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

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Yes, the latest ridiculously-titled monster movie with a Z-list cast you wouldn’t be at all shocked to see on the SyFy channel has arrived and the big surprise is… it’s actually, un-ironically, pretty good.

Director Mike Mendez (whom most of you will know from the film Bimbo Movie Bash, right? No?) has, with this tongue-in-cheek tale of a small-time pest exterminator fighting to take down a massive alien arachnid, struck B-movie gold. Featuring the debut of a great double act in the form of Heroes actor Greg Grunberg as our protagonist and perennial bit-player Lombardo Boyar as his mall cop sidekick, Big Ass Spider also has surprisingly high production values, glossily cut by Mendez, a seasoned editor as well as director.

Obviously influenced by the similarly silly (though much bigger-budgeted) spider pics Arachnophobia and Eight Legged Freaks, Big Ass Spider has the laughs, pithy one-liners and warm emotional core of the best comedy horrors.

Sticking with the resolutely underground productions, next up we get what can only be described as “Dolph Lundgren leads robots against zombies” in the enjoyable sci-fi horror Battle of the Damned.

Former Universal Soldier Lundgren doesn’t exactly stretch himself as an emotionless gun-for-hire sent into a city ravaged by the undead to rescue the daughter of a mysterious businessman. Likewise this mish-mash plot, somewhere between Escape From New York and the Resident Evil films, with a dollop of Robocop for good measure, feels quite familiar.

Still, none of this really matters when we get down to what Battle of the Damned is all about – rampaging hordes of zombies picking off a rag-tag group of survivors and robots in a post-apocalyptic city – and director Christopher Hatton, who has form with previous project Robotropolis, delivers a relatively satisfying slice of undemanding action.

Maintaining the Ridiculousness Quotient (rule: the level of fun should be directly proportionate to the volume of stupidity in a film), South Korean Byun Seung-wook’s The Cat offers all the now massively clichéd ‘dead girl staring at the camera in supposedly creepy fashion’ hijinks alongside many cute kitties turned feline thugs.

Park Min-young plays a worker at a pet-grooming parlour who ends up taking the particularly adorable cat Silky home after his owners mysteriously drop dead. Weird, eh? Needless to say, there’s some kind of curse involving ghosts, an unsolved murder or two and bodies found with their faces contorted into increasingly irked expressions, as is the way with films like this.

Entirely contrived and not in the slightest bit scary, The Cat perhaps would work for the odd pet-obsessed viewer that hasn’t seen Ringu, Ju-on or those films’ many imitators. Sadly, for most standard horror fans, this is clearly a case of been there, done that, got the blood-soaked t-shirt and long, black wig.

Finishing up this round of releases, we have last year’s glorious slasher flick You’re Next, from the team behind V/H/S (writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard) and starring such luminaries as The House Of The Devil creator Ti West and Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton alongside Aussie rising star Sharni Vinson (Bait).

Introducing a trio of animal-masked killers, an affluent American family is victimised in gruesome style at their big reunion in the middle of nowhere as Erin (Vinson), the girlfriend of one of the sons, leads the fight for survival.

Another entry in the current renaissance of young horror film-makers producing old-fashioned, often brutally direct and subtly knowing movies with the feel of classics from the seventies and eighties, You’re Next is an unrelentingly thrilling blend of that art-house staple of the bitchy family gathering and the original, genuinely great home invasion releases.

With Vinson an increasingly charismatic lead and some brilliantly old-school death scenes, Wingard and Barrett pile up the bodies effortlessly and with an air of well-honed elegance. A lean, taut thriller, this has all the quality you could ask for to help while away those skint January evenings.

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