- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Director Rob Schmidt’s 2003 backwoods chiller Wrong Turn, due next week from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment ($27.98 DVD), may be light on character development and logic, but it succeeds in delivering Halloween-season thrills galore. It’s our…

Video pick of the week

The movie’s bare-bones premise finds five twentysomething friends (including Eliza Dushku of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame), joined by stray med student Chris (Desmond Harrington), lost in a verdant but treacherous neck of West Virginia wilderness ruled by a trio of disfigured, inbred maniacs. Wasting little time, Mr. Schmidt and screenwriter Alan McElroy literally cut to the chase as the wackos set upon our hapless protagonists with single-minded fury.

Though few surprises emerge, Mr. Schmidt and Mr. McElroy amply demonstrate that they know how to keep the action moving and the adrenaline pumping, while composer Elia Cmiral ups the anxiety ante with an appropriately pulse-racing score, and the make-up mavens at Stan Winston Studios do their bit by crafting some supremely creepy effects. One particularly inventive, flawlessly wrought scare sequence involves a violent nocturnal treetop pursuit that adds a fresh wrinkle to the genre.

Fox’s double-sided DVD offers widescreen and full-screen options along with many extras, including commentary by Mr. Schmidt, Miss Dushku and Mr. Harrington, four featurettes, deleted scenes, a poster concept gallery and more. While it doesn’t hit the heights of its obvious models (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Deliverance”), when it comes to supplying a breathless midnight fright-film fix, “Wrong Turn” gets it right.

The ‘A’ list

In blockbuster-movie developments, next week, Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) return for more high-tech mayhem in Larry and Andy Wachowski’s mega-successful sci-fi sequel The Matrix Reloaded ($29.95 DVD/$22.95 VHS). The double-disc set arrives fully locked and loaded with a plethora of extras, ranging from interviews to behind-the-scenes featurettes to an MTV Movie Awards segment.

After scurrying out of theaters, the rodent-driven remake Willard, starring Crispin Glover as the eponymous rat-lover, scores a second chance on home vid this week via New Line Home Entertainment’s deluxe “Platinum Series” edition ($27.95). The gala disc provides widescreen and full-screen options, 12 deleted or alternate scenes, audio commentary with actor Glover, director Glen Morgan, producer James Wong and co-star R. Lee Ermey, a “making-of” documentary, DVD-ROM content and much more.

Collector’s corner

In vintage video news, the art-house archivists at The Criterion Collection extend lavish double-disc treatment to Roman Polanski’s excellent, Oscar-nominated 1962 feature-film debut Knife in the Water ($39.95). The remastered DVD set includes interviews with Mr. Polanski and co-screenwriter Jerzy Skolimowski, along with a collection of Mr. Polanski’s short films from 1957 to 1962.

Elsewhere, Home Vision Entertainment (www.homevision.com) issues Jean-Pierre Denis’ true-crime shocker Murderous Maids and Barbet Schroeder’s exploration of the high-stakes gambling world, Tricheurs ($19.95 DVD each).

Tele-video

The TV-to-DVD boom continues apace with Paramount Home Entertainment’s five-disc presentation of the popular 1980 miniseries James Clavell’s ‘Shogun’. Richard Chamberlain stars as an intrepid British navigator shipwrecked off the coast of 17th-century Japan, where he finds himself caught between feuding warlords. Bonus features include select audio commentary by director Jerry London, a behind-the-scenes documentary and three historical featurettes. The set, tagged at $79.99, is available now.

Video verite

Documentaries of a martial bent dominate the new video verite slate. The History Channel leads the way with Victory at Sea: 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition ($79.95), containing more than 11 hours of World War II naval combat footage, introduced by Peter Graves. WGBH Boston Video focuses on the Cold War with Spy in the Sky ($19.95), a look at America’s controversial U-2 spy planes.

‘Phantom’ redux

Milestone Film & Video (www.milestonefilms.com) goes more than the extra mile with its new two-disc Phantom of the Opera set ($29.95), featuring restored versions of both the 1925 original and the retooled 1929 re-release of that Lon Chaney silent classic. The many bonus features include audio commentary by film historian Scott MacQueen, interviews, original theatrical trailers and stills galleries.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Do you know if an old movie titled “Storm Warning,” with Ginger Rogers and Doris Day (both in dramatic roles), was ever issued on video or if there are any plans to do so? It was a great movie, and I would love to see it again.

W. Langan, via e-mail

That 1951 Klan expose has yet to join the home-video ranks. We hope it will be available on DVD in the future.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002 or e-mail us at: phanmedia@aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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