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Don't Be Afraid of the Dark





(OUT OF 10)

This might have been the first horror film I watched from start to finish. Back in the day when you only had a few channels on your TV set, stuff like this (horror films produced for television) would air late at night. I was at my grandma's house sleeping over, and she didn't care what I watched or how late I stayed up—so there you have it. I saw this movie and was freaked out beyond reason.

It stars Kim Darby as Sally, a woman who has moved into a relative's old house; she intends to renovate and start life anew. She discovers a sealed-up fireplace in a damp back room and decides to fix it up. The cranky handyman (William Demarest, Uncle Charley from My Three Sons) tells her to stay the hell away and leave it alone. But she doesn't listen.

As it turns out, the fireplace is a portal to some strange underworld where demons live, and they are hungry for Sally's soul. They have tiny, hairy bodies and shriveled-up prune faces. They are also sensitive to light, and when they start trying to attack Sally, simply switching on the lights or lighting a candle causes them to repel. Of course, nobody, including her hubby (Jim Hutton, father of Timothy), believes her stories of monsters trying to get her, and things end rather badly for Ms. Sally.

I don't know what freaks me out more about this film: the wrinkly faces, or the garbled way the little bastards talk to each other. It sounds like they are gargling acid! I thought that maybe the reason this film disturbed me was my young age, but watching it now, decades later, it still scars me in an unholy way.

This flick is being remade, with Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes starring. Good luck trying to capture this classic's creep factor.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The DVD has no special features. It's part of the new Warner Archive collection, and you can only really order it at You might find a copy of it on, but you will pay heartily for it. Because this film hasn't been available for such a long time, and because I'm just so happy to own it, I'm still giving it a decent Geek Factor rating, even though it has no supplements.

Creepshow (Blu-Ray)





(OUT OF 10)

There was a time in the '80s when George Romero and Stephen King ruled the world of horror. This homage to creepy comic books from the '50s counts as one of Romero's very best works—thanks to the help of King's screenplay. King himself starred in one of the five segments as a country bumpkin who discovers a meteor and is overcome by space weeds.

The best of the segments would be "The Crate," where an old, chained-up wooden crate is discovered in a university lab, and it doesn't contain National Geographic issues. Also of note is funnyman Leslie Nielsen, playing a decidedly unfunny jealous husband who buries Ted Danson up to his neck on a beach, where the tide is coming in. E.G. Marshall is an obscene hoot as a rich recluse with a major bug problem at his apartment, and you can spy a young Ed Harris as one of the victims of a zombie who wants his cake on Father's Day.

This one is either being remade or continued (there have been two other, far inferior Creepshow films). A director has yet to be announced, so I say they should give Romero another crack at it.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Nothing, and that's a shame. I would've loved a King/Romero commentary, or a look back with Ted Danson.

Gladiator: Sapphire Series (Blu-Ray)





(OUT OF 10)I was not too fond of this film on the big screen. I found some of the computer effects distracting, and it looked like a cartoon in some instances. Truth is, the story of Maximus (Russell Crowe), a Roman general turned slave and eventual gladiator star, works better on home screens. The bad visual moments are reduced in size, causing less distraction. This allows the viewer to focus more on the decent story.

Crowe (who won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance) is decent, but it's Joaquin Phoenix who steals the show as the evil emperor. There have been very few women as beautiful as Connie Nielsen is in this movie. Meanwhile, Oliver Reed had a strange thing happen during production: He died, and his face was digitally pasted onto another actor's body to complete his part.

SPECIAL FEATURES: This package is full of great stuff, including the ability to leave the film and watch production diaries and historical shorts. Director Ridley Scott and Crowe provide a commentary; there are also a bunch of deleted scenes and documentaries on the film's creation.

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