Since Halloween comes at the end of this month, October is a good time for studios to release their scary movies, either from the vaults or their new releases. I reviewed a bunch of the new and classic movies out on Blu-ray this month for your consideration for any Halloween movie nights!
Army of Darkness
Scream Factory has finally put the director’s cut of Army of Darkness on Blu-ray, and it looks just as good as the theatrical cut, which is to say the first 20 minutes or so is stunning. When Ash is a slave in the outdoor pit scene it is perfectly sharp and clear so you can see all the detail in the creature makeup.
Then Ash goes inside the castle and the rest of the movie flares up with digital noise. It’s interesting how it’s the same problem in both cuts, so must have been a flaw with transferring the original materials. You still see detail, and the forced perspective work is stunning, but there seems to be no perfect version of the film. The international cut boasts a 4K scan but doesn’t look as good as the other two. The TV version is in VHS quality but at least it’s consistently VHS quality whether Ash is outside in broad daylight or in a dimly lit windmill.
All previous bonus features are included and the new behind the scenes special is really good. Bruce Campbell is there along with Marcus Gilbert and Richard Grove, plus behind the scenes crew. No Raimi, but VHS footage of him on the set captures his playful spirit. All in all the best collection of Army of Darkness yet. Now if they could remaster the transfer…
Scream Factory also put the two theatrical Tales from the Crypt movies on Blu-ray, though not the obscure and little seen third film, Ritual. The good news is the one everyone likes looks great. Demon Knight is a clean print and retains the film grain. You can see all the detail in the makeup effects. Bordello of Blood looks rougher, with an overall overcast, muddy look and white specs flaring up. It’s consistent though, not like the picture goes in and out, and probably the best it will ever look.
Both films get full 36 minute behind the scenes features which feature most prominent cast members (save Jada Pinkett Smith, CCH Pounder and Dennis Miller). It’s great that both films got equally thorough treatment because the Bordello one is scathing. It begins with the talent admitting it went wrong and goes into detail about certain actor’s misbehavior, although at least Erika Elaniak is there to redeem herself.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment gave Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the seminal vampire literature a 4K transfer for their Supreme Cinema series. You can still see the grain of the film, but also all the detail in the sets. Since they were build on soundstages, every detail was a choice crafted into the set. They could still make a walled in room look epic and simulate a horizon. Other Blu-ray details include the red and blue lighting of different scenes, and the green mist glows.
The Supreme Cinema series Dracula also comes with a digital copy. The digital version looks great, but it’s not 4K. It’s actually a lot smoother, so for purists, 4K preserves the grain. Bonus features from the collector’s edition are imported and Coppola participated in some new features too.
I was curious what a Mark Neveldine solo movie would look like, and the answer is it’s fairly comparable to the other horror movies out right now. He manages a few of his wild camera moves but overall it’s a straightforward exorcism movie. That means a lot of it is set in some blue tinted industrial rooms. The picture remains sharp and clear, so that when scary stuff happens it really bursts out. It’s real world settings, so the horror of possession hits us where we feel safest.
This Blu-ray really shows you the whole spectrum of what you can do in HD. Much of the film takes place in a dark house’s dark basement no less, but the Blu-ray allows the picture to be dark and still show the foreground clearly. Even when characters are driving on a dark road at night, the passengers are barely visible but are still lit on their journey.
Then you get some snowy plains like scenes out of Fargo, the movie or the TV show, take your pick. It can be bright white to the same intensity as it is dark. The behind the scenes feature is only about six minutes. It was an indie film, no time for a big crew, but director Ted Geoghegan and producer Travis Stevens talk for the whole film on a commentary telling you everything you need to know.
This new twist on the female heroine running through the woods has gorgeous cinematography that looks stunning on Blu-ray. The high definition keeps the blacks crisp and sharp, and the forest lighting silhouetted by a backlit source from beyond. There are some nice prelude shots during the first half of the film setting up the killers and the heroine (Abigail Breslin) that look beautiful too.