Recently Guillermo del Toro, the Oscar-winning director behind “The Shape of Water,” “Nightmare Alley” and “Pinocchio,” said that collecting physical media, in the midst of streamers unceremoniously deleting thousands of titles, is nothing short of a “moral imperative.” And we agree. Each month new home video releases – of both classic films and newer titles – come out. And each one is cause for celebration. With that in mind, we want to highlight the very best titles of every month.
With the insane games that the various streaming platforms are pulling in terms of removing content from their services — including projects that were made specifically for those platforms — an added emphasis has been placed on home video. And with good reason. The only way you can ensure that the movies you love will be around is by owning them on physical media. Thankfully the home video labels have been stepping up their game, with deluxe packages overflowing with extras and feature films presented in their best possible format.
Here are the biggest and best releases for October 2023.
“Prey”4K (out now)
One of last year’s best movies was “Prey,” a “Predator” prequel that premiered exclusively in Hulu. It’s a testament to the film’s popularity that it has a physical home video release, the first Hulu original film to have that distinction. And thankfully the release is just as good as the movie itself. “Prey” is set in 1719 in the Great Plains, where a young Comanche warrior (played exceptionally by Amber Midthunder) encounters an earlier version of the Predator warrior. Inventively staged and breathlessly paced, “Prey” was directed by “10 Cloverfield Lane” filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg and instantly revitalized the somewhat moribund franchise. This home video release includes a commentary with Trachtenberg, Midthunder, Jeff Cutter and Angela M. Catanzaro; deleted scenes; a brief making of featurette; and a FYC conversation moderated by Barry Jenkins of all people. Barry Jenkins! See, everybody loves “Prey!”
“The Mist” 4K (out now)
Frank Darabont’s “The Mist” is one of the most underrated Stephen King adaptations of all time, a truly shocking extravaganza that still managed to very much reflect the time that it was made. (It’s clearly a commentary on Bush-era politics and the culture of fear that surrounded the administration.) The log line is basically: a bunch of people in a small Maine town are trapped in a grocery store while giant, grotesque monsters emerge from an otherworldly mist. Need we say more? This four-disc (!) set includes both the theatrical version of the movie, as well as the black-and-white version created for home video in 4K (each on a separate disc), plus two more discs of the movie on Blu-ray, with all the special features included in the initial Blu-ray release (including a commentary track, deleted scenes and mini-documentaries about the making of the movie). If for some reason you’ve never seen “The Mist,” you really should, and if you’ve never watched the black-and-white version, it’s a great variation, lending it a spooky, Universal monster movie vibe.
“Night of the Demons” 4K (out now)
One of the most beloved cult movies of the ’80s gets gussied up in 4K finery. If you’ve never seen “Night of the Demons,” it’s a hoot – and one of the most Halloween-y movies of the era. It’s about a bunch of kids who break into an abandoned funeral parlor to launch an epic Halloween party. (Shouldn’t they know better?) Soon enough they’re unleashing a demonic evil and getting possessed (with camerawork clearly borrowed from “The Evil Dead”). “Night of the Demons” is extremely ’80s but also extremely fun; about a decade ago Shout released the movie on Blu-ray but now it’s back with a features-backed 4K/Blu-ray set (including some features that weren’t on that original release). What’s more, Shout has released the two sequels – 1994’s “Night of the Demons 2” (directed by Australian madman Brian Trenchard-Smith) and 1997’s “Night of the Demons 3” – on special edition Blu-rays. While the follow-up films don’t pack as much of a punch, we should feel very lucky to have these exemplary versions of them.
“Rosemary’s Baby” 4K (out now)
If the 55th anniversary of “Rosemary’s Baby” is what gets us a 4K release of the movie, so be it! Roman Polanski’s blood-chilling masterpiece is just as good as it ever was if not more so, given the hostile political climate that is currently taking away bodily autonomy from women everywhere. And Mia Farrow’s performance is just as haunting and evocative and perhaps even more tragic given what we now know about her personal life then (dealing with at the very least an emotionally abusive Frank Sinatra) and later (Woody Allen). While we really loved the look of this disc, the new color timing is already somewhat controversial for deviating too much from the original transfers. Make of that what you will! There are only a handful of extras on this disc, which is somewhat disappointing (it’s the 55th anniversary, after all). You can also find this disc in the excellent Paramount Scares box set, which came out this month and also includes Paramount gems like “Smile,” “Crawl,” “Pet Sematary” and an exclusive 4K disc of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Treat yourself!
Tod Browning’s Sideshow Shockers (out now)
This season’s must-have box set is this trilogy of weirdo masterpieces from Tod Browning, a former circus performer-turned-filmmaker best known for his chilling version of “Dracula” (featuring Bela Lugosi as the Count). This immaculately produced set includes his second most famous (but definitely most infamous) horror film “Freaks,” about a group of murderous sideshow performers (which was released the year after “Dracula”), in a newly restored transfer. (The box calls the movie “most transgressive film produced by a major American studio in the 1930s.”) But there are two more movies in the set too – 1927’s “The Unknown,” featuring frequent Browning collaborator Lon Chaney as a knife thrower who becomes obsessed with his assistant (Joan Crawford); and 1925’s little-seen “The Mystic,” about a phony psychic who cons wealthy Americans. (Both also feature new restorations.) There are a ton of great special features in this set, including an episode of “Ticklish Business” by TheWrap’s very own Kristen Lopez. There’s also commentaries, documentaries, archival materials and deleted scenes. The only thing missing is the popcorn.
“Barbie” (out now)
The year’s biggest movie is now one of the year’s most beautiful 4K releases. Do we really need to describe what “Barbie” is? You’ve probably seen it ten times in the theater already and memorized the words to every song on the best-selling soundtrack. Margot Robbie is Barbie, Ryan Gosling is Ken, they go on an adventure, they critique the male-dominated power structure, they sing some songs. The 4K disc is absolutely stunning – it looks and sounds phenomenal (you’ve never seen pink pop like that). But the fact that the extras are so light (it doesn’t even have the post-credits sequence of Gosling singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” that was a part of the recent IMAX re-release) makes us feel like there will be an additional edition down the line with more fully fleshed out supplements, that bonus song and more. (Maybe they are waiting on the SAG-AFTRA strike to end before embarking on the creation of these new materials.) But if you can’t wait, this “Barbie” 4K release will do you right. Watch it with your Ken.
“Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time” 4K (out now)
“Neon Genesis Evangelion,” Hideaki Anno’s brilliant anime series, has had a problem with endings. The original series was deeply divisive, thanks largely to the animation studio running out of money and Anno having a mental breakdown, leading to one of the more abstract and controversial series finales in all of television history. That led Anno to follow-up the series with a pair of films, including one simply called “The End of Evangelion,” that sought to re-write the finale and appease fans and critics alike. (It mostly worked.) Years later Anno embarked on what is now referred to as the “Rebuild” series of films; the first film was like an alternate reality version of the first six episodes of the show. Then it started to deviate wildly. It was sort of like the animated version of “Twin Peaks: The Return” in its refusal to pander and in its creative restlessness. Nine years after the third film in the rebuild series, Anno finally made “Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time.” It runs 155 minutes and took four filmmakers to wrangle. And it’s a total masterpiece. Thankfully GKids and Shout Factory thought so too, as they are releasing this handsomely packaged and totally essential 4K version, which absolutely gorgeous picture and sound (including both the English language dub and original Japanese) and a host of engaging extras. If you’re thinking of embarking on the “Neon Genesis Evangelion” journey (and trust us, it’s a journey), this is what you have to look forward to at the end of your quest.
“Haunted Mansion” (out now)
Boo! If you’re looking for a movie that’s both fun and spooky and can entertain the entire family, look no further. “Haunted Mansion,” released this past summer during the height of Barbenheimer, adapts the popular Disney theme park attraction that first opened in 1969, but updates it in fun ways. Rosario Dawson plays a young single mother who moves into a creepy old mansion outside of New Orleans, so she calls on a group of paranormal investigators, including LaKeith Stanfield (who hosts ghost tours), Danny DeVito (a history professor), Tiffany Haddish (a medium) and Owen Wilson (a priest). Are they able to rid the mansion of the 999 happy haunts (who include Jamie Lee Curtis as Madame Leota and Jared Leto as the Hatbox Ghost)? The home video release has a small collection of extras, including some intriguing deleted scenes, but the video and audio quality are aces, especially if you chase down a 4K copy of the movie, which isn’t widely available but exclusive to certain retailers like Best Buy and Walmart. Hunt down a copy like the dogged ghostbuster you are.
“Eo” (out now) / “The Innocent” (out now) / “No Bears” (out now)
New Criterion imprint ahoy! Janus Contemporaries is the newest line of titles from the legendary home video label that focus on wonderful recent movies from around the world. The first batch of releases are just as deserving of full-on Criterion releases, although we appreciate that these are priced more modestly and just as beautifully packaged. Jerzy Skolimowski’s Oscar-nominated “EO,” about a little donkey that escapes a circus, is as thrilling as any big budget action film (and more emotionally riveting) and has a new conversation Skolimowski and writer-producer Ewa Piaskowska, plus a look at the donkeys used for the movie; Co-writer/director/star Louis Garrel’s “The Innocent” is described by Criterion as “part crime thriller, part romantic comedy,” which is as good a way to describe it, which is both a love triangle and a taut suspense piece (learn more thanks with a new interview with director Garrel); and Jafar Panahi’s “No Bears” feels even more important now, as it was completed just before the filmmaker’s imprisonment and features a slightly fictionalized version of himself, speaking to, as Criterion says, “the opposing pulls of tradition and progress, city and country, belief and evidence, as well as the universal desire to reject oppression.” If you have to pick one, “No Bears” should be it. Especially since there’s a new interview with filmmaker Ramin Bahrani about Panahi’s work, plus “Panahi Speaks from Prison.” Essential.
“The Others” 4K (out now)
This is one of the very best discs released this year. Alejandro Amenábar’s “The Others,” starring Nicole Kidman, was a huge smash when it was released back in 2001. The movie, set in 1945, is a stately ghost story about a woman (Nicole Kidman) and her young children who begin experiencing an otherworldly visitation while living in their manor. (In case you don’t remember, “The Others” culminates in one of the greatest twist endings of all time.) In short: this movie rules. It’s gorgeous and complex and intensely scary. And now it finally has the home video release that it deserves. Not only is the new 4K restoration exceptional but the special features are really outstanding – there’s a new commentary track by Amenábar; a new conversation between Amenábar and film critic Pau Gómez; a new documentary produced by Studiocanal UK; plus all of the archival special features from earlier releases; deleted scenes; audition tapes; and marketing materials. If, for some reason, you have never seen “The Others,” this is a great excuse to finally take the plunge; if you haven’t seen the movie in a while, it’s an excellent time to revisit. Like we said: one of the year’s best discs.
“Cujo” 4K (out now)
“Cujo” is turning 40. In dog years that’s 280. The movie, based on the 1981 novel of the same name, concerns a St. Bernard who is bit by a bat and overtaken by rabies, menacing a young family (the mom is played by Dee Wallace from “E.T.”). That’s really the long and short of “Cujo” and the movie runs on this kind of ruthless efficiency. While “Cujo” is rarely uttered in the list of greatest King adaptations, it really should be. It’s tough as hell and super scary. And it was directed by Lewis Teague, who made the similarly elevated creature feature “Alligator,” and shot by Jan De Bont, one of the greatest cinematographers of his era (he shot “The Hunt for Red October” and the early films of Paul Verhoeven). It was also released just a few months before “Christine,” another under-the-radar king classic (this one from John Carpenter). This new disc features a new 4K restoration, plus a bunch of special features that had previously been released (including several Teague commentary tracks from different releases). Just remember to keep up to date with your dog’s shots.
“The Muppets Take Manhattan” 4K
“Muppets Take Manhattan” is something of an outlier within the early Muppets productions – the songs aren’t by Paul Williams (they’re instead by Jeff Moss), Jim Henson wasn’t involving in directing the movie (it was all Frank Oz) and it is extremely of its time (early 1980s). But a case could also be made that it’s the best Muppets movie. The songs really are terrific, the characters and their relationships complicated and nuanced and some of the technical innovations downright dazzling (had you ever seen a rat skate on a slab of butter across a hot griddle before?) Also, the brief sequence where you see the Muppets as children inspired an entire side-franchise with “Muppet Babies.” Incredibly, Sony (which still holds onto the rights to this film even though Disney owns the characters and much of the material) commissioned a dazzling new 4K restoration of the movie from the original camera negative. And perhaps even more shocking is that Oz, who has since cut ties with the Muppets organization, returned to record a new commentary track. Absolutely insane. If you love the movie like you probably should, this is a must-own disc.
Alfred Hitchcock Collection 3 (Out October 31)
These Alfred Hitchcock 4K collections have been amazing. And this third volume is no different, especially because this set includes two films that are essential Halloween viewing – 1948’s “Rope” and 1972’s “Frenzy.” (The other films included in the set: 1956’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” 1966’s “Torn Curtain” and 1969’s “Topaz” – listen, they’re not all winners.) “Rope” not only predated the “all in a single shot” craze by actual decades, but also tells a haunting story, based on the real life Leopold and Loeb crime, of a pair of college intellectuals hell bent on creating the “perfect crime.” (If you’ve never seen it, it’s one of Hitchcock’s more unsung gems.) “Frenzy,” too, doesn’t get the attention it deserves but is sort of a spiritual successor to “Psycho,” this time set in London and following a serial killer known as the “necktie murderer.” It was the only Hitchcock film to score an R-rating in its initially release and is much rougher than you’d probably suspect. There are some who have labeled it Hitchcock’s last masterpiece and after watching it (especially in this beautiful presentation), you’re likely to agree.
“Nanny” (Out October 31)
One of last year’s very best movies, Nikyatu Jusu’s “Nanny” arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion, so you know it’s going to be good. Anna Diop plays a Senegalese immigrant living in New York and trying to send money back to her family (she’s got a young son back home who she wants to bring to America). She soon finds what she assumes is a dream job – nannying for a wealthy white family (Michelle Monaghan plays the disquietingly perfect mother). Of course, things take a sinister turn from there. But the less you know the better. “Nanny” became the first horror movie to win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and feels like something of a new classic, one of the true horror films to put you in the head and heart of the main character fully. And a film that is big-hearted enough to mix tragedy with hope. The disc contains new interviews, one of Jusu’s short films and promotional materials. Even if you haven’t seen it, this is worthy of a blind buy. You’ll thank us later.
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