Dueling Blus: Nightmare(s In a Damaged Brain), 88 Films Vs. Code Red

88 Films' blu-ray of Nightmare(s In a Damaged Brain) has just landed, and I'm pretty excited! How does the new transfer compare to the previous US blu from Code Red? How are the extras different? Is it a different cut? Well, I've got them right here, so we're about to find out everything for sure. But just to give you a hint up front? I'm smilin'. 😃
Code Red's 2014 blu-ray on top; 88 Film's 2015 blu-ray beneath.
The only reason I'm not even more excited than I am is that, frankly, I'm not a huge fan of this movie. It's got a stilted, semi-amateurish feel in places, with kind of a cheap look and a few really hammy performances. Plus, the story is kind of a mess, like maybe they had trouble getting 100% of the script on screen as written. But, I think our quasi-protagonist C.J. is great... he reminds me a lot of the kid in Trick Or Treats in all the best ways, and the showdown at the end of the film is terrific. And if you're looking for sleazy sex and violence along the way, Nightmare certainly delivers.
Finally!
But let me stop beating around the bush and answer your #1 question: does 88 Film's new version feature the missing footage from the old Dutch VHS release, as detailed by movie-censorship? Yes! Yes, it does. That shot above is the infamous shot of the killer behind the kid in the house everyone was asking about, and that Code Red put up on their storefront. Here it is, in HD for the first time, looking great. And yes, the extra shots of the babysitter being stalked and the extra stuff at Gatsby's bar is all in here as well. The shot of the kid walking up to the house is also longer. So this is 100% uncut in that it features absolutely everything in Code Red's cut, plus these long missing bits.
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Update 11-29-15: Actually, having examined things a little closer with user Trampled on the blu-ray.com forums, there is a bit of the missing footage still missing. In the babysitter scene, the some of the shots are restored as I described above, but there's also a bit where the kids come that is still missing. Then, the barroom stuff is 100% restored, but the last shot of the killer behind the kid seems to be missing some final frames... movie-censorship shows his hands on the kid's neck, whereas this one cuts out just as the killer's fingertips reach the kid's neck. Of course, that shot is missing entirely from Code Red's blu, and the almost all of it is restored on 88's. But there is still a smidgen missing.
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Now, don't misunderstand. This all adds up to, what? Less than ten seconds of footage? And none of it exactly whips the plot around in thrilling new directions. But after all the mystery that was surrounding this footage when people first started mentioning that maybe these shots were out there, and wondering if 88 Films had in fact found it - especially since we had to blind buy it to find out - it's very gratifying to see it here.
Code Red's 2014 blu-ray on top; 88 Film's 2015 blu-ray beneath.
And the transfers are fairly different, too. Different but pretty equal. It had been assumed for a long time that 88 Films was just going to use Code Red's transfer, which they created, to release in their market until they announced they were making their own. And it's visibly pretty different. It's hard not to see the differences in color timing in the shots above, especially. In general, Code Red's transfer leans towards purple and 88's leans towards green. Some shots on 88's disc, frankly, look too green. But others look as good or maybe even preferable. In the shots above, for example, I think the babysitter in the stairway is too green, but the kids running are too red. 88's transfer is also a bit brighter, but the dark moments still stay dark. All of it really varies shot by shot and will ultimately boil down to viewer's preference.
Code Red's 2014 blu-ray on top; 88 Film's 2015 blu-ray beneath.
Framing-wise, both are at full 16x9 1.78:1, but there are some major vertical shifts in what's in and left out of the matting. What's the title of the film the killer's walking past in the second set of shots? Only Code Red knows for sure. What's also interesting about that, is 88's framing there matches Code Red's older DVD release, as Simon M. so memorably posted on the AVManiacs forum. Which is truer to the director's vision? I don't know, but I do kinda prefer getting to read "Caligula" to seeing more of the car in the foreground, personally.
Code Red's 2014 blu-ray on top; 88 Film's 2015 blu-ray beneath.
And how about print damage? You may remember when 88 Films released the first screenshots of their new transfer as compared to Code Red's, their screenshot had cleaned up all the ugly green emulsion spots that had dirtied the film (or at least used a different source print that didn't have that damage on it). But now that we've got both complete transfers, is 88's a huge improvement? Well... The new transfer doesn't have the damage the old one does, but it has new damage. And both are just flickering specks and smudges that only last for a single frame (this isn't like Code Red's Redeemer or anything, which is really damaged). Look at the shots above. Is the white spot to the left of the lamp really preferable to the green spot on the mom's shoulder? They both have flecks and smudges. Maybe 88's is a little cleaner overall, or maybe it just feels that way because it's a brighter image. I'm not sure. Personally, it feels like a tie in this area to me.

Both discs also have solid LPCM mono tracks. Oh, and fun fact: despite 88 Film's disc being labeled region B, they're both region free. So everybody gets to choose, which is nice.
Code Red's 2014 blu-ray on top; 88 Film's 2015 blu-ray beneath.
When it comes to extras, it's all good news. Code Red's is really loaded with an audio commentary by star Baird Stafford and the make-up artist Cleve Hall, on-camera interviews with Stafford, Hall, distributor Tom Ward, producer Bill Milling, effects artist Ed French, and co-star Mik Cribbon. It also has the full interview with director Romano Scavolini subtitled (the same interview was on Code Red's previous DVD, but spoken in Italian with no English subtitles). And there's two different Nightmare trailers.

88 Films doesn't have quite as much, but what it has is all new... especially rewarding for those of us who double-dipped. Their stand-out extra is an all new audio commentary by producer Bill Paul. He's wonderfully free about his opinions and has great, specific memories - you definitely don't want to miss this commentary. They've also got an on-camera interview with Tom Ward, which is very short but interesting, and a segment on 42nd St. When I originally heard 88 was including a featurette on the locations of Nightmare, I was imaging them finding all those wild Florida spots, but instead this just feels like deleted scenes from Calum Waddell's 42nd Street Memories. At least the killer did go to 42nd St in the movie for a couple of minutes, so it kinda syncs up, and I'd rather have this than not. 88 also has a booklet including text interviews with Scavolini and Stafford, a trailer, and reversible artwork (the side I didn't show uses the same basic poster art as the Code Red cover), so it's a very nice package.
Code Red's 2014 blu-ray on top; 88 Film's 2015 blu-ray beneath.
At the end of the day, I'd say Code Red has more and better extras, but they're both rewarding special editions. 88 Film's cut is preferable for having the extra footage, but it's all very minor stuff that only serious enthusiasts will notice or care about. And which transfer is better? I'd say it's a tie. So it's a real hard call if you're trying to pick one or the other. The hardcore fans will want both, and thankfully they're different enough in just about every respect, so that balms the sting of double-dipping. Since it's not the greatest horror movie in the world, though, most casual horror fans should be pleased with either one, and will probably just go with whichever is easiest for them to obtain depending on where they live. But if you got one of them and now you want more... there's a very satisfying second edition out there waiting for you.

1 comment:

  1. 88films version was done by VinegarSyndrome.

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