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DVD Review -- Halloween DVD list

Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi spends even more time tormenting Alison Lohman in the director's cut of "Drag Me to Hell," on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday. (Universal Pictures)

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By Jen Chaney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 13, 2009; 12:00 AM

It's only mid-October and already you're stuck in a Halloween DVD rut, resigned to movies that star silent serial killer Michael Myers and reviewings of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."

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Sure, the works of John Carpenter and the Peanuts gang are staples of this time of year. But adding a few more trick-or-treaty movies to the home-viewing docket certainly can't hurt. With that in mind, here's a handful of Halloween-inspired double features -- some of which include recent DVD or Blu-ray releases, some of which were inspired by scary movies currently in theaters -- designed to broaden your horizons (a little) during this season of the witch.

Admittedly, the zombie comedy is somewhat of a niche genre. But if "Zombieland" has inspired an insatiable desire for even more hilarious, walking-dead high jinks, look no further than "Shaun of the Dead," the Simon Pegg movie about two lazy British bums forced to battle the forces of evil with everything they've got, even their beloved Prince albums. Already on DVD ($12.98), "Shaun" made its Blu-ray debut ($29.99) last month. And it might pair nicely with the campy cult favorite "Night of the Creeps," which releases on DVD ($19.94) and Blu-ray ($24.95) Oct. 27 and offers space slugs, zombies and college kids dressed up in '80s formal wear. How can you go wrong there?

Speaking of horror comedies, few directors blend those genres more effectively than Sam Raimi. So surely the man merits his own Halloween double feature. Start with Raimi's latest, "Drag Me to Hell," which arrives today on DVD ($29.98) and Blu-ray ($39.98) in an unrated director's cut that promises more heapings of goofy gore in what already stood as one of 2009's most deliciously over-the-top shockers. (For the record, "Hell" also features the greatest elderly-gypsy-vs.-young-bank-teller girlfight in cinema history. Just so you know.) Once you've gone to hell, jump backward in Raimi's filmography and watch his first attempt at horror hilarity, the cabin-in-the-woods classic "The Evil Dead." Heck, while you're at it, add the other flicks in that franchise -- "Evil Dead II" and "Army of Darkness," both on DVD and recently issued on Blu-ray ($29.98) -- to the gleefully goopy mix and make it a Sam Raimi marathon.

Halloween isn't just about frights. It's also a prime time to celebrate with kids, who clearly aren't exactly the target audience for "Drag Me to Hell." So what can they watch, other than that aforementioned tale about a kid with a security blanket who spends way too much time in pumpkin patches? For starters, there's "Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie," Disney's new straight-to-DVD release ($19.99) featuring Tigger, Roo and the rest of the gang. Like most recent Disney-issued Pooh fare, it shares little in common with A.A. Milne's stories. And at 67 minutes, the film feels a bit long. But it's non-threatening enough to enjoy with young children without fear of inducing nightmares. Once the tinier tots have gone to bed, feel free to dig up "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" ($12.98 on DVD, $28.99 on Blu-ray) for the older kids. The delightfully macabre animated treat makes a nice alternative to that other perennial Burton-produced holiday favorite, "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

If you're in the mood for classic horror of the slightly campy variety, a couple of new box sets may fit the bill. Warner Bros. has just issued "Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics," ($26.98) a collection of four of the actors' lower-profile films -- including "The Walking Dead" -- from the '30s, '40s and '50s. Follow that up with a couple of selections from "The William Castle Film Collection," on DVD ($80.95) Oct. 20. A salute to the man who turned ridiculous promotional gimmicks, including movies filmed in 3-D-esque "Illusion-O," into their own schlocky art form, the five-disc set includes Vincent Price's "The Tingler," "13 Ghosts" and more.

Buzz about the low-budget surprise theatrical hit "Paranormal Activity" has again reminded audiences that sometimes the simplest, cheapest horror movies are truly the scariest. If the goosebumps induced by "Paranormal" make you anxious -- perhaps literally -- to see more indie shockers of this sort, start with the creepy contemporary king in this category, "The Blair Witch Project." This hugely influential peek at the "real" footage from a very spooky Gaithersburg, Md., camping trip celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, yet, oddly, didn't get a special edition re-release. Thankfully, the original DVD ($9.96) is still widely available. Follow that up with "Open Water," ($14.98), the 2003 independent effort about a couple accidentally left behind on a scuba diving trip and desperately trying not to become shark snacks. The wide, blue Caribbean Sea has rarely felt so claustrophobic.


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