Once again, the folks at MGM/Fox Home Entertainment have thrown all caution to the wind and released a new slew of older catalogue titles in glorious High Definition. This time, horror is the key word in the “Feed Your Fear” line-up. This mini-look at Fox’s New-to-Blu titles include Child‘s Play (1988), Misery (1990), Wrong Turn (2003), and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End.
• Child’s Play (1988)
It started out as just another B-Horror film that parents loved to complain about. Little did anyone know it would turn into a successful franchise. Yes, twenty-one years on, Child’s Play has amassed a legion of fans, a shitload of goofy sequels, and provided steady work for Brad Dourif. But the original is still by and far the best, and brought out our innate, childlike fear of dolls front and center.
In this tale of possession, one of Captain Kirk’s former love-interests (Catherine Hicks) buys her six-year-old boy Andy a creepy, freckled, redheaded doll named Chucky for his birthday. Andy practically adopts Chucky as his friend for life, but he’s also a very gullible little lad and doesn‘t think twice about the fact that his new plastic pal talks. As if the whole creepy, freckled, and redheaded thing weren’t enough, Chucky also happens to be possessed by the spirit of a dead serial killer, Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), who was killed the night before in a shootout with a police detective (Chris Sarandon).
Thanks to a vaguely voodoo-ish ritual, Chucky transferred his soul into the doll — and is now plotting his revenge. Sure, it’s cheesy. But, even after all this time, Child’s Play still has the right amount of “oomph” to it — especially when you compare it to its much-inferior sequels — and it’s great fun whether you’re looking to be frightened by a doll with Brad Dourif’s voice, wanting to judge just how truly bored Chris Sarandon was throughout the film, or just want to remember how cool the late ’80s were (my personal choice, right after wanting to judge just how truly bored Chris Sarandon was throughout the film).
MGM/Fox’s Blu-ray release is actually a Blu-ray/DVD combo, with the DVD disc being the “Chucky’s 20th Birthday Edition” release in 2008. The Blu-ray disc presents the movie in a 1080p/AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. The picture is pretty solid for the most part, with just a little grain to be found in the title sequences (to be expected) and during a few shots that look like they were never that great to begin with. The main soundtrack is a 5.1 DTS HD MA lossless mix, which holds up pretty damn well, although the back speakers don’t get the best of workouts. Additional soundtracks are English and French Dolby Surround; and Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 DD 5.1. Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Korean. Special features are identical to the 2008 DVD release, and include two full-length audio commentaries with cast and crew, a “Chucky Commentary” on select scenes, several featurettes, a gallery and a trailer (the DVD also has two more trailers for other Fox titles on it).
• Misery (1990)
At the end of the ‘80s, the horror and thriller genres were feeling more than a little sluggish. It was mainly all about sequels by then, with only a few flicks emerging here and there that gained any notice (Child’s Play was one such title, but then the sequels started and, well, that’s an entirely different story). It took This Is Spinal Tap creator Rob Reiner of all people to finally give the two genres a little life. The movie was called Misery, a stunning version of a novel by Stephen King — whose film adaptations up until then were usually snubbed by film critics.
The story finds writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) recovering from a near-fatal car accident in the snow-capped mountains of Colorado. Nurtured back to health by a former nurse, Paul discovers that his caretaker is his “number one fan.” And indeed, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates, in a role that saved her from being just another bit part TV actress and landed her in the spotlight) is Paul’s biggest fan. Much to the novelist’s horror, however, Paul will soon find out how obsessed Annie really is, when she ceases to be a caretaker and starts playing the part of a captor.
Like Child’s Play, MGM/Fox’s new High Def release contains both a Blu-ray and a DVD version. The difference here, though, is that Misery’s Blu-ray disc is a barebones movie-only affair. While this would give more room for audio and video quality on a normal 8.75GB double-layer DVD, this is a 50GB dual layer disc we’re talking about here. And so, what we have here (aside from a failure to communicate) is Misery, presented in a splendid 1080p/AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer complete with ten language tracks and nearly twenty subtitle options. The video is crisp and clear, with nary a trace of those artificial preservatives sometimes present in High Def transfers.
The main English 5.1 DTS HD MA sound suffices quite well, especially during the more “tense” scenes, when Marc Shaiman’s score fills the room. Additional soundtracks are available in Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, Thai, and Turkish. Subtitles are offered in English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian, Korean, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, and Swedish (I think that’s all of ‘em).
Sadly, should one want to view any of the special features for Misery, one will have to do it via the DVD version, which is the same as the “Collector’s Edition” DVD released in October of 2007, which include two audio commentaries and a fistful of featurettes.
• Wrong Turn (2003) / Wrong Turn 2: Dead End
After Misery’s company grew tiresome in Tinseltown, studio bosses started letting lesser screenwriters and directors turn their insipid visions of horror into reality for the children of a new millennium. Whereas the ‘70s had its drive-in era (wherein any halfwit with a camera could make a movie and someone would release it), the ‘00s started another low-budget/direct-to-video trend. But this time ‘round, the whole low-budget/direct-to-video thing wasn’t a death curse like it was in the VHS days — and a fresh generation of tweens, high schoolers, and college airheads thought they were getting Class-A entertainment.
They weren’t, of course. No, instead, the kids were just watching retreaded horror films that had previously made somebody some money back in the drive-in day. One such film was Wrong Turn, which fell to the “low-budget” end of the low-budget/direct-to-video scale. The film featured fanboy fave Eliza Dushku as an oblivious heroine — and that was about it. Eliza is just one of several young campers who weren’t smart enough to watch the horror films that their mommies and daddies watched (or maybe they were just too hopped-up on Ritalin to remember) and wind up being trapped, chased, and eaten by a clan of murderous, cannibalistic, inbred country boys in West Virginia.
The thing that probably made Wrong Turn a hit was the fact that it cranked up the gore meter a bit (the home video release offered an “Unrated” cut, thus ensuring people would pick it up to see what they missed — if anything). As a result of upping the gore factor, just about every low-budget/direct-to-video horror flick since Wrong Turn has been all about the torture-porn. Personally, I like to attribute films like the Wrong Turn series for bringing us to this point — and I can’t wait to see what they’ll try to do next in a vain attempt to make it up to us.
Wrong Turn 2: Dead End definitely falls into both ends of the low-budget/direct-to-video spectrum. Bearing little more to the previous film other than the franchise rights, this one is just as big of a no-brainer as the first. Instead of “camping kids get killed by cannibals,” Part 2 cashed-in on the reality TV craze of the time by having a retired military officer (punkster Henry Rollins) host a television show in the sticks of West Virginia. Surprisingly for them (although unsurprisingly for us), they are attacked by the cannibals. Hoorah.
Both Wrong Turn and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End are presented on Blu-ray from Fox in 1080p/AVC widescreen transfers. The first film is in a 1.85:1 ratio, while the second is 1.78:1 (one of many telltale signs of being direct-to-video). Since neither film ever had a large budget to start, one isn’t all-too-shocked to find that the video quality on both titles is fair, but not great. Part 1 comes across as rather soft and fuzzy (like a Tribble) but with a decent color/contrast balance. Part 2 on the other hand was shot-on-video (another telltale direct-to-video sign — duh) so there really wasn’t much to work with from the start. Both titles are also housed on 25GB discs (the box art says 50GB, but they lie), which may account for the not-so-pristine video quality.
Wrong Turn and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End feature English 5.1 DTS HD MA, French 5.1 DD, and Spanish Dolby Surround soundtracks. The DTS mixes are the highpoint for both releases, giving your speakers (mostly the front ones) a good enough once-over. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included on each release, with Part 2 also boasting a French track. The special features on these Blu-ray issues are identical to what were released on the original DVDs (commentaries, featurettes, etc.).
The final entry in MGM/Fox’s “Feed Your Fear” line-up is the The Hannibal Lecter Collection, which can be read here. In short, MGM/Fox’s “Feed Your Fear” collection is a blessing. Fans of horror-thrillers, old and new — good and bad — should enjoy watching some of their favorites in High Def.