Blu-ray Review: Madhouse

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Blu-ray Downlow

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:33:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps / (48 kHz, 1536 kbps, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 3151 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 34.89 Mbps

Notes:This package contains a DVD copy of the film in addition to the Blu-ray.

Title

Helmed by legendary producer/director Ovidio Assonitis (the man behind cult genre entries such as The Visitor and Piranha II: The Spawning), Madhouse is a crimson-soaked tale of sibling rivalry taken to a terrifying and bloody extreme.

Julia has spent her entire adult life trying to forget the torment she suffered at the hands of her twisted twin Mary, but Mary hasn’t forgotten. Escaping the mental hospital that protects the outside world from her unusual brand of psychosis, Julia’s sadistic sister vows to exact a…

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Blu-ray Review: Caltiki – The Immortal Monster

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Blu-ray Downlow

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: April 11, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 76 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Italian Mono Linear PCM Audio

Alternate Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Ratio: 1.66:1

Notes:This release includes a DVD edition of the film.

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Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959) is a surprising film that combines a gothic horror aesthetic with a typical 1950s science fiction plot that is essentially a re-working of the same concept that gave audiences The Blob (1958)—although references to outer space and alien lifeforms are less explicit. While this is probably the minority opinion, this reviewer actually prefers Caltiki – The Immortal Monster to its American predecessor. This is mostly due to the fact that the Italian film’s gothic horror aesthetic gives it an eerie atmosphere that helps to sell the rather outlandish premise while simultaneously enhancing the scares. The Blob

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Blu-ray Review: Split

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Blu-ray Downlow

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Universal Studios

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:57:07

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio:

5.1 Spanish DTS

5.1 French DTS

Dolby Digital DVS (Descriptive Video Service)

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, English SDH, French, Spanish

Ratio: 2.39:1

Bitrate: 34.89 Mbps

Note:This release includes a DVD, a digital, and an UltraViolet copy of the film.

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“What’s really interesting about [Dissociative Identity] Disorder is that it’s controversial. Even in the field, they’re saying I’m not sure any of this is legit. A lot of people. I believe in it, 100%. It’s interesting—it’s almost like what you’re asking is what the field is asking themselves. How much of this is fact? How much of what you’re saying can be proved? … But everything was [taken] from documented cases. The person who was blind and then some of their identities…

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Blu-ray Review: Psycho IV: The Beginning

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hitchcockmaster

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Shout Factory

Release Date: August 23, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 96 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.78:1

Notes:This title is available in various DVD editions of the film from Universal Pictures.

Title

“It was a great burden of responsibility to carry on the tale first told by one of cinema’s greatest artists, and I was a very young filmmaker, in age as well as in experience, who had a lot to prove.  I was more worried about not f**king it up than anything else.” –Mick Garris (Fangoria, March 10, 2015)

Perhaps the mysteries of Norman’s past should remain a mystery. One has to wonder what Alfred Hitchcock would have thought of the three Psycho sequels. The world will never have a definitive answer to this question, but it can be said with some authority that his writing…

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Blu-ray Review: Annabelle

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Blu-ray Downlow

Own it on Blu-ray on January 20, 2015

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: January 20, 2015

Region: Region A

Length: 99 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio:

5.1 French (Canada) Dolby Digital
Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Ratio: 2.40:1

Notes:Annabelle is be available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, and includes the film in high definition on Blu-ray disc, a DVD, and a digital version of the movie in Digital HD with UltraViolet. Fans can also own Annabelle via purchase from digital retailers, and a DVD only version of the film is also available. The DVD disc does not include all of the supplemental material.

“It’s not a sequel to The Conjuring, but it’s a stand-alone movie that is part of a really cool franchise …The Conjuring is a classy horror film that’s different than most in…

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Blu-ray Review: Halloween II

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Distributor: Shout Factory

Release Date: 18/Sept/2012

Region: Region A

Length: 93 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC, 29.09 Mbps)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)
2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: None

Ratio: 2.35:1

Notes: The film is also available in a 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray from Universal and has been given a few DVD releases.

Dr. Loomis

“I didn’t want to direct it and I got forced into writing it.” –John Carpenter

Halloween II is perhaps the best sequel in the Halloween franchise. Its strength lies in the fact that it picks up right where the first film ended. Its weakness lies in the fact that it is simply unnecessary. It certainly doesn’t offer anything different and it pales compared to Carpenter’s original.

It is in Halloween II that introduces the idea that Myers is attempting to kill Laurie Strode because she is his sister. This idea grew into the idea that the shape is attempting to kill off his bloodline in Halloween 4.

The Elrod's

The film received mixed reviews. Janet Maslin liked the film:

“…Actually, Halloween II is good enough to deserve a sequel of its own. By the standards of most recent horror films, this – like its predecessor – is a class act. There’s some variety to the crimes, as there is to the characters, and an audience is likely to do more screaming at suspenseful moments than at scary ones. The gore, while very explicit and gruesome, won’t make you feel as if you’re watching major surgery. The direction and camera work are quite competent, and the actors don’t look like amateurs. That may not sound like much to ask of a horror film, but it’s more than many of them offer. And Halloween II, in addition to all this, has a quick pace and something like a sense of style.

John Carpenter, who directed the first film, is co-writer and co-producer (with Debra Hill) this time, and composed the repetitive, nerve-jangling music with Alan Howarth. He has assigned the directing chores to Rick Rosenthal, who follows ably in Mr. Carpenter’s footsteps. Mr. Rosenthal’s methods are sometimes familiar but almost always reliable…” – The New York Times (October 30, 1981)

Dr. Loomis & Sheriff Brackett

The staff writers at Variety were not as kind to the film:

“This uninspired version amounts to lukewarm sloppy seconds in comparison to the original film that made director John Carpenter a hot property.

There are incredibly almost never any really terrific scares in 92 minutes – just multiple shots of violence and gore that are more gruesome than anything else…

…Meanwhile the zombie-like masked killer makes his way through the town, wandering in and out of houses slashing unsuspecting residents. So many people wander through the proceedings that it becomes difficult to care who is getting sliced or why.” – Variety (December 31, 1980)

Bennet Tramer

Roger Ebert (who adored the original film) also seemed to hate the sequel. He wrote a two star review:

“It’s a little sad to witness a fall from greatness, and that’s what we get in Halloween II. John Carpenter’s original 1978 Halloween was one of the most effective horror films ever made, a scarifying fable of a mad-dog killer’s progress through a small Illinois town on Halloween. That movie inspired countless imitations, each one worse than the last, until the sight of a woman’s throat being slashed became ten times more common in the movies than the sight of a kiss…

…It is not a horror film but a geek show. It is technically a sequel, but it doesn’t even attempt to do justice to the original. Instead, it tries to outdo all the other violent Halloween rip-offs of the last several years. The movie does not have the artistry or the imagination of the original, but it does have new technology: For those like McCarty who keep records of such things, this movie has the first close-up I can remember of a hypodermic needle being inserted into an eyeball… But for the most part, Halloween II is a retread of Halloween without that movie’s craft, exquisite timing, and thorough understanding of horror…

…The plot of Halloween II absolutely depends, of course, on our old friend the Idiot Plot which requires that everyone in the movie behave at all times like an idiot. That’s necessary because if anyone were to use common sense, the problem would be solved and the movie would be over…” –The Chicago Sun Times (January 1, 1981)

Mixed reviews are common with sequels. Even series fanatics must admit that Rosenthal’s direction never equals Carpenter’s (even when he tries to emulate it). However, he does at least attempt to capture the tone and aesthetic of the first film. This is more than anyone can say about the other sequels.

Laurie Strode

The Presentation:

4 of 5 MacGuffins

ReverseCover

Shout Factory’s 2-disc release comes in the standard Blu-ray case with reversible artwork and a slipcover. The slipcover features new film related artwork from Shout Factory and one can choose this artwork or the original poster artwork for the actual case.

back slipcover

The animated menus feature scenes from the film and are easy to navigate.

Overall, this is a very nice presentation.

 Haddonfield

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 MacGuffins

Shout! Factory’s 1080phigh definition transfer is quite close to the one used for Universal’s 30th Anniversary edition. This new transfer seems to have less print damage than the previous release, making the image slightly superior than the one on Universal’s disc. The disc showcases a nice layer of film grain that adds a cinematic texture to one’s experience and the transfer seems to be free of any troublesome DNR. Compression issues and edge enhancement also seem non-existent. The film is quite dark, so it will please viewers that black levels are fine here. Colors are also reasonably represented.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 MacGuffins

Shout! Factory offers two DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. The 5.1 remix is effective and will likely be the preferred track of all but the strictest purists. Dialogue is consistently clear and the music benefits slightly from this slightly more dynamic mix. There is the occasional sound effect that seems somewhat unnaturally mixed, but these are never distracting. The mix doesn’t stand up to more modern tracks, but this is to be expected.

The film’s original 2.0 track benefits from its lossless transfer and is a welcome alternative to the new 5.1 mix.

The Shape

Special Features:

4 of 5 MacGuffins

Audio Commentary with Rick Rosenthal and Leo Rossi:

The conversation between Rick Rosenthal and Leo Rossi is surprisingly short on production information and extremely heavy on back-patting. Fans will likely be delighted with the track, but most will find it slightly disappointing. There are long stretches of silence followed by moments of useless chatter. One does receive the random anecdote, but these are rare.

Audio Commentary with Dick Warlock:

This conversation with Dick Warlock should delight fans of the Halloween series. Warlock discusses the production and what his experiences were portraying Michael Myers in the film. He also talks about other aspects of his career.

The Nightmare Isn’t Over: The Making of Halloween II – (HD) – (45 minutes):

It is surprising to report that this “Making of” documentary is not only well produced, but also rather comprehensive (considering the subject being discussed). There are numerous interviews from those who worked on the film. The only two people noticeably absent are Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter.

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary – (HD) – (8 minutes)

This collection of deleted scenes is quite interesting and it is nice to see what was cut from the film. The optional commentary provided gives viewers background about the scenes and the reason that they were cut.

Alternate Ending – (SD) – (2 minutes)

The alternate ending included here is certainly interesting to see, but one sees why it was jettisoned for the ending included in the film. It simply doesn’t work. The “false scare” doesn’t scare and the sentiment seems false.

Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: The Locations of Halloween II – (HD) – (13 minutes)

This short tour of the various locations (courtesy of Sean Clark) leads viewers on a tour of the various shooting locations used in Halloween II. It is an interesting little featurette that is done in a very tongue-in-cheek style.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD)

It is always nice to see how older films were marketed and this red-band trailer is one of the better horror sequel trailers.

TV Spots

These three television spots and broadcast promos are not quite as interesting as the trailer.

Radio Spots – (SD)

There are a handful of different radio spots in both English and Spanish.

Stills Gallery – (HD) – (5 minutes)

This slide show reel contains promotional stills and artwork created for the promotion of Halloween II.

Disc 2 (DVD):

The Television Version – (SD) – (92 minutes)

 This 1.33:1 television cut of the film is presented in standard definition. There is quite a bit of footage that was not included in the theatrical release and the film has been radically re-edited (sometimes using slightly different footage). The order of the events has been altered and some scenes have been cut altogether or shortened.

It is nice to have this version of the film as an extra, but most fans will prefer to watch the theatrical version in high definition.

Film Script

This DVD disc also contains a copy of the film’s script. One must insert the disc into their computer and explore the disc and simply copy the PDF file to their hard drive.

Blood Tears

Final Words:

If the slightly improved transfer doesn’t convince series fans that Shout Factory’s disc is the version to own, the generous collection of supplementary material should convince them.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Review: Seven

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Seven DIGIBOOK

Distributor: Warner Brothers / New Line Cinema

Release Date: 14/Sept/2010

Region: Region Free

Length: 127 min

Video: 1080P (VC-1, 25.44 Mbps)

Main Audio:

7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio:

5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital

5.1 German Dolby Digital

5.1 Portuguese Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH, Korean, Turkish

Ratio: 2.40:1

Note: This title has also been released on a number of DVD editions.

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Seven was just a gripping yarn and I just felt like I hadn’t seen this movie and I hadn’t seen a movie that was kind of professing to be the procedural that became this other thing. I thought it was a structural… you know, it was as impressive to me that Kevin Spacey would show up spattered with blood at the two hour point of that movie as it is that Janet Leigh gets slashed to death in the shower in Psycho. It was such a different way to spin that top. So that was amazing.” –David Fincher

David Fincher made his reputation with Seven and is now one of the most influential directors of contemporary cinema. The relatively simple narrative allowed for a wealth of chilling subtext that the director capitalized on admirably. While the film wasn’t a huge success at the box office, it has grown in its reputation as an intelligent thriller and a genre favorite.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Screams

There are two versions of this disk. It is available in the more extravagant Digibook release that holds the disk in a book style case with pages of photos and production information and in a standard Blu-ray case. Both releases contain the same cover artwork.

SEVENCOVER

digibook

The menu is static, with film related artwork and is attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Screams

The cinematic 1080p transfer handles the shadow detail to perfection and black levels seem rich and natural and remain consistent throughout the film. Colors remain muted and consistent as are the director’s intentions. Detail is extremely impressive and the grain level remains faithful to its source. While there is mild haloing apparent in certain scenes, this is never distracting and hardly noticeable. Luckily, no traces of edge enhancement were perceivable. This is an exceptional Blu-ray transfer. 

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Screams

The film’s 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is as wonderful as the image. The track offers a dramatic and dynamic soundscape that absolutely swallows the viewer (in a good way). This is exactly what one expects from such a mix. The panning effects are dramatic without being distracting, dialogue is clear, music is always dynamic, and sound effects are natural. The fidelity is incredible and extremely crisp.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Screams

There are so many special features on this disc that it will likely keep viewers busy for weeks. The special features are divided into four different categories (Behind the Story, Additional Footage, Exploration of the Opening Title Sequence, and Extras.)

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BEHIND THE STORY:

The Stars Commentary:  David Fincher (Director), Brad Pitt, and Morgan Freeman discuss shooting the film from an acting perspective. The track is consistently engaging.

The Story Commentary: David Fincher (Director), Richard Dyer (Author), Andrew Kevin Walker (Writer), Richard Francis-Bruce (Editor), and Michael de Luca (former president of New Line Cinema) discuss the story in this track. There is quite a bit of interesting information contained in the track, such as how David Fincher came to the project and the differences in various drafts of the script. It is worth a listen.

The Picture Commentary: David Fincher (Director), Darius Khondji (Cinematographer), Arthur Max (Production Designer), Richard Francis-Bruce (Editor), and Richard Dyer (Author) discuss the film’s visual design. It is one of the discs more interesting commentaries.

The Sound Commentary: David Fincher (Director), Ren Klyce (Sound Designer), Howard Shore (Composer), and Richard Dyer (Author) discuss the picture’s soundtrack. Ren Klyce and Howard Shore dominate the track as they discuss the score and sound design. There is some interesting information revealed that will be of special interest to anyone interested in film sound or music.

Production Designs – (480p) – (8:56)

Viewers are shown production design drawings as the artist discusses his intentions.

John Doe’s Photographs – (480p) – (14:26)

Photographer Melodie McDaniel discusses the photos that she took for John Doe’s character.

Victor’s Decomposition (480p) – (2:28)

Director David Fincher discusses the photos found in the sloth’s apartment.

Police Crime Scene Photographs (480p) – (5:38)

Photographer Peter Sorel discusses the crime scene photos that he took for the production.

Production Photographs (480p) – (10:47)

Photographer Peter Sorel discusses the stills and other production photos that he took for the marketing of the film.

The Notebooks (480p) – (8:17)

Art Director Clive Piercy discusses creating John Doe’s notebooks.

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ADDITIONAL FOOTAGE:

Probably the most interesting supplemental features on the disc are these deleted scenes and alternate endings (with optional director’s commentary).

Deleted and Extended Scenes (with optional Director’s Commentary) – (480p) – (19:20)

Alternate Endings (with optional Director’s Commentary) – (480p) – (12:56)

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EXPLORATION OF THE OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE:

The viewer can watch these three versions of the title sequence with the original music (in a variety of audio tracks), or with one of two commentary tracks (one focusing on the concept of the picture and the other focusing on the sound).

Early Storyboards

Rough Version

Final version

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EXTRAS:

Theatrical EPK – (SD) – (7mins)

This 1995 EPK (Electronic Press Kit) features interviews and ‘behind the scenes’ footage. The featurette is mildly interesting and a welcome addition to the disc.

Mastering for the Home Theater – (SD) – (23mins)

This feature shows the audience how the film was color corrected for its DVD release in 2000. This is relatively useless to viewers watching the Blu-ray in my opinion.

Telecine Gallery

Here viewers can watch three scenes in both the original DVD master or the 2000 DVD master. They can also hear the original mix or the 2000 DVD mix. This feature also seems rather pointless considering we are watching a new high definition transfer.

Theatrical Trailer

The original theatrical trailer used to promote the film.

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Final Words:

Seven has been given an admirable Blu-ray release with a superior image transfer and an amazing sound mix. Warner Brothers has a reputation for quality transfers and this release is certainly not an exception.

Review by: Devon Powell