The Latest and Greatest 'Night Of the Creeps' (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Night Of the Creeps came out right on the cusp of me getting a blu-ray player. So it's one of those last titles I bought the DVD of instead, and then quietly regretted it for years. I'd keep looking up online blu-ray prices online every so often, hoping it would suddenly go on sale for some bargain basement price... Who wants to double-dip on a DVD they just bought new for a simultaneous release with no new features or anything? But it was also annoying being stuck with the standard def version of a favorite horror film I'd grown up on since I was a kid. Well, finally, Umbrella Entertainment has come along with a brand new blu-ray edition, which isn't all that far beyond the Sony's 2009 blu-ray. But it is an improvement, the best edition yet, and that was enough for me to shake loose the old DVD.

Update 5/9/17: I still haven't bought that US blu, as there's no reason to now; but I did borrow a copy to make this comparison properly thorough.
Night Of the Creeps is pure crazy, 80's fun. Slugs from outer space turn a bunch of college students into homicidal zombies. It's full of fun set pieces and shifting tones, but it never loses sight of its characters, or stepping too far into the comedy that it stops being effective as a horror film. Tom Atkins steals the show as a Mike Hammer-esque detective who's finally gone off the deep end, but the three young leads, including European Vacation's Jason Lively, are all charming and well-rounded enough to carry the heart of the picture. Round that off with a great supporting cast, including Dick Miller and David Paymer, a catchy soundtrack, clever script and the special effects work of KNB, and you've got yourself a genuinely great movie.
It's a delicate balancing act that takes some serious talent to pull off, but first time director Fred Dekker rises to the challenge. He went on to create another masterful blend of humor, heart and horror with Monster Squad, but that one's a little too kiddie for me. It's like a well made Disney film; I can appreciate how well made it is on all these different levels, and even laugh at some of the jokes; but give me something a little edgier and more adult. Except this time, he already had given it to me in Night Of the Creeps. Unfortunately his third film, Robocop 3, was a colossal misfire and he hasn't directed since, which is a real shame, because the world could've used a string of similar, smart and atmospheric cult films over the past two decades.
Night Of the Creeps took forever to come out on DVD; especially for such a beloved cult title. This was one of those titles where the laserdisc kept going for good money, because it was still the best release there was, well into the 2000s. I remember being really excited to find a bootleg of a high quality TV rip that also included the original ending, which was different than the one that had played on cable and VHS for all these years. So when the special edition DVD/ blu-ray was finally announced for 2009, with a heap of extras and the original ending restored, I was through the moon. And even more so when it turned out to be the official debut of Dekker's Director's Cut, with the original ending (and that's the only difference, by the way, between it and the regular theatrical cut). So I've got that DVD for us today. And even better, I've got Umbrella's new, 2016 region B blu-ray special edition (which is also of the Director's Cut), with a little something extra over the US Sony blu.
2009 Sony DVD on top; 2009 Sony blu mid; 2016 Umbrella blu-ray below.
So we see that this new Umbrella blu-ray is essentially the same as the Sony. Same framing (slightly matted to 1.85:1), same colors... same original master. And that's A-OK, because Sony made a pretty high quality release the first go around, so we weren't exactly gasping for an improvement. And like Sony's blu, this features a DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix, plus optional English subtitles. Of course, they both trump the DVD, as there's naturally a compression difference. Let's get in close to that.
2009 Sony DVD left; 2009 Sony blu mid; 2016 Umbrella blu-ray right.
Yeah, that's a pretty strong HD boost there. Look how much better defined the image on either blu is. Not just the girl's face, but the hand and bottle in the lower left. Detail is much clearer and more accurate here, with visible film grain as opposed to the digital mushiness on the DVD. But if the Umbrella's blu is such a straight equivalent to Sony's blu, what makes the new one worth choosing?
It's time to talk extras! Sony's release (both their DVD and blu have all the same bonus content) is pretty packed. There are two audio commentaries, one by Fred Dekker and one by the four lead actors, the latter of which is fun but pretty light on content. Every time Steve Marshall starts to an anecdote or bit of information, the rest of the cast interrupts him to keep laughing and kidding around. Then there's a great hour-long documentary, which is broken up into five sections and winds up interviewing pretty much everybody involved including Dekker, producer Charles Gordon, stars Jason Lively, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins & Steve Marshall, editor Michael Knue, effects artists Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman & David Miller, and composer Barry De Vorzon. Then there's a featurette just dedicated to talking with Tom Atkins about his entire filmography, film by film. Then there are several deleted scenes used in the extended television version, plus the alternate ending most of us were familiar with before the director's cut. Plus there's a subtitle trivia track and the original theatrical trailer.
A shot from Dekker's incomplete film, Baton.
All of that, right down to the trivia track, has been carried over to the Umbrella release. All it's missing are a couple of autoplay bonus trailers and an annoying commercial for blu-rays. But it has one really nice new addition. It's a 32 minute HD featurette called Creator Of the Creeps, and it's primarily a sit-down interview with Dekker. This was made more recently than the other extras, but yes, he does cover a lot of the same ground he does on his commentary and in the documentary. But he has some new stuff, too, including his script for House. And one of the best parts is that, in both his previous commentary and interview on the doc, he talks about how a lot of the ideas and a couple of the lead characters for Night came from an independent science fiction film he started shooting but never finished called Baton. He only shot about five minutes of it, he says, but we get to see some of it for the first time here in this feature. So it's a little redundant, but still a pretty great new feature, and it's exclusive to this release. Umbrella's blu also has reversible cover art, with the original art shown above and this crazy original piece [right] on the reverse. Both of Sony's covers suck, so Umbrella gets an extra point there, too.
So yeah, I'm happy. I'd say only diehard Creeps/ Dekker fans should chuck their Sony blu-rays for the Umbrella one. But I don't know, if Dekker really is your favorite director or this is one of your very top films, a half hour+ feature might be worth double-dipping for. And if you don't already have Night Of the Creeps in your collection - and you should - then Umbrella's is definitely the one to get.

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