February 2014 horror movie DVD/Blu-ray round-up

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Kren’s movie follows a group of scientists studying climate change from a research station, who stumble upon a weird red glacier and into an even weirder attack from a supposedly rabid fox (that’s not rabies, in case you didn’t guess). So far, so The Thing, right down to the suspicious canine interloper.

But this isn’t a bad thing, right? John Carpenter’s tense 1982 horror classic is one of the genre’s very best movies and it’s to Blood Glacier’s credit that its entertaining mixture of claustrophobic suspense, old-fashioned monster puppetry and eerie setting compares well to the film that clearly influenced its creators. With standout performances from Gerhard Liebmann as gruff technician Janek and a feisty Brigitte Kren as a visiting politician dragged into the fray, this is an enjoyable homage with a sprinkling of body horror.

Sticking with the foreign-language market, next up we have The Complex, the latest grim spook-fest from Hideo Nakata, the Japanese creator of the original Ring and Dark Water films, not to be confused with charming otter adventure Ring of Bright Water.

For his sins, Nakata was the film-maker whose movies popularized the now pestilential trend for every other East Asian horror to involve a cursed family terrorized by their new home’s undead former tenants.

The Complex is no different (get the name) as we follow Atsuko Maeda’s student nurse, Asuka, as she gets to know the local dead people. Yes, we’ve definitely seen and heard this done over and over again, though there is a certain effortless grace to Nakata’s direction. A surprising emotional depth (Maeda gives an affecting performance) alongside some genuinely troubling images also elevates The Complex above its director’s myriad copycats.

Moving swiftly back to Hollywood, after the classy entries from Japan and Germany, unfortunately it’s now the turn of their ‘special’ cousin showing its buck-toothed face in the form of Blackenstein director William A. Levey’s crass ‘80s curio, Hellgate.

Based very loosely on the real-life Montana ghost town of the same name, this ridiculous, occasionally watchable movie sees some young friends vacationing near said town, only to find supernatural reasons for its bloody past. The bug-eyed Carel Trichardt is nicely Gomez Addams-y as the grieving father who discovers a magical, malevolent crystal that brings dead things back to life, but otherwise this is rightly forgotten by most. The real-life town seemingly has a fascinating history; in more capable hands, Hellgate could have been a hoot.

We finish this round-up with another movie stirring elements of truth into the rich cinematic broth, the Zachary Quinto-produced Banshee Chapter. Written and directed by newcomer Blair Erickson, this is a sometimes startling debut.

That rarest of films in this genre – something genuinely original – Banshee Chapter offers a strange brew of conspiracy theories, accounts of actual experiments undertaken by the US government and Lovecraftian infernal transmission, alongside a little Hunter S. Thompson gonzo journalism to boot.

As a young film-maker (Katia Winter) tries to work out what has happened to her missing colleague after trying a psychedelic research chemical, we follow her descent into a shadowy world she may regret uncovering.

You guessed it: we’re in found footage territory, though the intelligent use of real and fake documentary evidence alongside the standard camcorder schtick works extremely well. The end result is an unsettling, sometimes disturbingly real piece of hybrid horror that marks Erickson as a talent to watch out for.

What’s the best horror movie you’ve seen recently? Let us know below…