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The Dead Zone: Special Collector's Edition

Paramount Home Video
Movie A-
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

One of the finest films made from a Stephen King novel. Christopher Walken plays a schoolteacher with a really bad hairdo who crashes into a milk truck and goes into a five-year coma. When he wakes up, it's a bad time when you hold his hand, because he can see all kinds of shit in the future and past.

Different plot threads include the capturing of a serial killer, the saving of a young boy's life and, ultimately, a showdown with a dangerous political candidate played by Martin Sheen. Walken is tremendous in the role, and this stands as one of his all-time-great performances. He gives it just that right touch of Walken weirdness, but keeps his character grounded in humanity.

This is one of the few films by director David Cronenberg that doesn't contain totally sick, psychosexual violence, although one guy does take himself out with a pair of scissors to the mouth.

Special Features: A bunch of cool featurettes, with full Cronenberg participation. They examine the overall production, the photography and the politics of the film.


South Park: The Hits Volume 1

Comedy Central
Show A
Special Features C-
DVD Geek Factor 7.5 (out of 10)

Sure, you can buy entire seasons of South Park (currently up through Season Eight), but this is a pretty good option if you just want a quick hodgepodge of great episodes.

Included here is the incredibly bizarre "Towelie" episode, where creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone must've been on acid while writing it. It features the kids playing videogames and getting involved in political intrigue when they come into contact with a "smart towel." The towel drops by every once in awhile, recommends that you take your towel to hotels, and gets high. Unbelievably strange.

There's "Scott Tenorman Must Die," an episode that proves, once and for all, that Cartman is the meanest kid in the cartoon world. Radiohead makes a guest appearance, and one of the characters winds up eating their parents. Also unbelievably strange.

Also included are "Trapped in the Closet," where Tom Cruise was infamously slandered, and "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playlist," where the same can be said for Paris Hilton. A notable absence: "The Passion of the Jew," where Mel Gibson farts in Cartman's face. It's available on the recently released Season Eight collection.

special Features: There are four bonus episodes, which are pretty much a continuation of the collection. Stone and Parker offer up their patented quick, partial commentaries. This is also your chance to own "The Spirit of Christmas," the Jesus Christ vs. Santa smackdown that got the whole thing started.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: The Gruesome Edition

MGM Home Video
Movie B (F if you hate gory horror films)
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10--for genre fans only)

I totally liked this one when it came out 20 years ago. It was the '80s, and I was actually into the more extreme, horror-comedy stuff like Evil Dead rather than the purely grim takes at the genre like Tobe Hooper's original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

The tone is definitely more tongue in cheek, with Leatherface acting like a total clown. When he gets a new female prisoner, he does a little sex dance with his chainsaw that is good for a laugh or two. Returning from the first film is the ultra-strange Jim Siedow as the Cook, who turns Leatherface's victims into award-winning chili this time around.

Hooper came back to direct this one, and he just went nuts. Critics and audiences spurned it at the time, but it's gotten some love from horror fans over the years. Employing the fine gore makeup work of Tom Savini (who did the original Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead) means that we are treated to all sorts of fun, messy deaths. One poor sap gets his skin shaved off with a meat cutter, including his whole face--and survives!

Dennis Hopper, in the same year he did Blue Velvet, agreed to appear in this one as Texas Ranger Lefty Enright, relative of the wheelchair-bound victim from the first film. (We actually get to see the skeleton of that victim, and his flashlight still works.)

Special Features: This is a pretty great disc for such a silly sequel. Director Hooper sits down for a full commentary, where he is quite droll. He explains why he chose to go all out for this one, a true contrast to the straightforward, documentary-like scares of the first Chain Saw. There's another commentary with Savini, actress Caroline Williams and Bill Moseley, who played Chop Top. Best of all are the deleted scenes, which would've made the film a whole lot stranger. There's an underground scene where "the family" chops up some sports fans, and a scene where Joe Bob Briggs compliments Leatherface on his form as he's getting chopped up. Adding to the fun is a decent six-part documentary called It Runs in the Family.

More by Bob Grimm

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