- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Halloween is back again, funny how that happens every year, and so are Count Zad’s picks for some of the scariest and season-themed television Blu-ray and 4K UHD sets available.

Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete Second Season (Lionsgate Home  Entertainment, Not Rated, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $43.99) — Our favorite one-handed, chainsaw-wielding, Deadite-smiting protector of the Necronomicon is back for another gory season of action looking to send a powerful demon named Baal back to hell in the popular humor horror show seen on the Starz cable network.

Yes, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), has his hand full and gets help from his team of Pablo (Ray Santiago), Dana (Kelly Maxwell) and the mysterious Ruby (Lucy Lawless) as well as an his old pappy (played by the former “6 Million Dollar Man” Lee Majors no less).

This two-disc Blu-ray set compiles all 10 half-hour episodes of the second season that continue to unload the nostalgia from director Sam Raimi and producer Rob Tapert’s popular horror-splatter movie franchise “The Evil Dead.”

It’s worth noting that the graphic violence in each gorgeously transferred episode may look cartoony but continues to challenge any levels of decency, much to my delight.

Take the disgusting case of an episode featuring Ash battling the torso and digestive system of a corpse. It will cause many a human to urp into the nearest garbage can.

Frightening extras: The discs offer an optional commentary track for six episodes — “Home,” “The Morgue,” “Last Call,” “Trapped Inside,” “Home Again” and “Second Coming —featuring many of the key cast members. Mr. Campbell talks on four of the tracks and often provides a one-man comedy show.

Additionally, viewers get short recaps and production highlights for each episode as well as roughly 15 minutes of brief featurettes covering topics such as the puppet version of Ash, killing Deadites and resurrecting the classic “Evil Dead” film character Henrietta Knowby.

Peanuts Holiday Collection (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, not rated, 1.37:1 and 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $44.98) — Some key televised adventures of Charlie Brown and his pals get a dynamic visual upgrade in this welcomed ultra high-definition and high dynamic range enhanced collection.

Owners of the three-disc set not only get “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” but most important for this spooky time of the year is the inclusion of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

That Emmy Award-nominated classic from 1966 features the Peanuts gang enjoying a Halloween party, pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating while learning about Linus’ obsession with meeting the Great Pumpkin.

All of the toons in the collection, some 50 years old, sport remastered digital transfers that accentuate some striking saturated colors of environments such as in the pumpkin patch and Snoopy’s dogfight with the Red Baron. The transfer also adds clarity to admire the line work of artist Bill Melendez and watercolor background painter Dean Spille.

Frightening extras: Each 4K disc offers the programs in both a widescreen and 4x3 aspect ratio. Purists will stick to the later. Also, the discs contain additional cartoon specials that include “It’s Magic, Charlie Brown,” “Charlie Brown’s All-Stars,” “The Mayflower Voyagers,” “Play It Again, Charlie Brown,” “It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown,” and “It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown.”

Each included Blu-ray disc also offers the informative and archival featurettes “We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown!”; “Popcorn and Jellybeans: Making a Thanksgiving Classic”; and “A Christmas Miracle: The Making of a Charlie Brown Christmas,” averaging 15 minutes per segment.

The Walking Dead: The Complete Seventh Season (Anchor Bay Entertainment, Rated TV-MA, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $38.99) — Zombies were the least of the problems for a group of survivors of the undead apocalypse in the latest season of AMC’s popular show.

Through 16 episodes contained on five Blu-ray discs, last season highlighted multiple bands of humans forced into servitude by the Saviors and its leader Negan (ferociously played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Negan the thug wields a barbed-wire-covered bat nicknamed Lucille and is ready to execute or punish any who challenge him.

What comes into play throughout is whether Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his Alexandria group can convince the Hilltop Colony and the Kingdom to mount an insurrection against the Saviors.

It worth warning that the first episode featured the execution of two beloved characters in such a grisly fashion that it was enough to cause a small rebellion of fans due to its brutality and disgusting level of violence.

Suffice it to report, the show remains a potent drama about man spiraling into the depths of inhumanity with the zombies simply acting as a catalyst for the horrors.

Frightening extras: Six optional commentary tracks are scattered among four discs and feature words from crew and actors including director and special FX make-up artisan Greg Nicotero and performers Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), Lennie James (Morgan Jones), Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier) and Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene).

A fifth disc fills out the extras that offer recaps and production for each episode (averaging 3 to 5 minutes each). Seven featurettes cover topics such as characters that died during the season, memorable zombies, the ruin and resurrection of Rick Grimes, and a look at the show’s tough females.

American Horror Story: Roanoke (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated TV-MA, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $59.99) — FX channel’s wickedly grisly and creepy anthology show returned for its sixth season to explore the terrifying mysteries of the 16th century Lost Colony of North Carolina as well as a modern-day couple’s challenges with living in an aggressively haunted house.

This season plays with fact and fiction through a plot about a “dramatic re-enactment” style television series chronicling supernatural events on Roanoke Island that gets picked up for another season and becomes a literal hell for the actors.

This three-disc, Blu-ray set offers all 10 episodes of the show that presented a mostly familiar ensemble cast led by Kathy Bates as actress Thomasin White who portrays Agnes Mary Winstead (The Butcher); Sarah Paulson as British actress Audrey Tindell portraying unlucky home owner Shelby Miller; Lady Gaga as the witch Scathach; and Cuba Gooding Jr. as actor Dominic Banks who portrays Shelby’s husband Matt.

Viewers should note that, yet again, this season hammers home the horrors through a too-realistic amount of bloody-soaked violence, torture and brutality that reaches the edges of televised broadcast standards.

Frightening extras: Viewers get a 30-minute-long session from PaleyFest 2017 offering a question-and-answer session with some of the cast and crew. Miss Bates steals the show with her curmudgeonly as well as profane musings about the season.

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