Something Unexpected From 88 Film's Asia Collection: The Gifted

This one was a real pleasant surprise for me.  I was completely unfamiliar with The Gifted before they sent for me to review, and last I'd looked, I thought 88 Film's Asia Collection was all Shaw Brothers and Inframan flicks from the 70s.  But this is a contemporary (2014) Korean movie about, well, I couldn't even tell what.  Horror?  Drama?  Or some kind of thriller, according to the back of the box.  But the label's official description really doesn't tell you much at all - and even that turns out to be inaccurate - so I was really jumping in blind.  And as an old hand who's burned through a few video store selections in my time, that's become fairly rare these days.
Well, the first thing I have to report is that this movie is a slow burn. If you appreciate a good slow burn, you're in for a treat.  But if not, back out now, because this one is super slow.  For the first solid half of this movie, I was thinking, well, this is an interesting choice for 88 but they're really gonna take a bath on this title, because it's just an earnest indie drama about how hard it is to earn a living in modern South Korea.  A young man was laid off from his last position, and because he'd never been promoted before he lost that job, no new company wants to hire him.  We see him go from interview to interview, meanwhile getting increasingly stressed out when he's back at his apartment alone.  Meanwhile, his girlfriend wants to buy a small cafe, but doesn't realize they can no longer afford it.  Her little brother has resorted to stealing cell phones, and our protagonist winds up pursuing small, miserable jobs that don't pay enough to make ends meet.  That's like the first hour of this movie.
It's all well shot, the performances are grounded and convincing and he makes good use of music.  But if I have one real complaint about this movie, it's that the characters are too broadly drawn, which makes the slow pace of the first half genuinely boring.  Eventually everything's going to pay off in a grand way, but the characters are too simplistic to sustain the first portion.  The girlfriend wants to make enough money to live a comfortable life, and is concerned about her brother.  That's like all there is to her for a very long stretch.  There's a scene where the girl tells her boyfriend to return a handbag, she hasn't taken the tags off of it; and I thought, finally, one moment where she doesn't just follow the very simple, one sentence motivation her character's had all along.  She doesn't just want money; she's rejecting money.  You know, in the really good indie dramas or comedies, they can make a meal of this kind of material because there's lots of subtle and relatable layers to the people you're empathizing with on screen.  Here, you just start to feel like they're clarifying something that really didn't need any more explanation.
So by now, I guess I've warded all of you away from this movie, but hang in there.  Like I said, the first half requires some patience, but it's still well made and the drama is painfully plausible.  And when this film finally takes its turn, it all comes together and starts to pay off in spades.  I won't spoil where it goes, but I'll say that this film definitely qualifies as a horror and makes an excellent spiritual successor to American Psycho (especially compared to the dreadful sequel it actually got).  No, it isn't satirical like AP, and it doesn't go after yuppies or any similar kind of archetype.  But it's a hard story that asks the question: why not respond sociopathically to a society that callously treats you completely mercenarily?  It's a powerful, disturbingly effective story, and you'll definitely be glad you took the ride by the end.
2018 UK 88 Films blu-ray.
88's blu of The Gifted, due to be released on the 28th, I believe marks this film's English-friendly debut on disc anywhere in the world.  This is a new(ish) film, and looks to have been shot on digital, so there's not too much at risk by way of the transfer, barring 88 doing anything foolish, which happily they don't seem to have done.  Their master is presumably a one to one copy of the filmmakers' DCP, so it looks just the way it's supposed to look, short of a 4k UHD edition.  And it does look just fine.  The picture is slightly matted to 1.85:1, and if detail is ever a little light, I assume that's down to the camera they used.  We're given the option of Korean 2.0 or 5.1 mixes, both in DTS-HD, with optional/ removable English subtitles.

There are no special features except for a 1.83:1 trailer with burnt in subs.  And the case features reversible artwork with an even darker, creepier design.
I've already shown this movie to a couple people, and they were quite impressed, too.  As much as any art can be judged objectively, I'd say The Gifted is an undeniably good movie.  But I have to admit the rewatchability's probably on the low side.  I really won't be surprised if 88 wind up taking that bath on this title.  But I hope they don't, because I'd love for them to surprise us again with more off-the-radar treats like this.

The Full, Grizzly Experience

Well, this is my first time owning Grizzly, thanks to a review copy sent from 88 Films, but it's far from my first time seeing it.  I grew up on these movies on TBS back in the 80s.  They kind of run together a bit for me: very talky, made-for-TV feeling animal attack films with a batch of commercials every three minutes.  Not exactly cutting edge Hellraiser, but they were pretty much your only free, daytime horror options as a kid.  I can still remember Leslie Nielsen ripping off his shirt in the woods, deciding he had become a killer animal, too, and he was going to rip apart all his fellow campers who dared to question his leadership.  Unfortunately, this isn't that movie, but it's a close second.
A lot of these movies take heavily from the popular disaster genre of the 70s, like The Poseidon Adventure and Avalanche, combined with the radioactive giant critter films of the 50s, like Them or Beginning Of the End.  But coming immediately on the heels of Speilberg's 1975 box office sensation, Grizzly sticks very closely to the Jaws script, and with taglines like "the most dangerous Jaws on land" and "not since Jaws has the terror been like this," they're not shy about it.  Christopher George is Roy Scheider, the official in charge of keeping the park safe for the public.  He catches onto the shark grizzly killing vacationers pretty quickly, but people don't want to believe him and the guy in charge refuses to shut down the park despite George's warnings.  So he assembles a 3-man team, with Andrew Prine as Richard Dreyfus and Richard Jaeckel as Robert Shaw.  It's all here, dragging a bloody corpse to lure the beast to the animal's POV shots lurking up on its victims.  There's even a sequence where the music mimics John Williams' famous "duh-nuh, duh-nuh" theme as the bear sneaks up on an camper.
But in the end, the Jaws angle isn't what sells the movie, at least not decades later now that we're hip-deep in Jaws knock-offs.  It's the wildly satisfying bear attack sequences.  They're surprisingly graphic and ambitious.  The bear swats one woman and her arm goes flying across the clearing.  A small child is mauled on screen.  A horse is beheaded with one, clean swipe!  And I won't even begin to spoil the conclusion that could still make audiences break out into cheers and applause.  The rest of the film is about as flat and dull as you'd imagine: wooden dialogue, excessive pseudo-scientific exposition, and completely uninteresting subplots that never affect the story... I suspect there's an earlier draft where Joan McCall's role as a reporter was going to lead her to investigate the camper deaths and, you know, get endangered or something.
Yeah, the bulk of Grizzly is awfully generic, but it really knows how to deliver the goods.  All the helicopter shots and variant locations don't add much by way of thrills, but they at least belay a healthy budget.  More impressively, they make great use of a real bear though there are of course a few scenes where actors are clearly mauled by a PA in a fuzzy glove.  Actors are harnessed up to portray massive Rawhead Rex-style bash-ecutions.  It helps a lot that they play everything deadly straight, unlike the goofy Sharknado outings of today.  Grizzly never goes camp or winks at the audience, except for one scene that sticks out like a sore thumb, where a female ranger, on the hunt for the man-eating grizzly bear, decides to take an inexplicable break to strip down and bathe in a small waterfall... where of course the bear is hiding!  But even that just manages to add to Grizzly's only-in-the-70s charm.
This is hardly Grizzly's first time at the rodeo.  Shriek Show first rescued it from the dark sea of grey market DVDs with a nice, 2-disc special edition.  Scorpion released it as a somewhat strange, limited edition blu-ray release in 2014.  They included two transfers (yes, it was a BD50), unfiltered or DVNRed, sold with the warning that, "This Blu-Ray of GRIZZLY is not up to our usual standards for a Blu-Ray release. However, due to the overwhelming request for this title, we are presenting the film to you in the best way possible in HD. Although there are many imperfections with the materials, we hope you can still enjoy the presentation as it is while viewing. Thank you."  Also curious: they didn't include the audio commentary from the DVD, even though Walt Olsen (president of Scorpion) was one the participants.  Anyway, now it's just been released this week in the UK from 88 Films, so let's have a look!
88 Films 2018 UK blu-ray.
Presented in a very wide, 2.40:1 aspect ratio, 88's disc apparently uses the same master as Scorpion, but thankfully they've opted for the non-DVNR version.  This is a very grainy transfer, probably taken from a print.  But while there are occasional white flecks and minor blemishes - even a little soft flickering in one or two scenes - for the most part, Grizzly's in much cleaner, more attractive condition than I was expecting.  The colors are strong and very natural, and the aforementioned grain is very distinct and crisply rendered.  Sure, I'm sure going back to the OCN could pull out more detail and clarity.  But I'm surprised Scorpion got self conscious enough to issue a disclaimer over this master - it looks pretty good.

Audio-wise, we get a healthy, lossless LPCM stereo mix.  No subtitles, but then I don't believe the Scorpion or Shriek Show releases had any either.
Here's where things start to get interesting: special features.  The Shriek Show set was pretty full, with the audio commentary, plus a nearly 40 minute retrospective documentary, a screening Q&A, vintage 'making of' featurette and some other little odds and ends.  Scorpion carried over some of that, but lost the commentary and featurette (though they did add their Katrina intro, if you're interested in that).  And 88?  Well, disappointingly, they've included none of that.  But they did produce their own, all-new exclusive 23-minute featurette.  It's an interview with David Del Valle, who's basically here as an expert to give us a little of the backstory for the film.  But he knew Christopher George, so he's able to give us some unique personal anecdotes, and it winds up mostly being about him.  Quite interesting and definitely worth the watch.  Besides that, we get the theatrical trailer and, if you get the first pressing, it also includes a limited edition slipcover and booklet where Calum Waddell rather generously compares the film to George Orwell's Animal Farm, and gives a little history to the "animals run amuck" genre, with quotes from Joe Dante and others.
So, Grizzly is entertaining, but not what you'd call, you know, a good movie.  It's definitely worth watching once for the highlights, but beyond that, for me, it's the kind of movie you get as an impulse buy or not at all.  Maybe you see it cheap and pick it up on a lark, or include it in a big order when a site is having a sale...  For most viewers, I'd imagine whichever blu-ray is in your region will do.  But if you are seeking the full Grizzly experience, this 88 blu is a welcome option.  Because it gives you the un-DVNRed HD transfer, plus a nice, new exclusive special feature.  So I'd say the best way to have it all is to get this and the old Shriek Show DVD for all the other extras.  There's also a German blu from '84 Entertainment, which includes all the Shriek Show extras, but not this new one from 88.  So the '84 and 88 pairing is another option.  But you can buy the DVD set used a lot cheaper, and combined with 88, it still nets you all the extras and the top quality HD presentation.  If you already have the Scorpion or '84 blu, though, it's probably not worth double-dipping just for the Christopher George piece.  But yeah, for right now, 88 and SS (or '84) discs make up the ideal, total package.

...I say "for right now" because there's already been a new, promising announcement to complicate things further.

It's Alive, The Whole Bloody Crib from Scream Factory (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

I've covered a lot of Larry Cohen releases on this site, but not the most famous, iconic horror hit of his career: It's Alive.  Why not?  Well, because until today, there wasn't much to write about.  Warner Bros released it and its two sequels on DVD back in 2004, both in the US and the UK, and that's been it.  They repacked 'em once or twice, so you could buy the films individually or all together.  But there's just been those core, staple DVDs to serve the trilogy for all these years.  Until today, finally, Scream Factory has given them all new 2k scans from the original film elements and released the entire trilogy in HD for the first time ever.
1974's It's Alive is a real horror classic that stands up alongside the likes of The Omen, Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist.  And I think it's all thanks to the combination of the natural intelligence Cohen injects into his scripts with his knack for finding root, human issues that frighten us.  What if that cop we all count on to protect us in times of danger was really the danger?  Maniac CopAmbulances, Uncle Sam, the food we eat and even God have all shown us their sinister faces we've all secretly dreaded they might be concealing thanks to Mr. Cohen, and probably the most sensitive of all those phobias is the fear expectant parents have of something being wrong with their baby.  And as the classic tagline for this baby reads, "there's only one thing wrong with the Davis baby... It's Alive."
That's heavy stuff; and while it's debatable how scary they actually make the killer baby (or how much they're even trying), the subject matter is still dancing on a raw nerve.  They manage to maintain some atmosphere by keeping it mostly in shadows and unseen, like the shark in Jaws, and pouring a rich Berrnard Hermann (Citizen Kane, Psycho, and a few other minor little efforts you may've heard of) score over all the proceedings.  But this film lays into the drama of the situation at least as much as the horror.  There some touches of humor, too, of course - this is our Cohen, after all - but this is about as far as he gets from his zanier horror outings like Q or Return To Salem's Lot, basically playing it straight and letting the severity of the situation sit with the audience.  A great cast, including the relatively unsung John Ryan, genre staple Andrew Duggan and Cohen regular James Dixon, really do their part to hold this up to a higher level of credibility than Cohen typically aims for.
But you can never really tap the same vein twice in horror.  If you're lucky enough to rattle audiences once, doing the same thing next summer just won't have the same effect, and the most successful horror sequels are ones that know to aim for something different, like Aliens or Evil Dead 2.  And It's Alive 2, a.k.a. It Lives Again... sort of does that.  The cast returns and the tone is relatively the same, including Herrmann's music.  But where the first is clawing at your raw emotions, this one is reaching out to us more on an intellectual level, offering us interesting ideas on an almost sci-fi plain as opposed to primal level of the original.  If we take it as a given now, after the first film, that monster babies are an issue, how do we deal with them, and what does that say about us?  The film was advertised as "now there are three of them," but thank god Cohen is able to put more into the script than that.  The new cast members (including the great John Marley) mesh perfectly with the returning stars, and Rick Baker's first monster looks a little better this time around.  It all comes together well enough to be a good, effective movie well worth the watch, despite their being, of course, only one classic in this series.
And speaking of there only being one classic in this series, along comes It's Alive 3.  It's subtitle Island Of the Alive tells you all you need to know about this one.  Lofty ambitions are put aside with Cohen instead going for more of a self-indulgent romp this time out.  And frankly, it's probably the best choice he could've made.  It's the 80s now, John Ryan is replaced by fan favorite Michael Moriarity, and the vibe definitely gets lighter as the infamous babies are exported to a Jurassic Park-like island.  Serious issues are still sort of being dealt with, including a memorable courtroom scene where Moriarity begs for his son's life, but it's full of goofy bits where he rafts onto a California beach from Cuba with a few of Fidel Castro's men or his brief stint as a shoe salesman.  Only James Dixon hangs in there from the previous films, but Cohen regular Laurene Landon fills in, as does horror icon Karen BlackIsland is almost more of a riff on the previous films than the conclusion of a trilogy, but it's still a good time I'd hate to miss out on.
2004 US Warner Bros DVD top; 2018 US Scream Factory blu bottom.
first two part 1, second two part 2, third two part 3.
I'm gonna lump these comparisons together, because it's the same story every time.  Warner Bros' DVDs are all 1.78:1, anamorphic widescreen, and frankly a little over compressed even for their time.  Consequently, Screams 1.85:1 blus are some very satisfying upgrades.  The films typically look a little soft, probably due to Cohen using small, frequently moving handheld cameras, and there are actually one or two flat-out out of focus shots.  But that's the filmmaking, not the home video transfers.  Scream brings out about as much clarity as they possibly good with their fresh scans, and they look a lot better.  The DVDs also seem to sport a little edge enhancement or other tinkering to try to smarten up their images, which has happily been done away with on the blus.  And the colors have been corrected, almost always to their benefit (I do wonder if they swung the pendulum a little too far into the greens for It's Alive 2, but that could just be me reacting to them reducing the excessive reds of the DVDs).  These films really needed updated masters to be brought to HD, and happily we've got them.

For audio, we get some pretty straight forward bumps to uncompressed DTS-HD.  All the DVDs and all the blus just featured the original mono tracks, except for part 3, which has stereo mixes in both cases.  The DVDs did feature extra French dubs, as well as French and Spanish subtitles, but both the DVDs and blus feature optional English subtitles, which is all that really matters.
Now one thing Warners got right with their DVDs was bringing in Larry Cohen for his consistently excellent audio commentaries for all three films.  It has to be noted that for part 3, he was recording to a cut version of the film; and while all three films were released completely uncut on both DVD and blu, this means his commentary leaves some unnatural dead air during the scenes that were excised from his tape.  And he takes some pauses himself anyway on the other ones.  That's the only complaint about these otherwise terrific commentaries.  Besides that, the Warner Bros discs also included a trailer for each film.  And it should be noted that parts 2 and 3 were released as a two-sided flipper disc, a small annoyance Scream Factory happily did not continue.
They did port over the commentaries and trailers, though, so we're all good.  In addition to that, they created an excellent little mini-documentary going over the history of the entire trilogy, interviewing tons of key personnel, from Cohen to his producers and DP to Michael Moriarity and James Dixon.  It's only about twenty minutes long, but it's terrific; and honestly, I would've bought that on disc if it was released by itself.  Otherwise, though, these aren't quite the packed Collector's Editions we get when Scream goes all-out.  The only other new stuff Scream gives us are a new Q&A with Cohen from an It's Alive screening, where he just repeats anecdotes from the commentary anyway, and a new interview with Steve Neill, the effects artist for part 3.  They do also throw in some additional radio and TV spots for the first film, and stills galleries for all three, plus the first two films have reversible artwork.  And all three cases come in a thin cardboard box.
Ultimately, this is a very satisfying set.  But you know, they haven't quite given these movies the Nightbreed treatment.  It feels like Scream Factory is cutting down a bit on the number of special features they create in general, which is a disappointing trend.  It's wonderful that they brought in Michael Moriarity, but then all they used of his interview was those quick couple soundbites?  You'd think since they had him on camera, they would've chatted with him long enough to put together a  whole separate interview on disc 3.  And I'm worried that their titles further down the road (like, say, Alien Predators) will be more barebones, not less.  The price is certainly right, but I would've happily paid $20 for even fuller editions, especially since we already had the commentaries on the DVDs, so there's not so much new material.  But that concern aside, it's hard to be anything but quite pleased with this set.  The films look great and everything included is thoroughly rewarding.  It's hard to believe we haven't had It's Alive on blu before, in any region.  But we do now, and it's pretty great.

Dueling Blus: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Here's a nice, new release from a new DVD/ blu-ray label, Signal One. It's an early Jodie Foster thriller called The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. This is an HD debut of a film that's been released a number of times on DVD, but never before on blu, and it's coming to us from the UK. It's also the first release with any substantial extras. So my hopes were cautiously high when I took a chance and ordered this, now let's see how happy I should be with my purchase.

Update 1/11/16 - 4/30/18: Signal One's UK blu was this film's HD debut, but a few months after I originally posted, it was issued here in the US by Scorpion Releasing, with some exciting special features.  How do the two discs stack up?
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a smart, taught 1976 thriller based on a novel by Laird Koenig. An overwhelming majority of this film takes place in one room, so it's no surprise that this was later adapted into a stage play as well. It's also another one of those great Canadian films made in that tax shelter period where a lot of films, by directors like Bob Clark and David Cronenberg were created with a lot of creative freedom and often made to appear American. In this case, the film's meant to be set in Maine, and it passes fine enough so long as you're not intimately familiar with the locations.
Foster made this the same year as Taxi Driver, and she's perhaps even more impressive here as a 13 year-old girl who's somehow living in a large house all by herself. Naturally, people are immediately suspicious and start snooping around, from the local sheriff's deputy to a sleazy pedophile played expertly by Martin Sheen. But despite her age, Foster appears more than prepared to kill to protect her secret. Then again, she might not be the only one...
Everything about this film is surprisingly effective. The author of the original novel wrote the screenplay, so the story and dialogue is crackling. The score is subtle but effective, and the supporting cast includes 1940s studio star Alexis Smith and a particularly engaging turn by Bad Ronald's Scott Jacoby. It's very Hitchcockian in how it plays with what the audience knows or thinks it knows, and how it gets viewers wholeheartedly on the side of a killer. Horror fans expecting a a high volume of gruesome kills may be disappointed, but this certainly isn't kiddie fare either. In fact, it's pretty interesting how it's generally assumed that our society is ever-increasingly permissive; but I find it hard to imagine that this film could probably only have been made, or at least allowed into the mainstream with a PG rating and high volume of television broadcasts in this day and age. It's a unique product of the 70s.
Which brings me to the point that yes, this is the uncut "international" version on both blu-rays. The primary distinction between the international and US cut version being a brief nude scene of Foster's character (performed by a body double). However, almost all - if not entirely all - of the past DVD releases have also been the uncut version; so this shouldn't be a big revelation to most fans of the film. But it's good to know that this release is uncut.
2015 Signal One UK blu on top; 2016 Scorpion US blu bottom.
2015 Signal One UK blu left; 2016 Scorpion US blu right.
The first thing you'll notice from these screenshots is that they're virtually indistinguishable.  Which is okay, since the transfer they're clearly sharing looks great, with very natural looking colors, blacks and details. The framing is very slightly letterboxed to 1.84:1 in 1080p.  But if you really go pixel hunting, you'll see that they are different.  Signal One's disc is single layer, while Scorpion's is dual-layered.  And while Signal One's transfer takes up almost all of their their space, and Scorpion's just uses 26.1 GB (with the rest devoted to the extras), meaning it's not a very huge gap in file sizes... it still means Scorpion's just edges Signal One's out.  And I'm not just saying that based on the numbers, the grain is clear on both discs, but is just a bit more defined on Scorpion's disc, most visible in clear patches of sky, or in the shot above, pavement.  But honestly, this is a super hardcore nerd distinction I'm drawing here; I really don't believe anyone could spot the difference in motion during a blind taste test.

Signal One's LPCM and Scorpion's DTS-HD 2.0 audio tracks are similarly difficult to tell apart; both are lossless tracks are very clear and bold.  But here's the first place where one disc finally makes a clear step ahead: only the UK blu features optional English HoH subtitles.
No past release has ever had any extras apart from the trailer and/or bonus trailers. Well, the trailer is on these discs, too; and it's worth a watch in how they market this is more of a frightening horror film.  But Signal One finally started to make interesting with the inclusion of their exclusive audio commentary by Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer. Thompson writes for Mondo Digital and is fully prepared with a lot of information on the film, taking almost all of the weight of the commentary. Green chimes in when Thompson starts to run out of steam midway through to help keep things moving and playful. They do get a little lost, veering off onto the occasional self-indulgent tangent or two, but for the most part it's a good listen with a lot of the information viewers would want to know, like how the film differs from the book or what this film introduced to the closing credits of every major motion picture today.

So that commentary was a welcome addition to the film, but of course they couldn't top a commentary by the actual director, Nicolas Gessner, which is exactly what Scorpion managed to secure.  At first his accent feels a little thick, but you soon get used to it, and he has plenty of fun and interesting insight into his movie.  And just as impressive, if not more so, is the on-camera interview with Martin Sheen.  It runs just under a half hour, and he while yes, they do kind of slip into that career-overview lazy interview format, Sheen also has a lot of great memories to share The Little Girl.  Then the two are brought together in a brief featurette where Sheen talks to Gessner over Skype, which is nice, but short (about five minutes) and mostly fluff.  Still, it's nice they threw it on here; but the real special features are the commentary and interview.

Also, both blus have reversible artwork, each using the same two poster images.
So both discs are quite good, perfectly viable releases.  The biggest difference is definitely in the extras.  The UK commentary was nice, but Scorpion handily trumped it.  Coupled with the slightly better compression, I'd have to say it's the overall preferable options.  Unless subtitles are important to you, in which case you may be forced to go with Signal One, which again, is still a very fine disc.  For many fans, who don't particularly care about extras and whose hearing is fine, they can honestly just go with whichever release is being marketed on their side of the ocean.  And if you're wondering if it's worth getting both, unless TLGWLDTL is your absolute favorite film of all time (in which case, you'll be getting both no matter what), I'd say don't bother... the commentaries are certainly distinct, but largely redundant, repeating a lot of the same trivia and observations.  But, with that said, I double-dipped for the Scorpion disc after already having the Signal One; and I'm glad I did.

Dueling Blus: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

I was recently writing about a space invasion movie that was essentially created by a team of special effects artists who'd taken the reign to produce, write and direct themselves... which more or less explained why it essentially became sort of a bland, dumb, soulless movie.  Well, here's another case of the same thing.  This time the special effects team in question is The Chiodo Brothers (the brothers are, the team is; don't question me, Autocorrect; I know what I'm doing!), who'd made everything from the claymation Simpsons to the Team America puppets and most importantly, the critters for Critters.  For the first, and to date only, time, they decided to see their creative vision all the way through and write, produce and direct their own thoroughly original alien invasion story.  And it resulted in almost the complete opposite of that other movie.

Update 1/3/18 - 4/25/18: Is it time to throw all previous editions out the window? The new 2018 Arrow special edition blu-ray (not to be confused with the 2012 Arrow special edition blu-ray) is here! And this time, it's no mere reissue...
Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a title that evokes a lot of fun, crazy ideas.  But if you've watched a lot of films because of their alluringly outrageous titles, you're probably used to being disappointed.  Cat Women Of the Moon just consists of seven to eight stodgy television actors standing around gabbing in cardboard sets.  The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies is actually an excruciating exercise in tedium.  Gore-Met Zombie Chef from Hell doesn't even have a zombie in it, just boring dialogue and Halloween store special effects.  But Killer Klowns delivers, living up to everything your imagination casts up when it hears the title and taking you so much further than you'd even hoped to go.
First of all, the clowns themselves are a brilliant, iconic series of designs.  We're not talking actors in clown make-up but fantastic (in both senses of the word) clown monsters.  And we don't have to wait until seventy minutes into the film to see them for about ninety seconds of screentime; they're all over the place.  Very early on, we see inside their spaceship tent, and it's a beautiful glass matte shot right out of Forbidden Planet.  And practically every scene is a new idea based on the colorful premise of what if clowns were killer space aliens?  These clowns don't just lurk around dark corners stabbing people with knives, they twist balloon animals into living creatures that can attack, they cocoon victims in cotton candy and suck their blood through crazy straws.  Their popcorn's alive, they trap victims in ball pits, their puppet shows are deadly.  Each moment is another great idea carried out like I haven't seen in a film since the original Phantasm.
But objectively, is it actually a good movie?  Honestly, yes!  Sure, if you're looking for a movie to teach you how to love again, this isn't competing on the same profound level of an emotionally raw Bergman masterpiece; but it really is an all-around great film.  Naturally, the effects are terrific, and the silly plot is a constant pleasure.  But it film is supported just as much by its colorful production design (also by the Chiodos), iconic theme song by The Dickies and cult actor John Vernon expertly playing his role to the hilt.  Okay, a few of the more juvenile gags fall a little flat, and some of our lead actors, while taking cues right from the B-movie classic playbook, are a tad wooden.  But overall, it's just an all-around great film.  Like, this was 1988.  What won the Academy Award in 1988?  The Last Emperor?  I'd put this movie over that!  Maybe.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space wasn't exactly a sleeper hit in the horror community, so we were chomping at the bit for a special edition in the early days of DVD.  And in 2001, MGM gave us one as part of their budget-priced Midnight Movies line.  Often, those were no frills editions paired up as flipper discs; but they knew the fans would eat them alive if they didn't give us a nice, packed special edition DVD, which they did.  And eventually, in 2012, they bumped up the film to HD with an equally low-cost blu-ray, which thankfully retained all the extras from the DVD.  They even re-released it a couple of times with collectible lenticular covers [see mine, right].  Walmart even included a bonus Killer Klowns coloring book!  Meanwhile, that same year, Arrow released the film as a DVD/ blu-ray combo pack in the UK, with slightly different extras (you bet we'll get into that).  And in 2014, they reissued that as a steelbook edition, which is what I've got.  But in 2018, Arrow took a new stab at it, instead of just repackaging the same discs again, they gave the film a brand new restoration with a fresh 4k scan from the original negative, plus additional special features - let's go see!
1) MGM 2001 US DVD; 2) MGM 2012 US blu;
3) Arrow 2014 UK DVD; 4) Arrow 2014 UK blu; 5) Arrow 2018 US blu.
Once you get past the original 2001 DVD, which is distinctly darker with heavier saturation (including a subtle blue filter for some of their night scenes that the later releases seem to have dropped); we're basically looking at the same master all around.  Each release before 2018 is slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1, with slivers of faded matting on the sides... an overscan area thing that really indicates an older master.  But it looks pretty good.  The HD is a nice jump up in clarity over the old MGM DVD, though it's still a little soft.  Arrow is clearly using MGM's master, and happily they didn't do any destructive tinkering to it, so effectively the two blus are tied in terms of PQ.  For whatever reason, though, Arrow's DVD came out a little paler.

But there's a new Sheriff Mooney in town!  Arrow's new 2018 blu is again slightly matted to 1.85:1, but pulls out slightly further, revealing a little extra picture along all four sides.  The first thing you'll notice about this new transfer, though, is the grain.  It's positively dancing in every frame.  Some people might even be a little put off by it; but comparing it to the previous editions, it's clear the older discs are only less grainy by virtue of smudging it away.  Like I said in January, the old blus look a little soft, and that's why.  I mean, giving MGM the benefit of the doubt, that was probably due to older scans being less able to pick the finery out than an attempt to scrub the grain away at the expense of detail.  But either way, the results were and are the same.  This new transfer is super crisp.  And the colors aren't very different from their predecessors (and still no blue filter), but they do look truer.  It's subtle enough, though, that you'd only notice it in a direct comparison like this.  What isn't subtle is that sharper, grainier image.
The old DVD gave us a perfectly fine Stereo mix with optional French and Spanish subtitles.  The MGM has bumped this up to a DTS-HD stereo track, though I only really noticed the difference during the opening theme, and this time they offer optional English and Spanish subs.  Arrow has almost the same lossless audio track, with optional subs, but there is a difference.  The liner notes in their booklet mention "additional sync work" done in London, and with good reason.  Around the 17 minute mark, the dialogue noticeably drifts a little bit off on both the MGM DVD and their later blu and lasts for the duration of the scene.  The Arrow release has corrected it, or at least gotten it substantially closer, as I suspect it was a minor ADR issue in the first place.  So it's a small thing, but definitely an improvement.

And yes, thank goodness, the 2018 blu's blu retains the correct sync.  I was a little nervous about discovering that the problem that reverted, but no, it's all good.  And this time, in addition to the stereo mix (and English subs, which are still here), they've added a DTS-HD 5.1 mix.  I'm not sure how big a deal that is, since it's revisionist as the stereo is the original mix, but it's nice that they added it for those who want it.  And I checked: it doesn't have the sync issue either.
Speaking of improvements and retaining the good stuff, let's talk extras.  Now the original MGM DVD already laid all the serious groundwork: a very fun and thorough audio commentary by all three Chiodo brothers, an over 20-minutes 'making of' doc, multiple featurettes on the visual effects, score, the shooting process & even a look at the Chiodo's early short films, plus two deleted scenes (with optional commentary), bloopers, two galleries, the trailer and several fun easter eggs.  And again, they carried all of that over for their blu, nothing's missing.  It might look like they added a couple things, like "Klown auditions," but those are just the easter eggs from the DVD now laid out plainly on the menu.  Arrow 2012/2014, too, has included all of that great material - including, again, the easter eggs - but they've also created a couple new features.  We get on-camera interviews with stars Grant Cramer and Suzanne Snyder, as well as a short, 8 minute tour of the Chiodo Brothers' models and creations.  Arrow also made a nice little, 24-page booklet with notes by critic Joel Harley.  Oh, and they threw in another one of their postcards for another Arrow release: mine was Mark Of the Devil.

And in 2018, all of that is carried over.  The old MGM stuff, Arrow's 2012 interviews, the easter eggs, even the Harley booklet and postcard (this time, mine was for Don't Torture a Duckling).  And they've whipped up even more stuff.  First, there's a new featurette interviewing The Dickies about their unforgettable theme song, then there's one on the Chido's early experimental Super 8 short films (one of which features an audio commentary by the brothers).  And finally, there's the Super 8 films themselves.  This edition also includes a cool, double-sided Killer Klowns poster, a nice lenticular slipcover and reversible artwork.
So, okay, easy peasy.  The blus naturally trump the old DVD edition, the old Arrow disc is just that little bit better than the MGM for fixing the sound and including those additional features, and now the 2018 blu is the best of all, right?  Yup.  No surprise twists; this new edition is easily the best edition to get.  Simple recommendation there if you don't already own the film.  But the US disc still might be good enough for most fans, especially since it's so cheap (I got mine at Best Buy for $6.99); though for the more serious fan, the latest Arrow is the superior, most collectible option.

But if you're not a super fan, the double-dip may not be the most alluring.  It's a better transfer, yes, but they're not exactly correcting grave problems with the previous HD transfers, and "much grainier" probably isn't a huge selling point for most viewers.  Meanwhile, those new extras add a little bit more, but not much.  I can't say I was ever too involved in the short films the Chiodo brothers made as teenagers, so that only leaves one new interview that's actually about Killer Klowns (although if you have the MGM and not the previous Arrow edition, you'll be getting those Cramer and Snyder interviews, too, which is a bit more of a bump).  So we have an absolutely excellent, top quality release, and an undeniable upgrade, but maybe a low priority double-dip for owners of a previous edition.