WASHINGTON — Halloween is upon us. And so are Count Zad’s picks for a few of our scarier, episodic television horror hits. On tap today: Our top Halloween DVDs and Blu-ray sets currently available for binge-watching. Today’s TV DVD and Blu-ray selections range from Scooby-Doo and Doom Patrol to Stephen King and beyond.
Scooby-Doo, Where are You!: The Complete Series Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Mystery Mansion (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, not rated, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, 908 minutes, $89.99) —
The definitive animated chronicle of the Mystery Inc. gang’s early years arrives in a mini haunted house. Starring the ever popular Scooby-Doo, the package contains Blu-ray discs and some fan-loving memorabilia.
The 4-disc collection compiles high-definition versions of all 41 episodes of Hanna-Barbera’s original series. The original shows in various iterations ran from 1969 to 1978 on CBS during its Saturday morning line-up. Episodes include the first two season of the show and a third season cobbled together from “The Scooby-Doo Show” and “Scooby’s All-Stars.”
All told, the first 25 episodes will gush with nostalgia for longtime fans. They’ll once again thrill to the crime- and paranormal-solving adventures of Shaggy Rogers, Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley and canine extraordinaire Scooby-Doo. This motley crew has run-ins with wily villains such as the Black Knight, Miner Forty-Niner, Ape Man, Puppet Master, Redbeard’s ghost and the Mummy of Anka.
The imagery in this set sometimes looks almost too sharp in the Blu-ray format. Some of the animation short cuts and budget deficiencies are exposed in the process. But this is still a welcomed release of a pop culture institution.
Frightening Scooby-Doo extras:
Warner Bros. delivers the goods for Scooby-Doo fans leading with a bunch of featurettes.
The extras include a 17-minute tribute to award-winning voice actor Frank Welker who has brought Fred Jones and Scooby to aural life over the years; 7 minutes on various iterations of the Scooby Doo shows and movies; and 9 minutes on Scooby merchandising over the years.
Another roughly 80 minutes of vintage segments cover Scooby’s early years and a look at the partnership of William Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Next, pull off the roof from the embossed scary mansion (the overall size of a thick dictionary) to find a full-color, 32-page condensed version of the “Scooby-Doo Encyclopedia”; and a keychain with a small pocket-sized Scooby vinyl figure attached (a young version of the pooch eating a sandwich) from Funko’s Pocket Pop! Line.
The Haunting of Hill House: Extended Director’s Cut (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated TV-MA, 2.00:1 aspect ratio, 569 minutes, $49.99) —
Another of our top Halloween DVDs is director and co-writer Mike Flanagan’s reimagined version of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 gothic horror novel. Exploring the future repercussions of a family that lived in a haunted mansion in the 1990s, this offering debuts in the high-definition format.
Flashbacks battle with the present to constantly flesh out the plight of parents Hugh (Henry Thomas / Timothy Hutton) and Olivia Crane (Carla Gugino) and their children Steven (Paxton Singleton / Michiel Huisman), Shirley (Lulu Wilson / Elizabeth Reaser), Luke (Julian Hilliard / Oliver Jackson-Cohen), Theo (Mckenna Grace / Kate Siegel), and Nell (Violet McGraw / Victoria Pedretti) as they suffer a terrible tragedy at the mansion multiple times and must learn to cope with it for the rest of their lives.
The supernatural horror arrives via chilling scenes in the massive, ultra-creepy mansion as apparitions such as the bent-neck lady reach out to the family and trigger the occasional jump scare with audiences over the 10-episode story.
However, the present character predicaments play out like watching an emotionally draining Broadway play with plenty of secrets waiting for family members to uncover.
After watching the psychological carnage play out, I’ll remind parents again that living in an aggressively haunted house with young children for any amount of time will lead to exorbitant psychiatry bills.
Frightfully Haunting extras:
Fans get extended episodes “Steven See a Ghost,” “The Bent-Neck Lady” and “Silence Lay Steadily” with a welcomed optional commentary track from Mr. Flanagan on each as well as his thoughts on the episode “Two Storms.”
Doom Patrol: The Complete First Season (Warner Bros Home Entertainment, Rated TV-MA, 2.20:1 aspect ratio, 775 minutes, $29.98) —
Doom Patrol, DC Comics’ bizarre sequential art series, was adapted into a live-action streaming show earlier this year. It now arrives via a trio of Blu-ray discs containing all 15 episodes of the inaugural season.
This one’s sure to please fans of monsters, insane Nazi science and the supernatural. That’s why the collection is one of our top Halloween DVDs. The show mixes and embellishes plotlines from the 1960s Doom Patrol comics as well as writer Grant Morrison’s twisted take on the superhero team from the late 1980s.
Focusing on a group of angst-ridden misfits living in a mansion, the series introduces viewers to:
- Former actress Rita Farr (April Bowlby), exposed to chemicals during an on the set accident, she now struggles to keep from turning into a blob of disfigurement.
- Negative Man (Matt Bomer), a former experimental aircraft pilot nearly burned alive in a crash and now tethered to a cosmic energy entity.
- Former NASCAR driver Cliff Steele aka Robotman (Brendan Fraser), killed in a car accident and only his brain survives in a metallic shell.
- “Crazy” Jane (Diane Guerrero), loaded with 64 personalities and wild powers that go with each of them.
- Vic Stone (Joivan Wade), a technology-enhanced hero who eventually joins Teen Titans and the Justice League.
The mixed bag of reticent heroes are led by the wheelchair-bound Dr. Niles Caulder aka “Chief” (Timothy Dalton) who goes missing and sets the team into action.
The first season of Doom Patrol finds them encountering even stranger villains such as dimensionally dismembered archenemy Mr. Nobody” (Alan Tudyk); Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man (a guy with a second dinosaur head); the Beard Hunter (he tracks human targets by eating their facial hair); and a revenge-seeking mouse named Admiral Whiskers.
Yes, this is a real Halloween party that never ends.
Frightening Doom extras:
Viewers get 8 minutes of deleted Doom Patrol scenes, a gag reel and no explanation for the onscreen insanity.
Stephen King’s The Stand (Paramount Home Entertainment, not rated, 1.33:1 aspect ratio,
359 minutes, $31.97) —
The 1994 ABC miniseries that attempted to adapt the famed horror author’s book about the ultimate battle between good versus evil arrives on a single Blu-ray disc for its 25th anniversary containing the four-episode epic.
Packed with some of the memorable and upcoming stars of film and TV, the story covers a flu-like plague accidently spread by a U.S. government research facility guard that wipes out nearly all of the earth’s population in two weeks.
The immune survivors band together and are drawn to either one of two camps plodded by mysterious dreams. They either align with the good led by the elderly Mother Abagail Freemantle (Ruby Dee) or the bad aligned with the demonic Randall Flagg (Jamey Sheridan).
Finally, acting power included Gary Sinise (“Forest Gump”), Molly Ringwald (“The Breakfast Club”), Rob Lowe (“St. Elmo’s Fire”), Laura San Giacomo (“Just Shoot Me”), the late Ray Walston (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High”), Matt Frewer (“Max Headroom”), Adam Storke (“Mystic Pizza”), Bill Fagerbakke (“Coach”), the late Miguel Ferrer (“Robocop”), the late Ossie Davis (“Touched by an Angel”) and, believe it or not, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Subplots, character deveopment?
I’ll admit that some of subplots and character development roll out like molasses in the roughly 6-hour series that could have easily been trimmed by 120 minutes or so.
However, hardcore fans of the book will admire director Mick Garris’ expensive production, with the screenplay actually written by Mr. King no less, and will savor every moment.
I’m also stunned how great the old shows look in high definition thanks to CBS Home Entrainment’s meticulous restoration.
Sure the episodes are presented in the original 4×3 format with large black bars on either side of the screen, but the crisp details and colors really pop in locations such as Nebraska, New York City and Las Vegas using current Blu-ray players.
Frightening commentary extras:
Throughout the series, views can turn on an optional commentary track featuring Mr. King and Mr. Garris with occasional additions from Mr. Lowe, Mr. Sheridan and Ferrer.
Certainly, this is not a nonstop conversation, as there are long chunks of screen time with no commentary. But hearing the author discuss and dissect his work make it worth the gaps.
Viewers also get a vintage 5-minute promotional featurette not worth much except for its nostalgia.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, not rated,
1.78:1 aspect ratio, $29.98) —
The last item in today’s selection of Top Halloween DVDs offers the eighth season of FX channel’s outrageously ghoulish anthology series. That season delivered one of its best storylines ever in a clever, character-packed tribute to its themes from previous seasons.
Revealed through the standard 10-epsiode run are the events leading up to and the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse in which the world’s elite humans survive in secure underground bunkers created by the mysterious Cooperative.
I’ll not disclose all of the nuances of the season packed into a 3-disc DVD set but viewers will find the appearance of familiar witches, new warlocks, the debut of the anti-Christ and even a return to the Hotel Cortez and Horror House an irresistible story. Especially during the Halloween season. Which is what prompted us to include it in this Top Halloween DVDs TV compilation.
The ensemble cast includes Sarah Paulson as Cooperative minion Wilhemina Venable and favorite witch Cordelia Goode, Kathy Bates as Venable’s assistant Miriam Mead, Cody Fern as too-powerful Warlock Michael Langdon, Billie Lourd as powerful witch Mallory, Jessica Lange as Langdon’s grandmother Constance Langdon and even an appearance by the famed “Gold Dust Woman” Stevie Nicks as her witchy self.
As always, the series pulls zero punches when exposing viewers to brutal violence and sexual themes, so be forewarned.
Frightening Horror Story extras:
This bare-to-the-bones set shocks most by not offering any extras. Adding to that is daring to release the series in the antiquated, subpar resolution DVD format. Considering the creative effort put forth to deliver this award-winning series, it’s ashame that fans of the show can’t appreciate its visual horror in at least high definition.
— Headline image: Collage: “Scooby-Doo, Where are You!: The Complete Series Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Mystery Mansion,” “Doom Patrol: The Complete First Season,” “Stephen King’s The Stand,” “The Haunting of Hill House: Extended Director’s Cut” and “American Horror Story: Apocalypse.”
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.