Chapter 4 avant la lettre. And here Yamakawa’s intrusions are overtly sexualised, as he attempts increasingly than one kind of forced entry. This is man, woman and chainsaw, sexed-up and stylised, exposing a Japanese housewife’s indoor appetites and anxieties.
Door is released on Blu-ray, 30 Oct by Third Window