Blu-Ray Review- It Follows
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Street Date: July 14th 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 100 Minutes
If you’re a regular reader of my site, you’ll know that I haven’t been too kind to modern Horror releases over the past decade. My upbringing in classic Horror, stylish slashers, and the likes of Craven and Carpenter set a precedent for the genre that most modern features just can’t come close to as far as originality or suspense. It Follows is the unique exception. David Robert Mitchell’s film evokes Carpenter’s Halloween in its simplicity and production design, but stands on its own as a unique entry for the genre. The dialogue and character dynamics between the teenagers is very natural, the plot is simplistic yet consistently engaging, and the cinematography is absolutely stunning. Did I mention the score from Disasterpeace? It’s simply one of the most memorable Horror scores in recent memory.
It Follows stars the lovely Maika Monroe (The Guest) as Jay; your typical girl-next-door in suburban Detroit. She’s an avid swimmer, loves spending time with her sister and friends, and has recently begun dating the charming Hugh. When the couple go on a date at the local movie theater, an innocent game between the two becomes awkward when Hugh begins to have visions of a woman whom no one else can see. Their next date gets off to a better start, with Jay and Hugh making love in the backseat of his car. Once again, things become awkward when Hugh incapacitates Jay with chloroform immediately after sex. Jay soon wakes up in an abandoned parking garage as Hugh terrifyingly explains that a supernatural entity has been following him. It can take form in the shape of a stranger in a crowd or someone you know. This unfortunate curse moves slowly, but will always catch up to you sooner or later, and the only way to get rid of the curse is to have sex with someone, thereby passing it on to them (as Hugh as just done to Jay).
I won’t spoil the rest of the film as I’m hoping the above outline is enough to entice you. It Follows features fine performances from a talented cast that make their characters relatable and the ensuing chaos that much more terrifying. That’s not to say the film is without flaws. The “creepy” factor is high here, but genuine scares are somewhat light. The filmmaker’s decision to allow the entity to embody anybody certainly looks good on paper, but it also allows the fear factor to fluctuate accordingly depending on the resulting form (i.e. the tall man contrasted with an elderly woman). Nevertheless, It Follows is full of style and suspense from beginning to end, resulting in a modern day Horror entry that stands out among the rest.
The beautiful high definition image on display truly captures the gorgeous cinematography at work! Black levels are inky and deep, colors pop, and clarity is crystal clear. Everything from the suburban Detroit neighborhood’s green grasses and brick-lined houses to the film’s more gory deep red blood splatter moments offer up pristine video quality on Blu-Ray. Outstanding!
This 5.1 DTS-HD track is equally as impressive, bringing the movie to full life throughout your home theater system. The brooding and suspenseful tone works incredibly well across all channels, making for the perfect home viewing experience. Dialogue always comes through crisp and clean, and the phenomenal score from Disasterpeace envelops the viewer completely.
Anchor Bay Entertainment has provided fans of It Follows with some light but overall solid special features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Critics Commentary– Hosted by Scott Weinberg (Nerdist) and featuring call-in guests like Samuel D. Zimmerman of Shock Till You Drop and Eric Vespe of Aint It Cool News (among many others), this unique commentary acts gives viewers some nice background information on the film itself as well as some interesting impressions that the film left with these critics. It’s a bit unconventional, but engaging, nonetheless.
- A Conversation with Film Composer Disasterpeace- This one runs nearly 5 minutes and features the composer discussing his work on It Follows, how he became involved in the production, and his intention of bringing the right eerie elements together to strike the appropriate tone.
- Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for the film runs just over 2 minutes and gives viewers a brief glimpse into the subtle genius of the film.
- Poster Art Gallery- Various artists from around the world provide their artwork from the film’s theatrical release campaign. There are some fun and interesting artistic impressions at work here.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Anchor Bay Entertainment features the original theatrical poster design for It Follows. I personally love the non-traditional design with Jay making out with Hugh in the backseat of the car. The foggy background surrounding the pair along with the woodland setting is subtle and really evokes a creepy atmosphere. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis for the film, a short list of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills. On the interior of the case are the Blu-Ray disc and the Ultraviolet Digital copy code.
David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows evokes John Carpenter’s Halloween in its genius simplicity and outstanding production design, but stands on its own as a truly unique entry in the Horror genre. The film features fine performances from a talented cast that make their characters relatable and the ensuing chaos that much more terrifying. The Blu-Ray edition from Anchor Bay Entertainment exhibits outstanding video and audio quality, and though the special features are somewhat light, they’re informative for fans nonetheless. It Follows is full of style and suspense from beginning to end, resulting in a modern day Horror entry that stands out among the rest, and comes highly recommended.
Blu-Ray Review- Dracula Untold
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Street Date: February 3rd 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Ever since my father introduced me to Universal’s 1931 Dracula (starring the legendary Bela Lugosi), I have been enthralled by the undead romanticism of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire. There is an eternal enchantment the original film leaves with the viewer, begging to be watched time and time again. Other iterations of the source material have proved successful and enjoyable as well, such as Hammer Films’ series starring the commanding Christopher Lee, as well as Universal’s 1979 reboot starring Frank Langella. In addition, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 screen version of the novel exhibited wonderful special effects, fine performances, and beautifully gothic set design.
As you may be able to discern, in my eyes, Dracula has had a pretty good track record on the big screen. It was with that mindset that I walked into Universal’s latest reboot Dracula Untold with an open mind. Unfortunately, this film has to be one of the most ridiculously awful adaptations of the character that one will ever witness.
In Dracula Untold, Luke Evans portrays Vlad the Impaler (Vlad III Tepes), the reigning Prince of Transylvania who once was a child slave and subsequent legendary warrior of the Turkish Empire. Vlad now enjoys a relatively simple life with his beautiful wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and kindhearted son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), but worries that the Turks may someday call upon him to fight again. Soon Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper), his once childhood friend and current ruler of the Turks, orders 1,000 Transylvanian boys to fight alongside his armies. Vlad’s dedication to his people, knowledge of the life of enslavement, and love for his son moves him enough to refuse Mehmed’s orders, beginning a war where Vlad’s people are far outnumbered. Fearing for his people and the safety of his family, Vlad ventures onto a nearby mountain to seek out the Master Vampire (Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance), the only man who can give him the power of 1,000 men and the curse of eternal life.
The problems with the film are numerous, and it’s a shame, because with a different script entirely, Luke Evans would have made a fabulous Dracula. In fact, his portrayal given the material is quite good. The problem lies within the execution of the film entirely, and makes one wonder why the filmmaker’s thought that Dracula’s backstory was the most interesting aspect of the iconic literary figure. The medieval European setting serves as a backdrop for numerous epic clashes between Dracula and the Turks, echoing Lord of the Rings or Excalibur more than anything associated with Bram Stoker’s creation.
With that being said, the first half of the film is somewhat watchable, but I kept waiting for the filmmakers to jump forward a few hundred years to Carfax Abby. Sadly that moment never happens. Instead the remaining time is filled with cringe-inducing dialogue, utterly predictable plot turns, and battles that offer little to wow the viewer. Dracula Untold is the definition of miscalculation, a film that shows little respect to the source material and assumes that the audience cared to see a feature length origin story of a character that is far more interesting in a more modern setting.
Though I obviously didn’t care for the film itself, this Blu-Ray edition from Universal Pictures features outstanding video quality with deep black levels, plenty of impressive clarity and fine object detail, and a stylized color scheme that looks gorgeous in High Definition.
Same goes for the 5.1 DTS-HD audio track, which regularly balances dialogue, the clang and clash of swordplay, and the score from with precision and power, making for a wonderful home audio experience.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has provided fans of Dracula Untold with a nice array of bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Commentary- Director Gary Shore and Production Designer Francois Audouy sit down to discuss the film in depth. I appreciate their dedication to various aspects of the film (costumes, design, etc.), but would have loved to hear more of the “why” behind their decision involving the origins of this character.
- Luke Evans: Creating a Legend- This nearly 20 minute featurette has Luke Evans discussing various scenes from the film. As I stated in my review above, I thought Mr. Evans’ portrayal of Dracula was fine, but would have been better served with a different storyline in tow. Hopefully any potential sequel will allow him to sink his fangs into a more traditional version of Stoker’s tale.
- Alternate Opening- A romantic alternate opening to the film, which would have provided slightly more insight into the love between Vlad and Mirena.
- Deleted Scenes- Roughly 13 minutes worth of deleted scenes from the film. I’m not sure their inclusion would have made it any better, but fans of the film may find these interesting.
- Day in the Life: Luke Evans- Nearly ten minutes of Luke Evan’s days on set, from the actor prepping in the early morning to discussing various aspects of the story on set.
- Dracula Retold- Some insight into the history behind the film.
- Slaying 1,000- A roughly 5-minute behind-the-scenes look at the first battle of the film, where Luke Evans takes on the army of Turks storming Castle Dracula.
- The Land of Dracula- An interactive map that includes various short featurettes on specific locations utilized in the film.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Universal Studios Home Entertainment features a nice glossy finish, embossed title, and the theatrical poster art featuring Evans’ Dracula in battle mode. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a brief plot synopsis, a list of bonus features, technical specifications, and details regarding the Blu-Ray exclusives featured on this release. On the interior of the packaging are two fairly plain discs for the Blu-Ray and DVD as well as the Ultraviolet Digital Copy Code insert. Collectors may want to note that Walmart will be selling a Steelbook exclusive edition with some fancier artwork.
Dracula Untold is a ridiculous venture into the origin story of Bram Stoker’s iconic character that pays little respect to the source material, offering up cringe-inducing dialogue, tired and bloated battle scenes, and predictable plot turns that do little to aid this gross miscalculation. The good news here is that the Blu-Ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment features a very solid video and audio presentation along with some decent special features. If you somehow enjoy this unnecessary and cheap exploration of a character that is much more interesting in modern times, the technical specifications and features will be a bonus to your purchase. Personally, I need a Lugosi and Lee marathon to rid my mouth of the awful taste that Dracula Untold left me with. Skip this one, at all costs.
DVD Review- Exists
Street Date: February 3rd 2015
Technical Specifications: 480P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
Runtime: 81 Minutes
If there is one mythical creature that has yet to be properly translated to celluloid, Bigfoot is certainly it. There is a great Sasquatch movie out there just waiting to be made, trust me, and someday someone will come up with an ingenious way to transfer the legend to the screen. The only one (for me at least) that has ever come close was Hammer Films’ 1957 production of The Abominable Snowman. But Bigfoot aficionados would rightfully argue that the creature depicted in that film is not the same North American Bigfoot creature that myth hunters are craving to be utilized on the big screen.
With Exists, Eduardo Sanchez (co-director of The Blair Witch Project) has crafted yet another (sigh) found footage film, and much like last year’s Willow Creek, it fails to draw the viewer into the story in any way, shape, or form. You know these characters because you’ve seen them time and time again in other (often better) Horror films; a couple of jocks, the stoner videographer, and the free-spirit girls who venture deep into the woods for a weekend of fun, sex, and drugs. Of course almost immediately our little crew is in trouble, having hit some kind of animal on the road to their Uncle’s cabin. They’re not sure what exactly it is at first, but the subsequent nights of terror that follow not so subtly indicate it was a Bigfoot. The ensuing terror is captured via go-pro cameras and handheld camcorders…leaving the viewer to wonder on several occasions why the pursued twenty-something’s keep turning around to get a better look at the beast that follows. The gang is endlessly stalked by the creature, and when it smashes their car to pieces, it appears they’ll be on their own to battle the fearsome Sasquatch.
Exists isn’t completely devoid of memorable moments, with a go-pro tracked chase between the creature and one of our protagonists on a bike standing out as a tense and exciting sequence. The creature effects and makeup are a bit on the cheap side, but decent enough for a film in this budget range. I, for one, am simply tired of the found footage genre and the repetitive tedious formula they seem to follow, and Exists simply doesn’t impress enough to warrant any repeat viewings (some may argue a single viewing would be too much). It doesn’t help that the acting and dialogue is near laughable at times, in addition to the aforementioned fact that us Horror fans have seen this film before: just swap out the creature with (insert generic monster here) and you’ve experienced Exists.
This DVD edition from Lionsgate features decent video quality for a DVD presentation that I’m not sure would have benefitted all that much from an HD upgrade (given the shaky cam found footage style). Like any standard definition experience, the clarity isn’t top notch, but the colors are accurately portrayed and it’s a clean enough print.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track included herein is likely the standout aspect on this release. You may be fooled enough into thinking this was a lossless HD experience as it simply sounds wonderful on your home theater setup. The Sasquatch’s cries in the night and surrounding crackling footsteps in the woods work very well to enhance the jump-scare experience (in the handful of moments this film has).
Lionsgate has provided potential buyers of Exists with select bonus features to accompany this DVD release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary- This audio commentary features Director Eduardo Sanchez and Writer Jamie Nash and offers viewers some insight into the making of the film.
- Deleted Scenes– Six deleted scenes are presented here for fans of the film, though beware, you may feel slightly betrayed by the misleading titles. The “alternate ending” is nothing more than the same ending of the film with a different font style for the film’s title…not sure that counts guys! The only one worth watching here is the end of credits Easter egg, which is interesting enough.
- 21 Days in the Woods: Behind the Scenes of Exists– This 30 minute documentary is split into three parts and features the cast and crew in various behind-the-scenes moments from the film. From setting up stunt shots and makeup effects, this half hour is more engaging than the movie itself unfortunately.
- Bringing Bigfoot to Life- A roughly 10 minute featurette detailing the concept design of the creature himself. The original WETA concept drawings are insanely cool, which is a slight bummer as the final product doesn’t quite resemble anything we’re shown (I’m guessing for budgetary reasons).
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this DVD edition of Exists from Lionsgate features some very atmospheric artwork featuring Bigfoot, the blue moonlit fog, and the smashed-up car from the film. I’ll give it to Lionsgate, the poster art here really made me interested in seeing the film. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a brief plot synopsis, a list of special features, cast and crew credits, and some technical specifications. The interior of the case features artwork on the disc that mimics the cover art as well as a Digital HD copy code insert.
There is certainly a great Bigfoot movie out there just waiting to be made…unfortunately, Exists isn’t it. I’ve grown quite tired of the found footage genre and the repetitive, tedious formula they all seem to follow. Between the laughable acting and dialogue, unimpressive creature design, and a 90-minute show that feels like 3 hours, Exists simply doesn’t impress enough to warrant any repeat viewings. The DVD edition from Lionsgate features decent SD picture quality and impressive 5.1 audio, and fans of the film may enjoy the insight that the special features bring. Unfortunately features and standout audio aren’t enough to recommend the disappointing main attraction. Skip this one.
DVD Review- Wolf Creek 2
Distributor: Image/RLJ Entertainment
Street Date: June 24th 2014
Technical Specifications: 480P, Color, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
Runtime: 106 Minutes
Releasing in 2005, the first Wolf Creek film was very loosely based on the horrific “backpacker murders” that took place in New South Wales, Australia in the 1990’s. Ivan Milat, the killer in which “Mick Taylor” is based on, is currently serving seven consecutive life sentences for each of his victims. The first film kept my interest with its slow-build terror and eventual nightmarish realism. It was a hard piece of horror cinema to stomach, drenched in hopelessness and despair, but incredibly well filmed and realized on screen. Though some equated it at the time to the mindless “torture gore” genre, I felt it was elevated by a genuinely creepy style and solid performances from a newcomer cast.
In Wolf Creek 2, Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) kicks off the mayhem almost immediately, this time killing a pair of jerk policeman in his usual brutal style (paired with some eye-rolling one-liners). Our main story begins with a German couple backpacking through rural Australia in hopes of reaching the infamous Wolf Creek crater. After reaching their destination and setting up camp for the night, Mick Taylor tracks the happy couple down, with the female seeking help from British tourist Paul (Ryan Corr). After some standard brutal dispatching courtesy of Mick, Paul is on the run from the crazed Aussie in very unfamiliar territory: the outback.
While I did appreciate the prolonged slow-build first act, as well as the Psycho-style protagonist switch, Wolf Creek 2 is a disappointment, and if we’re being honest here, a fairly run-of-the-mill slasher sequel. John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor has become the zinger-slinging Freddy Krueger of this franchise, and this story runs out of steam far too soon. The gore is downright unbearable at moments, and the creepy style of the first film is absent, replaced by chord shriek “jump scares” and somewhat laughable practical effects. This is a series that has clearly run its course.
The DVD presentation from Image/RLJ Entertainment is respectable for the format, though it’s not High Definition, the golden-hued color timing looks accurate, and there are no obvious anomalies to the presentation itself.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track included here, while not HD audio, is quite impressive. The subtle musical score (along with the not-so-subtle peaks) are presented in dynamic fashion, and dialogue always comes through clean and clear.
Image and RLJ Entertainment have provided fans of Wolf Creek 2 with a couple of bonus features for this DVD release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Butcher’s Cut: Deleted Scenes- I was surprised to find nearly 24 minutes of deleted scenes included here from the filmmakers. From a group of backpackers relaxing in a hostel to a downright disgusting moment where Mick dismembers a corpse, there’s a lot of random creepiness included here.
- Creating a Monster: The Making of Wolf Creek 2– This nearly feature-length documentary runs over 52 minutes and covers all bases: sequel conception, preproduction, storyboarding, filming, etc. The length is impressive, but I found this entire endeavor to be rather tedious. John Jarratt does provide some interesting thoughts on his character (as a father and family man, the role was tough to tackle), and the practical effects design discussion was entertaining.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, Image/RLJ’s DVD release features a nice slipcover with a matte finish and embossed lettering on the title. On the reverse you’ll find a list of special features, a plot synopsis, and technical specifications. Inside you’ll find the DVD edition for the film. Image and RLJ’s PR department was kind enough to send along a pack of Wolf Creek 2 postcards as well (pictured below).
Though I appreciated the first film, Wolf Creek 2 is a repetitive, run-of-the-mill slasher sequel, with John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor becoming the zinger-slinging Freddy Krueger of the franchise. The first film featured a slow-build story that was genuinely terrifying, but this sequel suffers from a repetitive plot and uninteresting characters, among other issues. The good news is that this DVD release from Image/RLJ Entertainment features decent video and audio for the format, and some truly impressive features for fans. While the disc is fine, this sequel left me scratching my head. Some films are better left as stand-alone experiences.