New releases: 'The Witch' casts its spell on Blu-ray; 'Hard Sell' surprises on VOD

New on Blu-ray

"The Witch" (Lionsgate DVD, $19.98; Blu-ray, $24.99; also available on VOD)


Calling writer-director Robert Eggers' "The Witch" one of the scariest movies in recent years may do the film a disservice, because this is a different kind of horror picture — more subtly creepy than the grabbier likes of "The Babadook" and "It Follows." Like those two recent genre champs, though, "The Witch" also functions as a clever allegory. Set in the backwoods of colonial America, the film follows one Puritan farming family as it descends into insanity and dissension after the youngest child is kidnapped by a creepy old lady. The story develops slowly, framed by lots of beautifully atmospheric images of rural life. But it gets more intense as it goes along, as Eggers examines how the pressure of fundamentalist religious belief widens the preexisting cracks in one band of believers. (Plus: There's an evil goat. And who doesn't like an evil goat?)

[Special features: Eggers commentary; featurette; Q&A]


"Hard Sell" (available May 20 on VOD)

Writer-director-producer Sean Nalaboff mixes a little "Risky Business," a little "Submarine," and a little "My Bodyguard" for his feature film debut "Hard Sell," which stars Skyler Gisondo as a socially awkward Long Island private school teen who befriends a runaway stripper played by Katrina Bowden, and then becomes more popular after he starts hiring her out to his classmates. The movie's sexual politics are a little screwy at times, but Nalaboff has a nice sense of character and place (this isn't a generic teen sex comedy, in other words), and he makes good use of Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth in a small role as the hero's mentally ill mother. "Hard Sell" is consistently surprising, and a solid new entry on the list of coming-of-age movies where a high schooler learns life-lessons from someone older.

TV set of the week

"Orange Is the New Black: The Complete Third Season" (Lionsgate DVD, $34.98; Blu-ray, $34.97)

One of the shows that made Netflix a viable source for original programming remains just as addicting in its third season, even if the original premise — tracking a privileged young white woman's adventures in prison — has become less compelling than her diverse fellow inmates' many subplots. In a way, Season 3 of "Orange Is the New Black" may be a better fit for DVD and Blu-ray than for Netflix's binge-friendly format, because the series has increasingly become about smaller stories and character moments, rooted in the lives of some of society's most marginalized. It's better to savor each one, rather than rushing ahead.

[Special features: Featurettes; selected episode commentary tracks.]


For the record, 12:28 p.m. May 19: An earlier version of this post said that the "Orange Is the New Black: The Complete Third Season" DVD/Blu-ray had no special features.


From the archives

"The Films of Maurice Pialat: Volume 1" (Cohen, $39.98; Blu-ray, $49.98)


Never one of the most prolific directors in French cinema, Maurice Pialat was nonetheless among the most distinctive. The 10 feature films he made between 1968 and 1995 pointed the way toward a new approach to realism, using long takes that allowed scenes to meander until they found their point — right before Pialat leapt unceremoniously ahead to another moment in time. The Cohen Film Collection has launched a new series to bring some of the best of Pialat to features-packed DVDs and Blu-rays, and the line is off to an impressive start with a first volume that contains three key early films: 1974's "The Mouth Agape" (about a woman dying of cancer, surrounded by her not-always-loving family), 1978's "Graduate First" (about a group of teens dreading the end of their school years) and 1980's "Loulou" (with a young Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu as passionate lovers who have a tough time agreeing on anything, outside of the bedroom).

[Special features: Four hours of interviews and featurettes, including a Depardieu-narrated documentary about Pialat]

Three more to see

"Dementia" (Scream! Factory/IFC Midnight DVD/Blu-ray, $29.99); "Dirty Grandpa" (Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99; also available on VOD); "Theeb" (Film Movement DVD, $24.95; Blu-ray, $34.95)