Best Blu-ray & 4K UHD horror movies from Addams Family to Zombieland
WASHINGTON: With Halloween nearly upon us, Count Zad offers a few Blu-ray and 4K UHD (ultra-high-definition) Horror Movies suggestions for this frightful season.
The Shining (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated R, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 144 minutes, $41.99) —
The late Stanley Kubrick’s supernatural masterpiece debuts in UHD to cinematically expose home theater viewers to an intense adaptation of one of Stephen King’s most popular books.
The movie chronicles Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) descent into madness, fueled by his serving as a winter caretaker at the haunted and isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
His wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd), who has telepathic abilities and can sense paranormal phenomena, come along for the fun, and both act as Jack’s potential victims.
Viewers will marvel at the screen-filling clarity and sharp colors of the new 4K scan built from the original 35mm camera negative that reportedly involved Steven Spielberg’s guidance.
Besides appreciating Mr. Nicholson’s eyebrows (that take on a life of their own), the 2160p truly powers a scene set in the hotel’s massive outdoor, foliage-covered maze that eventually turns into a snowy trap and during the ending gets contrasted against the famed blood flood elevator scene.
An information-packed optional commentary track from the 2007 Blu-ray release leads the way, starring inventor of the Steadicam (used extensively in the shoot) Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter.
Next, pop in the Blu-ray for a trio of archival segments on the production including a 30-minute documentary on the making of “The Shining” by Kubrick’s daughter Vivian.
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She spends plenty of time with Mr. Nicholson, the director and other actors offering a much more intimate portrait of the shoot. Her optional commentary track on the piece makes it even more insightful.
Zombieland: 10th Anniversary Edition (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 88 minutes, $30.99) —
Director Ruben Fleischer’s amusing as well as highly entertaining post-apocalyptic classic from 2009 debuts on UHD to deliver a treat to fans of the undead.
A group of misfits — Twinkie-loving Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), dorky Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and con sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — band together to survive in an America overrun by aggressive zombies.
That’s about all viewers need to know in this extreme road trip movie except watch for a special appearance by a sarcastic Ghostbuster living in his palatial Hollywood mansion.
And remember, as Columbus reminds us all trying to survive a zombie infestation, keep up with the cardio, limber up, wear seatbelts and travel light.
The 2160p shines at the worst possible moments when visually imbibing the rotting, blood-spewing, marrow-sucking, flesh-eating, goo-gushing and brain-munching collection of undead ghouls that harass our heroes and infect home entertainment screens.
For the anniversary, the original actors get together and spend around 8 minutes answering questions from fans and talking about the old movie as well as the new sequel “Zombieland: Double Tap” and even introducing an exclusive clip.
Also on the 4K disc, a pair of featurettes cover the director walking viewers through the opening slow-motion zombies attack title sequence and a more rounded look at the production.
The included Blu-ray version of the film also offers a bunch of extras from the 2010 disc release including a picture-in-picture track loaded with interviews and an indispensable optional commentary track with Mr. Fleischer, Mr. Harrelson Mr. Eisenberg and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
The Omen Collection: Deluxe Edition (Shout! Factory, Rated R, 2.35:1 and 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 525 minutes, $79.97) —
For the first time, the definitive cinematic chronicle of the rise of the anti-Christ arrives in a five-film collection in the high-definition format.
The slipcased boxed package includes “The Omen” (1976), “Damien: Omen II” (1978), “The Final Conflict” (1981), “The Omen IV: The Awakening” (1991) and “The Omen 666” (2006).
However, the clear classic of the bunch is the first movie starring distinguished actors Gregory Peck (Ambassador Robert Thorn) and Lee Remick (Katherine Thorn) as the parents of that innocent devil-in-the-making Damien Thorn (played creepily by 4-year-old Harvey Spencer Stephens).
That film gets a crisp, color-corrected 4K restoration from the original camera negative approved by director Richard Donner that brings all of the gruesome deaths to brutally realistic life.
Although viewers do not get an upgrade to the sound mix, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is still potent and brings composer Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting musical score (an Academy Award-winning effort) to the forefront as it heavy-handedly complements the action.
Shout! Factory offers fans of the franchise a treasure chest of digital goodies led by new, current interviews with the cast and admirers accessed on most of the Blu-ray discs.
They include a 23-minute frank discussion with screenwriter David Seltzer (on “The Omen”), 13 minutes with Holly Palance (the hanging nanny), 16 minutes with Lee Grant (Ann Thorn), 16 minutes with Robert Foxworth (Thorn Industries manager Paul Buher), 26 minutes with Elizabeth Shephard (investigative reporter Joan Hart) and a 19-minute appreciation of Goldsmith by composer Christopher Young.
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Other new stuff offers an optional commentary track on the first three films with historian Scott Michael Bosco and a look at some behind-the-scenes photos with Miss Shephard for the second film.
More vintage extras include a trio of optional commentary tracks (with a pair from Mr. Donner) on the first film as well as a 46-minute documentary on “The Omen,” a 100-minute documentary of “The Omen” franchise (narrated by Jack Palance) and a 22-minute History Channel feature on the demonic overtones of the No. 666.
An American Werewolf in London: Limited Edition (Arrow Video, Rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 97 minutes, $49.95) —
One of my family’s staples for every Halloween season, director John Landis’ 1981 horror-comedy brilliantly offered the definitive example of a man turning into a wolf.
The movie is back on Blu-ray but with a fresh high-definition presentation culled from a new 4K scan and restored from the original camera negative (supervised by Mr. Landis no less).
Viewers quickly learn of the woeful fate of David Kessler (David Naughton) and his pal Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) while they are backpacking across Europe.
While in the moors of Yorkshire, they run into a werewolf that kills Jack but just nibbles on David. A full moon in London leads to David’s descent into wolfdom while his rotting friend stands by counseling him on how to get out of his predicament.
The blood and gore have never looked more disgusting, especially watching Jack rot, and I highly recommended watching David’s incredible, Academy Award-winning transformation into a werewolf over and over again via this visually superior version of the film.
What’s offered in this cardboard, slipcased, illustrated package is truly fitting for this lycanthropic classic.
Let’s start with a pair of feature-length documentaries (averaging 90 minutes each). One created for the release by filmmaker Daniel Griffith covers werewolves in cinema, focused on Universal Studios’ famed Wolf Man franchise, while the other (released in 2009) offers a definitive look at the film hosted by Paul Davis.
That’s pretty much enough for most viewers, but Arrow Video keeps the extras rolling with more new featurettes such as an optional commentary track with Mr. Davis, a video essay by filmmaker Jon Spira on the Jewish identity influence of the film, a look at some of the surviving props and a recent interview with Mr. Landis.
More archival extras from the 2009 Blu-ray release include an optional commentary track with Mr. Naughton and Mr. Dunne and two featurettes with make-up effects designer Rick Baker, to name just a few goodies.
Also, added in the package, is a 60-page color booklet presenting stills; essays on the movie from film historian Craig Ian Mann, author Simon Ward and writer Jordan R. Fox; and three vintage reviews of the film.
What, not enough? Arrow Video also tosses in six double-sided, full-color, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions and a double-sided, full-color, fold-out poster (16 inches by 20 inches) highlighting one of the movie posters and the package’s detailed artwork from British illustrator Graham Humphreys.
Pan’s Labyrinth (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 106 minutes, $41.99) —
Winner of three Academy Awards, creator Guillermo Del Toro’s 2006 dark masterpiece gets realized in the 4K format to further enhance an already stunning visual achievement in cinema.
Taking viewers back to 1944 during Francisco Franco’s Spanish dictatorship, the haunting and heartbreaking fairy tale explores a young girl Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) surviving the horrors of war and a brutal stepfather by living in a fantasy world filled with magical and creepy creatures.
By far, the scariest is a child-eating, monstrous humanoid nicknamed the pale man, truly one of the strangest in the history of cinema.
Presented in the director’s native Spanish language, with English subtitles available, the verbal barrier is inconsequential as Mr. Del Toro’s impeccable eye for detail and the macabre transcends language.
Saturated colors for the 4K’s high dynamic tweaks nearly transform Oscar-winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro’s arresting muted landscapes into full-screen paintings, while the added crispness to imagery offers both a violently vicious and jaw-dropping beautiful world.
The 4K disc offers an optional commentary track with the director while the included Blu-ray version of the film offers an enhanced visual commentary in a picture-in-picture format also with the director (revealing many behind-the-scenes, production moments and artwork).
Watching both as well as inspecting pages of sketches from the Director’s Notebook and storyboards (with commentary again by the creator) will perfectly immerse a viewer into the wildly creative mind of Mr. Del Toro.
The bonus content package has even more production featurettes and even motion comics and is by far one of the best I have seen for a home entertainment release.
Gremlins (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 106 minutes, $41.99) —
Director Joe Dante’s amusing, Christmas-themed creature feature stunningly arrives in the 4K format to offer a look at some of the cutest and most dangerous critters in the galaxy.
As struggling inventor Rand Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) buys an unusual, pint-sized furry pet nicknamed named Gizmo (think a Furby with longer ears) for his son Billy (Zach Galligan) from a Chinese antique store, he is reminded of three rules to follow: Do not allow it in bright light (it can die); do not allow it to get wet; and do not feed it after midnight.
Within a day of taking ownership, Billy makes a major mistake with Gizmo and accidentally spills water on its back, and it spontaneously reproduces a half dozen full adult versions of its species, called the mogwai.
Billy soon also breaks the eating rule by giving the group a post-midnight snack causing Gizmo’s brethren to transform and unleash their mischievous as well as deadly side on the quiet town of Kingston Falls.
Pop culturists will appreciate comedian Howie Mandel voicing Gizmo as well as Frank Welker (the voice of Optimus Prime) as the evil Mogwai Stripe.
The new UHD screen-filling presentation, digitally upgraded from a scan of the original 35mm masters, offers a crisp and colorful evolution of the 1984 horror-comedy.
The 2160p release really highlighted the gremlins various animatronics and practical puppet states, especially when watching them burst from Alien-like pods, as well as a group of mogwai playing poker and Christmas caroling.
It’s also worth noting much of the cool action takes place at night and it’s now the most visually sharp the film has ever been.
The 4K disc features a pair of commentary track recorded in 2009: one with Mr. Dante, producer Michael Finnell and special effects artist Chris Walas; and the other with Mr. Dante and Mr. Mandel, Mr. Galligan, Phoebe Cates (Kate Beringer), and Dick Miller (Murray Futterman).
The Blu-ray throws in featurettes and some deleted scenes but to appreciate the largest collection of bonus content available, fans will need to use the included digital code and watch all of the extras on iTunes.
In addition to the above, viewers get a 26-minute retrospective on the film from 2014, an 18-minute look at creating the creatures and a couple of motion comics.
Stand by Me (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 89 minutes, $18.67) —
Director Rob Reiner’s Academy Award-nominated adaptation of author Stephen King’s novella “The Body” makes its debut on 4K with a dazzling visual upgrade of the 33-year-old movie.
Set in the late 1950s, the story of the tragic disappearance of a young boy in the town of Castle Rock, Oregon, sets the stage for a quartet of friends (Wil Wheaton, the late River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell) to find the body in a coming-of-age story chronicling a few of the scary parts of growing up.
Themes of death, bullies and abusive, non-caring parents mix in with teens acting like teens and a truly terrifying pie-eating contest.
High-dynamic range tweaks co-star with the screen-filling presentation showing off some beautiful shades of bright green during a sunny day in Oregon and the harrowing escape of the four from a train barreling down a bridge,
New, and found on the 4K disc, is a collection of six deleted scenes, lastly 6 minutes with no revelations in the footage.
Move to the Blu-ray to find all of the other extras including a vintage 26-minute production documentary and the best of the bunch.
Specifically, shot for the 25th Anniversary release, is a super informative video commentary with an older Mr. Reiner, Mr. Wheaton and Mr. Feldman that pops up in the right corner of the screen.
Also available on the disc is an optional commentary track with Mr. Reiner (culled from an earlier DVD release) that overlaps with much of the video commentary but is still worth listening to for the hard-core fans.
Man of a Thousand Faces (Arrow Video, not rated, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, 122 minutes, $34.95) —
A cinema icon pays homage to another movie legend, now both deceased, in this 1957 Hollywood-ized biographical melodrama about the eclectic silent film star and make-up maestro Lon Chaney.
James Cagney takes on the role and exhausts with his emotional as well as energetic performance.
Cagney explores the complex life of Chaney (born to deaf parents and dealing with a heartless first wife and getting his son out of foster care) while also transforming into some of his most memorable characters, including The Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The black-and-white Cinemascope film probably looks sharper now on the high-definition Blu-ray format than it appeared in theaters back in the 1950s, due to a new 2K restoration and remastering effort using the original 35mm camera negatives.
For any fans of the origins of the horror film genre and the silent age of movies, “Man of a Thousand Faces” is highly recommended this Halloween season.
Get past the 20-minute breezy babbling of film historian Kim Newman’s take on Chaney and invest the time into the much, much more informative optional commentary track with film historian Tim Lucas.
The guy delivers an engaging, professorial lecture over the film, stuffed with facts and memories and even an occasional imitation of Cagney.
Also, an included 32-page, full-color booklet offers a worthy essay on the movie from film historian Vic Pratt and some vintage, abbreviated reviews from critics.
John Carpenter’s Vampires: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 108 minutes, $28.43) —
The legendary director’s 1998 horror western hybrid about nasty bloodsuckers in the American Southwest returns to home entertainment screens boasting an impressive high-definition presentation and new extras.
Starring an energetic James Woods as vampire slayer Jack Crowe, he and a select band of brethren including Anthony Montoya (Daniel Baldwin doing his best impression of brother Alec) root out and kill fanged ghouls with support from the Catholic Church.
Life gets bloody ugly when they stumble upon the original vampire Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith) trying to secure an artifact that will turn him into a daywalker. The hunters use and abuse a bitten prostitute (Sheryl Lee from “Twin Peaks”) about to become one his minions to help stop the monster.
The sophomoric, machismo-dripping, misogynistic dialogue spewed by Jack and Anthony is laughable but watching the vampires get dragged into the sunlight, start-up like signal flares and the burst into flames like a fireworks snake, until they turn into charcoal, is worth wading through the nonsense.
By the way, the film has also never looked better, like it was shot on digital cameras yesterday, and referenced by the crisp and colorful, panoramic scenes of New Mexico.
Shout Factory! delivers the treats with more than an hour’s worth of brand new interviews featuring Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Woods (loaded with memories about the shoot and excited to share them all), Ian Griffith, Tim Guinee (Father Adam Guiteau) and special effects guru Greg Nicotero,
Also, a vintage optional director commentary track (from the 2003 DVD) offers plenty of Mr. Carpenter’s thoughts on every part of the production, including calling it his “Wild Bunch” of his career.
The Addams Family/Addams Family Values (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $16.99)—
The definitive live-action chronicle of cartoonist Charles Addams’ creepy, kooky and spooky clan gives high-definition home theater viewers the perfect Halloween double feature.
Impeccable casting delivered Raul Julia as Addams patriarch Gomez, Angelica Huston as his wife Morticia, Christina Ricci as daughter Wednesday, Jimmy Workman as son Pugsley and Carel Struycken as butler Lurch.
The plots focused on the family welcoming the supposed return of Gomez’ long lost brother Fester (Christopher Lloyd), the birth of new son Pubert and Fester’s potential marriage to baby sitter Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack).
Both high-definition films could use a 4K cleanup, but it’s worth noting the debut of “Addams Family Values” to the Blu-ray format. It’s a welcomed addition to a family film library and certainly an entertaining complement to the first classic film.
No bonus content for fans of the films is a big boo-boo in my estimation.
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.