Controversial Blus: An American Werewolf In London... Restored? (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Just released today is the brand new Restored Edition of An American Werewolf In London blu-ray from Paramount.  According to the sticker on the slip, it's "NEWLY RESTORED FOR IMPROVED HD PICTURE," so we're not just talking about a reissue of the previous release with different art masquerading as a new version to trap enthusiastic double-dippers like some other releases I can think of.  This is actually an all new transfer.  But is it actually better?  The new blu seems to be receiving more than its fair share criticisms...  I think it's time I did a direct comparison.  And as you can see from the picture above, I'll be looking at some of the older DVDs at the same time.
An American Werewolf In London is a pretty great movie, with a modern appeal yet a very traditional, throwback werewolf plot at its core.  Two friends go hiking across England and get attacked by a werewolf after being warned by the creepy locals to not go out on a full moon.  The survivor, of course, wakes up back in the city hospital with a nasty, lycanthropic curse.  While he falls in love with his nurse and tries to get on with his life, his primal nature breaks free as he transforms, spectacularly, into a werewolf and begins terrorizing London.  His doctor suspects and begins to investigate, and even his dead best friend returns(!) to warn him, but true love may be the only thing that can save our tragic protagonist.
John Landis has created one of the most successful blends of horror and comedy, where neither aspect spoils the other.  And it holds up really well, thanks largely to the well-crafted characters, not to mention the famous, cutting edge effects, which still look better than anything coming out today.  It's also a clever story with great use of music and some terrific locations.  Having a healthy budget clearly helped in all the right places, from big set pieces to music licensing.  American Werewolf is one of those rare horror movies that manages to appeal to mainstream audiences without losing the core genre fans.  They've tried to recapture the magic with some success - Landis with a vampire tale called Innocent Blood and the studio with a sequel: An American Werewolf In Paris, which wasn't terrible - but An American Werewolf In London still stands head and furry shoulders above.
Paramount has released An American Werewolf In London a number of times.  I don't it would be too cynical to say that they see this film as a cash cow that can always take a little more milking.  Even limiting it to just the United States, Paramount has issued it on disc an awful lot of times.  actually, Artisan put it out on DVD first in 1997, with a barebones fullscreen disc.  So Universal's widescreen Collector's Edition was a welcome upgrade in 2001.  There was also a bundle release in 2004 with the 2001 disc and the remake of Cat People.  Then the two-disc Full Moon edition added a couple more features, and also came out with a blu-ray edition, both in 2009, so that was a good upgrade.  Then they re-released the 2-disc set as a single disc release, shaving off some extras for a more budget release in 2012.  Okay.  Then in 2014, the blu-ray was released with a gold "Academy Award" winner cover, but it was the same disc as the original blu-ray.  And that same year, they also released it in a limited edition steelbook.  And now, just today, they've released the Restored Edition.  I don't know, but something tells me this may not be the last time.
1) 2001 DVD, 2) 2009 DVD, 3) 2009 Blu-ray, 4) 2016 Blu-ray.
So, all four releases are 1.85:1, but you'll notice the old 2001 DVD is missing a little around all four sides, particularly the left.  Actually, measuring it, that first DVD is more like 1.82:1.  Even just comparing the two DVDs, you can see the later one is sharper with more naturalistic colors, too, if maybe a tiny bit on the yellow side.  And then the old blu-ray is that same 2009 DVD transfer - note the white hole in the picture around the wolfman's wrist; it looks like he's wearing a fancy diamond bracelet - but a little cleaner because it's in HD.  The grain is really defined and natural there, and was definitely the best looking version up 'till then.  But then we come to the Restored Edition, and... where'd the grain go?
2009 Blu-ray left, 2016 Blu-ray right.
Apparently, the film was given a brand new, 6k(!) scan for this restoration, and my best guess is they figured if they scanned it they close, they could apply some DNR (digital noise reduction) and not lose all the usual detail that tends to go with heavy DNR application.  That's why seeing "DNR" is a bad sign in a blu-ray review.  It means the picture is going to be unnaturally smooth and waxy, with detail erased.  Peoples' hair will look like clear plastic helmets, etc.  So bye-bye American Werewolf grain, and it does look a little bit softer, but... they seem to have been right in that the actual detail has pretty much remained.  I've seen some people say there's even more detail than the old blu, but I wouldn't go that far.  It's just that tiny details that had previously been complicated by grain - like signs way in the background - are now easier to make out because only the real lines of the image remain.
Grain haters, welcome to your Xanadu.  This is the most successful attempt I think I've ever seen to remove grain without smoothing away the image.  And yeah, it might look a tad softer when you scrutinize the screenshots like this, but a lot of the old blu's extra sharpness is really just the myriad edges of grain.  It's a little weird to look at when you're used to seeing the natural film grain in an older film like this, and I wouldn't blame any viewer who preferred the look of the older blu.  A little less DNR on this new scan might've been ideal, and this isn't a 5-star transfer to compete with the amazing work companies like Arrow have been doing lately.  But I do think the new blu may actually be the superior image.  Plus, after all, they have also fixed that white hole in the wolfman's wrist.
For audio, the new blu pretty much gives us the same English DTS-HD 5.1 mix as the previous blu (plus both have a Spanish DTS dub in 5.1, and French, German and Italian DTS dubs in mono).  Both blus also have 16(!) subtitle options, which I won't bother to list out, but that's pretty much every language including both English and English SDH.  I know a number of fans were hoping for the original English mono track, but we don't get that, nor was it on the older blu.  Landis created the updated 5.1 mix himself, so I imagine there's little interest in putting the old track back on the film.  Sorry, purists.  The older DVDs also only have the English in 5.1 (plus, English, Spanish and French subs), though I've read that the mix on the old Artisan DVD at least sounds closer to the original audio, with a higher pitch.  But you have to go all the way back to the old laserdiscs (there's a fullscreen one from Image and a widescreen one from Live) for the original mono audio.
For extras, once Universal got it, things were looking good.  The original 2001 DVD had a light but not too informative audio commentary by the two leads David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, a substantial on-camera interview with John Landis, another with Rick Baker, outtakes, a vintage 'making of' feature, and some archival footage of Baker working on the famous werewolf transformation.  Plus it had a photo gallery, storyboards, text bios, a bonus trailer for The Wolfman (the remake) and a nice little insert with notes.  The 2009 DVD and every subsequent release carried all of that over (except the bios, bonus trailer and junk), but also added a full length documentary on the film called Beware the Moon (that's the second disc of the 2-disc set that was dropped from the budget version in 2012), which is great and very thorough.  The blu also added Universal's usual junk like BD-Live and D-Box support for the two people who use that.  And no, the new 2016 doesn't have anything new to add, and even ditches the BD-Live and D-Box stuff.  It does come in a nice, shiny slipcover, though.
So I'd say this is the best release of American Werewolf yet, but certainly not by a large margin.  I can certainly imagine some fans will even prefer the older disc, but honestly this new look is nice and clean.  Has too much work been done on this?  I'd say so, but they were probably trying to compensate for less than stellar reviews of the older edition, when frankly, a lot of the rough edges of the picture quality may come down to the original film than anything wrong with previous blu.  So I'd say it's an upgrade, but a low priority upgrade, and fans might want to just wait for an inevitable future edition that might be even better.  What if Arrow or Umbrella were able to license this and handle the 6k scan their own way, include both audio tracks, plus create a few new features to boot?  But there's been no announcement or anything; that's just me being hopeful.  In the meantime, this Restored Edition is super cheap ($9.99 at Best Buy), so it may be hard to resist.  And it's still a solid release of a great film with a terrific set of extras in its own right; you could do a lot worse.

Lionsgate Becomes a Force for Good, Starting With Chopping Mall (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Chopping Mall is one of the movies I lightly covered as part of Lionsgate's Horror Collection 8 Movie Pack.  But I think it's time we allow it to fly solo, given that it's just debuted as the inaugural release in Lionsgate's new Vestron Video line of cult horror collector's edition blu-rays.  And this is a very deserving title to start off with.  I mean, this isn't just the first time we're getting Jim Wynorski's all-time best film in HD (sorry, Busty Cops 2!); it's the first time we're getting to see it widescreen.
In the Horror Collection post, I described Chopping Mall as a crowd pleaser, and I stand by that.  It's cheesy and doesn't have a subtle bone in its body, but it's a perfect piece of 80s B-movie entertainment.  A group of teenagers stay overnight to party inside a shopping mall.  Unfortunately, they chose the same night that the mall installed their new collection of robot security guards and impenetrable metal doors sealing all the exits.  That would actually have been fine, if their luck didn't worsen as lightning strikes the building, turning the robots turn into berserk killing machines.  It becomes a small war of man versus machine, and there's plenty of casualties.
Cameos by Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Angus Scrimm and Dick Miller do a lot to elevate the proceedings, but this film is a good time on its own.  The production values are surprisingly high, with big explosions seemingly being set off in a real, working shopping mall; and the robots look great.  The soundtrack is a really effective and even catchy at times synth creation, and there's some pretty effective gore effects.  The characters are heavy-handed but cute, and the movie flies by at a brisk pace from one entertaining set-piece to another.  I'd hate to party with the person who couldn't get at least some enjoyment out of this picture.
Chopping Mall debuted on DVD as a fullscreen special edition back in 2004.  Why fullscreen?  Well, clearly not everybody behind the release cared as much as they should've.  At least it had some extras.  It was all we got for a very long time, though it did turn up again, completely barebones, in the aforementioned Horror Collection 2-disc set in 2012.  I've still got both of those, so we'll be doing an all-out comparison.  But don't expect them to hold a candle to Lionsgate/ Vestron's brand new 2016 blu-ray.
2004 DVD on top; 2012 Horror Collection DVD mid; 2016 blu-ray bottom.
Oh yeah, look at that.  Actually, it's interesting to note that the two DVD transfers are different in more ways than just the compression (they stick Chopping Mall on the same disc with three other movies in the set).  The framing is slightly different - the second DVD has a little more picture on the top and left-hand side.  And the original DVD's color timing is different: greener, compared to the Horror Collection's redder look.  Like, they actually went back at some point and made a new, equally unimpressive master from the same video source?  Anyway, it's all academic now, because thanks to the new version, there's no reason ever to look at the old DVDs again.
Like I said, the new blu is finally widescreen, matted to 1.78:1 (despite saying 1.85:1 on the case).  It turns out the old DVDs weren't entirely just open matte, as we do gain a little more picture along the sides, but it's mostly a question of matting out the extra vertical information.  We've got the most natural set of colors, somewhere in between the two poles of the past releases.  And the picture is so much clearer and more defined in HD.  It's a major boost since the old DVDs are soft.  It's not quite a perfect transfer.  Sometimes the picture's still a little soft, though I have a feeling that's more to do with the original film, since grain is often quite visible and natural looking.  But there's also what looks like a little funky macro-blocking or digital noise going on at times.  Like, look at this thumb.  So it's not a perfect five-star transfer, but compared to what we've had before it's amazing.  And even compared to other blu-rays, it's still safely at least in the "very good" range.

Vestron provides the original mono audio in DTS-HD, and it sounds great.  There are also optional English SDH subtitles, and they even include the isolated film score, also in DTS-HD.  They're really doing it right here.
I called the old 2004 DVD a special edition because, despite being fullscreen, it really was.  It had some solid extras, including an entertaining commentary with Wynorski and his co-writer Steve Mitchell, and a really neat featurette on the killbots, and the trailer.  And happily, all of that has been carried over to the new Vestron release.  Even more happily, there's also a whole ton of new stuff, that really does this film justice.  First of all, there are two new audio commentaries: one with Wynorski and Mitchell again, but this time joined by lead actress Kelli Maroney - and I think it's even better than the original, a perfect blend of entertaining and informative.  And then the other one's with horror critics Nathaniel Thompson and Ryan Turek, which you can honestly skip, as all they really do is talk about themselves and the 80s in general.  After about five minutes, they never really mention Chopping Mall again.  But I think the best extra of them all isn't even a commentary but the roughly half-hour retrospective documentary with Wynorski, Mitchell, and almost the entire cast, including Barbara Crampton.  It's a lot of fun and fairly comprehensive.

But there's a lot of other fun stuff, too.  There's a brief look back at an unfilmed deleted scene, with Mitchell and Wynorski explaining it and then reading from the original script (more with the Blands!), and interview with the film's composer and a new featurette on the composer.  Those are the must-see stuff.  Then there's some sillier things, like a gag interview with one of the robots, voiced by Wynorski (who also voiced them in the film), and an interview with a fan who actually has the last surviving killbot.  It comes in a nice, glossy slipcover, too.
I couldn't be happier with this release.  It's a fun movie given ideal, first class treatment.  They did everything right, and that's all the more impressive given how much Lionsgate didn't get right - with this film and their incredible back catalog they'd been callously sitting on for decades.  I'm thrilled thinking about all of the films I thought we'd never get finally not only coming out but getting amazing blu-rays in this stellar new line.  They've already got a bunch of great titles following this one up, and who knows how much more they continue to do if this line takes off.  I can't wait.

Fright Night Part Deux, Replacement Discs and All (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Fright Night 2 on blu-ray.  The original, not that crazy 2013 fiasco.  It exists, so long as you're prepared to import from Germany.  But considering this is the first time we've even had the film released in widescreen, let alone HD, I'd say it's worth getting excited over.  Especially since this is a 2.35:1 'scope film, so the widescreen presentation is particularly important.  Like, look at the rip of the fullscreen version below and how much is lost compared to the BD screenshot of the same frame.  It's a completely different viewing experience!  And yes folks, I tested it.  While it's labeled region B, this release plays just fine on my region A locked player.  It took me a while to land a copy, because the original pressing was faulty, and I was holding out for a corrected disc (more on all that later on).  But it's here now and I'm pumped, so let's spread our wings and take a serious flight!
So, unsurprisingly, Fright Night 2 is really not as good as Fright Night 1.  The original is such a smart, tightly written story with some terrific characters.  Fright Night 2 doesn't have that perfect story, the tone is all over the place, sometimes veering too far into the silly side of horror comedy, and... well, at least it does manage the most important part in bringing our two lead characters back: William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowell.  No Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse or Stephen Geoffreys this time around, but you really couldn't have expected two thirds of them to return anyway, given how the previous film worked out.  But Bearse is unceremoniously written out with a quick, throwaway line that they broke up, and now there's a new love interest (Traci Lind).  After everything they went through, his risking his life to save her etc. and then they just "broke up."  Oh well.
So, Fright Night 2 is no Fright Night, but it's not bad.  It's directed by Tommy Lee Wallace of Halloween 3 fame, giving it an interesting blend of the two atmospheres.  We've got a new set of baddies this time around, with Julie Carmen as a relative of Sarandon's character, out for some revenge, as well as a memorable pack of subordinates including John Gries, Russell Clark and Brian Thompson from Nightwish.  Making the lead villain a female who can have sexual tension with the lead, as opposed to the lead's girlfriend, gives the sequel a little spark.  There's also some solid effects and a cool soundtrack that hearkens back - sometimes quite directly - to the original film.  But the writing just isn't there.  This time around, Ragsdale's graduated to college, and the campus setting just isn't nearly as compelling as the family home in the original.  Gags, even with the evil vampires, get really goofy; and McDowall doesn't have much of a character arc to go through besides retreading the first film, though they do have some fun following up on "Fright Night" TV show.
Basically, so long as you go in prepared with tempered expectations, fans of the original should have fun with this sequel.  It's definitely not on the same level, but it successfully fulfills the essential promise of reuniting you with Charlie and Peter Vincent.  And there's nothing here to offend fans of the original, or rub them the wrong way like in the remakes.  ...By the way, if you've never seen it and are curious, Fright Night 2: New Blood isn't actually a sequel to the 2011 Fright Night.  It starts fresh, essentially remaking the original film yet again, but also blending in elements of this Fright Night 2.  So, Charlie and "Evil" Ed are in college, like the original Fright Night 2, and the evil vampire's a sexy woman again.  But they've never battled vampires before and meet up with the latest version of Peter Vincent (now a reality TV star) for the first time in it.  It's set in Romania and has a good look to it, but it's the worst itteration of the characters yet.  Honestly, any frustration or disappointment you may've had seeing Fright Night 2 originally back in the 80s will wash away after seeing how Fright Night 2: New Blood.  This one's flawed, but not that bad.
Until this year, Fright Night 2 has only been available as a no frills, full frame DVD from Artisan that's long since gone out of print and gotten pretty pricey, especially taking into consideration the low value of the disc's actual quality.  But thanks to '84 Entertainment, that situation has finally been resolved.  It's still not the feature-rich special edition fans really want, but it's a great looking, fully widescreen and uncut edition, and in HD to boot.  '84's release is a "2-Disc Limited Collector's Edition" - essentially a combo pack - so we also get a SD DVD copy of the film.  There is a problem, however, with the blu-ray included in this set (the DVD is not affected): the stereo mix was accidentally "crushed" to a false mono.  I'll explain that when I get into the audio a little further down; but '84 has implemented a replacement program.  For a limited time (which may already be up??) you could send in your defective disc to the label and they'd send you a corrected disc.  Conveniently though, you can now order this from Diabolik, and they'll include the corrected disc in a CD enevelope alongside the shrink-wrapped mediabook containing the original discs.
So here you can see both discs, side by side.  On it's face, it looks like there's no way to tell the two versions apart.  There's nothing in all that copyright text around the ring, or any of the other markings, that's different on the new disc than the old.  But there is a way to tell.  Look at the blue blu-ray logo on the bottom of the discs.  You might think it's just the lighting in my photograph, but no, those are actually two different shades of blue, darker on the left and lighter on the right.  The dark blue is the original disc, and the light blue is the corrected one.  So if you buy this set and are trying to figure out which version you have, look at the bottom blue.

Now, the difference between the two versions of the blu only relate to the audio, not the picture.  But still, just to be certain and thorough, I guess I'll go ahead and throw up both screenshots from of the blus for comparison.  And the DVD, of course.
'84 Entertainment's 2016 DVD on top; original blu-ray middle; corrected blu-ray bottom.
Boy, look how nice that framing looks.  Again, this film isn't on the level of the original, but I imagine it would've gotten a little less flack if horror fans were able to see the film looking like this on video and cable back in the days.  And the picture here looks pretty great, with natural looking grain on the blus, and a generally strong, untampered with image.  Not a lot of surprises by way of the comparison: the two blus really do look essentially identical, and the DVD of course is softer and more compressed, with all of the grain and minor detail smoothed away, but still would've been a pretty great DVD if Artisan had released that transfer back in the day.

So now we come to the dreaded audio discussion.  Well, first of all, the DVD has German and English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, and the blu-ray has the same, boosted up to DTS-HD.  All are strong and clear, with no subtitle options.  So what's the stereo/mono thing that's so messed up the original blu-ray needed to be replaced?  Here, let me break down the whole thing.
Stereo means that the sound is coming from two speakers, right and left; while mono audio is just coming through one channel.  Most of you guys probably already know that.  But you've also probably noticed that most DVDs and blu-rays of older movies that only have mono audio tracks are still playing sound from both of your speakers, not just one side or the other.  That's because mono audio tracks are still delivered in stereo, that is to say, the same sound is set to come out of both speakers (or more, depending on how fancy your home theater is).  If you buy a blu-ray with "mono" audio, you're never actually going to hear it come out of just one channel.  But more modern films started creating "stereo mixes," where the audio is actually different depending on which speaker it's coming out of.  So, for example, if your protagonist is in a haunted house and nears a noise coming from the left, that scary moise might only play from the left speaker, making the experience more immersive.  And by "modern," I just mean that relatively speaking, as stereo mixes have been around for decades and decades, and of course now we even have 5.1 mixes, 6.1, etc.  Some studios make new mixes for older movies, which often involves adding all new sound effects that the original filmmakers didn't create, which is why many fans want the original mono mixes even when theoretically better 5.1 mixes are available.  But that's a whole other debate.
Sorry for the lesson, but I've seen so much confusion online discussing this issue I wanted to make sure we're all on the same page.  So anyway, now you know how it all works, and for Fright Night 2, the thing to know is that it has a stereo mix.  Like, a proper one that Tommy Lee Wallace made for the film.  And that's what's on the DVD.  But on the blu-ray, they made a mistake, and took just one channel's audio and duplicated it.  So instead of the scary sound coming only from the left channel, it's coming from both channels, like a mono mix.  Yes, the blu still sends sounds through both speakers, but it's playing the wrong sounds on one side.  And as you can see in the image I put together above, I double-checked the original and corrected disc, and yes, the first version is off; and yes, the corrected disc does fix the problem, giving us the proper stereo mix.  Hurray!
So now let's talk extras.  There ain't much, but there's not nothing.  One thing to note, in fact, is that the extras are a bit different on the DVD and blu-ray.  So if you have a blu-ray player, your tendancy might be to totally disregard the DVD half of your combo packs, but in this case, there's a little something extra there.  Although, again, it's not much.

On the blu (original and corrected), we have the teaser trailer in English and the theatrical trailer in German.  Then there is a whole bunch of stills galleries.  Like, somebody really went all out on stills galleries, giving us behind the scenes photos, promo photos, alternate poster and video cover artwork, and even the film's Japanese and German presskits.  All together, there's six galleries.
The DVD, then, has all that stuff from the blu-ray, but it also has the full-length trailer in English.  Yes, that's only on the DVD.  It also has "Regine's Performance Nr. 1" and "2."  These are just clips from the film, when Julie Carmen dances in the film.  They're not deleted or extended scenes, they're just the same clips from the film, just stuck on here as extras because somebody was having fun, I guess.  And the only other thing the DVD has is a collection of bonus trailers, a couple in English and a couple in German.  None of the trailers are in particularly great quality (for Fright Night 2 or the bonuses), looking like they're all from old copies.  There's some interesting stuff, though... Could '84 be preparing a release of 1988's Dream Demon?

Anyway, finally, it's worth pointing out that this release is a mediabook, meaning it houses an attractive booklet with notes by Kai Naumann.  Of course, it's all written in German, but it's also full of nice full color photo spreads, poster art, etc.  And this is a limited edition release, limited to 2000 numbered copies.  Mine's #1162.
I've always been disappointed in Fright Night 2, even back when I was a kid.  But I also always still enjoyed it.  And after the remakes, my appreciation's only risen.  Come on, who doesn't want to see Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent a second time?  And if you're a Fright Night 2 fan, this is a highly recommended set.  It looks and sounds great, and it's an attractive release.  It's pricey to import, though, and getting the replacement could potentially be a hassle.  You could cross your fingers and hope for an American release, maybe even a special edition with commentaries and stuff.  But we've been holding out for that since DVDs were invented, so it might be time to bite the bullet while you can.

And Now, a Complete Code Red Overhaul: Trapped (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Now in contrast to my last Code Red DVD/ Blu-ray comparison, Trick Or Treats, where very little changed from the first release to the second, here's one where the movie got a complete overhaul: 1982's Trapped.  Again, Code Red handled both the DVD and the blu-ray editions, and seemed to even use the same source materials, but this time the two versions look nothing alike!

Released on VHS as The Killer Instinct, Trapped is another one of those Deliverance-inspired horror films, like Just Before Dawn, Rituals or The Final Terror, where escaping backwoods killers is mixed with the dangers of surviving in the wilderness.  Here, we have a little bit less of the wilderness drama, but we double down on the evil rednecks thanks to a commanding performance by Henry Silva, who makes all those other movies' killers look like certifiable wimps.
We start out with a little cross-cutting between some Southeastern Tennessee State University (which I'm pretty sure is not an actual University) college students pontificating on the unshakeable morality of their value system, and some small town Southerners living up to exactly zero of those principles.  Of course, we can all see it coming: these kids who think they know it all are going to have their values challenged when they decide to spend the weekend camping in the wrong neck of the woods.  Here, Silva rules over his small community with fear and violence, and when they wind up witnessing a local murder, they're going to have to adapt to this old way of life quickly to survive.

This is definitely more of a tacky exploitation film than Deliverance or Rituals, but unlike most horror films, I actually think it improves over repeat viewings.  Like all these wilderness horror flicks, you've got some great backgrounds and locations.  There's a couple really impressive kills and an exciting climax, and while the plot's highly predictable, everyone in the cast does a good job of selling it.  Again, that especially goes for Silva, who really takes the brunt of this film on his shoulders and makes a lot of potentially rote and hackneyed scenes compelling and entertaining.  A subtle but effective soundtrack helps elevate the material as well.  You can tell the filmmakers decided they were going to make the best movie they could with this material.
For whatever reason, despite being a pretty good movie, and certainly better than many of its peers, Trapped is one of those off-the-radar movies that had never been released on DVD, or even laserdisc, before Code Red rescued it from obscurity in 2009.  Their DVD was pretty barebones, but at least it was uncut and widescreen.  After a quiet life of rare fullscreen television and VHS appearances, this was the first time any of us had the opportunity to see it in its original aspect ratio, unless we'd caught it back during its original, limited theatrical release.  But still, it looked kind of over saturated and, well, you'll see in a moment.  So it was welcome news Code Red announced their a fresh HD master for brand new blu-ray release in 2016.  Just look at how far it's come.
2009 Code Red DVD on top; 2016 Code Red blu-ray bottom.
Both transfers were taken from the original interpositive, but the DVD looks really... pixelated?  Or is that video noise?  Certainly the colors and contrast are highly boosted, which does bring make the image pop, but it also looks really unnatural.  It probably looks better in the smaller thumbnails than fullscreen.  I mean, look at the blue on that guy's hat in the second shot, it bleeds almost an inch over the top of his head.  The blu-ray may be flatter and less lively, but it's much more photo-realistic, and the HD doubles up on the detail.  And frankly, the washed, faded look fits the tone of the film much more, anyway - backwoods rednecks who've been wearing the same shirt every day for years probably shouldn't have bright, neon glows.

It also has to be pointed out that, while both films are 1.78:1 and taken from the same IP, the framing is still clearly different.  I don't think either really has more picture information than the other, but the DVD is framed higher and the blu lower.  So what that means is we see more along the top of the DVD, and more along the bottom of the blu.  I can't really say if either looks more correct than the other.  Theoretically, the film should probably be matted to 1.85:1, so the extra picture along the top of the DVD and bottom of the blu are just that: extra; and 100% of what we're supposed to see is in both transfers.  So it's an academic distinction.
2009 Code Red DVD on top; 2016 Code Red blu-ray bottom.
But the look of this new blu is not without some controversy.  While I don't think anyone would argue the bulk of this film looks heaps better on the blu-ray, some scenes - the night scenes - have taken raised some questions.  About maybe twenty or so minutes of this film take place at night, so the majority of this film is "safe," but there's no question that the night scenes on the blu lose a lot of detail, as you can see above.  But here's another thing you'll notice about the scenes above... the DVD scenes look to be taking place mid-day, right?  Basically, the film has one long nighttime sequence.  But some of the scenes were shot day-for-night, and on the DVD, there's no nighttime filtering, so some nighttime shots look like bright afternoon.  And if you watch the film on DVD, it's confusing and makes no sense; it constantly keeps switching back and forth between visible day and night.  Really, even before the blu was released and I could see how the scenes were meant to be filtered, it error was jarring.  You didn't have to be a seasoned critic to realize something was wrong, and it just made you feel like the filmmakers were dummies, and this was the kind of thing you'd see on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

So as far as I'm concerned, this is another huge improvement on the blu-ray's part.  It makes the night scenes look like genuine nighttime and everything matches.  The film finally plays the way it's supposed to.  Yes, we do lose a lot of visual information in some scenes, whole faces are suddenly lost in blackness.  But never to the point where you can't make out the action or anything.  And again, those DVD versions of the scene aren't just wrong in the fact that they're clearly bright daylight, but they still have that boosted, over-saturated look.  Yes, I can imagine another HD transfer that uncrushes some of those blacks a little and gives us more detail, but I'm perfectly fine with the night scenes on the current blu as-is, and I definitely happily take them over the way they're presented on the DVD.
Oh, but that's only controversy #1 of 2 with this blu-ray release, though again I'll come in the blu's defense, though maybe not quite so strongly.  Controversy #2 is this film's sound.  Yeah, it's poor.  If this was one of those sites that gave everything number or letter grades, I couldn't give this sound an A or B... probably not even a C.  So what can I say in its defense?  Well, first of all, the DVD wasn't any better.  In fact, it's even worse.  The sound is really muffled and awash in a see of crackling and hiss, to the point where it can be genuinely hard to make out what's being said in some scenes.  Most of the time it's not too bad, but it's always troubled, and during the worst moments, you'd have to turn up the volume really high to hear what's being said, and then the rest of the noise would hurt your ears.

For the blu-ray, the same mono source was obviously used, but some effort was clearly put into cleaning it up.  The hiss is gone, and so is almost all the crackling (it still pops up a bit at times, especially around reel changes).  Unfortunately, it also reveals that a lot of the sound quality wasn't just being obscured by the excess noise, it just wasn't there.  Take away the hiss, and the dialogue is still quiet and muffled; though at least it's safer to crank the volume without the noise blowing out your eardrums.  And I don't think they did a sloppy, destructive clean-up (I know what that's like, having taught myself how to edit audio); I just think the audio elements Code Red were working with lost a lot of quality over time.  So, short of discovering better source materials, my defense is that I believe this is A) as good as Trapped can sound, and B) a big improvement over the DVD.  But it's still poor sound for blu-ray standards, or even DVD.
As for extras, there's really not much.  The DVD only featured a Spanish version of the original theatrical trailer, plus some Code Red bonus trailers.  And the blu-ray doesn't have much more, but it does improve things nominally.  First of all, they now have the original trailer in English, so we can finally understand what the narrator is saying.  So that's a nice, little upgrade (though it might've been fun if the blu kept the Spanish as a separate audio track).  and the only other thing on here is the addition of the option to watch Trapped in Katarina's Bucket List Theater Mode, where host Katarina Waters gives the film a brief video introduction and wrap-up.  However bad you imagine the Southern accent she puts on for this to be, believe me, it's worse.  haha
So, at the end of the day, I was happy with the Trapped DVD at the time, especially since it was our first crack at the film at all, but I'm really happy to be replacing it with the blu.  And say what you like about the disc's flaws, they're still big improvements over the DVD.  Now, there is a new German blu-ray of Trapped that just came out, too; but from what I've been able to gather, apart from the additional German language options, it's essentially the same as Code Red's, bad audio and all.  So I highly recommend the blu-ray release.  It's an underrated film on an underrated disc.