Don’t Breathe 2 (Sony, Blu-ray or DVD, R, 98 min.). I really liked the first “Don’t Breathe” (2016) from director/co-writer Fede Alvarez, who brought us the twisty, re-imagined “Evil Dead” in 2013. In the film, Alvarez intensified the home invasion thriller to a visceral level, with three young thieves invading the home of a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang as Norman Nordstrom), looking to score the $300,000 insurance payout he got after his daughter was killed in an accident. The film was a lean 88 minutes and nary a moment was wasted. Bad guys become good guys and the good are found to be bad. For the second film, set eight years later, co-writer Rodo Sayagues switches roles and becomes the director. Lang is back as Nordstrom and again his home is invaded, this time by thieves who want to take his daughter Phoenix (Madelyn Grace).

Phoenix is not really Nordstrom’s daughter, although he has raised her as such since finding her battered body outside of a burned house, which had been destroyed when a meth lab blew up. The Gulf War vet has been training Phoenix in survival and combat skills, but only occasionally allowing her to interact with others. During one such outing, she encounters Raylan (Brandon Sexton III). He lets her go then, but follows with a couple of cronies to Nordstrom’s home, where the violence and brutality escalate from the first film. The reason for the invasion and grabbing of Phoenix involves two twists – one predictable and one utterly insane.

Overall, the film tries to set up the flawed Nordstrom as a hero, and indeed we end up rooting for him, and his love of dogs is a key element in the resolution. The filmmakers delight in complicated choreography and camerawork, as there is an early long, one-take tracking shot that sets up the whole layout of Nordstrom’s house. The novelty of the first film is gone, but the brutality of the violence is dialed up here.

Extras include English audio commentary by director/co-writer Sayagues; Spanish audio commentary by Sayagues, co-writer Alvarez and cinematographer Pedro Luque; a look at Sayagues and Alvarez, who once were in a heavy metal band together back in their native Uruguay (4:46); a look at Lang the actor, known as Slang, and his character (3:14); a look at the cinematography, sets and stunts (5:07); and a slightly extended ending (56 secs.). Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.5 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

No Man of God (RLJ Entertainment, Blu-ray or DVD, NR, 100 min.). This film about the last four years of serial killer Ted Bundy’s life, and his efforts to extend his life, features two excellent lead performances, with a nuanced Luke Kirby (“Halloween: Resurrection”) arguably the best Bundy yet on screen and Elijah Wood, also a producer, as FBI profiler Special Agent Bill Hagmaier, but I don’t really see a reason for the film’s existence. The director is Amber Sealey.

The script is based on the tapes, notes and recollections of Hagmaier, an early FBI profiler when profiling was first becoming a tool to track down killers. Wood plays Hagmaier as a wide-eyed but confident young agent, someone who is unafraid of Bundy and does not try to dominate him. Hagmaier tries to meet Bundy on his level, hoping his different approach might lead to information about missing victims to provide closure to their families. There is also a darker suggestion that Hagmaier could have been Bundy with a few different life choices. This is often portrayed via image montages or Hagmaier driving past women.

Much of the film is like a stage production, with the two actors in a room, playing off each other intellectually. This is where the film works best. It is much weaker when it moves outside that room, leaving Kirby behind. Wood is prominently featured in the only bonus, a making-of featurette (7:41). Grade: film 2 stars; extra ½ star

The Stand: The Definitive 2-Series Collection (1994, 2020, CBS/Paramount, 4 Blu-rays, NR, 5 hours 59 min./8 hours 30 min.). The two miniseries take two different approaches to author Stephen King’s massive novel. In both, a killer plague – nicknamed “Captain Trips” – kills 99 percent of the world’s population and then embattled survivors – in the United States only; goodbye to the rest of the world – struggle to live. One group gathers around Mother Abigail Freemantle, a prophet of God, while darker forces gather around Flagg, aka the Dark One, who aims to destroy Mother Abigail and her five leaders.

Overall, both miniseries, but especially the new one, seem to mirror the Covid-19 pandemic, which, while nowhere near as deadly, nonetheless spread like wildfire, leading to hospital hallways being filled with victims awaiting treatment.

The 1994 series has the government-developed super flu escape within a California desert facility and one guard (Ray McKinnon as Campion) flee with his family as far as Texas before succumbing, and spreading the disease along the way. In this version, Mother Abigail (Ruby Dee) is located in Nebraska (in the new version, it is Boulder, Colorado); her counterpart, the brutal Randall Flagg (Jamey Sheriden) is holed up in Las Vegas, aka Sin City. Those called to Nebraska include Stu Redman (Gary Sinise), the deaf-mute Nick Andros (Rob Lowe), teenager Frannie Goldsmith (Molly Ringwald) and her smitten neighbor Harold Lauder (Corin Nemec), and budding music superstar Larry Underwood (Adam Storke). Those joining the darkness include imprisoned murderer Lloyd Henreid (Miguel Ferrer), “Trashcan Man” (Matt Frewer), and a New Yorker named Nadine Cross (Laura San Giacomo). King himself wrote the screenplay.

This earlier version won Emmy Awards for makeup and sound mixing, and had four other nominations, for art direction, cinematography, music and as outstanding miniseries. It is on a single disc here and carries over from a previous release the audio commentary by King and director Mick Garris and a brief making-of featurette (5:29).

In the 2020 version, those called to Colorado and Mother Abigail (Whoopi Goldberg) include Stu Redman (James Marsden), the deaf-mute Nick Andros (Henry Saga), Frannie Goldsmith (Odessa Young) and her smitten neighbor Harold Lauder (Owen Teague, an intense standout), budding music superstar Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo) and artist Glen Bateman (Greg Kennear). Nadine Cross (Amber Heard) has rolled into Boulder with Underwood and the child Joe (Gordon Cormier), but really is working for Flagg (Alexander Skarsgard), who has chosen Lauder as his instrument of destruction. Lauder already has lost Goldsmith, the would-be love of his life, to Redman. Those joining the darkness include murderer and inmate Lloyd Henreid (Nat Wolff), Julie (Katherine McNamara) and “Trashcan Man” (Ezra Miller). Those who do not last long in this post-apocalyptic world include Gen. William Starkey (J.K. Simmons) and Rita Blakemoor (Heather Graham). This time, the adapters are Josh Boone and Benjamin Cavell, with King penning a new coda.

Among the changes made is centering the first episode on Lauder, who is basically a bullied loner in his hometown of Ogunquit, Maine. He is a would-be writer, but only has a stack of rejection letters to show for it. His mother is among the super flu’s victims. Despite all the loss around him, Lauder is happy when Goldsmith turns out to be the only other immune person in town. Later on, he is part of the body-dumping crew in Boulder. The story this time is told with lots of cutting back-and-forth between time – it only slightly gets confusing once or twice – and Flagg is not properly introduced until the end of the second episode. However, the time jumps rob the journeys of any real sense of danger, as we already know who has arrived, and particularly we know well in advance that Goldsmith has ended up with Redman, not Lauder.

The new miniseries is also available by itself, and both versions also are available on DVD. It comes with a gag reel and a making-of featurette. Grade: 1994 3.5 stars; 2020 3 stars

Demons I & II: Special Limited Edition (Italy, 1985/1986, Synapse Films, 2 Blu-rays, NR, 88/91 min.). The two films, produced by Italian master Dario Argento and directed by Lamberto Bava, son of Italian horrormeister Mario Bava, and co-written by both, are basically gory vampire movies, only the hungry-for-the-living undead are called demons and do occasionally have a mini-demon pop out of a victim’s chest or back. The first film, which has more humor, is decidedly better than the second, while the second recalls David Cronenberg’s “Shivers” (1975), being also set in a high-rise apartment building.

The first film, though, is set in a movie theater in a previously long-abandoned building in Berlin. The film opens with Cheryl on a train. As she gets off, clutching her Bartok music transcriptions, we see she is a bit shy and uncertain. She literally jumps when a masked man offers her a free ticket to a movie at the Metropol, but recovers enough to ask for a second ticket for her friend Kathy. When the women arrive at the theater, they are helped at the soda machine by two young men, George and Ken, who subsequently sit next to them in the theater.

When the film starts, it turns out to be a horror movie about two couples searching for Nostradamus’ grave. Down in the crypt, one of the quartet gets his face cut by a mask.  Back in the theater, a women got her face scratched when she tried on a display mask. The on-screen action mirrors the theater action, as both of the scratched people turn into demons, oozing green goo from their mouths, and then attacking those near them. The transformations are icky, with lots of gore. Hannah and Tommy are another couple in the theater and it is the three couples we, as the audience, care the most about as things quickly descend into a hellish nightmare in the theater, with lots of running around looking for exits.

Midway through the film, the action switches to a joy ride being taken by four car thieves, who eventually end up in the theater as well. The joy ride helps provide an excuse for some of the British and American rock songs used in the film. One amusing touch has thief leader Ripper snorting coke through a straw from a Coca-Cola can. As if the film were not crazy enough, at one point a helicopter falls through the theater roof. The ending is open-ended as it seems the madness has spread from the theater and gripped the whole city.

The film comes with two audio commentaries: a new one by critics Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain, co-hosts of the Hell’s Belles podcast; and the other by director Bava, special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, composer Claudio Simonetti and actress Geretta Geretta (Rosemary, the one who gets scratched by the mask in the lobby and first turns into a demon). There is a good new visual essay on Argento’s career as a filmmaker and producer by author and critic Michael Mackenzie (27:13). Archival featurettes include an interview in Italian with Argento, who talks about both films (10:30), an interview in English with composer Simonetti (9:34), an interview in Italian with stuntman Ottaviano Dell’Acqua (9:13) and a making-of in Italian that repeats some of Argento’s interview (15:52). Both films have been remastered. “Demons” is presented in three formats: the international English version, the slightly edited United States English version and the Italian version. All are within a minute of each other in length.

“Demons II” is not really a sequel, as the city has not gone crazy. However, the action shifts to a high-rise apartment building, which becomes locked-down and impossible to leave after acidic froth from a demon burns through the power lines. This time the demon transformation is generated by a TV movie about two young couples climbing over a wall and barbed wire into a site of demon attacks, looking for souvenirs. (Note that Italy only had two TV stations at the time, so it is not surprising that so many tenants were watching the horror film.) Of the tenants, one young woman is having a noisy, rocking birthday party, while a young boy is watching TV alone and a couple has the husband studying for a test while the pregnant wife craves cake.

The film starts slowly for about 12 minutes, then one of the TV demons tries to enter the real world through a TV screen. At one point, a dog turns into a demon, but not too convincingly. There is a good part with the pregnant women’s husband trying to get out of a stalled elevator and being chased up the cables by a demon. Members of the building gym try to find an exit through the parking garage, but it only leads to lot of mayhem and death, but several of the men are shirtless.

The two films share many plot points, but the second film plays up the terror and forgets the humor. It is a less effective and less satisfying film. Extras include a new audio commentary by film critic Travis Crawford; a new visual essay on space and technology in the two films by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (26:36; it does not really amount to much); and four archival interviews with special makeup effects creator Stivaletti in Italian (20:29), Roy Bava, who was trainee on the first film and second assistant director on the second, in English (34:50), director Lamberto Bava in Italian (15:59) and composer Simon Roswell in  English (27:08). Grade: Demons 3.5 stars; Demons II 2.5 stars; extras 4 stars

Children of the Damned (Great Britain, 1964, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 89 min.). This is a sequel of sorts to “Village of the Damned” (1960), an excellent film co-written by Stirling Silliphant and based on “The Midwich Cuckoos” by John Wyndham. In the English village of Midwich, all living beings fall asleep one night and, several months later, all the women capable of bearing a child give birth to children who grow up quickly, have the same blond hair and strange, penetrating eyes that can make people do whatever they want. There is no doubt that these creepy children are evil.

In “Children of the Damned,” first-time screenwriter John Briley took the same idea of special children with psychic, controlling powers, but used the film as a commentary on the then-ongoing Cold War. Each of the six children, all gathered in London, are of a different nationality, including British, Indian, Chinese, Russian and Nigerian. When their governments learn of their psychic powers and ability to build a ray weapon, they try to control the children, who have fled to an abandoned church, aided by Susan (Barbara Farris), the aunt of Paul (Clive Powell, who also was in the first film), the leader of the children. The children appear to be nonviolent when left alone, although Paul does make his mother walk into traffic. She survives the accident and tells investigators that she never had sex with a man.

The investigators include psychologist Tom Llewellyn (“Theater of Blood,” TV’s “The Avengers”) and geneticist David Neville (Alan Badel of “The Woman in White”), who strangely live together, although nothing is made of that fact. Llewellyn is more on the children’s side. For a long time, only the Chinese girl talks at all. Later, Paul joins the talkers. The only bonus is audio commentary by screenwriter Briley. Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.5 stars

Mad Love (1935, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 68 min.). This film marked Peter Lorre’s U.S. film debut. Lorre had made “The Man Who Knew Too Much” with Alfred Hitchcock the previous year and “M” with Fritz Lang in 1931. He went on to star in “Casablanca,” “Arsenic and Old Lace” and “The Maltese Falcon,” among many others. Here, Lorre plays famous Parisian surgeon Dr. Gogol, who becomes obsessed with stage actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake of “The Invisible Ray,” “Les Miserables”). He has attended 47 straight performances and is dismayed to learn that Yvonne is quitting the theater to move to England to be with her composer husband, Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive of “Frankenstein,” “The Bride of Frankenstein”). Gogol is crushed by the news, but buys the wax statue of Yvonne that had been in the theater lobby.

When Stephen’s hands are crushed in a train accident, Yvonne appeals to Gogol to save his hands. Instead, Gogol substitutes the hands of knife-throwing killer Rollo (Edward Brophy), who just had his head chopped off by guillotine for his crime. The film does have its amusing moments, as when Stephen discovers that while he has lost his touch at piano, he is excellent at throwing knives. Also, Gogol’s usually tipsy maid Francoise (May Beatty), who goes around with a giant parrot called Josephine on her shoulder, mixes up the real Yvonne with the wax Yvonne. Then too, Gogol is fond of playing the organ.

The film opens, similar to “Frankenstein,” with narration that the film may be too intense for audiences, then a fist smashes the title. The same story, under the original title “The Hands of Orlac,” has been made two other times, in 1924 and in 1960. The bonus feature is audio commentary by Steve Haberman. Grade: film 4 stars; extra 2.5 stars

The Ghost Ship/Bedlam: Val Lewton Double Feature (1943/1946, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 69/79 min.). Lewton produced both films, which are two tales of madness. “The Ghost Ship” stars Richard Dix (“Cimarron,” “Hell’s Highway,” “Transatlantic Tunnel”) as Capt. Will Stone of the freighter Altair, whom new Third Officer Tom Merriam (Russell Wade of “The Body Snatcher,” “Shoot to Kill”) comes to believe has gone mad, after he catches the captain causing the death of a deckhand who had questioned him. Merriam loses his case before the company agent and decides to stay in South America; however, he is knocked out by some street fighters and placed back on the Altair, only to wake up when it is already underway back to the United States.

The film turns good in the second half as Merriam and the Captain are constantly at odds and Stone tries to kill Merriam several times. According to IMBd, Lewton was sued for plagiarism after the film’s release and lost both the court case and the appeal, so the film was withdrawn from release and was unavailable for viewing for the next 50 years.

“Bedlam” stars Boris Karloff (“The Mummy,” “The Bride of Frankenstein”) as Master George Sims, who runs the Bedlam asylum at St. Mary of Bethlehem’s with a cruel hand, being more concerned with making a profit and buying beautiful things. For example, he offers to hire the Stonemason (Richard Fraser), a Quaker, for 18 pounds, when the Stonemason said he could do the job for 15. Sims says that if the Stonemason accepts the deal and pays him 2 pounds back as a bribe, they both would be ahead. The Stonemason refuses.

The Stonemason becomes friendly with Nell Bowen (Anna Lee of “The Sound of Music,” TV’s “General Hospital”), the soon-to-be former companion of Lord Mortimer (Billy House of “Inner Sanctum”), a former actress who now cannot find work but wants to help Bedlam’s inmates by improving their lives. Sims, however, convinces Mortimer that her plans would be too costly. Sims eventually gets Nell committed to Bedlam, since she refuses to sell a parrot to Mortimer, but once there, Nell does all she can to help the other inmates.

“Bedlam” does have a nod to Edgar Allan Poe in the fate of one character. Lewton co-wrote the script, which was suggested by the William Hogarth painting Bedlam Plate #8 “The Rake’s Progress.” The film comes with audio commentary by Tom Weaver. Grade: The Ghost Ship 3 stars; Bedlam 3.5 stars; extra 2.75 stars

Eye of the Devil (1966, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 96 min.). Set in France, the story concerns a married couple, the Marquis Philippe de Montfaucon (David Niven, who played James Bond in “Casino Royale” the next year, “The Pink Panther”) and his wife Catherine (Deborah Kerr of “From Here to Eternity,” “The King and I”). The couple are giving a party when Philippe is interrupted by a man who says the family vineyards are failing.

Philippe scoots off to Bellenac, where he is looked upon as the master, to see if he can aid the vineyards. There he owns a huge chateau, inhabited by his aunt, Countess Estell (Flora Robson of “The Sea Hawk,” “Wuthering Heights”), who seems to want nothing to do with him.

Despite being told to stay behind, Catherine drives out with their two children, as son Jacques misses his father. When she arrives, she sees that everyone is acting mysterious, even the priest, who is creepy or is it just the idea of Donald Pleasence playing a priest that is creepy? Pleasance would go on to play Dr. Loomis in “Halloween 1, 2, 4, 5” and “The Curse of Michael Myers.” The grounds of Bellenac also are “haunted” by a brother and sister: Christian de Caray, who always carries a bow and arrows and shoots doves, is played by David Hemmings (he made “Blow-Up” the same year), while Odile de Caray is played by Sharon Tate (“The Fearless Vampire Killers,” “Valley of the Dolls”) in her film debut. Both characters are beyond strange. Odile actually tries to kill Catherine by mesmerizing her to walk off the parapet. Then there are the 12 hooded figures Catherine keeps seeing about, both in a chateau room and in the woods.

By the time of the Festival of the 13 Days, the film has taken on a very “Wicker Man” vibe. The director was J. Lee Thompson (“The Guns of Navarone,” “Conquest of The Planet of the Apes,” “Battle for the Planet of the Apes”). According to IMDb, Kim Novak originally was cast as Catherine and had filmed nearly all of her scenes, when she fell off a horse and could not continue, so Kerr was hired and nearly all the scenes reshot. There are no bonus features.  Grade: film 3 stars

Also of a Halloween kind:

Dark Shadows and Beyond: The Jonathan Frid Story (MPI, Blu-ray or DVD, NR, 102 min.). “Dark Shadows” was a daytime drama that became an unlikely hit and a cultural touchstone for generations of watchers. Frid played the series’ tormented vampire Barnabas Collins, 175, who lived on the haunted Collinwood Estate in Maine. The series’ stories blended gothic romance, horror and the supernatural – new at the time, more normal now. There were ghosts, witches, demonic possession and time travel. The series ran from 1966 to 1971. This is the first documentary devoted to Canadian-born Frid, who was a Shakespearean actor before becoming a TV icon in the role of Barnabas Collins. The film explores Frid’s personal and professional struggles, artistic triumphs and rise to fame in part through his personal letters read by actor Ian Buchanan.

The release comes with two hours of special features including rare performance footage; archival material from Frid’s private collection; a PBS-TV discussion with Frid; promotional pieces with the actor; Frid reading an excerpt of Washington Irving’s classic tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”; and the compilation video, “The Best of Barnabas.”

I Spit on Your Grave (1978, Ronin Flix, Blu-ray, NR, 101 min.). Turning to splatter films, this is a brand new 2021 4K remaster and restoration from director Meir Zarchi’s uncut 35mm original camera negative and restored original mono soundtrack. Camille Keaton (“What Have You Done to Solange?”, ”Tragic Ceremony”) stars as Jennifer Hills, a young, beautiful career woman who rents a backwoods cabin to write her first novel. Attacked by a group of local lowlifes and left for dead, she devises a horrific plan to inflict revenge in some of the most unforgettable scenes ever shot on film. Special features include “Jennifer’s Journey,” a locations featurette hosted by writer Michael Gingold; audio commentary by writer/director Zarchi; audio commentary by film critic Joe Bob Briggs; “The Value of Vengeance — Meir Zarchi Remembers I Spit on Your Grave”; the alternate “Day of the Woman” opening title; theatrical trailers; TV and radio spots; and a stills gallery slideshow with rare and behind-the-scenes photos from the set.

I Spit on Your Grave Déjà Vu (2018, Ronin Flix, Blu-ray, NR, 148 min.). Again written and directed by Meir Zarchi, the unexpected sequel brings back star Camille Keaton as Jennifer Hills, who is now successful writer. She has been brought back to where it all began to face the wrath of the families of those she murdered. Kidnapped along with her daughter Christy (Jamie Bernadette), they endure a tense game of hunt or be hunted against a lethal gang of degenerates, overseen by a violently unhinged matriarch Becky (Maria Olsen). Special features including a new audio commentary by horror critic Joe Bob Briggs and a making-of featurette, as well as cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage with Zarchi and cast.

Scream (1996, Paramount, 4K Ultra HD or Blu-ray, R, 111 min.). The horror film that made “Do you like scary movies?” part of the lexicon gets its 4K Ultra HD release. Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, the film brilliantly deconstructs the horror genre, while paying homage to the conventions of slasher films, but upending them with clever twists and witty dialogue. It stars Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, who, along with her offbeat friends, becomes the target of a masked killer after a series of mysterious deaths in her small town. The friends turn to the “rules” of horror films to help navigate the terror they are living in. The film also stars Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan and Drew Barrymore. A new, fifth installment of the franchise is due in theaters in 2022.

There is one new special feature, a look at the film’s legacy. Archival bonus material includes audio commentary by Craven and Williamson; a production featurette (6:12); behind-the-scenes looks at on the set (3:25) and at Barrymore (2:53) and Q&A with cast and crew on their favorite scary movies (2:44) and why people are so fascinated by horror movies (2:31).