A Blu-ray Halloween: American Horror Story, The Conjuring and Chucky

Halloween is nearly upon us and in the spirit of this macabre celebration of tricking and treating, let’s take a look at some of the more frightening movies or television properties recently released in the Blu-ray format and ready made to deliver a fright to mature audiences.

American Horror Story: Asylum on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

American Horror Story: Asylum on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

American Horror Story: Asylum (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $49.98)  — Easily one of the most disturbing and gruesome shows to ever air on television (far surpassing “CPO Sharkey,” giggle), the second season of this Emmy-Award winning series takes place at the Briarcliff Mental Institution and features sexually repressed nuns, a homicidal Santa, a serial killer named Bloody Face, a murderous pinhead, a Nazi surgeon and even curious extraterrestrials. What more could the fan of creepy ask for?

The anthology features the returning ensemble cast of Jessica Lange as Sister Jude, Evan Peters as the misunderstood Kit Walker and Sarah Paulson as journalist Lana Winters, to name a few standouts. Actor James Cromwell, delivers the super-twisted role of Dr. Arthur Arden and actually won an Emmy for his efforts. The three-disc, Blu-ray set offers all 13-episodes in blood-curdling crispness to be expected in the high-definition format. Its nightmarish imagery provides the perfect fodder for a Halloween party visual backdrop.

Frightening extras: Slim picking here, horror connoisseurs, but I will mention a 15-minute look at how some of the ghastly special effects and creatures were designed (blood spurting and boil building is pretty rough to watch) and a 9-minute tour of Briarcliff as a corrupted orderly walks a female through the facility and explains some of its more infamous inmates.

The Conjuring on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video

The Conjuring on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video

The Conjuring (Warner Home Video, Rated R, $35.99) — Although, occasionally treading on sacred ground of movies such as “The Exorcist” and “Poltergeist,” director James Wan’s almost 2-hour chronicle of the Perron family’s problems with a 19th century witch named Bathsheba Sherman haunting their Rhode Island home is one of scariest movies I have ever seen.

Based on real-life events from 1971, the movie stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren helping the Perrons with their demonic dilemma. By the way, this is the same couple that cleansed the house tied to the Amityville Horror.

Mr. Wan’s mix of haunted house surprises, nightmarish apparition appearances, a brutal exorcism and use of more traditional effects (less computer generated) helps make “The Conjuring” a classic in modern horror cinema.

Frightening extras: Two featurettes will make the skin slightly crawl. First, the 15-minute “A History in Demonology” explores the careers of Ed and Lorraine Warren including an interview with Lorraine (Ed died in 2006) and a really unsettling look in the Warrens’ trophy room.

For reasons that sent chills up my spine, the Warrens had a room in their house that contained items thought to be cursed and haunted. It includes the possessed Annabelle doll (seen at the beginning of the film) but during its onscreen appearance, the face is blurred out. I’m guessing to protect any susceptible individuals from falling under its spell, which managed to further creep out my audience.

Next, Face-to-Face With Terror” offers a 7-minute look at the real-life Perron family with current interviews from the family and some classic photos from the era.

Chucky: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Chucky: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Chucky: The Complete Collection (Universal Studio Home Entertainment, Rated R, $84.98) — Universal celebrates 25 years of screenwriter Don Mancini’s famed homicidal doll brutalizing unsuspecting humans in this high-definition homage.

Movie audiences were introduced to a Good Guy, Cabbage Patch-like monstrosity, possessed by the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray back in 1988 with “Child’s Play.”

It’s release and subsequent sequels have maintained a loyal cult following over the years as each movie slid further into the absurd and darkest of humor.

Let’s reference the introduction of actress Jennifer Tilly as the girlfriend of the serial killer in the fourth film “Bride of Chucky,” who ends up possessing another doll and hooking up with the pint-sized murderer.

The Blu-ray set includes all of the films — “Child’s Play,” “Child’s Play 2,” “Child’s Play 3,” “Bride of Chucky” “Seed of Chucky” as well as the 2013 reboot of the series “Curse of Chucky.”

It’s worth noting that the latest effort from Mr. Mancini (also directed by the writer) concentrates on more horror during its 90-minute, well-paced, killing spree than humor and is easily, next to the original “Child’s Play,” the best of the series. Chucky has never looked livelier and menacing while actor Brad Dourif (the voice of Chucky for all of the films) continues to creep out viewers.

Frightening extras: Look to eight, optional commentary tracks spread among some of the films to understand Mr. Mancini’s demented intentions, learn abut the evolution of Chucky from puppeteer Tony Gardner, appreciate some spirited discussion with Miss Tilly and even hear from Chucky on his favorite kills.

More than a dozen featurettes are also available, highlighted by a 25-minute look at the production of “Child’s Play,” multiple looks at the design of Chucky over the years and plenty of interviews with cast and crew.

I was disappointed that for this Chucky celebration, there was no major documentary on the franchise. Viewers only get a 7-minute feature on the legacy of Chucky with short interviews exclusive to the Blu-ray set.

However, for any fan of Chucky buying the films for the first time on disk, the bonus selections are more than adequate (especially the commentaries) and present a treasure chest of grisly nostalgia.

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Joseph Szadkowski

For nearly two decades, Joseph Szadkowski has written about video games, comic books and action figures for The Washington Times.  

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