MOVIES

'The Babadook' is an emotional ride, 'What If' is thoroughly winning

Jennifer Kent's 'The Babadook,' a horror flick that aims to unsettle, arrives on VOD on Friday

The Babadook

Available on VOD Nov. 28

One of the scariest horror movies in years, writer-director Jennifer Kent's work is especially effective because it has more on its mind than just making viewers cower under their seats. Essie Davis gives an outstanding performance as Amelia, a young widow who's being kept up all night, every night, by her monster-obsessed, emotionally disturbed 6-year-old son, Samuel. After Amelia and Samuel read a bizarre pop-up book together, they find themselves tormented by the book's villain: a shadow creature named the Babadook that the book warns "you can't get rid of." In between the scenes of mother and son cowering, Kent deals with more common fears such as losing a partner and worrying that a strange child will never fit in or be able to take care of himself. "The Babadook" is an emotional ride all around — a fright-flick that aims to unsettle and not just shock.

What If

Sony, $30.99 Blu-ray; $35.99

Available on VOD Tuesday.

In director Michael Dowse and screenwriter Elan Mastai's romantic comedy (formerly known as "The F Word"), Daniel Radcliffe plays a lovelorn young man named Wallace who feels an instant connection at a party with Chantry (Zoe Kazan), who already has a steady boyfriend. The "friends who would be lovers if only the timing were better" plot is an overused rom-com staple, but Radcliffe and Kazan are charming and funny together, and Dowse, who previously directed the cult favorite "Goon," makes great use of Toronto as the backdrop for a friendship that keeps promising to blossom into something more. This is a thoroughly winning motion picture. The "What If" DVD and Blu-ray contain deleted scenes and featurettes.

Les Blank: Always for Pleasure

Criterion, $124.95; Blu-ray, $124.95

When documentary filmmaker Les Blank died last year, he left more than 40 years of quirky shorts and features, covering musicians, artists and various subcultures around the world. The Criterion box set runs the gamut from the 1968 character sketch "The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins" to the funny and eccentric 1987 film "Gap-Toothed Women" (which is about exactly what its title suggests) and adds 12 more major Blank works, eight companion shorts and extensive interviews with Blank's friends, fans and collaborators. It's a full picture of one of the most essential American documentarians.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Turkey Day Collection

Shout! Factory, $64.99

For those who have fond memories of spending Thanksgiving in the 1990s tuned to Comedy Central's all-day marathons of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," the latest Shout! Factory "MST3K" set is a fun blast of nostalgia. The collection is Thanksgiving-themed, with new intros from the show's first host, Joel Hodgson, and special featurettes about the history of the Turkey Day festivities. The true stars, though, are the four original episodes, in which Joel (or his replacement, Mike Nelson) and his robot pals crack jokes while watching some of the worst movies ever made: "Jungle Goddess," "The Painted Hills," "The Screaming Skull" and "Squirm."

And …

Drunk History: Seasons 1 & 2

Comedy Central, $19.99

The Expendables 3

Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD Tuesday.

The Giver

Starz/Anchor Bay, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD Tuesday.

A Merry Friggin' Christmas

Peace Arch, $19.99; Blu-ray, $19.99

Available on VOD Tuesday.

The November Man

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD Tuesday.

Step Up All In

Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas

Lionsgate, $19.99; Blu-ray $39.99

Available on VOD Tuesday.

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