February 2014 horror movie DVD/Blu-ray round-up: Part II

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Like last month’s ace Austrian oddity Blood Glacier, Reynir Lyngdal’s bleak Icelandic found-footage chiller, Frost, takes healthy dollops of H.P Lovecraft’s sci-fi oeuvre and John Carpenter’s The Thing as starting points for an entertaining expedition into the frozen wastes.

Anna Gunndis Guomundsdottir and Bjorn Thors play a scientist and film-maker respectively, who head to the edge of the Arctic Circle to make a documentary about a research party’s findings. You’d think these projects would struggle for backing with the high proportion that end in bloody carnage and supernatural calamity. Case in point, as our intrepid couple film their investigation into missing colleagues, the trail gradually becomes more and more blood-soaked the further into the glacier they go.

Though workmanlike direction in Lyngdal’s camcorder-style footage does little to elevate this ailing genre, the inspired setting, complete with snow-storms, crevasse claustrophobia and the inherent sense of isolation you get from the Far North, efficiently creates an eerie sense of foreboding. A lean 79 minutes long, needless to say, Frost cuts to the chase pretty quickly, making for a spare, entertaining – if a little derivative – journey into the unknown.

A little less concise is the latest cash-in adaptation of the gothic masterpiece, the straight-to-DVD Dracula: The Dark Prince. Featuring 300: Rise of an Empire star and erstwhile Holby City regular Luke Roberts as the fanged one himself, Singaporean director Pearry Reginald Teo’s film offers a swords and sorcery twist to proceedings, with Roberts’ Dracula embarking on a quest for the mythical Lightbringer weapon.

From the off, this silly tale involving Cain and Abel, a ‘chosen one’ fated to lead the forces of good (yawn) and myriad mythical clichés, it’s obvious this has little to do with Bram Stoker’s original. With a putty-nosed Jon Voight presumably hoping no-one will notice him as he hams it up as Van Helsing, mentor to a cast of young’uns, Dracula: The Dark Prince is a mildly diverting medieval romp despite its, well, general cheap feel and undeniable poor quality.

Sticking with the low-budget adaptations of classic literature, the 10th Anniversary Edition of Kevin Conner’s Frankenstein TV mini-series is far more faithful to the original author’s vision. A star-studded cast, including Donald Sutherland, Julie Delpy and William Hurt, provides quality and the production values are suitably epic in scale, though you can’t shake the feeling that this has been done so much better before, most recently by Kenneth Branagh, whose version Conner obviously owes a debt to.

A bland script doesn’t help matters, whilst weak lead performances from Alec Newman (A Lonely Place To Die) as Victor himself and Luke Goss – somewhere between surf-bum and The Room’s Tommy Wiseau – leave this adaptation as doomed as its central duo.

We finish on a lighter note with Robert Rodriguez’s self-conscious irony-fest Machete Kills, the even more overblown sequel to 2010’s Machete. Danny Trejo returns as our titular hero, continuing in the usual vein of bumping off his increasingly oddball enemies as Rodriguez tips his directorial hat in his own usual fashion towards exploitation cinema.

This time round, Rodriguez ups the special guest star count: Lady Gaga, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlie Sheen (or Carlos Estevez as he’s credited here) and Mel Gibson all get a shout. Still, the honours are saved for the lesser-known Demian Bichir as a delightfully OTT psychopath and, of course, Trejo, as the real stars.

The big shock, though, is that all these extra characters aren’t allowed to overwhelm the general fun factor (nothing in film is more annoying than the chummy back-patting of Rodriguez, Tarantino, Eli Roth and their pals) and this gore-spattered epic of ridiculousness emerges triumphant. A hilarious preview of Machete Kills Again sets up the trilogy’s conclusion surprisingly well; we can’t wait.

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