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Kurt Sayenga
Eli Roth, Stephen King, Greg Nicotero
Kurt Sayenga

An in-depth look at the history and pop cultural significance of horror films.

Rated TV-MA.

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 252 min.
Price: $34.97
Release Date: 9/14/2021

• “CGI vs. Practical Effects” Featurette
• “The Chilling Children of Horror” Featurette
• “Seeing Classics in Theaters” Featurette


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Eli Roth's History of Horror: Season Two [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 17, 2022)

An AMC series, apparently the initial run of Eli Roth’s History of Horror went over well. This leads to Season Two of History.

A six-part documentary series, History covers a mix of topics. All six episodes appear in broadcast order on this Blu-ray set, and the synopses come from the AMC website. Host Eli Roth appears across each program.

House of Hell: “Home is where the heart is, unless you live in a house of hell. Whether they're filled with specters or psychos, every house of hell pokes at our illusions of comfort and safety.”

“Zombies” features comments from Roth, filmmakers Rob Zombie, Wes Craven (archival), Mick Garris, Scott Derrickson, and Andrew Douglas, authors Stephen King and Joe Hill, special makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero, critic Jordan Crucchiola, producers Sean S. Cunningham and Ryan Turek, Fangoria editor Tony Timpone, film scholar Chris Dumas, cultural commentator Eliza Skinner, and actors Chris Hardwick, Fran Kranz, Bill Hader and Bill Moseley.

Monsters: “The history of monster movies is also the history of the evolution of special effects technology. But, whatever their size or shape and whatever they represent, for many horror fans monsters are the best part of the genre.”

This episode features Nicotero, Hader, Dumas, Zombie, Roth, Turek, Hardwick, filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Joe Dante, Bryan Fuller, Brian Henson, Dana Gould, Andy Muschietti, André Øvredal, Edgar Wright and Don Mancini, film scholars Tananarive Due and Jennifer Moorman, author Max Brooks, critic Leonard Maltin, creature designer Neville Page, editor Bob Murakawski, author David J. Skal, director of photography Dean Cundey, producer Barbara Muschietti, and actor Jack Black.

Body Horror: “Sometimes disgusting, but always powerful, body horror films make us question our prejudices against physical difference, our attitudes about sex and gender, our fear of disease and contamination, and how much our appearance determines who we are.”

Here we find notes from Turek, Garris, Hill, Skinner, Hader, Timpone, Gould, Derrickson, Fuller, Crucchiola, Roth, Maltin, Skal, filmmakers David Cronenberg (archival), John Landis, Keith Gordon, Brian Yuzna and Ari Aster, composer Christopher Young, and actors Elijah Wood, Ashley Laurence, Rider Strong, Katharine Isabelle and Jordan Ladd.

Witches: “The witch is a towering figure in the history of horror. The archetypical evil witch is everything mainstream religion tells us a woman should not be - and that unapologetic, very female power frightens men and fascinates women.”

During this episode, we locate info from King, Moorman, Zombie, Crucchiola, Roth, Due, Timpone, Maltin, Garris, Nicotero, Derrickson, Henson, Skinner, Wright, filmmakers Ernest Dickerson, Andrew Fleming and Ari Aster, musician Slash, author Kier-a Janisse, musicologist Morgan Woolsey, and actors Megan Fox, Josh Leonard, Alexandra Billings, Rachel True and Milly Shapiro.

Chilling Children: “Parents are supposed to love their children, no matter how awful their kids may be. The films highlighted in this episode may not solve the mystery of where evil comes from, but they have a terrifically terrifying time raising the question.”

In this piece, we find material with Maltin, Fox, Slash, Garris, Fuller, Aster, Mancini, Hader, Roth, Nicotero, Janisse, Gould, Moorman, Hardwick, Timpone, Turek, Dante, Shapiro, Wright, Gordon, screenwriters Josh Olson and Andrew Kevin Walker, film scholar Jason Middleton, filmmakers Karyn Kusama and Roger Corman, and actors Nancy Allen, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Patty McCormack, Katelyn Nacon, and Laraine Newman.

Nine Nightmares: “’Nine Nightmares’ is a deep dive into nine uncategorizable films that push the boundaries of horror. Great films that entertain us and provoke us. Films that put society under a microscope, making us question not just what we fear, but why we fear it.”

For this show, we locate notes from Roth, Due, Timpone, Dante, Janisse, King, Nicotero, Hardwick, Fuller, Allen, Gordon, Billings, Murawski, filmmakers Jordan Peele, Mary Harron, Michael Dougherty, special makeup effects artist Tom Savini.

Season Two of History so strongly resembles S1 that I feel tempted to simply reiterate my comments from that review. S2 feels like a virtual clone of S1, albeit with some different films under discussion and different participants, of course.

This means that once again, we find a series heavy on movie clips and short on real insight. Oh, to be sure, you’ll probably learn some good info along the way here. Even fans who have good awareness of the films under discussion will probably find some new nuggets.

However, History breezes through so many movies in such little time that a lack of real substance becomes inevitable. Really, we find general thoughts about the flicks involved along with a lot of film clips and not a ton of true depth.

That said, History becomes a breezy enough overview, and S2 might work better than S1 simply because the first year picked off the “low hanging fruit”. The initial batch of shows covered a lot of the best-known horror flicks, so S2 needs to spread to less famous flicks at times.

This seems appealing because the viewer becomes more likely to get exposure to something unfamiliar. Not that S2 delves into obscurities, but it covers films with less pop culture penetration at times, so it can become more interesting than S1.

Don’t expect flawless history, though, as some obvious mistakes pop up along the way. For instance, the series claims Kathy Bates made her debut with 1990’s Misery, but she’d literally already appeared in a good dozen of flicks at that point.

All of this leaves S2 as moderately informative and entertaining but not great. History keeps us with it, but it remains pretty superficial.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C/ Bonus D+

Eli Roth’s History of Horror appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. With its mix of new interviews and archival footage, History looked fine for this sort of program.

As always, I viewed the old material and the new shots with different expectations, and the archival stuff jumped all over the place. It could look pretty good at times, but we also got some messy clips.

I didn’t have any real problems with those, however, as I figured they were about as good as we could get. In any case, the flaws of the old bits didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the program. They blended just fine and didn’t cause distractions.

Overall, the new footage offered nice visuals. Sharpness was quite good, as virtually no softness impacted on the new footage. Those elements appeared concise and accurate.

Colors were reasonably natural, and no notable defects affected the new footage. Blacks and shadows followed suit, as they seemed perfectly positive. Overall, the visuals were solid given the program’s parameters.

As for the DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack of History of Horror, it became a low-key affair. Stereo delineation of music appeared positive and the overall soundfield seemed more than acceptable, with use of the surrounds to reinforce the score.

Effects lacked much to do, as dialogue and music dominated. Movie effects remained centered even when the films involved originally offered surround usage.

Audio quality was solid. The new interview comments sounded just fine, as they offered perfectly acceptable clarity. No issues with edginess or intelligibility occurred, as they provided warm and natural tones.

Music also demonstrated good range and definition, while the occasional effects appeared well-reproduced. This mix felt like a “C“.

Three featurettes appear here, and CGI vs. Practical Effects goes for four minutes, 52 seconds. It brings comments from special makeup effects designers Alec Gillis, Greg Nicotero, Tom Savini, filmmakers André Øvredal, Rob Zombie and Andy Muschietti, and concept designer Neville Page.

As expected, the participants debate the pros/cons of computer graphics and practical effects. The piece gives some understanding of the differences between the two – and clearly leans toward practical as “superior”.

The Chilling Children of Horror spans six minutes, 47 seconds and features actors Milly Shapiro, Patty McCormack, Linda Blair and Haley Joel Osment. We get an extension of the “Chilling Children” episode, so expect a minor extension of that program, with a little repetition as well.

Finally, Seeing Classics in Theaters runs seven minutes, eight seconds and delivers notes from Nicotero, Gillis, filmmakers John Landis, Dana Gould, Joe Dante, Quentin Tarantino, Rob Zombie, and Eli Roth, critic Leonard Maltin, authors Stephen King and Victor Lavalle, and actors Bill Hader, Laraine Newman, Alexandra Billings, and Ken Foree. The participants relate their memorable cinematic experiences in this moderately fun reel.

If you liked Season One of History of Horror, you will probably dig Season Two. Both come with identical strengths and weaknesses. The Blu-rays offer perfectly adequate picture and audio along with minor bonus materials. Expect an enjoyable series but not anything great.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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