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Category: Horror DVDs

Hannibal Rising [2007] (buy now)

Though Hannibal Rising's Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) is a pussycat compared to Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, this sequel's story of revenge is grizzly enough to satisfy lovers of Thomas Harris's epic tale. After young Hannibal (Aaron Thomas) is forced to watch his little sister, Mischa (Helena Lia Tachovska), devoured by starving soldiers in his homeland Lithuania, Hannibal vows to avenge his sister's death by slaying those who committed not only war crimes against the Lecters, but also against other families during WW II.

In detailing Hannibal's revenge plan, the film investigates the psychological implications of witnessing cannibalism to justify Hannibal's insatiable appetite for human flesh. The most interesting aspect of Hannibal Rising--its analytical connections drawn between Hannibal's childhood traumas and his murderous adult obsessions--is also the film's weak point. The links oversimplify Lecter's complex character. For example, though titillating to see flashbacks of Lecter's sister hacked up and boiled while Lecter visits a Parisian meat market, the reference is too obvious. One learns why he excels in his medical school classes dissecting cadavers, and we're given explicit explanation for why he slices off and eats his victims' cheeks. The story only complicates when Hannibal interacts with his sexy Aunt, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li). When Murasaki educates him in the art of beheading, the viewer sees Hannibal's sword fetish as a manifestation of physical lust. --Trinie Dalton

Price: £11.98

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Pan's Labyrinth (2 Disc Set) [2006] (buy now)

Inspired by the Brothers Grimm, Jorge Luis Borges, and Guillermo del Toro's own unlimited imagination, Pan's Labyrinth is a fairytale for adults. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) may only be 12, but the worlds she inhabits, both above and below ground, are dark as anything del Toro has conjured. Set in rural Spain, circa 1944, Ofelia and her widowed mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil, Belle Epoque), have just moved into an abandoned mill with Carmen's new husband, Captain Vidal (Sergi López, With a Friend like Harry). Carmen is pregnant with his son. Other than her sickly mother and kindly housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verdú, Y Tu Mamá También), the dreamy Ofelia is on her own. Vidal, an exceedingly cruel man, couldn't be bothered. He has informers to torture. Ofelia soon finds that an entire universe exists below the mill. Her guide is the persuasive Faun (Doug Jones, Mimic). As her mother grows weaker, Ofelia spends more and more time in the satyr's labyrinth. He offers to help her out of her predicament if she'll complete three treacherous tasks. Ofelia is willing to try, but does this alternate reality really exist or is it all in her head? Del Toro leaves that up to the viewer to decide in a beautiful, yet brutal twin to The Devil's Backbone, which was also haunted by the ghost of Franco. Though it lacks the humour of Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth represents Guillermo Del Toro at the top of his considerable game. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Price: £11.48

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Supernatural : Complete Season 1 (6 Disc Box Set) [2006] (buy now)

Supernatural, like so many successful shows before it, starts with a simple concept. When their father goes missing, two brothers--Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) Winchester--head off across the country to try and find him. But their journey isn't easy, especially when you consider the assortment of spirits and nightmarish creatures that stand in their path.

On paper, that sounds a derivative mix of many shows that have gone before it. And to some extent, that's what Supernatural is, yet its mix is nonetheless compelling. What lifts it above the norm is the quality both of the writing, and crucially, the direction of the show. There are moments that are spooky, and some that are downright scary, with plenty of suspense linking the two. And while the 22 episodes have their fair share of peaks and troughs, Supernatural has an edge about it that easily carries it through its slower points.

At the heart of the show, ironic considering the number of other programmes it tips its hat to, is a desire to do things its own way, and for that reason, come Supernatural's maiden season finale, it leaves a real thirst for more episodes. Fortunately, the second season is already in the can, and we suspect it'll continue to grow the number of fans that Supernatural is rightly earning for itself. --Jon Foster

Price: £16.97

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28 Days Later ... [2002] (buy now)

Anti-vivisection activists make a very bad judgment call and release an experimental monkey infected with "rage". 28 Days Later..., as the title has it, bicycle messenger Cillian Murphy wakes up from a post-traffic accident coma in a deserted London hospital, ventures out to find the city depopulated and the few remaining normal people doing everything to avoid the jittery, savage, zombie-like "infecteds" who attack on sight.

Our bewildered hero has to adjust to the loss of his family and the entire world, but hooks up with several others--including a tough black woman (Naomie Harris) and a likable London cabbie (Brendan Gleeson)--on a perilous trip northwards, to seek refuge at army officer Christopher Eccleston's fortified retreat. However, even if they survive the plague, the future of humanity is still in doubt.

Directed by Danny Boyle and scripted by novelist Alex Garland, this is a terrific SF/horror hybrid, evoking American and Italian zombie movies but also the very British end-of-the-world tradition of John Wyndham (Day of the Triffids) and Survivors. Shot on digital video, which gives the devastated cityscapes a closed-circuit-camera realism, this grips from the first, with its understandably extreme performances, its terrifyingly swift monster attacks and its underlying melancholy. Deliberately crude, 28 Days Later is also sometimes exceptionally subtle. --Kim Newman

Price: £3.97

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The Lost Boys (2 Disc Special Edition) [1987] (buy now)

This 1987 thriller was a predictable hit with the teen audience it worked overtime to attract. Like most of director Joel Schumacher's films, it's conspicuously designed to push the right marketing and demographic buttons and, granted, there's some pretty cool stuff going on here and there. Take Kiefer Sutherland, for instance. In Stand by Me he played a memorable bully, but here he goes one step further as a memorable bully vampire who leads a tribe of teenage vampires on their nocturnal spree of bloodsucking havoc. Jason Patric plays the new guy in town, who quickly attracts a lovely girlfriend (Jami Gertz), only to find that she might be recruiting him into the vampire fold. The movie gets sillier as it goes along, and resorts to a routine action-movie showdown, but it's a visual knockout (featuring great cinematography by Michael Chapman) and boasts a cast that's eminently able (pardon the pun) to sink their teeth into the best parts of an uneven screenplay. --Jeff Shannon

Price: £4.97

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Doctor Who - Robot [1974] (buy now)

Tom Baker's reign as the venerable British science fiction hero Doctor Who began with this four-part serial from 1974-75; it also marked the dawn of what was arguably the most popular period in the program's history. Written by Terrance Dicks, Robot also introduces the late Ian Marter as the Doctor's companion-to-be Harry Sullivan, a UNIT medic who is pulled into the adventure after treating the Doctor, who is recovering from his fourth regeneration (third Doctor Jon Pertwee appears briefly at the beginning of the first episode). Meanwhile, Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) and the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) investigate a series of robberies involving a top secret weapons project that seem to have been carried out not by humans, but a colossal object. Could the mysterious "Think Tank" and its robotics division be involved? Robot is a terrific launching point for "The Baker Years"--the star himself is charming and amusing, and the story itself is brisk, involving, and quite suspenseful at times. In short, it's an excellent point for Who newcomers to introduce themselves to this most well-loved of Doctors.

The single-disc DVD includes commentary by Baker, Sladen, Dicks, and producer Barry Letts, as well as a 40-minute documentary titled "Are Friends Electric?" which recalls the production of Baker's first serial via interviews with the cast and production team, including producer Phillip Hinchcliffe and director Christopher Barry. "The Tunnel Effect" is a 13-minute interview with graphic designer Bernard Lodge on how he created the memorable "infinite tunnel" titles for the Baker stories, and there's a clip from children's program Blue Peter, which was broadcast from the set of Robot. The by-now standard photo gallery, production notes, and a PDF of the Radio Times listings round out the extras. --Paul Gaita

Price: £12.98

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Supernatural - Season 2 Part 1 (buy now)

Price: £25.98

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Guillermo Del Toro Collection (Pan's Labyrinth, Cronos, The Devil's Backbone) [1993] (buy now)

If you're after something a bit more magical than the current crop of gory, torturous horror movies, this Guillermo del Toro Collection might be just what you're looking for. Del Toro weaves together dark fairy tales with bleak reality in each of these three movies, creating films which are clever, beautiful and incredibly haunting. Although del Toro has made more high profile movies--Hellboy and Blade 2, specifically--his Spanish language movies are clearly his real passion. More personal than his superhero movies, each of these films has something to say.

The earliest of the movies is Cronos. Released in 1993, it's a story of family loyalties as well as alchemy and vampirism. 2001's The Devil's Backbone sees a group of orphans battling for survival in a world populated by bullies and ghosts, with war torn Spain providing a stunning background; while Pan's Labyrinth, released in 2006 to critical acclaim, mingles real life politics and social drama with fantasy and magic to create a masterpiece. Pan's Labyrinth won three Oscars, though it also deserved the other three it was also nominated for.

With each successive film, Del Toro's filmmaking has grown ever more mature and powerful, and this boxset perfectly showcases an incredible talent.--Sarah Dobbs

Price: £19.48

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Saw 3 (Extreme Edition) [2006] (buy now)

If you've been following the devilish puzzles of the dastardly Jigsaw in the Saw series thus far, then you'll know what to expect from this formulaic, yet agreeable third entry in the burgeoning franchise. Once again, we're introduced to characters who initially appear to be random victims, who find themselves caught in ingenious, deadly traps. And once more, again, those traps come with difficult choices: death lies on one side, a fair bucketload of gore on the other.

This time though, Jigsaw lies on his deathbed, and his game involves a surgeon whose own life depends on keeping him alive. Naturally, there are a few added twists mixed in too, and while you'll find no spoilers here, it'll hardly be a revelation to declare that Saw III is reluctant to stray away from its familiar ground. This does have a significant downside, though. The original Saw had moments that were genuinely clever, that offset those other moments that were best squinted at behind your fingers. Saw III, though, reverses the balance, depending far more on schlock than it does clever plotting. It still works, and it works hard to tie itself into the previous two films, but the end result is still a diluted version of the first film.

With that in mind, Saw III is a worthwhile rental, and fans of both the series and genre are going to find moments to enjoy. But those looking for a repeat of the original's ingenuity won't be so keen, although it does leave enough promise to ensure that the already-announced Saw IV will be worth keeping an eye out for.--Simon Brew

Price: £6.98

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Hostel [2005] (buy now)

Well-made for the genre--the excessive-skin-displayed-before-gruesome-bloody-torture-begins genre--Hostel follows two randy Americans (Jay Hernandez, Friday Night Lights, and Derek Richardson, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd) and an even randier Icelander (Eythor Gudjonsson) as they trek to Slovakia, where they're told beautiful girls will have sex with anyone with an American accent. Unfortunately, the girls will also sell young Americans to a company that offers victims to anyone who will pay to torture and murder. To his credit, writer/director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) takes his time setting things up, laying a realistic foundation that makes the inevitable spilling of much blood all the more gruesome. The sardonic joke, of course, is that Americans are worth the most in this brothel of blood because everyone else in the world wants to take revenge upon them. This dark humor and political subtext help set Hostel above its more brainless sadistic compatriots, like House of Wax or The Devil's Rejects. In general, though, there's something lacking; horror used to suggest some threat to the spirit--today's horror can conceive of nothing more troubling than torturing the flesh. For aficionados, Hostel features a nice cameo by Takashi Miike, director of bloody Japanese flicks like Audition and Ichi the Killer. --Bret Fetzer

Price: £13.98

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Gremlins / Gremlins 2 - The New Batch [1984] (buy now)

Cross It's A Wonderful Life with ET and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and you'll get something close to these entertaining and occasionally grotesque tales from producer Steven Spielberg, writer Chris Columbus and director Joe Dante.

In the first film we meet Billy Peltzer (played by Zach Galligan), a young man whose inventor father (Hoyt Axton) gives him an odd Christmas present in the shape of a tiny, adorable furry creature called a Mogwai, which is named Gizmo. The pet comes with a set of rules: don't get him wet, don't feed him after midnight and keep him away from direct sunlight. But Galligan breaks the first rule and the damp little critter pops out a dozen smaller offspring. Then the offspring break the second rule and, overnight, turn from cute furry guys to malevolent scale-covered trolls with world domination on their mind. The only way to stop them: rule three. But it's an anxious (and extremely funny) battle to make it to daylight, with the bad gremlins finding ingenious ways to multiply over and over until they're a force to be reckoned with.

In the sequel, Zach Galligan is back, along with Phoebe Cates, his girlfriend from the first film. They're both working in an ultramodern skyscraper owned by a Donald Trump clone (a hilarious John Glover). Galligan's furry little buddy is captured by a mad scientist, who not only helps it multiply, but invests the nasty, scaly offspring with intelligence and the ability to talk. What follows is imaginative mayhem that spoofs old movies, modern television, and the conveniences of postmodern technology. In many ways, the sequel is even more inventive and laughter-inducing than the original.

Both films are packed with special effects, all the most impressive when you consider the gremlins are puppets, not computer generated imagery. Expect a wild and fun-packed (if occasionally dark and scary) ride.

Price: £4.97

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Them [2006] (buy now)

Price: £10.98

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Pan's Labyrinth [2006] (buy now)

Price: £5.98

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Severance [2007] (buy now)

If a weekend of team building exercises in the woods sounds like your personal idea of torture, spare a thought for the poor pen pushers of Severance. As if the obligatory paintball and trust exercises weren't enough, there's a killer lurking outside their cabin--a killer holding a grudge against the unsuspecting employees of Palisade Defense...

Severance is one of the best British horror movies to come out of the last couple of years. It's smarter than it has any right to be; screenwriter James Moran neatly sidesteps the numerous clichés littering the genre, balancing eye-watering gore with almost surreal humour, while Creep helmer Chris Smith's assured direction sells even the daftest (and cruellest) moments.

Smith also draws great performances from a talented cast, including Dead Like Me's Laura Harris, Black Adder's Darling Tim McInnerny, and Danny Dyer of Mean Machine and The Football Factory.

Horror fans will lap this up; those lacking an iron stomach might watch some scenes from behind laced fingers, but will appreciate the fast-paced action and black humour nonetheless.--Sarah Dobbs

Price: £6.97

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The Shining [1980] (buy now)

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is less an adaptation of Stephen King's best-selling horror novel than a complete re-imagining of it from the inside out. In King's book, the Overlook Hotel is a haunted place that takes possession of its off-season caretaker and provokes him to murderous rage against his wife and young son. Kubrick's film is an existential Road Runner cartoon (his steadicam scurrying through the hotel's labyrinthine hallways), in which the cavernously empty spaces inside the Overlook Hotel mirror the emptiness in the soul of the blocked writer settled in for a long winter's hibernation. As many have pointed out, King's protagonist goes mad, but Kubrick's Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is Looney Tunes from the moment we meet him--all arching eyebrows and mischievous grin. (Both Nicholson and Shelley Duvall reach new levels of hysteria in their performances, driven to extremes by the director's fanatical demand s for take after take after take.) The Shining is terrifying--but not in the way fans of the novel might expect. When it was redone as a TV mini-series (reportedly because of King's dissatisfaction with the Kubrick film), the famous topiary-animal attack (which was deemed impossible to film in 1980) was there--but the deeper horror was lost. Kubrick's The Shining gets under your skin and chills your bones; it stays with you, inhabits you, haunts you. And there's no place to hide... --Jim Emerson, Amazon.com

Price: £3.97

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Angel - Series 1-5 - Complete (buy now)

Price: £89.98

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Blood And Chocolate [2007] (buy now)

Price: £8.97

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28 Weeks Later [2007] (buy now)

Put that cynical look away, because the critics were right. 28 Weeks Later really is a sequel that delivers, that expands on the original, and in many ways even surpasses it.

Faithful in many ways to the enjoyable, if derivative, 28 Days Later, this sequel sees original director Danny Boyle (who went off to make Sunshine instead) replaced by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo behind the camera(director of the excellent Spanish film Intacto). And Fresnadillo is an inspired choice, putting together a film that's not bereft of flaws of its own, but one that proves to be an ambitious and surprisingly thought-provoking follow-up.

Many of the building blocks are the same. Primarily set over six months after the Rage virus engulfed Britain, turning many of its inhabitants into deadly zombie-esque creatures in the process, the film this time though sees the American military arrive to help sort things out. Only things quickly go wrong, allowing Fresnadillo to mould a pacey, exciting and desperately enjoyable action carnival, that's got a little more under the surface.

Grounded by Robert Carlyle as one of the survivors of the virus, replete with his kids in tow, 28 Weeks Later skilfully navigates the labyrinth of sequel hell and really, really delivers. What's more, it opens up the enticing possibility of a further sequel, and on the evidence of this film, that's a very welcome thought.

28 Weeks Later, like its predecessor, isn't a film for the faint-hearted, and wholesome family entertainment it absolutely isn't. But it's a very good, energetic horror movie, and far, far better than you might've originally given it credit for. --Jon Foster

Price: £12.98

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The Devil's Backbone [2001] (buy now)

As Guillermo Del Toro films go The Devil's Backbone is a defining moment in his career, breaching the gap between International Art House and mainstream Hollywood success, it being his last film before Blade 2. Based within an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, the film is driven by its characters and, just like his previous films (Cronos and Mimic), it draws on the supernatural to outline and re-define exactly what it is that drives them.

Although Del Toro insists that this is not a film about the Civil War, by trapping and threatening its inhabitants the orphanage inevitably becomes a mirror for the events outside. These four walls become a place of protection for boys who have been orphaned during the war, a place for them to lead a relatively normal existence full of school life, bullying and adventure. Their main source of the latter being Santi, a young ghost who haunts the halls looking for revenge for his recent murder. Yet the pivotal character who evokes real fear in the children is not the spirit, but the greedy, selfish Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), a former orphan, whose experiences have left him with deep emotional scars. With a strong cast and even stronger imagery (created by cinematographer Guillermo Navarro) Del Toro whips up a hauntingly effective film about love, life and the afterlife.

On the DVD: entering the extras literally through the keyhole, there are several opportunities to obtain a deeper understanding of this disturbing film. A "Behind the Scenes" featurette includes the cast's own character profiles and interpretation of the story, as well as Del Toro explaining his thoughts about the film and how he achieved some shots. Two of the sequences—"Aerial Bombardment" and "The Ghost"--can be seen in further technical detail, with film footage and computer animation combined to make a whole scene. A selection of storyboards can also be viewed which run alongside the soundtrack to the scene, with the option to intercut between storyboard and finished film. A theatrical trailer, a picture gallery and written biographies are standard. The film and additional features are in Spanish with English subtitles and menu. With Dolby 5:1 sound and a widescreen picture, the film not only looks and sounds, but also feels fantastically chilling. --Nikki Disney

Price: £12.48

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The Entity [1982] (buy now)

Price: £2.97

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 (New Edition) (buy now)

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) looks like your typical perky high-schooler, and like most, she has her secret fears and anxieties. However, while most teens are worrying about their next date, their next zit, or their next term paper, Buffy's angsting over the next vampire she has to slay. See, Buffy, a young woman with superhuman strength, is the "chosen one," and she must help rid the world of evil, namely by staking demons. The exceptional first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer introduces us to the treacherous world of Sunnydale High School (where Buffy moved after torching her previous high school's gym). The characters there include "watcher" Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and the original "Scooby Gang" members--friendly geek Xander (Nicholas Brendon), computer whiz Willow (Alyson Hannigan), and snobbish popular girl Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter)--who aid Buffy in her quest. Those used to the darker tone that Buffy took in its later seasons will be surprised by the lighter feeling these first 12 episodes have--it's kind of like Buffy 90210 as the cast grapples with regular teen problems in addition to saving the world from demonic darkness. Fans of the show will enjoy the crisp writing, the phenomenal chemistry of the cast (already well-established within the first few episodes), and the introduction to characters that would stay for many seasons, including moody vampire Angel (David Boreanaz). Through it all, Gellar carries the series with amazing confidence, whether conveying the despair of high school or dispatching various demons--she's one of TV's most distinctive and strongest heroines. --Mark Englehart

Price: £14.98

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Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Series 1 - 7 - Complete (buy now)

Price: £119.98

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The Craft [1996] (buy now)

If Buffy the Vampire Slayer represents the lighter side of high school as a macabre experience, here's a movie that asks the burning question, "What happens when angst-ridden teenagers develop supernatural powers?" More to the point, how do four outcast teenaged witches handle their ability to cast wicked spells on the taunting classmates who've nicknamed them "The Bitches of Eastwick"? The answer, of course, is "don't get mad, get even." That's about all there is to this terminally silly movie, which makes up for its ludicrous plot by letting its young female cast have a field day as they indulge their dark fantasies. Fairuza Balk is enjoyable as the most wicked of the witches, and is therefore the focus of the film's most dazzling special effects. But it's Neve Campbell from television's Party of Five who made this film a modest box-office hit, just before she became her generation's fright-movie favorite in Scream and its popular sequel. --Jeff Shannon

Price: £4.97

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6 (New Edition) [2001] (buy now)

Price: £14.98

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The Mummy [1998] (buy now)

Price: £5.97

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Saw Trilogy (buy now)

Price: £22.98

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Silent Running [1972] (buy now)

After creating many of the innovative special effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Douglas Trumbull tried his hand at directing, and 1971's Silent Running marked an impressive debut. (In addition to creating the visual effects for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and directing 1983's Brainstorm, Trumbull later turned to the creation of high-tech cinematic amusement park rides.) One of the best science-fiction films of the 1970s, Silent Running stars Bruce Dern as Freeman Lowell, a nature-loving crewmember aboard the Valley Forge, a gigantic spaceship in a small fleet that carries the last surviving forests of the Earth, which has fallen victim to overpopulation and ecological neglect.

Freeman's name reflects his nonconformist philosophy, which runs counter to the prevailing recklessness of his three ill-fated crewmates, who are eager to jettison their precious payload and return to the bleakness of Earth. Before they can sabotage the forests, Freeman does what he must, and spends the remainder of his mission with three robotic "drones" as his only companions, struggling to maintain his sanity in the vastness of space. Dern is superb in this memorable role, representing the lost soul of humankind as well as the back-to-nature youth movement of the 1960s and the pre-Watergate era. (Appropriately, Joan Baez sings the film's theme song.) A rare science-fiction film that combines bold adventure with passionate social conscience, Silent Running will remain relevant as long as the Earth is threatened by the ravages of human carelessness. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

Price: £4.97

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Resident Evil: Apocalypse [UMD Mini for PSP] [2004] (buy now)

Price: £6.48

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Interview With The Vampire -- Special Edition [1995] (buy now)

When it was announced that Tom Cruise would play the vampire Lestat in Interview with a Vampire, the film adaptation of Anne Rice's bestselling novel, even Rice chimed in with a highly publicised objection. The author wisely and justifiably recanted her negative opinion when she saw Cruise's excellent performance, which perceptively addresses the pain and chronic melancholy that plagues anyone cursed with immortal blood lust. Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst are equally good at maintaining the dark and brooding tone of Rice's novel. And in this rare mainstream project for a major studio, director Neil Jordan compensates for a lumbering plot by honouring the literate, Romantic qualities of Rice's screenplay. Considered a disappointment while being embraced by Rice's loyal followers, Interview is too slow to be a satisfying thriller, but it is definitely one of the most lavish, intelligent horror films ever made. --Jeff Shannon

Price: £4.97

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 (New Edition) (buy now)

Price: £15.48

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