As always, the best of the digital awesomeness comes in the form of "catalog releases," that is to say: older movies. But it's pretty tough to argue that a film is a little more interesting once it's had a few years (or decades) to percolate. Plus, most recent horror DVDs are loaded with supplemental features, regardless of the film's quality, so keep these ones in mind when holiday shopping for your favorite horror freak.
The Evil Dead (1981, Anchor Bay)
They may have released 14 different versions of Sam Raimi's classic indie horror flick on standard DVD, but Anchor Bay's blu-ray edition is pretty much the last word on The Evil Dead. The old goodies (many of which are included) are good enough, but there's also a brand-new chat track between Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Bob Tapert that's quite fun.
The Exorcist (1973, Warner Bros. Home Video)
One of the true classics, a smart occult horror film that gives even the old-school genre freaks the willies, hits home in a "Digibook" package that's simply fantastic. Multiple commentaries, both versions of the film, a ton of supplements to chew through, and it just looks so nifty on your horror shelf.
House of the Devil (2010, Dark Sky)
One of the coolest and quietest horror films of the year, and the blu-ray is well-stocked and lovely to look at. Huge bonus points to Dark Sky, though, for releasing an old-fashioned VHS copy as well. Not just a gimmick, as HOTD feels precisely like a horror flick from 1982.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Warner Bros. Home Video)
I've never been a huge fan of Freddy's numerous sequels, so I was more than happy to upgrade that clunky franchise set to this wonderfully pretty and supplement-laden blu-ray edition. And I don't miss the sequels one bit. A great companion piece, however, is the excellently fan-friendly Never Sleep Again documentary, which is sold separately but certainly worth it.
Psycho (1960, Universal Home Video)
It's a given that this film belongs in your horror collection, and it's a double given that Universal would do right by the film with their 50th Anniversary Blu-ray. The film looks lovely, the extras are expansive, and (again) there's an excellent recent documentary called The Psycho Legacy that belongs right beside it on your shelf. Aside from maybe the sequels, those are the only two Psycho discs you'll ever need.
Special Award for Xeno-Massiveness
As they did a few years back with their "quadrilogy" edition, Fox Home Entertainment unleashes a blu-ray "Alien Anthology" box set that must be seen (and perhaps held) to be believed. Two versions of all four Alien films, multiple audio commentaries on each movie, and two additional discs so loaded with Alien minutiae you simply won't be able to process it all. I'm only halfway a fan of Alien 3 and I pretty much detest Alien 4, but the package is so damn all-encompassing, you'll be happy to have 'em all in one box.
Very special thanks to two outstanding distributors for giving the horror fans some serious quality:
1. Criterion Collection (big shock) for their superlative editions of The Night of the Hunter, House, Antichrist, Videodrome, and Cronos. This company always (always) treats a film right, so when they happen to shine their spotlight on the darker, creepier, weirder, scarier stuff -- man do we enjoy it. Rent or borrow if you must, but the truth is this: you pay a few more dollars for a CC edition because it's worth it, plain and simple.
2. Shout! Factory for their deliciously entertaining Roger Corman releases from the past several months. Seemingly inspired by Criterion's exhaustive approach to cinematic wonder, S!F dove into Corman's back catalog and came up with great stuff like Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World, Death Race 2000, Humanoids from the Deep, Slumber Party Massacre and (my favorite of all) Joe Dante's endlessly amusing Piranha. And yes, they promise more Corman madness in 2011.
Check back tomorrow for our 2010 Best of Music list.