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New on DVD – October 5, 2010 – Splice and A Nightmare on Elm Street

From the scientists-playing-God biology experiments of Splice to the insomnia-causing remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, here’s a look at the many scary (or at least bloody) films coming to a DVD or Blu-ray player near you this week.

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Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley bring some thespian cred to this promising but ultimately rather ludicrous horror film about a pair of scientists who create an otherworldly creature that seems cute at first but runs amok. Our writer was frustrated that the film can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be an ethical debate about playing God or a monster-chase flick: “Had it been true to its monster-movie roots, it might have been more engaging. As it is, it’s too much technology and not enough terror.”

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The bane of many kids and teens who lost sleep in the eighties after first coming across Wes Craven’s inventively nightmarish original, Freddy Krueger (whose horror was diluted, like Jason’s, by a string of weak sequels) gets a full-fledged reimagining in this powerfully moody horror film about a demonic figure (Jackie Earle Haley) who haunts the dreams of a group of teenagers. We thought it was a “tightly wound experience that gets even more tense as it builds toward its shattering finale.”

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Hollywood’s raiding of the eighties toy chest continues with this remake of the decade’s seminal adolescent-empowerment fantasy, this time with Jackie Chan in the role of the tough, benevolent martial-arts master and Will Smith’s son, Jaden, as a once-popular kid made miserable by bullies after having to move from Detroit to China. While our critic thought it was a “rousing crowd-pleaser filled with heroes and villains and proper emotional beats,” he thought it hard to ignore the fact that “it’s hard to see a reason for this remake.”

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For some reason, a surgeon who once worked to separate conjoined twins decides that it would be more fun to kidnap people and surgically conjoin them in order to create the creature of the title. There are moments of sick humor to be found in this gross-out experiment, but our writer was ambivalent about the results: “Without a sense of humor or a sense of purpose, all The Human Centipede ultimately ends up with is empty shock value.”

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In this quiet and ruminative Irish fairy tale, a young monk in training — whose obsession with security is explained later by a rampaging horde of Norsemen — dangerously forages beyond the walls of his monastery, much to the dismay of his abbot (Brendan Gleeson). Though the story has a tendency to stall and drift, our writer appreciated its painterly artistry and noted that it “has a pungent nostalgia for the stories told to us before we drift off and dream.”

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A man who lives with his mother gets stuck with looking after three other older ladies in his apartment during the hottest part of the summer. This Italian comedy of manners has a light rhythm to it and a refusal to go for the easy joke that our writer found made it a “pleasant diversion” that was indeed “perfect for a mid-August afternoon.”

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Is this 1973 fan favorite in fact the scariest film ever made? Released in yet another special edition (this time with an extended director’s cut and the original theatrical version included together, available on DVD and Blu-ray), The Exorcist still manages to shock with its story of an innocent young girl turned into a vomit-spewing hell spawn who does battle with a pair of dedicated priests. With or without the eleven minutes of extra footage added by director William Friedkin, we thought the film remains “nothing short of a taut American classic.”

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