Jennifer Garner confronts a judge in "Peppermint."
Jennifer Garner confronts a judge in "Peppermint."

Peppermint (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 102 min.). In this revenge movie, the vigilante (Jennifer Garner) also acts as an angel to the Skid Row neighborhood that she has made her base. It is a very physical role, as one might expect from director Pierre Morel, who also brought us "Taken" and "The Gunman." Unlike "Taken," though, there is nobody to be rescued, just revenge and more revenge.

The film opens with one of those acts of revenge, before flashing back five years to the deadly incident that spawned the current wave of vigilante justice. Garner plays Riley North, who is witness to the drive-by shooting deaths of her husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) and daughter Carly (Cailey Fleming). Chris had been asked by a friend to help him rip off drug dealer Diego Garcia (Juan Pable Raba), but even though Chris turned Mickey down, the idea of being ripped off was enough for Garcia to order Chris' murder.

North identifies the three shooters in police lineups but they are freed during the preliminary hearing by Judge James Stevens, who is probably in Garcia's pockets, as are members of the police force. (Morel does a good job of steering the audience towards the wrong cop as the bad one.) After an outburst in court, North has to escape from police custody. She then apparently spends the next five years traveling the world, learning how to be a strong fighter and an expert with various weapons. For once, the audience does not have to see any of the training, which is a plus.

Back to the present and a couple of days before the anniversary of her husband and daughter's Christmastime deaths, the police find the three accused, but freed shooters dead and hanging by their feet from a Ferris wheel. As the deaths mount up, the FBI's Lisa Inman (Annie Ilonzeh) joins detectives Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) and Moises Beltran (John Ortiz) on the hunt for North, whom social media and some TV coverage have been playing up as a hero by this point. The closing sequence with Garcia holding the Skid Row inhabitants as hostages is a bit different. Overall, the movie is rather grim, with Garner its best part.

Extras include audio commentary by director Morel and a featurette with Garner talking about her role (2:16). Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Lizzie (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 105 min.). In 1892, Lizzie Borden gained notoriety as the sole suspect in the hatchet murders of her father and stepmother at their home in Fall River, Mass. When tried, she was acquitted, as the all-male jury did not believe a woman of her social standing could have committed such a horrible crime.

This film, which moves at a glacial pace, builds on the true facts to speculate on a possible relationship between Lizzie (producer Chloe Sevigny , who earned an Oscar for "Boys Don't Cry") and housemaid Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart of the "Twilight" films). Also real, of course, are Lizzie's frugal and demanding father (Jamey Sheridan as Andrew Borden), whom the film alleges was taking sexual advantage of Bridget, her stepmother (Fiona Shaw as Abby Borden), her sister (Kim Dickens as Emma Borden) and her uncle (Denis O'Hare as John Morse). While the film builds on the theory that Lizzie and Bridget were lovers, director Craig William Macneill uses far too much restraint. At times it is like watching paint dry or, more accurately, windows being washed by hand.

The film does look great -- credit cinematographer Noah Greenberg -- but other than some nastiness by Uncle John and the murders themselves, little emotion surfaces. Even the love scene shows very little passion.

The only extra is a making-of featurette that includes an interview with Sevigny, who worked years on the project, and how writer Bryce Kass used actual court transcripts. If the film was supposed to be proto-feminist, it consistently missed its chances. Grade: film 2 stars; extra 1.5 stars

Bloody Birthday (1981, Arrow Blu-ray, R, 84 min.). There are pros and cons in this horror film, directed and co-written by Ed Hunt ("Starship Invasions," "Point of No Return"). The film has an immediacy as it tells the story of three "bad seeds," who start killing people just before their 10th birthday. All three were born during the same solar eclipse at the same hospital. Jose Ferrer plays The Doctor in the first of two, blink-and-you-will-miss-it cameos. Despite having three children among the leads, the acting is more than serviceable, and the film has an Eighties' kind of TV vibe, including the music. However, the film gives no logical explanation for why the children only start killing at age 10 and why they are killers at all. The only sort-of explanation is an astrological one that because one of the planets was blocked out by the eclipse, the children were born without the capacity for empathy.

After the births scene -- mostly heard rather than shown -- the film jumps forward 10 years to a young couple making out in a cemetery. When they relocate to an open grave for privacy, they are attacked and then buried by unseen assailants. This will not be the last time that sex equals death in the film -- all made the more creepy because it is children committing the murders. In fact, the movie seems to work in every possible parent's nightmare, including a skateboard left on steps, and a child locked in an abandoned refrigerator.

The children are Curtis (Billy Jacoby, later Billy Jayne, who went on to a lengthy career, mostly in television), Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy of "The Blues Brothers" and a little TV work) and little-used Steven (Andy Freeman, who only made three subsequent TV appearances). The trio especially like to pick on classmate Timmy (K.C. Martel of "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," "The Amityville Horror" and several TV appearances, including a role on "Growing Pains"), whose older sister is Joyce (lead actress Lori Lethin of "Horror High" and much TV work). While Debbie consistently creeped me out, Curtis, with his glasses, looked much too cute to be a killer.

The children often pick their targets close to home, including Sheriff Brody (Bert Kramer), who is Debbie's father. They also dispose of a pesky teacher (Susan Strasberg as Miss Davis). The best sequence is when Joyce is chased by a car in the junkyard. One can tell the film did not have a very big budget, but it does not really look cheap, except for the lack of money for special effects. The ending is open-ended, begging for a sequel that was never made.

The very good extras include an audio commentary by Hunt and a second commentary by The Hysteria Continues (a podcast group about slasher films). Film journalist Chris Alexander does an appreciation on "killer kid" films, including "The Bad Seed" and "Lord of the Flies," before coming to "Bloody Birthday" eight minutes into the 20-minute piece. He calls the trio "the Little Rascals from hell." There also is an interview with actress Lethin with clips from the film (8:13), an interview with producer Kim Gordon about Hunt's career (21:15; an American war resister, Hunt made films in Toronto, Canada); and an interview with executive producer Max Rosenberg, who calls Hunt "mad as a hatter" and says he wants to remake the film with adolescents instead of young children and call it "Born Bad" (17:26). Grade: film 2.25 stars; extras 3.75 stars

Blood and Black Lace (Italy, 1964, VCI/MVD Visual, Blu-ray + DVD, NR, 88 min.). This is one of director Mario Bava's best giallo films. It was made in Italy, but filmed in the English language. The film involves a series of murders -- usually involving sharp instruments -- that surround a haute couture fashion company and are committed by a killer who is dressed in a black overcoat and wearing dark gloves and a white mesh mask. The killer's victims are often in various stages of undress. The initial murder is of Isabella (Francesca Ungaro) in the woods outside the building. While looking for a brooch that goes with the dress Isabella would have been wearing in the runway show, her coworkers find her diary instead, which causes discomforting looks on several of those present. It turns out the killer will be after the diary as well.

American actor Cameron Mitchell (TV's "The High Chaparral") plays Max Morlan, while Eva Bartok is Countess Christina  Como. The diary is found by Nicole (Arianna Gorini), whose boyfriend Frank (Dante Di Paolo) owns an antiques shop. That shop will serve as the location for one of the film's best and scariest sequences. The film was Bava's follow-up to his successes, "Black Sunday" and "Black Sabbath." Bava was a master of style over substance and loved to use lurid colors, such as the brilliant reds in this film. The director also did his own lighting of scenes.

The film is presented in a new 2K restoration from original film materials in widescreen. Bonus features on both the Blu-ray and the DVD include a photo gallery (5:38); an isolated music score by Carlo Rustichelli, which starts off very jazzy; and a comparison of the differences in the American and European uncut versions, covering seven scenes -- mostly murders -- that sometime show a little bit more flesh or struggling by the victims. The Blu-ray edition, presented in English, has two new audio commentaries: one by Kat Ellinger, editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine; the other by film historian David Del Valle and director-writer C. Courtney Joyner. The DVD, presented in the original Italian, has archival interviews with a very animated actor Mitchell (7:25; he did 6 films with Bava and some 30 films in Italian) and actress Mary Dawne Arden, who played Peggy (12:10; mostly on her non-film career but she said she translated their dialogue into English for the foreign-speaking actors). The package comes with a reversible cover wrap with alternate artwork. Grade: film  3.5 stars; extras 3 stars

Luciferina (Argentina, Artsploitation, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 114 min.). This is a different type of possession film, one that is highly sexual at times. The eye-catching opening shows a fetus growing into a baby within the womb, and then the film cuts to Natalia (Sofia Del Tuffo), a 19-year-old novice nun who enjoys working in the soup kitchen. This implies she was the baby, which becomes important later. A man attending the dinner gives Natalia a cross, which also comes into play later.

Upon learning her mother has died and her father is injured, Natalia has to go back home, even though that is the last thing she wants. It turns out her mother's death was a suicide and she had painted multiple images of a faceless figure that Natalia has seen in her dreams. Later, Natalia will have a dream of a location that she then stumbles across on an island in which a group of six have gone to consult with a shaman and drink the mystical plant Ayahuasca. In addition to Natalia, the group includes her sister Angela (Malena Sanchez) and her brutish boyfriend Mauro (Francisco Donovan), leader Osvaldo (Gaston Cocchiarale), Mara (Stefania Koessi), who has brought a gun, and shy Abel (Pedro Merlo), who kept reminding me of the guy in the soup kitchen.

The ceremony with the Ayahuasca does not go well, and soon the visitors are dying. It seems a demon is behind the troubles, a demon set on having Natalia.

Writer-director Gonzalo Calzada ("The Clairvoyant's Prayer," "Resurrection") often uses very wide shots, with an actor very small in the middle of the frame. He captures some beautiful shots this way. There are no bonus features. Grade: film 3 stars