The Demon Wind Is Blowing! (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

How has this movie not been released and re-released on DVD like twenty times already?  Demon Wind is such a great, weird, cheesy, pure 80s, all out fantasy horror movie. It's clearly Evil Dead inspired, but also has enough unique stuff going for it, too. Sure it's goofy and low budget, but I'd love to see what a proper scan of this movie based on its OCN or at least a print would make this look like - that would probably make a huge difference. But that's not gonna happen until these DVD studios wake up and get into gear on this movie. Maybe it's stuck in some kind of legal copyright swamp. But at least there's a cheap-o, no frills, PAL DVD out there to tide us over. It's twelve years old, from a company called Pegasus.

Update 5/19/15 - 10/17/17: Aww yeah!  Another title rescued from the M.I.A. tag, this time thanks to Vinegar Syndrome!  This film cried out for a restoration (just look at the screenshots below), and it finally got one with their new DVD/ blu-ray special edition combo pack.
The movie starts out with an old hymn being sung over footage of an old rural cabin. Inside we meet a loving married couple who are using incantations to ward off ghosts who are talking to them, and things go immediately south for them. The husband gets possessed, and we get our first set of awesome, gooey transformations effects like 90 seconds into the film. The wife has a snow globe (literally... with a little scene inside and everything), which is apparently magic, because she uses it to blow the whole place up in a giant, blue explosion - yee-ha! Cue the opening credits.
So we meet our main characters. Our lead is kind of your average 80s straight man horror lead, and his girlfriend's kind of generic, though she immediately pulls her pants down when she walks into a diner, so she's not completely average. They're searching for the guy's father based on a dream, which yes, we get to see, where he's naked at a gas station and his grandmother's a grinning zombie. So they assemble the team: a sexist jock, a smart guy in glasses, their girlfriends and two of the most memorable characters in any movie ever: a pair of shotgun-toting, karate expert magicians!
Like, literal magicians, who enter the scene by driving into a gas station in a convertible, pulling flowers from their sleeves for the ladies, doing a stunt kick show with a beer can, and ending a fight by conjuring a rabbit. Look, that's just what happens in this movie. And it's still only the very beginning. The film really begins when they all go find the ruins of the cabin from the prologue and summon an army of demons by reading an incantation written on a wall. Evil magic kills their car batteries and prevents them from walking away, and then there's evil ghost children and then the magicians start go full action hero on a horde of zombies. People start getting possessed, a tongue shoots out of a mounted cow skull and kills a girl, they get magic daggers, a demon hangs from the ceiling waving a decapitated head... I won't get into spoilers (and there is a LOT to potentially spoil about the final third of this film!), but Hell breaks loose in a very anything-can-happen way, a la Fulci's The Beyond.
Again, you can't not see the Evil Dead in this film, but it also works on almost all of the same levels. No, it doesn't have the great cinematic touches that Raimi laced the first and especially the second film with, but it makes up for that by adding a lot of crazy, entertaining stuff. They don't have the craft of Evil Dead, but they have the content. This movie is just non-stop special effect set pieces, funny lines (even if you're laughing at them as often as with them) and ambitious ideas, and as absurd as it gets, they play it pretty straight. The special effects might strike younger audiences as dated, but they're actually quite good and, again, ambitious. You keep expecting this movie to start getting worse and let you down, but it never does. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not going to replace Hellraiser or Halloween as anyone's favorite top shelf horror film. This is from a lower shelf. But if you love crazy, gooey 80s horror, it's actually pretty great.
2003 Pegasus DVD on top; 2017 Vin Syn DVD mid; 2017 Vin Syn blu bottom.
Unfortunately, Pegasus's DVD is not great at all. It's a soft, fuzzy, full screen thing that looks like it's ripped from an off-the-shelf video tape. You can't even read the closing credits, the letters are so blurred together. And it was taken presumably from an NTSC source, because it's interlaced as well.  It's about as terrible as a DVD can be.  And in stark contrast comes Vinegar Syndrome's edition, which fixes everything!  It's widescreen, slightly matted to 1.85:1 on the blu.  Curiously, like their Undertaker combo-pack, they leave the DVD open to 1.78:1.  Anyway, it really repairs the DVD's extra boxy composition (sporting an unusually tall 1.29:1 AR).  Pegasus' framing was mostly open matte, so it's more about cropping the excessive head space, but VS do reveal a little more image on the sides as well.  On top of that, the colors are corrected, the interlacing is fixed, detail is restored... I mean, we're comparing a brand new 2k scan of the original camera negative to a DVD that didn't even port a VHS correctly, so it's an almost ridiculous comparison.

There's a slight hiss behind the DVD's audio, but it's actually surprisingly clean considering what the film looks like. Unfortunately, that hiss has been preserved and even gotten a bit worse on the blu's DTS-HD 5.1 mix.  The picture looks immaculate, but the audio track's definitely a little rusty.  It's loud and all the music and dialogue is perfectly discernible, but that hiss is very noticeable even for casual viewers.  Vinegar Syndrome have added English subtitles, though, which is a plus.
Of course, the UK DVD had zero extras, not even a bonus trailer for some other unrelated flick Pegasus was selling.  But Vinegar Syndrome has assembled a a bunch of neat stuff.  First off are three terrific, new on-camera interviews with the producer, Sandy Horowitz, who talks about how this film was made in almost back-to-back with Twisted Nightmare, the cinematographer Thomas Callaway, and actress Sherry Leigh, who you may remember from Slaughterhouse.  Then there's an audio interview with the film's editor Christopher Roth, who talks about some of the struggles the production had.  Finally, VS throws in a nice stills gallery and the original theatrical trailer, which is also restored in HD.  The case includes reversible artwork, and the first 3000 copies come in a super cool, lenticular hologram slipcover based on the old, also hologramatic Paramount VHS cover.
As shoddy as the DVD was, you kinda had to get it anyway, 'cause Demon Wind is too much fun to let rot away in obscurity. But now you can just throw those suckers out, because Vinegar Syndrome has given this film better treatment than it deserves.  Okay, the audio's a little hissy, but basically this is everything horror fans could have hoped for, and I daresay more than any of us would've expected.  I mean, who would've imagined the day when Demon Wind's cinematographer was telling us about his experiences on location in crisp HD?

Is Scream Factory's Land Of the Dead Actually an Upgrade? (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Land Of the Dead is the fourth film in George Romero's historic Dead films.  It came out in theaters in 2005 and was released on DVD later that year, later hitting blu-ray in 2008.  So Scream Factory's brand new blu-ray edition, due to be released on Halloween, will actually be the film's second blu-ray release in the United States.  In addition to all new special features, they announced that their release will be a new 2k scan of the interpositive.  Great, right?  Well, the scuttlebutt surrounding this release is that despite being shot on film, it was completed digitally... because, after all, it's full of digital special effects.  And the 2008 blu was struck from that digital intermediate.  But to play the film in theaters, the DI was struck back to film, creating an IP that was then used to make prints.  So if Scream made a new scan of the IP, they'd actually be using a generation further removed and therefore of inherently lesser quality than the 2008 blu, presumably just for the sake of being able to announce "new 2k scan!" to fans who don't know any better.

...But is all of that accurate?  The theory sounds right based on what we know, but it still relies on speculation and presumption.  Do we know for a fact, for example, that the Universal blu was taken from the DI and not the IP, or are we just assuming?  And one interesting detail is that while all of Scream's announcements (on Facebook, their store website, etc) have clearly said "interpositive," the case itself repeatedly says "internegative."  But really, the best way to know which blu-ray came out better is to look carefully at both of them and see for ourselves.  And, well, you know; I've been known to do things like that before...
If you've never even seen Land Of the Dead, well, I reckon you should if you're a horror fan.  Yeah, it's got a decidedly lesser reputation compared to the previous films in the series.  But then again, Day of the Dead enjoyed a pretty similar lesser reputation until being reappraised by fans and critics alike in more recent years.  And I think Land is due for a similar reevaluation; and Scream Factory including it in their collection may be the first sign of that happening.  I mean, for all the Walking Deads and Zombie Flesh Eaters we've had over the decades, this is the original, core zombie series that started it all, written and directed by the man himself.  Then, will we see the same thing happen for Romero's final two films, Diary and Survival, a few further years down the road?  Well, let's not go crazy.  But really, I think Land deserves more credit than it gets.
Not that I don't get the criticism.  First of all, some of the digital effects are a little wonky.  Romero's dead films are famous for having some of the greatest, cutting edge horror effects in the genre.  ...Up until this one.  There is still a ton of fantastic practical effects, but the digital blood and crazier CGI moments don't entirely blend in with the rest of the film.

And even more critical than the effects, the story is, well, awfully ambitious.  I mean, this is the only film set in the series that basically takes place in a sci-fi future.  Okay, technically you could say Day of the Dead has to be set a couple years ahead of the present in order to be able to say that half the world's already been overrun by zombies.  But it's basically contemporary people dealing with the situation the way contemporary people would.  But Land imagines a whole new, future society that's developed after the world as we know it has crumbled.  And that's taking a big risk with a series that got most of its strength by tackling a supernatural horror in the most credible, authentic way possible.  The original Night Of the Living Dead was the most powerful "what would it be like if this unnatural horror actually happened to us in the real world right now?" that had ever been made up to that point.
Meanwhile, Land sets a scene in an underground saloon where Asia Argento is dressed in black leather wrestling two zombies in a cage match scored with Spanish rap music, while our other heroes have a shootout with a midget pimp dressed in purple shouting "they ruined my suit!"  One of the soldiers rides a skateboard in every single scene.  At this stage, the tone of the series has veered dangerously close to Escape From LA; so I can see why fans shunned this entry.  But if you can get past the most egregious moments, this film is actually pretty effective, both as a compelling zombie story with good, if not so subtle, social commentary, and in delivering genuinely atmospheric horror that also never skimps on the goods.  For the most part, it plays far straighter than Escape From NY, let alone LA.
Land's got a pretty great cast including Dennis Hopper, Simon Baker The Mentalist, John Leguizamo who can be quite over the top but here gets it just right, and even Tom Savini, bringing back his character from Dawn Of the Dead for a cool cameo.  The score's effective, the film's shot really well, and George was finally able to bring his Dead Reckoning dream to life.  The story gives us a nice follow-through on the set-up of Bud from Day Of the Dead, and if you just want to see cool zombie kills, Greg Nicotero (who also has a cameo... in fact, this film is laden with cameos) and Howard Berger do their damnedest.  I guess this is one of those films like Halloween 3 or Hellraiser 3, where you have to let go of your expectations from the previous films in their series to appreciate; but if you can just do that, it's hard to imagine anyone not having a good time with this sequel.
A shot only in the theatrical cut.
Now, you may've noticed that Scream's new release is a 2-disc set.  That's not just because it's overflowing with extras (although it is), but because they've included two different cuts of the film: the R-rated theatrical version (92.54 minutes long) and the unrated director's cut (96.48 minutes long).  You might be wondering why anybody would bother with the shorter cut version.  Well, that's because the difference between the two versions amounts to more than just extra CGI blood squirts and extra frames of gut munching.  There are substantial changes made between the two edits, and not only does the unrated version also have extra lines of dialogue and a whole, long dramatic scene where Leguizamo fights a zombie in a high-rise, but the theatrical cut also has some alternative shots and tiny pieces not seen in the unrated version.  It can be rather confusing, and movie-censorship.com has even created two distinctly different comparisons of alternate Land Of the Dead cuts (here and here).  I carefully checked both, and can say that the latter is the one that accurately reflects the two different cuts on the Scream set, while the other changes seem to be unique to the old, R-rated DVD.  So anyway, certainly the unrated version is the one you want to watch, but there's good reason to preserve both, and good on Scream for doing so.
A scene only in the unrated cut.
And alright, now I'll finally stop beating around the bush and get into comparing the blu-ray releases.  I've also still got the original, widescreen unrated DVD, so I'll throw that one into the mix, too.  So we've got Universal's 2005 DVD, their 2008 blu (which also consists of the unrated director's cut), and both versions on Scream Factory's 2017 blu-ray set.  Both of Scream's transfers are taken from their new 2k scan of the internegative; but their unrated cut required HD inserts, because they weren't part of what played in theaters.  The shot above this paragraph, of Leguizamo and the butler, is one of those inserts, so you can see how it compares to the internegative shots below.
1) Universal DVD 2) Universal blu 3) SF theatrical blu 4) SF unrated blu.
So, the framing (2.35:1), color timing, etc is pretty much identical across the board.  Maybe the new transfer is a smidgen cooler.  Anyway, except for the inserts, addressed above, the two Scream Factory transfers are taken from the same source; but I threw them both in to be thorough.  Interestingly, even though the shot appears in both cuts, they seemed to use different sources for the second set of shots above.  Watching this on a large (65") TV, though, I didn't notice the "seams" between between the newly scanned footage and the inserts at all.  The biggest difference in quality is of course the DVD, which naturally has a blurrier look.  Detail was definitely smudged off by the standard definition compression, which the Universal blu did a fine job of restoring, without any noticeable flaws like DNR or artificial edge enhancement.  But what about detail between that and the Scream blus?  That's what we really care about.  And, well, especially looking at the second shot there, I have to say the Scream blu looks sharper, with maybe a little extra detail drawn out of the heavy shadows.  Let's zoom in for a close-up.
Universal blu left; unrated Scream Factory right.
Scream's transfer is definitely grainier.  That could be because it's a better scan, or just due to the fact that they used a more filmic source.  Or a combination of the two.  I'm not sure if we're actually getting any new detail (though the added grain makes it look that way), but we certainly haven't lost any, like we were worried about happening.  The grain may be somewhat deceptive, but to my eye, all the edges seem sharper and clearer on the new discs.  In fact, you could maybe argue Scream over-sharpened a tad.  Make your own call, but I (slightly) prefer it, and at any rate I'm super relieved it's not the downgrade I was fearing.

By the way, the audio options keep shifting with this flick.  The DVD gave us the choice subtle choice between DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks, with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.  Then the 2008 blu-ray dropped the Dolby, just giving us the DTS 5.1 in HD, along with the same subtitles and a Spanish dub.  And now Scream Factory gives us the DTS-HD 5.1 track plus a new DTS-HD 2.0 stereo mix, as well as English subs.  Is the stereo mix how it played theatrically and the 5.1 mixes were revisionist on home video maybe?  Curious.
Universal's releases were already pretty swagged out with goodies, including probably the most important extra, a George Romero audio commentary (also with producer Peter Grunwald and editor Michael Doherty).  There are a few momentary lapses of dead air, but for the most part, it's everything you want it to be.  There are also a whole bunch of featurettes (Undead Again: The Making Of Land Of the Dead, A Day With the Living Dead, Bringing the Dead To Life, When Shaun Met George - a fun behind-the-scenes look at a cameo by the stars of Shaun Of the Dead, which was still pretty new at the time - Scenes Of Carnage, which is just a skippable montage of gory scenes from the film, Zombie Effects: From Green Screen To Finished Scene, Bringing the Storyboards To Life and Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call), that range from fifteen to as short as one minute.  There's also a few brief deleted scenes and bonus trailers, including one for a Land Of the Dead video game.  The blu-ray converted a couple of those features into picture-in-picture commentary with their funky U-Control gimmick, which is slightly annoying, but it's all the same stuff on either release.  The DVD also came in a nice slip cover.
Road To Fiddler's Green, the Land Of the Dead video game trailer.
Scream Factory has carried over all of that, even the stupid Scenes of Carnage montage (though not the video game trailer).  And they've also added plenty more.  There's now an additional audio commentary by four zombie extras (Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, plus Matt Blazi, Gleena Chao and Rob Mayr... I haven't listened to this one yet; I'll get back to you guys.  It's okay.  Very self-indulgent.  It would've made a great featurette, but they don't have enough to say to fill 97 minutes) and the additional television documentary, Dream of the Dead, which Roy Frumkes, director of the original Document Of the Dead, shot for the Independent Film Channel to promote the film.  This is apparently a slightly altered "director's cut" of the doc as opposed to what originally aired on television, that runs about twenty-five minutes and also includes its own collection of deleted scenes and audio commentary by Frumkes.  It's a great addition that nicely ties Land to the previous Dead films.

Then you've got new on-camera interviews with actors John Leguizamo, Robert Joy who played Charlie, Pedro Miguel Arce and a featurette that edits together interviews additional cast members Eugene Clarke, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks and Jasmin Geljo.  Disappointingly, Baker and Argento gave this blu a miss; but Leguizamo was a good get.  Anyway, there's also a new photo gallery, the original theatrical trailer (surprisingly absent from the Universal discs), and a cool slip cover.  Scream's release also features reversible artwork and includes a poster if you order it directly from their site (and it's rolled; they stopped folding them!).
So at the end of the day, I'd say yes, Scream Factory's Land Of the Dead is an upgrade.  The picture quality isn't exactly a huge leap forward, but I prefer it, and it's at worst a tie.  Then factor in all the new special features, especially Frumkes' stuff, plus the nod to purists by including theatrical cut, and it's definitely the best version to get.  And as I say, I hope it leads to some favorable reevaluations of Land itself.  But if you're not a super fan or on a bit of a budget, the Universal blu isn't much worse and can be found super cheap these days.  There's even a double-disc edition that pairs it up with the Dawn Of the Dead remake if you like that one.  You can get either one used online for next to nothing these days.  So you decide which version is best for you, but I have to say I've been enjoying this new set.

Spookies, Restored With a New 2k Scan?!

Today's the day I ask one of the biggest, most important questions that's been looming since I started DVDExotica: where in the heck is our Spookies special edition DVD/ blu?  And admittedly, the more visually astute among us might be looking at the graphic to the upper right there and thinking, what are you talking about, dude?  That looks like a Digitally Remastered DVD right there; what's that?  Well, I'll tell you what that is.  That's a piece of insignificant junk.  If you've ever heard of Vipco before, you don't need to be told.  But it's pretty much the best we've got.  But stick around and I'll tell you what's the deal with that disc, why Spookies deserves so much better, and how it's been sitting frustratingly on the cusp of an awesome special edition and just needs somebody to give it a little push so it can spread its creepy spider wings and take off.

Update 4/18/17 - 10/12/17: Ah yes, nothing feels better than taking a post out of the M.I.A. category (that's right, not even the sweet release of cold-blooded murder).  Would you believe that Spookies has been restored from a new HD, 2k scan of the interpositive by... Arrow?  Drafthouse?  Scream Factory?  Vestron?  Nope, keep guessing until you land on Intercontinental Film and Video, a DVD label operating out of Quebec.  No, I hadn't heard of them either; but I have the disc in hand myself, so I can assure you it's real.
Spookies is one crazy, wild 80s horror flick, even by comparison to other crazy, wild 80s horror flicks.  It features vampires, werecats, spider women, ghoulies, witches, ouija boards, grim reapers, deadites, hand puppets, muck men, zombies and more.  There are so many ambitious special effects from prosthetics and animatronics to stop motion and rotoscoped eye beams.  Everything you've ever wanted to see in an 80s horror movie is here for you.  I remember this in the VHS days, and the cover had a big splash about how it won a special effects award right on the front.  Now, I don't know if that was from a legit competition, or if it was something they made up to give themselves and market the film; but these are award-worthy effects regardless.  I mean, not Academy Award-worthy, but it sure tops a lot of its low-budget direct-to-video competition.
So don't get the wrong idea.  This is not a great horror film.  It's silly, convoluted, cheesy and makes absolutely no sense.  The writing is dumb, the acting is laughable and the editing is downright broken.  And if you're one of those people who's gonna let that stuff spoil it for you, you're not gonna dig this movie.  But oh man, is it cool!  A group of completely disparate characters decide to crash an old mansion to party, use a ouija board and bring an evil force to life, where each room is a different crazy horror experience: statues come to life, muck men in the basement, it's always a surprise.  Meanwhile, there's an old vampire magician trying to force an undead beauty to marry him and sends his henchman after a little boy on his birthday...
The reason why this movie doesn't make much sense, or at least one of the reasons, is that it's sort of two movies in one.  This movie was already filmed as Twisted Souls, and that version has never been released to this day.  Some time later, the filmmakers hired some new cast members, made some new monsters and shot a bunch of new footage.  Then they cut big chunks out of Twisted Souls to make room for the new material, and thus Spookies was born.  That's why half the main characters never even interact with the other half; it's a mash-up.  And that's the only version that's ever been released in any format to date.
Vipco's 2002 UK DVD on top; Intercontinental Film & Video's 2017 Canadian DVD below.
So Vipco has reissued this a couple times in the UK with different covers, but it's always the same disc.  It's fullframe, barebones and interlaced to hell.  I'm guessing it's taken from the old Image laserdisc and now that we have the new transfer to compare it to, definitely open matte with an insane amount of excess headroom present in their roughly 1.31:1 worth of picture.  It's dark, and while the film itself is meant to be dark, but coupled with the extra-strength interlacing, it can be downright difficult to discern what's even going on in any given shot.  It's even got the miscolorings of old school video noise.  Intercontinental's DVD, now, is matted to a slightly pillarboxed 1.74:1 aspect ratio.  It's still just a DVD (sorry folks, no blu), so it's in standard def, but the image is still much finer, thankfully free of interlacing issues, and what were once crushed blacks now reveal the image behind them.  The film's still a little soft, which is probably a combination of the film itself and the SD compression; but it's so much better than the old junker discs we've been putting up with for all these years.

Audio's just your basic 2.0 mono track with no subtitle options or anything.  That goes for both discs.  That's right, this import DVD with its French cover and French menus has no actual French language options for the film itself.  ...Not that that should matter at all to the rest of us, since this is an English language film and all.  But it's just odd.
Vipco's "extras" include one of those garbage Stills Gallery where they just take screenshots from the same low-quality transfer that's on the disc and put ugly boarders around them.  There are also bonus trailers for a couple other Vipco Screamtime Collection titles, but not Spookies' actual trailer.  Intercontinental's DVD is no special edition, but they do at least improve on Vipco.  They do include Spookies' official trailer (with French narration) and a proper stills gallery full of behind-the-scenes photos and alternate cover art.
So it's pretty great to finally have a watchable DVD of this film, in its OAR and everything.  But I can't help but wonder if this is just a prelude.  I mean, why make a new HD scan if you have no plans to release it in HD?  I mean, it does make the DVD look better; but I suspect this transfer was created for a blu-ray special edition by somebody, and it's just been shared with Intercontinental.  So maybe a fancy special edition is still pending.  The filmmakers have been vocal online about having the unseen Twisted Souls footage, so both cuts could be released; and there've been 35mm screenings with cast and crew members at Drafthouse theaters, so they're available for interviews and commentaries.  They've even gone on record as being interested in putting a special edition together.
But then again, there's also the very real possibility that this is it.  For a while, fans were assuming this was an upcoming release from Drafthouse Films, but sorry if I'm mistaken here, I think they're out of the home video business now.  They've had no releases at all this year, nothing announced, they canceled their subscription service and their social media's pretty quiet.  And that was before their ugly sexual harassment scandals with Devin Faraci and Harry Knowles.  So if this scan was created for a Drafthouse release, this DVD may be all that remains of a very dead project.  So make your own decisions, but I snapped up my copy while I could.  Because fans have been asking for this title since the early days of DVD, and it's been a long, dry wait.  If this is it, I'd never forgive myself for missing out.  And if that ultimate blu-ray edition turns out to be just around the corner, if it's one of the two secret titles in Vinegar Syndrome's Black Friday announcement, I won't mind double-dipping in the slightest.

The Decade Long Trek To Get Last Night Right

It's been a long journey just to get a bland, barebones DVD, but that's the story of the criminally underrated Canadian flick Last Night.  Now, to be clear, I'm not talking about the Keira Knightley* drama called Last Night, the 2016 romance, or the literally dozens of other films that have been titled Last Night over the years.  I'm talking about Don McKellar's brilliant little character piece from 1998 about the end of the world.
Don McKellar stars, in addition to writing and directing, in this bittersweet tale about humanity's last night of existence.  We're never told how or why the world is ending and it doesn't matter.  In this story, everybody knows it's over, and it's all about the how they choose to spend their final hours.  McKellar's mother wraps up her children's childhood toys and memorabilia and asks them to have one last Christmas morning together, while his best friend is determined to plow through as much of his sexual bucket-list as he possibly can.  Sandra Oh struggles to make her way through hordes of rioters and looters to see her husband one last time.  Sarah Polley leaves her family to join her friends in a David Cronenberg and Tracy Wright, in a charming little Blue reunion, keep working in an otherwise abandoned office together, determined to keep the gas company's service running until the very last minute.  It's comic, it's tragic, and nobody's plans work out quite like they expect.
McKellar's assembled a real who's who of Canadian acting ensemble with this film.  Besides everyone I named already, look for Exotica's Arsinée Khanjian, Dead Ringer's Geneviève Bujold, Robin Gammell and a cameo by director Bruce McDonald.  It was a bit of a critical darling, winning awards at Cannes and so many Genies that the cast and crew were basically just competing against each other that year.  But it never reached any large audiences, which is a shame.  Maybe its generic, all too common title should shoulder some of that blame.  Or maybe that's just the natural order of things when you throw a smart art film into a marketplace dominated by blockbuster spectaculars made for teenagers only interested in the next cheap thrill.  But anyway, Last Night is pretty great.
So unsurprisingly, when Universal released this film on DVD in 2000, it was barebones.  But more disappointingly, it was fullscreen; and after just one look at it, that was obviously the wrong aspect ratio.  But as a Canadian film, I thought there was a chance it would be given a better edition in its home country.  And almost a year later, that turned out to be right.  It was still barebones, but at least it was widescreen (though apparently they later reissued it as a fullscreen disc with the exact same cover... remember when studios used to do that?  Ugh).  But as TVs later transformed from 4x3 to widescreen, it became painfully obvious that it was non-anamorphic.  But that was all we had for years.  Until finally, in 2010, a UK company named Park Circus announced that they were going to finally do it right, and give us the anamorphic, widescreen DVD fans had spent the last decade calling for.
This comparison ain't pretty, is it?  The fullscreen version has some extra vertical information, but is definitely missing a lot on the sides... how much on which changes depending on the shot, meaning the fullscreen is pan & scan, presumably the same transfer made for TV and VHS.  Look at closely at the second comparison and you'll see it's interlaced, too.  Yuck.  The Canadian DVD from Alliance Atlantis fixes both of those problems, bringing the framing to an appropriate 1.85:1; but of course it's non-anamorphic, so a smaller, lower resolution picture floating in a sea of black.   And yes, the Park Circus DVD does fix that, with just slight pillar-boxing and frame-shifting to an AR of 1.76:1.  But it's basically the same transfer.  Actually, it looks like they DNR'd it, which is admittedly less of a crime on DVD than it is blu-ray, since you're smoothing away smudgy compression detail rather than proper film grain, but it sure looks soft on a large screen TV.  But hey, that's probably about as good as a digital film shot in SD in 1998 could ever look, right?  Yeah, except this film was shot in 35mm, though you'd never guess it looking at any of these DVD.
A clever homage to La Dolca Vita?  I like to think so!
Audio-wise, the US DVD gave us a nice, clean stereo track with optional English and Spanish subtitles.  The Canadian DVD gave us the same English track plus a French dub, as well as optional English subs.  Park Circus just gives the English stereo track and drops the subtitles, which is a small mark against it.

And yeah, extras-wise, they're all barebones.  The US DVD at least had a trailer (also fullscreen and interlaced), as well as a couple bonus trailers, all of which the Canadian edition dropped.  The Park Circus DVD at least brings the trailer back (now widescreen, but non-anamorphic and interlaced again), as well as a tiny photo gallery.  So technically it's the best release in the special features department, too; but we're talking 2 points out of a possible 100 instead of 1 for the US and 0 for the Canadian.
So yes, this is a film that absolutely is worth owning, and of all the available options, the Park Circus disc is the one to go with.  They finally gave us the DVD we should've gotten in 2000.  But by 2010 DVD standards, it's pretty mediocre.  I've love a blu-ray restoration that finally makes this film look like it was actually shot on film, with some quality special features.  But unfortunately the collector's market seems to have blinders on for anything that isn't horror (heck, I can see that plain as day just by looking at this site's traffic), so I'd recommend copping the UK disc and being happy we at least got that.


*I always feel like I'm misspelling her name, but then I look it up and I'm not.  😜