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Beneath the Darkness (R)

Image Entertainment

Dennis Quaid enters the straight-to-DVD arena with this tonally inconsistent, divisively wacky teen thriller. He's the town mortician who harbors an unnatural love for the dead (and a penchant for employing forced youthful slang); snooping kids stumble onto his secret and have their necks crushed for their troubles. Sure, this sounds like your typical young adult slasher, possibly something salvaged from Kevin Williamson's trash-can, but what makes it so inherently watchable is Quaid's performance. He has a devilish gleam, an overwrought laugh and the ability to break the fourth wall to deliver insanely out-of-place bons mots, giving a bizarrely comedic take on what could be a typical evil, hand-wringing caricature. If this is Quaid's new career path, I am all for it. Anything to make these cookie-cutter slasher flicks less tedious to sit through. — Louis Fowler

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The Skin I Live In (R)

Sony Pictures Classics

Pedro Almodóvar's latest film is a work of aesthetic beauty so delightful to look at that, once things take a turn for the truly twisted, one sees the disquieting costuming and intimidatingly sterile production design as needful distractions from the horror. Even the significant beauty of the two leads, Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya, are misleads — their desirability acts as nothing but a window into each other's vanity and victimhood. Anaya plays Vera, a patient of ethically challenged plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Ledgard (Banderas), who keeps her locked in a room, almost entirely covered with a protective body stocking. Her only means of communication come via the housemaid, whose motivation soon becomes as murky as the good doctor's. Almodóvar's exploration of Gothic, science-gone-mad pulp is a relatively new direction for the auteur, but a rewarding one. — Justin Strout

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Battle Royale: The Complete Collection (NR) (Blu-ray)

Anchor Bay / Release date: March 20

Battle Royale shocked Japan upon its 2000 release and, with the Columbine tragedy still fresh in our minds, was outright banned in America. But pop culture heals all wounds, and with the kids-killing-kids action flick The Hunger Games (which shamelessly rips BR off) set to hit theaters, what better time to release this masterpiece, uncut in a four-disc Blu-ray special edition? In near-future Japan, with unemployment skyrocketing, juvenile delinquency rises. The government's solution? The BR Millennium Act, wherein kids are let loose on an island and forced to kill each other, until only one is left standing. Unnervingly entertaining, it was followed three years later with Battle Royale II: Requiem, which took on the War on Terror, complete with the opening shot of a WTC-like structure plummeting to the ground. Too soon! — Louis Fowler


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