This is a somewhat light week for Blu-ray releases, as far as quantity goes. In regards to quality, though, it is a pretty spectacular week. We have a Scream Factory release of a film once thought to be lost forever, and one of the most anticipated releases from Grindhouse since they started releasing Blu-ray. Also worth noting are releases of Afflicted by SONY, which is an eerily effective found-footage vampire film, and the complete first season of SyFy’s original show HELIX. I realize that there are probably other titles hitting the shelves today, but this is both what I feel is worthy of your dollars, and the titles that I was sent to talk to you about. The summer releases are starting to heat up, and next week is pretty great as well.
The Final Terror (Scream Factory)
Any week that includes a Scream Factory release could be considered a good week. This particular Scream factory release is of a film that has long eluded me. I’ve been aware of its existence, but never managed to actually acquire and consume it. Now that I’ve had that chance, I wish I had tracked it down before, so that I would have a frame of reference to compare the video and audio presentations to. From what I understand, The Final Terror was considered a “lost” film, and since it was a bucket list title, Scream Factory acquired several different sources in order to spruce it up, and splice together a master cut of the film. The Final Terror is not going to appeal to everyone, as in a lot of ways, it very much shows its age. However, if you like classic horror cinema – especially from the eighties – and/or movies about people lost in the woods and being hunted by an unknown force, this will probably be a disc you want in your collection.
One of the first things to note is, compared to some other Blu-rays under the Scream Factory banner, The Final Terror does look pretty rough at points. However, like I explained above, all of the original elements were lost, and Scream Factory put this release together by acquiring 6 different prints of the film from private collectors, and put together a Frankenstein release from those elements. With that in mind, it’s not only spectacular that The Final Terror is being released to Blu-ray in the first place, but it actually looks extremely well for what it is. Often times the picture is very sharp. Only sometimes – mostly in extremely dark scenes – does the PQ get a little rough. I honestly believe that most labels wouldn’t even have touched this title, due to the complicated nature of bringing it to the format. But, Scream Factory treated this as a bucket-list title, and now we have a Blu-ray release of a film most people assumed would never even make it to DVD.
The Final Terror finally makes its way to home video via Scream Factory, featuring a newly-sourced scan, with an AVC encoded 1080p video presentation in 1.78:1, and a DTS-HD 2.0 mono Master Audio track for the audio presentation. It features some extras, such as all-new interviews with cast and crew, and an audio commentary with director Andrew Davis. Those in-the-know should be aware of how special a release like this is. Scream Factory went above-and-beyond to bring us a title that was previously thought to be lost forever. Being from a director that brought us a couple of popular films like Under Siege and The Fugitive, and a cast of familiar faces, The Final Terror has the capability of appealing to casual horror fans. What this release actually is, though, is a must-own for serious film collectors. We don’t get a lot of Blu-ray releases of films that are thought to be lost, so when it does happen, we need to make a big deal about it, and treat it as the truly special occasion that it is. Show Scream Factory that genre fans greatly appreciate things like this, by going to theirwebsite, and purchasing a copy of the Blu-ray for yourself. It is available starting today.
- New Audio Commentary with director Andrew Davis
- New interviews with actors Adrian Zmed and Lewis Smith, Post Production Supervisor Allan Holzman and composer Susan Justin
- Original Theatrical Trailer
Another release worth mentioning is SONY’s Blu-ray release of Afflicted. Afflicted is a film that I previously had no interest in seeing, as I’m about found-footaged to death. But, at the eleventh hour, a recommendation from Doc Terror himself, James Harris, led to my increased interest, and ultimately asking for SONY to send me a Blu-ray to review. After the explanation I was given, I had all kinds of expectations for Afflicted, and in an lot of ways it delivered. I will admit that the film wasn’t the way I expected, and/or wanted it to be, but it was still a great little film nonetheless. I don’t know what I wanted it to be, in all honesty. I heard several comparisons to Blair Witch, so my mind wandered, imagining what the Blair Witch Project would be like with vampires. I don’t know if i expected it to be a group of friends lost in the woods, and hunted and killed by blood sucking freaks, or what. Had it been that, I probably would have chalked Afflicted up to a derivative waste of time, because we are currently bombarded with Blair Witch clones to begin with. Thankfully, Afflicted takes its own path, and delivers a smaller-scale, but highly effective and far more intimate story. This isn’t about a horde of vampires, stalking unsuspecting prey deep in the woods, this is the story about one man – traveling the globe – who has a one-night-stand that ends with him being infected with the vampire virus. The rest of the film documents his transformation, and it is often times extremely haunting.
I honestly think my wife enjoyed this movie more than I did, which is saying something, because I thought it was really well done. She does enjoy the found footage movies quite a bit more than I do, though, and we’ve been burned lately with garbage like Devil’s Due. In comparison to recently released films of its type, Afflicted stands tall as the more effective found footage title. There is a period of time that passes after the main character is bitten, thus turning him into a vampire, where he is coherent to the point that an onlooker would think nothing was wrong with him. This makes his transformation to the beast that he becomes even more heartbreaking, as his traveling companion and documentary filmmaker witnesses his friend become a complete ghoul. I think what makes this so much better than something like Devil’s Due, is that it delivers what it promises, rather than pussyfooting around. Our lead actually turns into a vampire, and vampires have to feed. This isn’t an action movie, rich with hand-to-hand combat, and an epic final battle. This is a quiet little film that takes its time, makes you care about the two main characters, then pulls the rug out from underneath your feet as it destroys everything you’ve learned to love about the two.
This, as I stated before, is a found footage film, so you can’t really expect an expertly photographed film with gorgeous landscape shots or long-takes. For what it is, the Blu-ray is a more than competent representation of the film. The picture is sharp and detailed, even though you do get the bouncing camera situation you normally run into with these types of films. I know some of you get motion sickness fairly easily, and I can report to you that Afflicted is much easier on the eyes than something like Cloverfield, where I witnesses people puking in the theaters with my own eyes due to the rapid movement of the camera. The Blu-ray features an AVC encoded 1080p transfer of the film in 1.85:1, and a 5.1 DTS-HD MA English language audio track, and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track. There are actually a few quality extras on the disc, such as a behind-the-scenes featurette, an examination of one of the bigger stunt scenes in the film, as well as some deleted scenes.
Helix: The Complete First Season (SONY)
Helix is a new show on SyFy that just ended its first season, and has been renewed for a second. Helix is a viral outbreak show, in the style of something like 28 Days Later, but done from a scientific standpoint. We have covered this show in detail on our DEADtime TV column, so if you would like an extensive, episode-by-episode review of the show, you can get that by clicking here. As for my personal opinion on the show, it started out strong, and started to get weak towards the middle of the second half of the season. I feel as if there is a lot of potential here, but not all of it was realized in this first incarnation of the show. That’s okay, though, as lots of shows have season one hiccups. Whether or not they can get back on-track in season two remains to be seen, but they have the potential to do so. All of the elements are there, even if it still very much feels like a SyFy show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you dig what SyFy does, and this is certainly a higher caliber of quality than their original monster movies. Something about the way it is filmed, or lit, I don’t even know, it just has the SyFy stamp all over it. I did enjoy what I saw, though, and i think there are some great actors involved. I just hope they can pick the pace back up when they return from break, and fully render all of the potential that lurks within.
The Blu-ray release from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is definitely the best possible way for you to watch this show. Yes it is broadcast in high definition as it airs, but if you know anything about the Blu-ray format, you know that it can render a higher level fo bitrate than what you get on TV. Also, you definitely don’t get the DTS sound experience on the TV, and you would be surprised what a difference that makes. The Blu-ray features a 1080p AVC encoded transfer presented in 1.78:1. The audio is presented in form of a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. There aren’t exactly a wealth of extras on the disc, but select episode do have cast and crew commentaries, and there are several featurettes covering things that range from the characters, to the writing of specific episodes, some deleted scenes and outtakes. There are two Blu-ray exclusive extras called Writing the Tension, and Fabricating the Plague. The Blu-ray also comes with an ULTRAVIOLET code for the entire season, if that is something that would prove useful to you. If you would like to purchase a copy of the first season of Helix for yourself, you can do so by clicking here.
Cannibal Holocaust (Grindhouse Releasing)
This is the release that we’ve been waiting for. Ever since Grindhouse Releasing started putting titles out in the Blu-ray format, there were two titles that they released on DVD that fans just knew would be coming to Blu-ray soon. Those titles would be Cannibal Holocaust, and Pieces. Cannibal Holocaust, probably being the more important release between the two. The day is finally here, and holy hell what a release this is. Even if you’re not a fan of the movie itself, this is such an impressive Blu-ray release that it deserves to be on your shelf regardless. Why can’t all releases be as nice as a Grindhouse Releasing release? For the type of film they release, everything from the content to the packaging is miles beyond almost all of their competitors. Cannibal Holocaust may be one of the most disturbing releases they’ve put to the Blu-ray format, but it is absolutely gorgeous, both in physical presentation, as well as the actual PQ/AQ. The slipcover holding the guts of the release is one of the most gorgeously haunting slipcovers from any Blu-ray release. As far as the film goes, though, it still remains every bit as haunting as it has ever been.
I know a lot of people have some valid problems with this film, because it features real animals being killed and eaten in several scenes, but to me, this still remains one of the absolute most effective “found footage” style movies that I’ve ever seen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone animal cruelty in any way, but my conviction towards keeping entertainment censorship-free supersedes that belief. No animals are being killed with the purchase of this Blu-ray. It has already happened, and has already been filmed. It even comes with an “Animal Cruelty-Free” version, for those with such strong convictions that they can’t bring themselves to watch the film. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important genre films ever made. So many films have been made to try and mimic the style and tone of Cannibal Holocaust, and all of them have failed. From the opening moments of the film, when the beautiful soundtrack by Riz Ortolani(which is included in the package) kicks in, you know you’re going to be in for something special. This is one of the very few films that leave me feeling so haunted after the credits have rolled. This, and The Last House On The Left are two films that make me question who I am as a person. It is a profound experience, to say the least.
This Blu-ray is not only physically impressive, but it is also remarkable in regards to both picture and sound quality. I have Grindhouse’s DVD release of the film here for comparison, and popped it in for a few minutes after I watched the Blu-ray, just for frame of reference. The Blu-ray is noticeably better than even the upscaled Grindhouse DVD release. A lot of people question the necessity of an HD version of these old movies, but to those people I’d suggest that they haven’t watched many classic films on the format. It doesn’t matter how old the film, so long as the scan isn’t botched, every Blu-ray release of a classic film looks and sounds better than its DVD counterpart. Cannibal Holocaust is no exception. This may be one of the most impressive classic film restorations of the entire year. It still retains that gritty and grimy look that the film has become known for, but it does so with a gorgeous level of detail and popping colors. Grindhouse Releasing’s Blu-ray release of Cannibal Holocaust is HIGHLY recommended. This is one of the best Blu-ray releases of 2014 so far, so be sure to click here to pick your copy up.