The Definitive Evil Dead 1 and 2 (Laserdisc/ DVD/ Blu-ray/ UHD Comparison)


Well, I mentioned I wanted to tackle the first two Evil Dead movies when I took a look at a ton of Army of Darkness DVDs and blus, and today's the day. We're not going to tackle quite as many obsolete older editions this time around, but we're going to look at the definitive editions for both titles and a several older ones to give an overview. I've actually owned plenty more Evil Dead I & II DVDs back in the day, but I've sold them off at different times. But this piece should still highlight pretty much all the releases worth caring about today.

I shouldn't have to tell you what the Evil Dead movies are. Sam Raimi's original was a fun, scrappy low budget horror film about demonic possession that became a surprise hit due to its imagination and some innovative filmmaking techniques. The sequel, sometimes subtitled Dead By Dawn, is practically a remake with the original team now backed with a more sizable Dino De Laurentiis budget and effects by Mark Shostrom and the KNB guys before they were KNB. They take the opportunity to innovate more, get crazier, even sillier, and take things to more outlandish, epic proportions. Personally, it's my favorite in the trilogy, although all three manage to be different peoples' favorites for their own, legitimate reasons. Do you prefer the more straight horror film of the original, or the far out fantasy of the third? They're all pretty great in their own right, so let's not waste anymore time and the best available versions of the first two Evil Dead flicks.

Update 7/11/15 - 10/15/18: If we're going to talk about the definitive Evil Dead experience, we can't leave out its top level format release.  Yes, Lions Gate just put the original Evil Dead out on 4K Ultra HD, so of course I'm gonna talk about it.
The original Evil Dead has had an unusually complicated history on DVD. Anchor Bay released it first as a bare bones, full screen (arguably the film's correct OAR) release in 1998, not too long after Elite released it the same way on laserdisc. Then Elite re-released their laserdisc as a special edition in 1999 with two commentaries and some behind-the-scenes stuff. And they also issued that special edition on DVD. Then Anchor Bay took the wheel again in 2002, releasing the 20th Anniversary edition, which had the Elite extras, more and introduced the world to widescreen 1.85:1 version. This widescreen version is a matted down version of the fullscreen version (i.e. it doesn't give us more picture on the sides, just crops the tops and bottoms), but was supervised and approved by Raimi.
So that's why I said the full-screen version is "arguably" the correct OAR. You could make a case for the widescreen one, too, since Raimi made it and prefers it, saying that's how it should've always been shown (and would have been matted for theaters). And it's hard to say which version looks better, either, as it seems to depend on the shot - some look better matted, some look better composed open. It's a debate that's been going on since the 90s, and if you want to start it up again, all you have to do is visit any forum and post an opinion or ask a question about it. It will never be definitively won. And it's led to the unconventional tendency for companies now to release it in both ratios at once. So if you have a strong preference for one version or the other, make sure you're getting what you want; but conveniently, it's cheap and easy to get both in the same package.

There was also a bit of business where Raimi made a few "corrections" to the film, fixing black mattes that didn't totally blend in with the background and erasing producer Rob Tapert who was accidentally visible in the background of one shot. For the most part, only the older, unmatted versions seem to have the pre-fix versions; but the changes aren't exactly as offensive as CGIing Jar Jar Binks into scenes or something. These are little fixes, not creative changes; so I think you'd have to be a real stickler to be bothered enough to only want to a version without them.

So there have been more subsequent releases, perhaps most notably the very dramatically packaged Book of the Dead version, which housed the DVD in an awesome, rubbery mock-up of the Necronomicon featured in the film (Evil Dead 2 also came in one, that also made a screaming noise if you pressed a hidden button on it). Oh, and Anchor Bay also released a lunch box edition, which is just what it sounds like. But I found I was able to let go of all my past DVDs (and laserdisc) thanks to two releases, which add up to a pretty definitive package, including best looking transfers of both versions, wide- and full-screen, and all of the many, many extras. Specifically: Anchor Bay's 2010 blu-ray, and Anchor Bay UK's 2003 Evil Dead Trilogy boxed set.

And in 2018, it makes its UHD debut in a 4k/ 1080p combo pack from Lions Gate.  As is common with these combo packs, the blu-ray half of the pack is the same old blu-ray from the previous release, in this case Anchor Bay's 2010 blu.  Same bonus trailers on start-up, same menu, it even opens with the AB logo.  It's the exact same disc.  But Lions Gate was good enough to come up with new label for it to match the rest of their artwork, which these packs often don't bother with.
Anchor Bay UK's wide DVD first, their fullscreen DVD second,
Anchor Bay's full screen blu (fullscreen) third, their blu (wide) fourth;
Lions Gate's full screen blu fifth; their widescreen blu sixth; and their UHD seventh.
Anchor Bay often would only include the widescreen version in their releases, but the Trilogy box set happily has both. Of course, that's fairly academic now, as their 2010 blu includes both transfers and blows them and all previous editions out of the water. So we won't even ask why the two DVDs seem to have differing transfers not only in the framing, but detail and color timing. It's all been greatly and decidedly improved upon. I mean, look at that random video noise along the top.

Oh alright. Actually, I do know why the full-screen transfer is softer and different. It's actually the pre-corrected version, with Rob Tapert visible, etc. See him there on the right? So if you're a purist, that's another reason to snag the Trilogy set.

But onto new business now.  And to start with, Lions Gate has made the somewhat controversial decision to only include the fullscreen transfer on their 4k disc. It's 1.33:1, just like all the other fullscreen transfers (technically the DVD's 1.32, but it becomes 1.33 when you crop away that excess video noise that isn't part of the picture).  Both the widescreens have the same AR, too: 1.85:1, but you can see there were serious adjustments made within that frame.  And that's kinda the case here, too.  You can see the DVD is more zoomed in than the other three fullscreen transfers.  But between the UHD and the blus, the biggest difference is really the colors, which are more nuanced and less contrasty now on the UHD.  Otherwise, given its 16mm roots, detail, grain etc looks pretty unchanged.  Of course, the UHD does benefit from the increased resolution technically... when you zoom in far enough, detail that starts to break down into pixelation on the 1080 is still smooth and round on the 4k.  I'm not sure you'd see it in motion even on a big ol' 82" TV.  The biggest benefit is really the increased brightness and contrast range.

Audi-wise, The DVD had a 5.1 mix, plus a stereo mix and a French dub that was on the widescreen version only.  And no subtitles.  The blu-ray has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix, plus the French dub, and English and Spanish subs.  The UHD has the same 5.1 TrueHD track, replaces the French dub with a Spanish one, and adds a third set of subtitles (making the always welcome distinction between standard English and SDH).

So it's really two areas that complicate matters beyond it being a simple case of DVD > BD > UHD, and necessitates multiple editions for serious fans. One is the widescreen transfer.  If you want that, you have to forgo the new 4k UHD and stick with one of the blus.  And the second area, which is even more convoluted, is the extras.

See, there's actually two versions of the blu-ray. The limited edition and the non-limited. The limited edition is a single disc release that only includes an audio commentary (and some bonus trailers for other AB releases) for an extra. Interestingly, it's a new one, by Raimi, Tapert and Campbell. The previous commentaries had Raimi and Tapert on one and Campbell on the other. This one replaces that, probably mainly so Anchor Bay wouldn't have to keep licensing the commentaries from Elite. So already that's one reason to hang onto the older DVDs: the blu only has the new commentary, the Trilogy set has the two older ones.

Now, the only way to tell the limited edition and non-limited edition blu-rays apart, at least by their front covers, is the green stripe running along the top. The non-limited edition has the same cover art, just minus that stripe. And it has the same UPC number, so things get real confusing. The limited edition is theoretically long sold out, but I've found that almost no online sellers know enough to differentiate between the two versions (same UPC and all), so you have to be very careful ordering online if you're trying to secure a particular one. But that means, to your advantage, sellers are often unwittingly letting the limited edition go for the very cheap price of the non-limited edition, so you can snag it super cheap with a little bit of luck and smarts.

But it's worth the trouble, because the bonus disc includes some really great stuff, many of which was brand new for this release. It includes a the original 53 minute making-of, a 60(!) minute feature on deleted scenes, a 29 minute featurette called The Ladies of the Evil Dead Meet Bruce Campbell, a 32 minute reunion panel, and four featurettes called Discovering the Evil Dead, Unconventional, At the Drive-In and a really short one entitled Book of the Dead: The Other Pages. There's also some brief make-up tests, four TV spots and the trailer. Holy cow, that's the special edition fans have been wanting since the 90s! Unfortunately, the bonus disc is a DVD, not a blu... it would have been nice to get all these new extras in HD. But they're just extras, so it's not that crucial, and the content is great enough as it is.

Meanwhile, the Trilogy has a couple of those extras, including the Discovering the Evil Dead featurette the trailer and the TV spots. But, besides the two commentaries, it has more of the older extras not carried over to the blu, including a 26 minute documentary Bruce Campbell directed himself called Fanalysis.  It also has the same behind the scenes and outtake footage that dates back to the laserdisc. Oh, and there are also little easter eggs of a make-up test and footage from an Evil Dead screening, plus an 8-page booklet.
But that's still not all. The Trilogy also has some exclusive extras, some of which are pretty dodgy, but still worth noting at least. The best of the bonus disc extras is the vintage episode of The Incredibly Strange Film Show, which interviews Raimi back in the late 80s. But then things get weird, with a collection of extras hosted by a rather irritating lady who sits in a tree [pictured above], with titles like Bruce Campbell: Geek or God? Rather than featuring anyone involved with the making of the film, they're a collection of interviews with mostly British journalists, including the awfully controversial Allan Bryce. Most of this stuff is pretty dry, and it doesn't help that it's mostly shot in low video quality; although some of these guys come off better than others. But nobody tells you much you won't already have known going in. The most interesting segment is a short on how the film was marketed in the UK, featuring interviews with the guys who drew the UK poster art, since they at least have a modicum of first-hand involvement. But this stuff, I'd say, should be reserved for the serious fans who really want to see everything. Otherwise it's very skippable. There's even a very cheap rock music video "inspired" by the Evil Dead, which was performed by one of the experts interviewed previously.

Still, though, the Trilogy box is a nice cheap way to get Fanalysis and the Incredibly Strange Film Show episode into your collection if you otherwise just have the blus. And the other odds and ends are at least better to have than not.

And the new UHD combo-pack?  Prepare to be disappointed.  Again, the blu is the same 2010 blu Anchor Bay released, so it has no extras but the newer commentary.  And the UHD?  Same deal; just that one commentary.  Nothing else included, not even the trailer.  Surely they wouldn't've had to license that from AB?  Well, it does come in a slipcover.
Now, Evil Dead 2 has a pretty similar story, except Elite only issued their version on laser, and left all the DVDs to Anchor Bay. In this case, I hung onto mine, because not only did I get the limited edition "blood red" laserdisc, where the disc itself is colored red (definitely something you don't see), but as you can see in the photo, I've had mine personally signed by Bruce Campbell. So it's a pretty neat collectors' item, and as a bonus, we can throw it into the comparisons.

There have been fewer issues of Evil Dead 2 in general, and we don't have the dual fullscreen/ widescreen thing going on (although Anchor Bay did once include an open matter version as a bonus on one of their old discs, possibly just out of habit). Elite released their laserdisc in 1998 with a commentary by Raimi, Campbell, Greg Nicotero and Scott Spiegel, plus a 30-minute making of and the trailer. Anchor Bay released it as a bare-bones non-anamorphic DVD in 1998 and then spruced it up as an anamorphic special edition with the laserdisc extras in 2000. There were a couple more releases - in a tin, a THX version, and the book of the dead version - but nothing more was ever really added to the mix. The disc in the trilogy is pretty much the same as all post 1998 discs: anamorphic, with the same extras from the laserdisc ported over.

But there is one complication in that Evil Dead 2 later saw two, quite different blu-ray releases. The first came from Anchor Bay in 2007, essentially just bringing their old DVD into the high definition market. And then a newer 25th Anniversary Edition from Lions Gate in 2011, which surprisingly kicked Anchor Bay's disc in the teeth. It had an all new transfer, the old extras once again carried over, plus a whole bunch of new stuff, finally giving this film the definitive special edition it deserves. Let's take a look.
Elite's laserdisc on top; Anchor Bay UK's DVD 2nd;
Anchor Bay's blu-ray third and Lions Gate's blu on bottom.
Ick. Look at Anchor Bay's blu-ray. I mean, sure, it's an upgrade from the old 1.80:1 laserdisc, and maybe even the 1.84:1 DVD. But it's looks like the compression noise of the DVD wasn't cleaned up so much as DNR'd away. At least it's finally exactly 1.85:1, but the image looks so smooth and washed out, with weird sharpening around the edges. The closer you look, the worse it gets. Actually, with that terrible edge enhancement, I think I do prefer the DVD. But then, wow, look at Lions Gate's transfer (also 1.85:1). They must've taken a whole new scan; it's so much more detailed and cleaner. It's also a little less green, which is nice. Yaknow, Lions Gate gets a lot of flack (which they deserve) for sitting on a ton of great catalog titles (at least pre-Vestron), but when they come through on a title, they really come through.

Audio-wise, the laserdisc just had a basic mono track and no subs, while the DVD just gave us a 5.1 mix, plus German, Italian and Spanish dubs and a host of subtitles, including English.  The AB blu actually gives us two 5.1 mixes: LPCM and a lossy Dolby Digital, and strips away all the foreign subtitles, just leaving the English.  Lions Gate just gives us the one DTS-HD 5.1 mix, plus English and Spanish subtitles.

Extras-wise, the Anchor Bay blu did come up with a little something extra. In addition to the stalwart laserdisc extras, they added a new featurette called Behind the Screams. It's just a 17 minute collection of photos narrated by Tom Sullivan, but it's kinda neat, and at least gives us a little more Evil Dead 2 content.

But then Lions Gate swoops in. They bring in all the laserdisc stuff: the commentary, the making of, and the trailer. They pick up Behind the Screams, too, so completists you don't have to worry about getting the Anchor Bay blu just for that. But then they come in with a treasure trove of new stuff. Most notably, they have a full-length (98 minutes), seven part documentary on Evil Dead 2 called Swallowed Souls, which is pretty comprehensive. They could have released just that doc by itself and I would have bought it. And then just to fill in any remaining gaps, they have a another 30 minute behind-the-scenes featurette called Cabin Fever, and a cool little 8 minute thing on the film's locations. Plus there are four stills galleries and several bonus trailers. ...And the blu was so cheap, too; it was like a budget release except really a top shelf, first class special edition.
It's really awesome how good the final blu-rays came out for both these films, and with surprising terrific new extras for both. In the age of "do we really need another Evil Dead disc," the UHD's a bit of a disappointment on its own terms.  But hey, it's a legit upgrade in PQ if you're a UHD-compliant kinda guy, at least if you already prefer the fullscreen version.  It's certainly my go-to version from now on.  Then that and the bonus disc from the 2010 2-disc set makes for the complete, ideal package.  It's a bit of a pain to find that limited edition of Evil Dead 1, though, if you missed it. Otherwise, the current editions of both films are A+ definitive releases, and surprisingly cheap! And if you still want more after those, get that UK set. It's got all kinds of weird odds and ends.

The Total Creepshow Experience Just Got Totaller (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Creepshow has always been released barebones in the USA. But in the UK, it had a sweet 2-disc DVD special edition. When it was time for blu-ray, Creepshow stayed barebones in the US, but the UK blu got even more extras! But finally, the director of the Creepshow documentary Just Desserts from the UK releases, Redshirt's Michael Felshner, put together an indiegogo campaign to release just his doc in the USA, even if it had to be by itself, as opposed to paired with Warner Bros' Creepshow discs. Well, that happened, and Synapse picked it up, including a bunch more special features. Just what's carried over from one special edition to another - and what isn't - can be a little confusing, so let's break it all down.

Update 10/14/18: And suddenly there's a lot more to the Creepshow story!  Scream Factory has restored the film in 4k from the original camera negative, and they've issued it in a fancy new special edition, with even more all new special features.  Has it rendered every other release obsolete?
First of all, Creepshow is a blast. It's one of those movies I loved as a kid and still get just as much out of today. You know, usually movies fall on one side of that line or the other, but this is one of those treats that fills both spaces. It's an anthology film directed by George Romero, written by (and co-starring) Stephen King, based on the old E.C. horror comics of the 1950s. That's already some top of the line talent, bolstered by the fact that they have a respectable (for a horror movie) budget and a big studio behind them. But then add to that the effects-work of Tom Savini and a terrific all-star cast, all delightfully shot and dramatically framed over-the-top, capturing the style of the original comic books perhaps better than any other, with the possible exceptions of much later entries like Sin City or Ang Lee's The Hulk. But unlike The Hulk, this doesn't suck, so it's really the best of both worlds.  ;)
Every story is great. You have a wrap-around segment where a young boy is forbidden to read his trashy comic books by his father, Tom Atkins. But he reads anyway, and each story is is one of our anthology's segments, starting with Father's Day, starring Ed Harris. He marries into a wealthy family who owe all their spoils to their deceased patriarch, but their lack of respect has him not just rolling in his grave, but crawling up out of it. Next, King himself stars as an over-the-top hillbilly hick who thinks his luck has turned when a meteorite lands in his backyard, but we all know things can't go as well as he hopes. Next, Leslie Neilsen exacts some morbidly fatal revenge on his wife and the man she cheats on him with (Ted Danson), but it winds up backfiring on him. And speaking of murderous solutions to marital problems, Hal Holbrook thinks he may have figured out a way to finally rid himself of his delightfully shrewish wife, Adrienne Barbeau, when he finds a mysterious crate in the basement of his university. And finally E.G. Marshall is a rich man who takes germophobia to new extremes in his futuristically designed penthouse apartment, but unfortunately for him, nature always finds a way.
Creepshow was originally released on DVD in 1999. I unfortunately sold it off long ago, so I don't have it for today's comparison, but it at least an anamorphic widescreen presentation. I got rid of it, though, because in 2007 Second Sight put out their loaded 2007 special edition 2-disc DVD set, which I do still have and am including here. Back in the USA, Warner Bros gave this film its HD debut with their 2009 blu-ray, but it was barebones.  Eventually in 2013, Second Sight gave us the best of both worlds: special edition blu-ray. At the time, it was the champ.  But now in 2018, Scream Factory (and Warner Bros) has raised the stakes, with an all new 4k restoration from the original camera negative.
2007 Second Sight DVD on first; 2009 Warner Bros blu second;
2013 Second Sight blu third; 2018 Scream Factory blu fourth.
So, by and large, it's the same root transfer on the DVD bumped up to HD on the original blus. It's got the same occasional flecks and dirt (look at the white speck at the top left of all three Halbrook shots), roughly the same colors etc. I say roughly, because the DVD's a teensy bit darker, but only so's you'd notice in a direct comparison like this. One more notable difference, however, is the framing. Second Sight matted it to 1.85:1 on the DVD, but Warner Bros left it open to 1.78:1 on the blu-ray, and so did they. Apart from that, though, they're pretty similar. What was a great looking DVD becomes an okay looking blu. It is a bit cleaner and more clear without the DVD compression, but it's still soft and generally feels like the older master that it is. A mild upgrade from the already pretty strong DVD.

But now the new blu!  First, to start off, the proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio is back.  And that white speck in the Halbrook shot is gone, along with plenty of others like it (though I did still catch a few specks).  The film's a bit darker, with more naturalistic colors, except in key shots where the impressionistic, comic book-influenced coloring comes in, and it actually goes a bit further in that direction.  Detail is improved and grain is definitely more distinct and natural by a wide margin.  The older blus didn't have any problems per se, crying out for correction; they're just older.  And Scream's edition brings Creepshow to the higher standards of quality on par with today's tech.

The DVD gave us a choice between a 5.1 remix or the original Dolby 2.0 stereo track, plus English subtitles. The Second Sight blu gives us the same audio options, but bumps them up to DTS-HD and LPCM respectively. However, unfortunately, this time around they neglected the subs.  On the other hand, Warner Bros remembered the subtitles (and French ones as well), but left off the 5.1 option, leaving us with just the TrueHD stereo 2.0.  So between the two older blus, it's a bit of a trade-off, which is a pity, because Second Sight had set itself up to be the otherwise superior release, and they already had a subtitle track on their DVD.  And Scream?  Well, it claims "DTS-HD Master Audio Mono" on the back of the case, but that's incorrect.  Instead they offer us the choice of a 5.1 Surround mix or the 2.0 Stereo track, both in DTS-HD.  And yes, it has English subtitles.
And by definitive, I mean look at these special features!  Now, like I said, the US Warner Bros release is barebones except for the trailer and a lame ad for Warner Bros releases in general.  So just forget about that and let's start with the DVD, which provides all the key staples. First, there's a very cool audio commentary by Romero and Savini, who provide a lot of great backstory to this film. But topping that is the feature length documentary Just Desserts, making its debut here. This is a great, very upbeat retrospective which talks to all the key players. It's very well made, in Red Shirt's usual, top notch fashion. And besides those two key features, there's also fifteen minutes of deleted scenes, a featurette compiling almost half an hour of Tom Savini's behind-the-scenes footage, the trailer and a stills gallery. The DVD also came in a cool slip-sleeve box.

Again, the US blu-ray didn't pick up any of that and remained barebones. Well, except for the trailer. But Second Sight's blu-ray carried over everything from their excellent DVD set, right down to the stills gallery, even bumping Just Desserts up to HD. Then, they added an all new audio commentary. This one, isn't really a proper audio commentary, though. It's more a collection of audio interviews that are laid over the film, but not commenting directly on it. They talk to director of photography Michael Gornick, actor John Amplas (the father in Father's Day), property master Bruce Alan Miller, make-up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci and Bernie Wrightson, the artist who did the poster and the awesome oversized Creepshow comic book that my best friend and I used to borrow from the library like every other week for years.  Plus, they added an additional vintage TV spot.

And then we come to Synapse's brand new blu-ray release of just Just Desserts.
2007 Second Sight DVD on top; 2013 Second Sight blu-ray middle; Synapse's 2016 blu-ray bottom.
So, not much has changed apart from what you'd expect. The DVD looks a little more compressed, naturally, being in standard def. All three are framed at 1.78:1, but the 2013 blu-ray looks a little bit lighter than the other two, and the DVD is a little heavier saturated. I think I like Synapse's middle-of-the-road look the best. But oh no, wait - there is a big difference here: the whole lower third label is missing from the DVD shot! Well, watching the doc through, that label is on the DVD version, too; it just fades out a little earlier. So I guess they did a little tinkering with the edit for the blu-ray reissue? I didn't notice any substantial changes between the two versions, though, but there might be more subtle alterations and flourishes for the particularly curious to discover.
So, you might think getting Just Desserts is great for the Region A locked who've been stuck with entirely featureless Creepshow releases, and it is. But Synapse has packed their release with additional features which might just tempt owners of the Second Sight special editions. First, though, let me cover the other stuff they included from the Second Sight blu, because they did do some of that. You remember that collection of Savini's behind-the-scenes footage I mentioned before? That's been ported over to here, as has the not-quite-an-audio commentary with Gornick, Amplas, Miller, Ferrucci and Wrightson, which now plays as a commentary over the documentary (again, they're not commenting on anything in particular, so it's the same difference). They also carried over the stills gallery.
Scream Greats: Volume One
But Syanpse's blu also has a bunch of new stuff. There's an audio commentary (for the documentary, not Creepshow) by Felsher, an on-camera interview with Michael Gornick (which is actually the same interview heard on that second audio commentary, except slightly re-edited and now we get to see him), extended interview clips from the doc with Romero, Savini and Wrightson (the last of which, like the Gornick interview, is the same as on the audio commentary). There's also a Creepshow episode of Horror's Hallowed Grounds (these are always a blast), and a vintage segment of the Pittsburgh public access show Evening Magazine that interviews Romero and shows some behind-the-scenes footage of the filming of the movie. Finally, but perhaps most excitingly, is Fangoria's old Scream Greats: Volume One documentary that they released on VHS way back in the day, interviewing Tom Savini in his studio. It's presented here, along with its own audio commentary track by Savini. I imagine some fans will find this release worth the purchase price for this alone.

Also, if you supported the indiegogo campaign, you got an exclusive booklet and poster.  Good on ya.
The original cell animations.
And what about Scream Factory's new blu?  They have an interesting mix of new features and older stuff they carried over.  So let's start with the old.  The two commentaries, deleted scenes, trailers, galleries and half hour of Savini footage from the UK blu-ray are here.  In other words, everything except the Just Desserts doc.  And the Horror's Hallowed Grounds from the Synapse Just Desserts disc is here.

So the new stuff?  It's mostly also by Red Shirt Pictures, and basically feels like a collection of every other little thing they missed with their Synapse disc.  There are great new interviews with the costume designer Barbara Anderson and animator Rick Catizone.  There's a round-table discussion with Felshner, Amplas, Atkins, Savini and Marty Schiff which manages to cough up a few anecdotes which I don't think were in the previous extras.  And there's a couple interviews where it really begins to feel like they're stretching it, including one with a guy who collects Creepshow props, and another with two guys who commission new posters for older films, including Creepshow, though none of them compared to the classic original posters.  There's also two new audio commentaries.  One by Michael Gornick, which was good but repeated stuff from some of his other interviews, and another with composer/ assistant director John Harrison and construction coordinator Ed Fountain, which was fairly low energy and frankly boring.  More interesting for me, though possibly not for more casual viewers just interested in the film rather than the technical stuff, were new interviews with Gornick and sound designer Chris Jenkins, who talked about the finer points of the new 4k restoration.  However, fair warning: purists may wince at some of the changes Gornick made that border on the revisionist.

Scream Factory's disc comes in a thick hardbox, with reversible artwork for the inner case, and a glossy, 40 page book by Michael Gingold.  Also, if you pre-ordered early enough, you got a limited edition poster and lithograph.
So, together, Scream's disc and Synapse's Just Desserts disc nets you everything.  If you have those, there's nothing left exclusive on the Second Sight blu, or any of the other past releases.  If you don't have Just Desserts, though, Scream's disc feels a little bit off in terms of extras.  Like you've got a lot of odds and ends, but they never talk to the major cast members or anything.  I feel like Felshner specifically designed this set of extras to work as a companion piece, in conjunction with the Synapse blu, rather than something meant to stand alone.  And that's fine if you're happy to get both, but could be a little annoying to fans who think just shelling out the hefty price for Scream's Collector's Edition should be pretty definitive on its own, and feel stuck watching a couple of hipsters showing off their drawings instead of Adrienne Barbeau and Ed Harris.  In the end it's certainly worth it, though, with a smashing new transfer of the film and - again, if you get both releases - an incredibly comprehensive and enjoyable set of features documenting what's still one of the most fun horror movies going.

Controversial Blus: Predator, With and Without Grain (DVD/ Blu-ray/ UHD Comparison)

You know it was only a matter of time before I covered Predator on here, considering it's one of, if not the very most, infamous blu-rays in the history of the medium, regarding botched transfers.  Happily, however, I may have waited long enough to be able to report happier news of Fox finally fixing this fiasco.  Thanks to the latest sequel (itself a huge, dumb mess; but thanks possibly to the return of Fred Dekker, it at least has it moments, which is more than I could say for the previous two or three), there's a host of new releases of the Predator films out there on store shelves.  So unless Fox has really double-down on there mistakes, we should finally have our true "ultimate Predator."
If you're not already familiar with 1987's Predator, then uh, I'm surprised you found your way to this site, but welcome.  I mean, if this early summer blockbuster vehicle didn't embed itself deeply enough into American culture in its own right, then certainly the endless series of sequels, reboots, comic books, toys and video games should have secured its status as perfectly indelible.  But a question more of you might genuinely have is: does it hold up to your childhood memories of the super bad-ass sci-fi/ horror/ action hybrid that once rocked all of our worlds?
And I'd say the answer to that is, well, mostly.  When it kicks in, the atmosphere mostly holds up, but it does sink a bit deep into the cheese at times.  And fans will rightly argue that the over-the-top machismo is meant to be exaggerated, a commentary on both the foibles of that part of ourselves and the popular films of its day.  But I don't imagine the eye-rolling one-liners, like pushing into a quick close-up of Schwarzenegger quipping "stick around" after throwing his oversized knife into an enemy soldier, is meant to steer that far into what feels like Saturday Night Live parody today.  And the celebrity of a couple of its stars, wouldn't have been so distracting at that stage in their careers as it is now.  Like, I remember Jesse Ventura striking me as just a big, intimidating dude, not a cartoonish pop culture icon. And sure, while 90% percent of the special effects still look ideal, there are a few patchy rubbery predator fingers and chintzy cloaking opticals.
But it still draws you in.  And I have to say, seeing it in its latest iteration really makes a difference in grounding it in its original, dark side.  Because the HD transfer we've been living with for over a decade really lets the film down.  Most of you guys are probably familiar and way ahead of where I'm going with this, but the original blu-ray, released in early 2008, and all subsequent releases prior to this year, are drenched in DNR.  That's Digital Noise Reduction - software designed to scrub grain and noise from an image - and I there's been debate over how much, if any, is acceptable.  I'd tend to say none at all; it's revisionist, but admittedly very mild amounts and subtle usage aren't too destructive.  And unfortunately, many casual viewers have a visceral negative reaction to film grain like they do to "black bars" on letterboxed film.  But no matter where you stand on whether a little or how much is okay; I think just about everybody can agree, Fox went way too far.  The HD print they released everywhere (not just the blus, but streaming, etc) looks like somebody set an "Oil Painting" filter over their Instagram photos.

And thank goodness, Fox has done away with that disaster for their new 4k Ultra HD release.  Grain is back in full effect; the film is literally gritty again, and that really does affect the entire mood of the picture.  And now, if you're like me, your next question is whether the blu-ray included in the combo-pack has the new scan or the old DNR version, and nope, it's the same old disc.  That's good for me, though, because I always held onto my 2004 special edition DVD (itself an upgrade over the original, non-anamorphic 1999 DVD) when I saw reviews of the messed up blu.  But I was about to go back and buy an old blu if I had to just for the sake of this article.  But nope, I got it right here in my new 2018 set.  It's the same old transfer because it's exactly the same old 2010 disc.  Yes, 2010, because technically there are two Fox blu-rays, a barebones 2008 edition and the special "Ultimate Hunter" edition, which had the special features.  But they both feature the same waxy transfer.  Anyway, that's bad news for fans who can't play 4k discs; there's no upgraded 1080p blu-ray for them.  But before I go any further, let's see what we're talking about.
1) 2004 US Fox DVD; 2) 2008/ 2018 US Fox blu; 3) 2018 US Fox UHD.
Other reviews love using the scene with that red shirt, and I couldn't help it either.  It really stands out like an oddly smooth, neon swath on the DNR's transfer.  But as you can see in the second set of shots, of course, the problem plagues every single frame of this film.  Yes, the colors pop more (even a bit too bright, if you ask me) and it's at least free of the messy compression of the DVD, but click through and look at those shots fullscreen if you're not convinced.  It's a disaster!  Honestly, the DVD was better.  This new UHD is darker, which is probably more accurate and definitely fits the tone of the film and much grainier.  Like, even compared to other non-DNR'd films of its day, it's pretty grainy.  Otherwise, not a whole lot has changed... the 1.84:1 framing of the DVD (which is also ever so slightly horizontally stretched) shifts just a smidgen to a more correct (and un-stretched) 1.85:1 on the blu and UHD.  The DVD was basically missing a sliver on the right-hand side that would've been lost to the overscan area anyway back in its time, but that's restored on both HD versions.  There's just a nearly infinitesimal vertical shift between the blu and UHD's framing, like a few pixels high.  And of course, the UHD naturally benefits from the extra resolution.  Even with all its edges smoothed away, the blu breaks down into blocks when you upconvert it to the size of the more natural 4k.  But the key, ultra-important distinction is the restoration of the natural film grain and the fine detail along with it.

So, the original DVD gave you the fairly similar options of either 5.1 DTS or 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks, plus French and Spanish dubs and English and Spanish subs.  The blu bumps those up to lossless 5.1 DTS-HD and Dolby Digital 4.0, with Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Castilian dubs and English, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Castilian and Swedish subs.  Whew.  Then the UHD carries over basically all the same audio (no new fancy Atmos track or anything) and language options as the blu, except it also adds Japanese dubs and subtitles.
In terms of special features, things are pretty straight forward.  The 2004 DVD was actually a 2-disc set packed full of some really good stuff.  Director John McTiernan does an audio commentary, and there's a solid half hour 'making of' doc that talks to just about all the major players.  Then there's a bunch of featurettes, like eight, mostly featuring on stuff like the effects and predator design.  There's four deleted scenes and outtakes, a photo gallery, some bonus trailers, and a collection of four, fun easter eggs of additional interview clips.

And that's pretty much the definitive special features package that's lived with the film ever since.  The 2008 blu-ray was had nothing but the trailer, but the 2010 one had everything, even the easter eggs, which are now just listed openly on the menu.  It also added one new featurette, which is more a promo for the latest sequel at the time, Predators, interviewing its director and some other crew members.  They do talk at first about the original Predator, but surprise surprise, they wind up turning that into how excited they are for their follow-up.  Hey, I'll take it.  And it also has the trailer, oddly absent from the DVD, plus trailers for two of the sequels.

What's new for the 4k?  Nothin'.  The 4k disc itself just has the commentary; but because the 2010 blu is in the package, you get the full collection of oldies.  Something new would've been fun, but then there's not much that feels lacking.  We don't need it to turn into one of those discs where the same people are interviewed and re-interviewed, saying the same things each time, so alright.  It also comes in a cool slipcover.
So yeah, this is a very satisfying release on its own terms.  And due to the fact that the original blu-rays are so borked, it's downright essential.  This is the first real upgrade since the DVD and the first worthwhile HD presentation.  And it's a really appealing transfer.  It would be somewhat recommended, depending how big a fan you were of the film, on its own terms.  But given the quality of the previous blu-rays, it's a must upgrade.  Though, if you've never seen it, it's kind of fun that they give you the waxy DNR version, too, just for the novelty.