This week’s releases include: a virus outbreak; monsters in the basement; a killing spree in the woods; a dark, cop comedy; an independent woman before her time; and a new reason not to go into the water.

Contagion on blu-rayContagion (Blu-ray & DVD combo pack)
When a lethal airborne virus with the power to wipe out humanity is unleashed, the worldwide medical community races to find a vaccine and stop the panic from spreading. This thriller follows the deadly path of a virus that is beyond containment. Researchers for disease control, the military, the World Health Organization and ordinary civilians must mobilize to try and find a cure and the cause before it’s too late.

Special features not available. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark on blu-rayDon’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Blu-ray & DVD combo pack)
Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison), a lonely, withdrawn child, has just arrived in Rhode Island to live with her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) at the 19th-century mansion they are restoring. While exploring the sprawling estate, the young girl discovers a hidden basement, undisturbed since the strange disappearance of the mansion’s builder a century ago. When Sally unwittingly lets loose a race of ancient, dark-dwelling creatures that conspire to drag her down into the mysterious house’s bottomless depths, she must convince Alex and Kim that it’s not a fantasy – before the evil lurking in the dark consumes them all.

Though not directed by Guillermo Del Toro, it has his signature style all over it; it’s not difficult to see director Troy Nixey is a fan of Del Toro’s work. Based on a TV movie of the same name, the film closely resembles a modern telling of producer Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth particularly the first act. The narrative relies heavily on Madison’s acting as she is the focus of the story and the monsters, and she does quite well jumping from ill advised curiosity to constant terror – even if requested to do so too often by the script. The creatures are bizarre looking, but their ability to speak tends to make them more frightening. However, they would have had a greater impact if their appearances hadn’t been revealed so soon. The ending provides a nice little twist to an otherwise creepy but predictable story.

Special features include: three featurettes: “The story”, “Blackwood’s mansion” and “The creatures”; and a conceptual art gallery. (Alliance Films)

Don't Let Him In on DVDDon’t Let Him In (DVD)
Two couples spend a weekend in the country, only to cross paths with a brutal serial killer. As the body count rises, suspicion spirals into paranoia, climaxing in a terrifying battle for survival.

This trip immediately turns into a bad idea when one of the characters decides to invite a sketchy one-night stand to a cabin in the woods. When the cozy but awkward foursome discovers a bloody fifth wheel at their door, their situation just gets weirder. The opening revelation of a serial killer loose in the woods allows the cottagers and the audience to come to their own conclusions, but not everyone is what they seem. The gruesome corpses are just for shock value and the appearance of one maggot in particular just doesn’t make sense. Luckily at only 80 minutes, the movies doesn’t even try to overstay its welcome.

Special features include: behind-the-scenes featurette and visual effects short film. (Entertainment One)

The Guard on blu-rayThe Guard (Blu-ray & DVD combo pack)
Two policemen must join forces to take on an international drug- smuggling gang – one, an unorthodox Irish policeman and the other, a straitlaced FBI agent. Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is an eccentric small-town cop with a confrontational and crass personality and a subversive sense of humour. A long time policeman in County Galway, Boyle is a maverick with his own moral code. He has seen enough of the world to know there isn’t much to it and has had plenty of time to think about it. When a fellow police officer disappears and Boyle’s small town becomes the key to a large drug trafficking investigation, he is forced to at least feign interest when dealing with the humourless FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) assigned to the case.

Special features include: commentary by director John Michael McDonagh, and actors Gleeson and Cheadle; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurette; and “Second death” featurette. (Alliance Films)

Mildred Pierce on DVDMildred Pierce (DVD)
Mildred Pierce brings to life the memorable characters introduced in James M. Cain’s classic 1941 novel of pride and privilege in the middle class. This five-part drama is an intimate portrait of a uniquely independent woman (Kate Winslet) who finds herself newly divorced during the Depression years, as she struggles to carve out a new life for herself and her family. The story explores Mildred’s unreasonable devotion to her insatiable daughter Veda (Evan Rachel Wood), as well as the complex relationship she shares with the indolent men in her life, including her polo-playing lover Monty Beragon (Guy Pearce) and ex-husband Bert Pierce (Brian F. O’Byrne).

Winslet gives a stand out performance as a woman constantly struggling against everyone and everything, including social norms and her own daughter. Wood is equally good, providing her character with a hardened determination and fiery mean streak. The mini-series demands your attention for most of the five-plus hours, taking one woman’s life and infusing it with intriguing melodrama that includes severed relationships, torrid affairs and home cooking.

Special features not available. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Shark Night on DVDShark Night (DVD)
Arriving by boat at her family’s Louisiana lake island cabin, Sara (Sara Paxton) and her friends quickly strip down to their swimsuits for a weekend of fun in the sun. But when star football player Malik (Sinqua Walls) stumbles from the salt-water lake with his arm torn off, the party mood quickly evaporates. Assuming the injury was caused by a freak wake-boarding accident, the group realizes they have to get Malik to a hospital on the other side of the lake. But as they set out in a tiny speedboat, the college friends discover the lake has been stocked with hundreds of massive, flesh-eating sharks. As they face one grisly death after another, Sara and the others struggle desperately to fend off the sharks, get help and stay alive long enough to reach the safety of dry land.

Special features not available. (Entertainment One)

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