Film reviews

Aniara / The Dead Center / Nightbreed – Arrow Video – Review

Arrow Video have got some great releases out for October – Halloween month. We’re looking at three of them. Three films enter, one film le…wait. No. That’s not it. Three new physical releases from Arrow, all of them stonkingly good in their own ways. Let’s take a look at them in alphabetical order.


Aniara (Blu-ray)

Kicking things off we have the superb, thoughtful sci-fi film Aniara, based on the poem of the same name. I’ve already written about Aniara for this site, so we won’t waste time re-treading old ground and if you want to know about the film itself, please do give my review a look. I liked it a lot. This is specifically a look at the new Blu-ray release. Arrow have done their usual fine job with this physical version. It looks good and it sounds good. In terms of special features it’s got interviews with the directors, sound and production designers and even a short film by the directors, The Unliving, which looks at the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse and is well worth a watch in its own right.

For those who like their sci-fi a bit more cerebral, slow paced and thoughtful, Aniara is deserving of a place in your collection.

Aniara is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.


The Dead Center (DVD)

Moving from the depths of space to the depths of the human psyche, we shift to the far more earthbound The Dead Center. We’re watching the DVD release, rather than the Blu-ray. Other than the obvious difference in quality of the film (SD compared to HD), there are fewer special features on this release, although there’s still plenty here for any film fan to get their teeth into. There are two commentary tracks, two short films, deleted scenes, interviews and more. Arrow (along with Eureka) really are putting a lot of big Hollywood companies to absolute shame with the quality of their releases in terms of the extra content, but then both could be considered, in some ways, niche brands. They target specific genre fans who will appreciate all this extra stuff.

So what about the film itself? The Dead Center is the story of a man (known for most of the film as John Doe and played with utterly believable intensity by Jeremy Childs; his fourth time appearing in this director’s movies!) who kills himself. And then walks it off. He walks, in fact, to another hospital, ending up in their psych ward under the care of Dr Daniel Forrester (Shane Carruth). Delving into the man’s catatonic and amnesiac state, Forrester begins to believe that not all is right with this patient, even by the standards of those he normally deals with, and the situation begins to spiral out of control as a spate of mysterious deaths begin to strike the hospital.

This film brings up the most direct comparisons with Denzel Washington’s 1998 movie Fallen, which is another damn fine yarn, dealing with a detective who gets drawn into a web of demonic possession and murder as he desperately attempts to track down a supposedly dead killer who can swap bodies with the merest touch. The Dead Center evokes the same sort of feelings of panic and paranoia, it DRIPS menace in virtually every scene. For much of the running time, and this is meant in no way as a negative, not a lot really happens. There’s a lot of talking, a lot of looking at things, but the audience is never allowed to forget how unnatural this all is, how reality is subtly skewed. A simply great effort from writer/director Billy Senese.

The Dead Center is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Arrow Video.


Nightbreed (Blu-ray)

Last up is the seminal horror effort Nightbreed from the master of horror himself, Clive Barker. Arrow have knocked it out the park here. Blown the bloody doors off. Jumped the shark, nuked the… no, wait, those two are bad things. It’s a bloody good release is what we’re saying.

So what is Nightbreed? Nightbreed is the story of Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), who dreams of a place called Midian, the underground sanctuary where the monsters go to live. A series of events takes place, involving his therapist Dr Decker (the incomparable David Cronenberg, who is sublimely creepy here in one of his intermittent acting roles), which ends up with Boone fleeing to Midian in search of sanctuary.

Nightbreed was not a success on release, due in part to heavy studio interference from execs who couldn’t grasp the idea of a movie where the monsters were the heroes and humans were the villains. A lot of it ended up on the cutting room floor, lots of changes were made to try and placate people who didn’t understand the real heart of the story and as a result it didn’t do very well at the box office.

Now, though, all this is put right. Arrow have not only the theatrical release, but the director’s cut which features 45 minutes of new and altered content and is a far, FAR superior version to the theatrical one. Cards on the table? I didn’t like Nightbreed back in the day, but having now seen the director’s cut it feels like a different film with a far more coherent narrative and mythology. This is how it deserved to be seen back in the day. It’s been a long time coming, but Clive Barker can finally be proud of this film version and it deserves to stand alongside the far more acclaimed Hellraiser and Candyman (though the less said about the sequels for both of those franchises, the better. At least Nightbreed never had to worry about that!).

There’s simply not enough space in this review to list all the special features on offer here. There’s commentary tracks, interviews, more behind the scenes featurettes than you can shake a small tree at, documentaries, deleted scenes, extended scenes, image galleries, trailer spots and SO MUCH MORE.

Buy it. Just buy it. It’s Clive Barker. It’s got 45 minutes of additional and altered content. It’s finally the movie it always should have been and Arrow have loaded it with so many special features it needed two Blu-rays to hold them all.

Nightbreed is released on Blu-ray on 28th October from Arrow Video.

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