Monday, September 14, 2020

Just in time for Halloween Paramount's Stephen King 5 Movie Collection! Blu Ray Review

 Just in time for Halloween Paramount's Stephen King 5 Movie Collection! Blu Ray Review 

Stephen King 5 Movie Collection Paramount 9/15/2020

   It's getting closer to that magical time when the days get colder, the leaves start to change and of course, we start breaking out all our favorite horror movies. If you need some Stephen King in your home video collection Paramount's got you covered with their 5 Movie Collection! The set includes: The Stand (1994) Silver Bullet (1985), The Dead Zone (1983), Pet Sematary (1989) and, 2019's Pet Sematary. I will be doing a very brief plot summary, review and a breakdown of how each film looks and sounds as well as the extras. 

The Dead Zone (1983)

Directed By: David Cronenberg

Starring: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom  

This set is exciting in part because it is the HD debut of David Cronenberg's The Dead Zone (1983). 

After an accident a typical school teacher named Johnny (Christopher Walken) awakes from a five year coma to find he has psychic powers. 

    The director was just coming off of indie creepers like The Brood (1979) Scanners (1981), so I think he was an interesting choice to helm a big budget adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Dead Zone, first published in 1979. It was a bit of a gamble but it seemed to pay off as the film made double its budget. I recall not liking Dead Zone when I first saw this, as the film is broken into different episodes rather than one over arcing plot. At the time I didn't understand there was different ways a narrative could work outside the constructs of a traditional three act structure. Now that I am older and, maybe just a little wiser, I see now that this was an interesting and bold way to tackle the source material. The film is well directed with Cronenbergs unique style adding something wonderfully oft-kilter to what could have easily been a bland by-the-numbers thriller. Also, bonus points go for setting this at winter time, which, in my opinion always add a kind of somber and bleak feel. Dead Zone is restrained in terms of violence so when Cronenberg does show you something brutal its all the more impactful.  One thing-and I know this may be controversial, I dont think Walken's would have been my first choice to play Johnny. Johnny is suppose to be a every-man school teacher and, while I think Walkens is a good actor, an every man he is not. Still, its not enough to de rail a fantastic film by a director at the height of his creative period. 

HD: The films colors really pop in this version. Some people may complain of the films grain level, but honestly, the grain is a result of using a 35mm print instead. Overall the picture is sharp and has a nice level of contrast color wise and night scenes benefit greatly from this HD version. Outdoor scenes are really lush and vibrant and skin tones looking natural. Some indoor scenes really have a rich warm feeling to them that is outstanding. It's not perfect but Dead Zone on HD is certainly a leap forward in terms of quality from the DVD version. I would love to see this get a UHD release someday but for now this is a great start. 

Sound: I was very happy to see while browsing through the settings that there is a 5.1 option. Dialogue and sound design come through very well and did a pretty good job  throughout my sound system. I didnt get much clustering which was great. 

No Bonus Features

Silver Bullet (1985)

Directed By: Daniel Attias 

Starring: Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Corey Haim, Megan Follows 

A small town is rocked when a series of murders occur. Young Marty (Corey Haim) is convinced that the madman is actually a werewolf. 

    Werewolf films were actually pretty big in the '80's with films like The Howling,  An American Werewolf in London and Wolfen all being made in 81' alone, but Silver Bullet is a very interesting take on the werewolf film. Daniel Attias isnt a house hold name but he's been working steadily in television for decades, working on such shows as The Wire, True Blood and Alias just to name a few. Silver Bullet (1985) marks his first and only feature theatrical film. And frankly, its a shame that he didnt stick with theatricals because Bullet is a very well crafted outing. The main selling point is how Bullet takes the werewolf film out of foggy far off lands and into a real feeling sleepy town. It's an interesting set up the film can nicely hang its hat onto. The '80's was a year where boomers we're misty eyed for the '50's a decade that people were getting rose colored glasses for despite it being a terrible time for anybody but upper middle class heterosexual white people. But, like a lot of King's work, Silver Bullet rips off those glasses and peels back the ugly side of what is presented as a idyllic small town paradise. We quickly discover the town is far from charming and perfect, and thats all before a werewolf comes stalking. The cast is very solid with Corey Haim who was just about to blow up on the teen-throb scene two-years later with The Lost Boys (1987), as well as Gary Busey when the actor wasn't a punch-line. Megan Follows and Terry O'Quinn are also great in supporting roles. I love the eerie small town creepiness invaded violently by a werewolf film. It fearlessly blends a  typical 80's kids adventure movie with a morbid gore fest monster movie  and thats a very cool thing indeed. The film is far from perfect though and suffers from a disjointed narrative and structure, and that werewolf. Look, I know I'm not alone in thinking that the weak link in this film is the monster. It kind of looks more like a bear?  I mean, Howling (1981) looked a lot better and that was released four years prior. Also, you might be forgiven if you think that the finale is a bit too sweet and hooky, which doesn't quite match the films otherwise bleak and eerie  tone. Issues aside I have always had a soft spot for this movie. It features solid cast, fine direction and put a new and interesting spin on the werewolf genre. And it has some genuinely unnerving and creepy moments. 

HD: I have not seen the Scream Factory transfer so I wont be able to make any comparisons

Silver Bullet sports a very nice crisp and clear transfer with no scratches or artifacts to be found. Film grain was not an issue that I noticed and colors were solid through out. I did note some blurring here and there but nothing that was distracting to the overall product. I couldn't find much fault with this one, its a very well done print that I think does justice to the film. Skin tones look very natural and outdoor and night scenes truly pop in 1080p. 

Sound: As with the other films in this set, Bullet sports a very crisp clear and well balanced 5.1 mix. The sound design and score benefit greatly from this 5.1 track and helps highlight the films more intense action scenes. 

No Bonus Features 

Pet Sematary (1989)

Directed By: Mary Lambert 

Starring: Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Fred Gwynee, Miko Hughes 

 A doctor named Louis (Dale Midkiff) his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby) and their two children move to a sleepy town to start a new life. After their beloved cat Church dies it sets off a deadly chain of events that lead to cursed patch of land and to the Pet Sematary. 

    I have a complicated history with the 89' version of Pet Sematary. Hell, I would even call it a love hate relationship. Mary Lambert was tasked with adapting arguably one of King's most personal and nihilistic pieces of fiction, and distill it down into a marketable horror film. That couldn't have been an easy task: Overall its a very good film that tackles the emotional and profound elements of the book in its more somber quiet moments. It also delivers the promise of a morbid splattery horror outing with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek. It helps that Lambert truly shines in her direction and the film has a lot of style and handles its tones incredibly well. It perfectly straddles this line of having one foot in reality and another in a nightmare world  I loved this film alot until I read the book-then I learned the hard truth we all do at some point which is, the book is typically always better than the movie. Again, Lambert did, in my opinion a fine job with the huge undertaking but the film still misses some important, even key moments that would have been very cinematic. I also am not the biggest fan of Dale Midkiff whose acting is not very good especially when you get him acting a long side power houses like Fred Gwynee. Midkiff is great as an every man but he doesn't carry himself like a disciplined doctor. Its a testament to the great screenplay along with Lambert's craftsmanship and skill that the film survives despite not being nearly as effective as the source material and with some weak acting. 

Picture: Pet Sematary looks great in 1080p and in my opinion is a step up from the earlier 2012 edition. I believe this transfer is the same that was used in 30th anniversary edition which was brilliantly timed with the release of the remake. Overall this is a very clear nice looking transfer that captures the films brilliant tone and feel. Right away the outdoor scenes are absolutely stunning looking. 

Sound: Sematary sports a very nicely done DTS 5.1 track. Sound design and effects, dialogue and score all come through beautifully through the different speakers. 

Extras:  The extras are a nice mixture of the 2012 edition and the 2019. In fact I like how the new features are front and center on the extras menu and there is a separate menu for the features that were ported over from 012 edition.  The extras include: Commentary by Mary Lambert, 

Pet Sematary: Fear and Remembrance (7mins) which includes an interview with 2019's Pet Sematary's  cast and crew talking about the original film Interviews include: producer Mark Vahradian, Jason Clarke (Louis Creed from 019's PS), Directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, Production designer Todd Cherniawsky, Amy Seimetz (Rachel Creed), John Lithgow (Jud Crandall) 

Revisitation (9mins)  features a new interview with director Mary Lambert. 

Galleries: Storyboards w/intro by Mary Lambert, Behind the Scenes, Marketing. 

Original Special Features include: 

Stephen King Territory (13mins) includes interviews with author Douglas E. Winter, Denise Crosby (Rachel Creed), Dale Midkiff (Louis Creed), Brad Greenquist (Victor Pascow), Director Mary Lambert and a archival interview with Stephen King. 

The Characters (12mins) includes interviews with Director Mary Lambert, Dale Midkiff (Louis Creed),  Brad Greenquist (Victor Pascow), Director of Photography Peter Stein and archival interviews with  Fred Gwynn (Jud Crandall) and Stephen King. 

Filming the Horror (10mins) includes interviews with author Douglas E. Winter, Director Mary Lambert, Dale Midkiff (Louis Creed),Brad Greenquist (Victor Pascow). 

The Stand (1994)

Directed By: Mick Garris 

Starring: Jamey Sheridan, Ruby Dee, Gary Sinse, Rob Lowe, Miguel Ferrer 

Based on Stephen King's sprawling tale,a deadly plague wipes out most of humanity. A band of survivors must defeat an evil amassing an army. In the end it's a literal battle of good versus evil in this mini series directed by long time King collaborator Mick Garris.  

Adapting one of King's longest novel's into a feature film was no easy task but Mick Garris (Masters of Horror) bravely attempted it. The end result is a good, if not uneven affair.  The film is broken into four parts with part one being by far the best. Re-watching this, it was more chilling, as the film is about a pandemic and Garris doesn't shy away from showing you plague ridden people. Speaking of, I think the plague like virus folds in nicely with the films themes of biblical good vs. evil. The makeup effects hold up really well (for the most part, more on that later) and, in my opinion still holds up well. The latter episodes start to fall apart narrative wise and fleshing out the main bad guy only serves to de-mystify. And, as some of the make-up is well done, some of it is also very laughably bad. Not to mention some early CGI that hasn't aged well. There are some major tonal shifts that also feel jarring. Obviously I wont spoil it but the finale is kind of laughable. As I said, trying to turn this massive book into a feature was almost doomed to fail, not to mention limitations in budget. I think the film isn't bad by any means and I think the mood Garris creates is amazing for the most part, not to mention a stellar cast. 

HD: The Stand has a overall good looking transfer. Colors are well balanced and skin tones have a natural look. I was actually pleased with how good it looks being a early '90's made-for-television outing, but this transfer has a well maintained clarity. There are a few uneven moments color wise but nothing that is very distracting.  

Sound: The sound is good but isn't amazing, largely due to fitting such a large sized film onto one disc. The lack of a lossless track makes for just a fair sound experience though those of you without a sound system will find it very serviceable. Dialogue comes through clear and for the most part is strong in the sound design. Not amazing but considering the file size, its probably as good as its going to get for awhile. 

Extras: The Stand (1994) features a commentary with Stephen King and Mick Garris. 

Making Of (5mins) this vintage featurette is really fun w/ interviews with Stephen King, Molly Ringwald, effects wizard Steven Johnson, Rub Dee, Ex. Producer Richard Rubinstein, Director Mick Garris, Gary Sinse, Rob Lowe (sporting epic feathered hair),  Laura San Giacomo 

Pet Sematary (2019)

Directed By: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Starring: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jete Laurence 

    I was very excited for the new 2019 of Pet Sematary, in fact I re-read the book (for the third time) in anticipation for the release. As I sat there in the darkened theater I had clung to the hope that this version would finally do justice to the source material. My hopes were dashed in terms of a faithful adaptation though weirdly it somehow stays truer to the book in some regards but also way less than the '89 version or the book. Early on it was revealed in marketing that they were making a huge change, namely having Elle (Jete Laurence ) switch Gage in terms of who gets made into a road waffle. Not a spoiler since it was in the trailers. I didn't love this change but I still held out hope that it would be good- it was not.  Maybe not good is putting it nicely, but lets go with that for now. It's all the more disappointing when the directors of the brilliant indie horror Starry Eyes (2014) was entrusted the famed IP. As I said, once again the film omits a lot of the deep lore King injected into his novel. Adding insult to injury some really interesting stuff from the book is only lightly skimmed on, taking the form of lazy Internet article exposition. Yeah, it serves as a nice Easter egg for fans but feels like a major cop out story wise. I could put that aside but the film seems to be bogged down in bland cliches and well worn troupes. This leaning on troupes might not have been bad per se had the screenplay been rich enough in story and complexity to balance it out. It feels like such a weird hybrid of book faithful material but at the time same time really changes up its source material, with no real rhythm  or reason.  There are other changes but I will leave those our for the sake of spoilers. Speaking of which, without saying anything specific the ending was laughable and I recall leaving the theaters pissed. On a positive note the film has some great creepy visuals and a palpable mood. I mean, damn this movie is overflowing with sinister unnerving set-pieces and style. It also has a haunting and moody score by Christopher Young (Hellraiser, Drag Me to Hell).It's just a shame that the plot is disjointed and while the filmmakers tries to push the boundaries in terms of content it comes off very safe and sanitized.  Maybe some day we will get a mini-series that finally does justice to the novel. The film has an amazing look and feel but it's shallow when it comes to a fully realized story with an ending that is just baffling and silly. Serviceable but if I'm honest not one I would be likely to re-visit. In terms of which one is better, I think its no contest that the '89 version, while not perfect feels more faithful to the book despite its changes. 

HD: Being a more recent film, 2019's Pet Sematary was shot entirely on digital. The transfer is fairly good with some issues with noise and a few haze laden moments. Though being digital you get a nice sharp image in 1080p. Color's tend to really stand out and, the thing I like most about this movie, being the mood it creates is highlighted nicely in this print. Skin tones are well balanced and have a nice natural look to them. Outdoor scenes look very lush and vibrate, again adding to the film's excellent creepy tone. 

Sound: Fans are treated to a stunning Dolby Atmos track. As you know or maybe dont, Atmos is pretty much the gold standard in terms of rich complex sound which compliments a home theater sound system. This is great as, whatever you may say about the film it does have some amazing sound design and, as a I said Young's score is the cats meow! 

Extras: Alternate Ending (9mins), Deleted And Extended Scenes (Contains 7 scenes), Night Terrors: Broken up into Louis, (1min) Rachel (2min) and Ellie (1min) and is just the nightmare scenes from each character. Tale of Timmy Baterman (3mins) Jud (John Lithgow) recounts the story of Timmy Baterman in this clip. 

Beyond the Deadfall (Total: 61min) Broken up into four chapters, the documentary talks about the impact of the book on the cast/crew of Pet Sematary as well as the making of. Really nicely done document to have. I wish disappointed with a lack of commentary but I think this makes up for it. 

Overall/Final Thoughts: Paramount has been doing an amazing job with their back catalog and, if you are wanting some great horror titles this fall, this is a nice set. The movies offer a nice selection of King adaptations and, even more exciting marks the HD debut of The Dead Zone (1983). That alone, in my opinion makes it worth the purchase. If you some how dont own the other films this is a must-buy. The overall look and sound of the features are great and most of the movies have some kind of extra if thats something you enjoy. The value is great as well and currently, as of writing this, is only 27.99 on Amazon  . You cannot beat that price. 

We all need some Stephen King in our lives and Paramount has provided fans with a fun, affordable set filled with frights. 

 




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