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Enjoy Halloween Titles on Blu Ray

Published October 28, 2008 in DVD News
By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders
Halloween Halloween
Blu Rays are coming out so rapidly now, it’s a good thing for collectors. In order to cover as man as possible, I’ve come up with a rating system to expedite and clarify my evaluations. I will describe Blu Rays as the following:

On Blu-Ray: Halloween Titles

Bad – This would mean you should just keep your DVD. Every once in a while, it just doesn’t even look like a Blu Ray.

Movie – This means the Blu Ray is an accurate preservation of the movie, looking like the original film material but nothing more. They just couldn’t quite bump it up.

Window – This means the Blu Ray looks so good it’s like a window to the film’s setting, be it modern, historical or fantasy. Most Blu Rays look like windows.

Portal – Every once in a while, a Blu Ray looks so good that it’s like the glass has been removed from the window and you’re looking straight in on the world of the movie, real or fantasy

Here are some Halloween relevant titles including new releases and catalog Blu Rays, in alphabetical order just to be fair.

Beetlejuice – Window. As you may have read in my full review, Beetlejuice preserves and enhances all the colors and craftsmanship of the surreal visual spectacle. It didn’t look this good when I saw it in theaters. It looks amazing now.

Carrie – Movie/Window – Like most older movies, they’ve just preserved Carrie to the optimal quality of the original film. You can see grain to confirm that it’s celluloid. However, there are a few scenes that border on window clarity. Sissy Spacek’s freckles are glorious in close-up. Some outdoor suburban streets are perfectly clear. Some gym class scenes are shiny and colorful with ‘70s activewear. DePalma uses some purposeful lighting. Nothing major, just some hellish reds or some blown out shower steam. Prom looks like a ‘70s home movie in tone, but at least 35mm quality. There are definite punctuations of color like the sparkly prom stage, shiny blood and fiery explosions that bump the quality up just slightly from a film experience.

Cloverfield – Window. Since Cloverfield was intended to look like home movie footage, they didn’t quite portal it up. But they achieved a realistic looking view of New York with realistic looking monster disaster happening as if it were all a day in the life of this douchebag with a camera.

Dawn of the Dead – Portal. The original George Romero Dawn has certain details that reveal its ‘70s filmmaking. The blood looks more like paint and there’s a certain color scheme, but the Blu Ray is a portal into this ‘70s zombie world. The settings aren’t colorful, mainly a dead mall and some project apartments and gas stations, so all the focus can be on clarity and details. Wide shots of stores and mall corridors remain in totally clear focus. You can tell the patterns of walls behind characters, the paint knots on mannequins and dust in fountain water. Of course there’s the unique gore of each zombie, often just unnatural skin makeup but sometimes puss bubbly and squib popping.

Sweeney Todd Sweeney Todd

Dawn of the Dead remake – Window. The 2004 zombie remake actually didn’t look quite as immediate as the original. However, it had a certain heightened aesthetic so perhaps that’s intentional. This mall was saturated with a tiny bit of grain sometimes and pushed fluorescent colors, but the HD clarity still looks like you’re just looking into that world.

Day of the Dead – Portal. Just like Romero’s Dawn, Day is perfectly clear. The set is all institutional so the detail is in the tile floor and the brick wall. There’s not much color except the zombies and blood, but somehow they’ve restored it soo well that I looks like you’re right there with them.

Diary of the Dead – Window. Romero’s newest zombie movie, shot in digital documentary style, is not 100% clear and certainly isn’t colorful. It looks like a real home video, as good as it can. It’s mostly dark or unlit interiors. Day scenes clear up with some autumn colors. Of course stock footage is blurry, but kills are bloody clear.

Evil Dead 2 – Portal. There’s no way this Blu Ray should look so good. Evil Dead 2 was shot in the words with 20 years ago. How did they restore it to supernatural clarity? Okay, a few shots just look like a window into the cabin, but that’s still surreal. Now you have a front row seat for Bruce Campbell’s hand scene and there is so much crusty detail. From the dirt caked on his face after being thrown through the woods to the debris scattered around the cabin, it all shows up on the Blu Ray.

The Eye – Window. The Jessica Alba remake looks like a perfectly clear modern movie. My favorite parts, the real life scenes of Sydney (Jessica Alba) adjusting to sighted life, look great. It’s all perfectly clear in various different settings from city streets to office space to Sydney’s apartment to Mexico. The ghostly visions just appear briefly in those settings while you can revel in the color and detail of the real world.

The Fly – Window. Well, every strand of frizzy ‘80s hair is distinct in the Blu Ray transfer of this classic. There is a tiny bit of natural grain but all the scenes are still clear. Brundle’s home is a good set with subtle colors apparent and crappy ‘80s furniture showing some crusty detail. You still can’t quite see Geena Davis’s side boob. You can appreciate all the details of Brundle’s transformation makeup and animatronics with shiny goo spots. You may even see a little bit of latex wrinkle, and the gross nuances of Jeff Goldblum’s gestures.

The Happening – Window. The latest M. Night Shyamalan thriller looks like most new movies do on Blu Ray. Standout details include Zooey Deschanel’s blue eyes. They’re nore quite Daniel Craig but they’re pretty. All the real people (not the movie stars) show details like peach fuzz, freckles and beauty marks up close, even Mark Wahlberg’s minor stubble. When Shyamalan stays at street level, you can see all the cracks. There’s not much to see in the fields. All the green blends together. The old house at the end has more distinct detail but mainly it’s all clear and new.

Halloween – Window. Rob Zombie’s remake has the clarity and detail of a brand new movie. The colors of young Michael’s clown mask pop. The gritty crust of his trashy home is pristine. Night scenes are clear in the limited light, sometimes with an aqua glow. The institution looks appropriately blah. The autumn suburbs are very orange. With the clarity of night scenes, you can now see all the levels of crusty shine on the bloody boobies Zombie filmed.

Land of the Dead – Window. Romero’s fourth zombie film holds up like all recent movies on Blu Ray. A lot of it happens at night so it takes advantage of Blu Ray’s ability to distinguish details in minutely variant lighting conditions. That’s a pretentious way of saying it looks really clear even though it’s dark.

Otis – Window. One thing going for Warner Bros. DVD premiere label is that these movies are shot for the format they are intended. Lost Boys: The Tribe looked great on Blu Ray, and Otis too looks perfectly clear with only occasional digital grain, because it’s digital all along. It’s full widescreen so you get the whole cinematic frame. The suburban settings look like real neighborhoods. Otis’s prison shows all the cracks in the old wallpaper, but Ashley Johnson’s hair remains golden in any light. You’ll also notice all the ugly details of Bostin Christopher’s title character, but it’s all for the art.

Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back – Window – This Warner DVD Premiere shows that they can stylize Blu Ray also. This one has a bit more grain on the open desert road, but that saturation makes the colors pop when they enter the scene. A nighttime shot has some bad grain too, probably had to artificially enhance it. The main aesthetic seems to be the surreal extreme desert colors. The bloody victims still have grotesque, clear details. Night scenes and interiors get crisper and clearer, and that’s when most of the gross stuff happens so

Saw – Movie/Window – Oh, my favorite Saw. I’d forgotten what a gritty experiment the original was. Since Saw IV as my very first Blu Ray, now I can really se how far they’ve come in four years. So there is grain, what looks like digital grain as if they tried to bump it up artificially. Well lit scenes show all the gross details of the bathroom, every chip, every dried fecal smear. Dark scenes look more like night vision. The Jigsaw killings actually look crisper. Perhaps the green tint hides some of the grain. Police station scenes and the Gordon family home look normal, but normal for Blu Ray so still better than standard DVD.

Saw II – Window. You can already see the difference from the opening Lionsgate logo on Saw II. Now they started to take these movies seriously. Settings are consistently clear from exteriors to green lit interiors. The game house is a tad grainier, but it sets it apart from the world of Jigsaw’s workshop. The room with the needle pit actually has a yellow light and it goes crisp. Still plenty of crusty detail all around. Closeups on Billy show all the hand crafted details of that doll. There are a few colors that pop, like the red of Jigsaw’s hood. It’s still mostly green though, and we like it that way. Returning to the bathroom this time shows it in clearer light and sharpness.

Saw III – Window/Portal. Somehow I’ve ended up watching Saw III more often than the others, so I’m pretty intimate with the details. The opening retelling of Det. Matthews’ fate exercises Blu Ray’s range of visibility in the darkness, with subtle degrees of vision from his tiny flashlight. The blood of the skin piercing traps is shinier and gooier. The green light of some trap scenes is deeper than the green of Jigsaw’s gurney room, distinguishing locations subtly. The main warehouse is blown out, but any grain you see there adds to the surreal setting. The blue of the freezing water trap makes you feel cold just looking at it, and the ice cocoon looks like real layers of frozen water. For details, that ground pig scene is bubbly and gooey. There are enough exploded heads and bodies to show off the fine prosthetic work of the crew, but Saw III seems to revel more in clear lighting patterns than gory details on Blu Ray.

The Sixth Sense – Window/Portal. I’m impressed with The Sixth Sense because some other M. Night Shyamalan Blu Rays are only Movies with hints of Windows at best. While the settings are all regular interiors, it looks like you’re really looking into these rooms. You’re not seeing film grain and somehow the depth of places, like church with the pews going back or the classroom with all the desks and the climactic traffic jam, makes it look three dimensional. The Philadelphia interiors all have certain old detail, like mildew on bathroom tiles or faded wall paint. The ghosts have startling details like subtle bruises of the battered wife or the raw burns of the old school victim. There are some bright reds like the church door, Cole’s blanket fort and the murdering mother’s red coat. There are also some gold stained glass or blue and purple balloons. I wish Unbreakable looked this good.

Sweeney Todd – Window. The opening shot of the boat is grainy, but once they get into the city, it’s all clear. The movie’s shades of blue and shadow hold up in HD clarity. A golden flashback contrasts that. There is detail in the stone walls, close ups of costumes and makeup, and decrepit, unkempt old time slims. Sacha Baron Cohen’s lavish costume shines and the red blood spray is like bright paint.

The Thing – Window/Portal. For such an old movie, John Carpenter’s The Thing looks shockingly good. It’s crisp and clear enough to see detail in the snowy exteriors and throughout the science station. All the alien stuff happening in that environment just looks all the more believable.

28 Days Later – Bad, but it’s supposed to. I always thought the digital video of 28 Days Later looked so bad, like blurry video tape, that it far outweighed the artistic intention of it. But, for people who loved it, it still looks like crap on Blu Ray. They didn’t touch it up for hi-def so it preserves the original aesthetic. All the colors are wrong because they’re supposed to be and any grit is softened.

28 Weeks Later – Window. Now this one was shot on film so it looks like new movies do on Blu Ray, though still heightened a little. It’s saturated so the colors are pushed past reality and most scenes are too shaky and choppy to see the details. Steady shots remain crisp over the city. The desolate London is not too colorful, so red and yellow Hazmat suits stick out. Some mob scenes are shot ultra grainy and overlit to add to the surreal chaos.

Young Frankenstein – Movie. Mel Brooks’ black and white spoof actually looks like the old Frankenstein movies with grainy footage. It works for the aesthetic of the film. There are even some minor scratches. Were those on purpose? It is still clear within all the grain and there are many shades of black and white. The dark scenes are still clear, as is Blu Ray’s specialty.

Zombie Strippers – Window. Some scenes inch into the portal zone but others fall back into the movie zone. Hey, it’s low budget. They made the strip club set look like a morbid fantasy land, but then expository locations are overlit to show grain. But of course unnaturally smooth boobies and gooey, crusty gore look great in HD.

The Omen series - Well, the remake looks like a window of course. It's a new movie so it's clear and bright. The original trilogy is just like well preserved film though. They have regular colors with a few pops and grainy outdoor scenes. Cities and interiors are a bit more clear but there are no standouts. Perhaps the clarity of Blu Ray highlights the old special effects, like you can totally tell the fake head in the famous decapitation scenes, but I think you always could. The elevator slice is more real but they could hide the body in the floor. Of course the remake is seamless CGI in its deaths. A few red lit scenes glow like hell.

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Fred Topel
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