- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 23, 2010

Here’s a Halloween edition highlighting the best interactive horror features from the high-definition format.

Freddy’s never dead

Director Samuel Bayer delivers a frighteningly mediocre remake of a classic slasher film that did little to tap into theatergoers’ imaginations.

Now available in Blu-ray, A Nightmare on Elm Street (Warner Home Video, rated R, $39.98) lethargically rips off the original. Instead of forging new ground, it just makes veteran viewers long for Wes Craven’s 1984 masterpiece.

Poor Jackie Earle Haley had zero chance of topping actor Robert Englund’s deliciously diabolical portrayal of dream serial killer Freddy Krueger.

For the few fans enamored with new film, try rewatching it in the optional Maniacal Movie Mode. This pop-up video-production diary is pretty exhaustive and offers plenty of good behind-the-scenes stuff with interviews from most of the actors, the director, producer and lead production staff.

Unfortunately, it’s a tired-looking interface taking viewers back to the early innovations of the DVD format.

Slightly more intriguing are seven short Focus Point featurettes, accessed through the main menu, looking at the re-creation of the dream killer’s makeup, hat, glove and sweater.

Overall, it would have been much better to just see a “Maximum Movie Mode” hosted by Freddy Krueger as he offered a tutorial into his twisted universe while the film played next to him. After all, Kevin Smith delivered brilliantly with his Maximum Comedy Mode in “Cop Out.”

It doesn’t sound as if it would have been too much of a stretch for developers at Warner Home Video to infuse some creativity into the extras the movie sorely lacked.

Devil in the high-def

Daring movie lovers now can appreciate in high definition the horror of a little girl possessed by the devil in The Exorcist: Extended Director’s Cut (Warner Home Video, $34.99).

This nightmare-inducing classic from 1973 arrives on two Blu-ray discs including both theatrical and extended editions to shock with its scary story of good versus evil.

It’s as unsettling as ever and looks fantastic, and the digital sound (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) takes the fear meter up an extra 30 percent as viewers listen in horror as actress Linda Blair delivers an unforgettable performance as the 12-year-old Regan.

A generous selection of extras will take viewers back to the days when computer effects did not exist and a look into the difficulties involved in making this Academy Award-winning film.

Besides three optional commentary tracks (two by director William Friedkin), the set contains three new documentaries that lead to about 50 minutes’ worth of never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes footage delving into mechanical effects and embellished with recent interviews with Mr. Friedkin, “The Exorcist” author William Peter Blatty and Miss Blair.

Final memories reside in a 20-page full-color booklet sandwiched between the discs.

Although “The Exorcist” Blu-ray package lacks any high-tech innovation, the movie more than makes up for it with a frightening, suspenseful story and those disturbing visuals.

Riff Raff remastered

I’m ready to do the “Time Warp” again and again after watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 35th Anniversary Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated R, $34.99).

The debut of the world’s best interactive movie on Blu-ray arrives just in time for Halloween and provides partiers an excellent chance to take part in the insanity.

This midnight-show cult classic, based on a British musical, has survived since 1975 thanks to a hard-core following of fans who show up at theaters, mimic the action in front of screens, talk to the movie and even throw stuff.

I won’t try to explain the ridiculous sci-fi-meets-B-horror-movie plot. Suffice it to report that actor Tim Curry impeccably portrays the crazed transvestite scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter, who builds the man of his dreams but sees his happiness shattered by some cruel agents from the planet Transsexual.

The Blu-ray offers the U.S. and U.K. versions of the film, remastered in both picture and sound, and offers two key extras to bathe in the interactivity.

The simplest, “Rocky-Oke! Sing It!” provides the lyrics to the warped songs for everyone to sing along to while the movie plays. Crooners can toggle off the audio at any time to belt out their favorites.

Next, and very impressive, the Midnight Experience brings the fun of a live theater screening to one’s home entertainment room.

Viewers set up the presentation of the film via the remote and select from four in-feature components.

First, click on the shadowcast performance to see selected fans re-create the movie while it’s playing, complete with costuming and perfect lip-syncing, shown in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Next, turn on the Vintage Callback Track, which appears in the upper left-hand corner, to see what to scream out at appropriate points in the story. It’s an uncensored smorgasbord of pop-culture cheap shots, puns and profanity.

Finally, click the Prop Box to round out available on-screen helpers. Viewers can, at the appropriate time, virtually throw rice, use a squirt gun, toss rolls of toilet paper, and turn on a lighter with the click of the “enter” button. They can choose props on their own or just wait for the box to offer the right item.

The fourth in-feature bonus is a Trivia Track, but it’s not as relevant to the fun.

Overall, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 35th Anniversary Edition” and its Midnight Experience are tailor-made for the Blu-ray format and do not disappoint.

Send e-mail to jszadkowskiwashingtontimes.com.

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