Controversial Blus: Is Arrow's Creepshow 2 Another Hellraiser 3? (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

So, Arrow recently licensed and released a new, limited special edition of Creepshow 2 in the US.  It's pretty sweet; and we'll delve into every detail.  But there also seems to be something a little amiss.  Something that will be familiar to owners of Arrow's Scarlet Box.  Yes, like Hellraiser 3, it not only reveals new picture information, but what looks to be too much picture information.  Now, I'm not the first to notice this.  I saw it brought up by user JohnCarpenterFan in the blu-ray forums back in October, but it seemed to get shot down fairly quickly.  Well, I hate to re-stir a calmed pot, but I've finally had a chance to sit down with my copy, and the "amateur sleuths" there seemed to have a legitimate point.

Update 5/9/17: This post isn't just about the framing issue, however.  And to that end, I've enriched it a little by including another older edition - Anchor Bay's original, 2001 DVD - for additional PQ comparison.
Creepshow 2 isn't quite up to Creepshow, but hey, it's no Creepshow 3.  Gone are George Romero's stylish comic book scrims and lighting effects, leaving us with a more generic looking horror anthology.  There are only three stories this time around, and the first one's a bit of an old fashioned clunker (though charming enough), but the second two still pack a nice little punch.  It's not a great film, but still a fine, enjoyable time for more dedicated horror lovers.  We get plenty of cool effects, an animated wrap-around, a less impressive but still respectable cast including George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour and cameos by Tom Savini and Stephen King himself.  For the longest time, this film had been relegated to barebones DVDs until Anchor Bay finally gave it a nice special edition in the UK only [Whoops!  They released it in the US, too.  See the comments].  That opened the doors for a blu-ray from 88 Films in the UK, and this new, ultimate edition from Arrow in late 2016.  You tell me, which one looks incorrect to you?
2001 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2010 Anchor Bay mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
Okay, to be fair, I just cherry-picked the very worst shot I could find.  But yeah, that's a big floating sea of random black space on the left-hand side of the Arrow blu.  It's a quick shot (just a couple seconds), so maybe whoever was doing Quality Control blinked.  Hey, it happens.  But you can't tell me (or the poor guys trying to bring this up in the blu-ray forums) that it's supposed to look like that.
2001 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2010 Anchor Bay mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
Forget what the bullies are going to do to him, his face is disappearing!  See, for their new edition, Arrow made a new 2k scan from the original negatives.  And their version pulls in a lot of picture (most notably on the left, but really on all four sides), which sounds great.  Except, as with Hellraiser 3, they seem to have included a part of the frame that was intended by the filmmakers to be cropped out.  Sometimes it looks fine.  People and reviews have been saying it looks more centered and appealing.  But clearly they've gone at least a little too far.
2001 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2010 Anchor Bay mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
Now there's some lighting equipment in shot.  And maybe you'd argue that the characters ran a shop full of all kinds of stuff, so maybe they'd have a big light standing in front of their door, but then it's not in other shots.
...Maybe the characters just moved it because they realized it didn't make sense to have a big light blocking their entrance.  There are plenty of shots where, if you stretch, you could argue a justification for the random stuff that was never visible before the Arrow release.
2001 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2010 Anchor Bay mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
Maybe that orange safety stuff is supposed to be there.  Maybe the characters are driving past some road work, but it was only visible in the very left of frame in that one shot.  I really don't think so; but I'll concede it's open to interpretation.  The unfinished animation stuff is a lot harder to argue.
And sometimes it's on the right side, too.
Can anyone honestly say they think we're supposed to see where the animators stopped drawing the characters?  And there are so many examples throughout the whole film.  Sometimes it's much subtler cell lines in the animations where the colors don't match (you can see it in a bit on the left-hand side of that shot above with the boot and the unfinished tire), or just floating bits of negative space, like this:

2001 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2010 Anchor Bay mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
To be fair, you could catch a fleeting glimpse of the crewman's hand even in the older editions, so go ahead and blame the original filmmakers on that one.  But only now can you really get a look at it and tell what it is, as opposed to a quick flash of what you'd just assume is the actress's knee or something.
This one might look okay as a still frame, but in motion, that out of focus white business on the left of the frame is clearly attached to the camera (my guess: a lens hood) and tracks with the actors through the whole moving shot.  Absolutely no way it's meant to be there.  But anyway, it has to be said, that this isn't just like Arrow's Hellraiser 3 in that the framing is a bit off (or that Arrow coincidentally got both from Lakeshore Entertainment).  It's also like it in the sense that, even despite that issue, it's the best, most definitive release of the film we've ever had.  Despite the adjusted framing, both the newer DVD and blu are framed to exactly 1.85:1 (the 2001 DVD is more like 1.81:1, with a little less on the left and a little more on the bottom).  The fresh 2k scan though is so much clearer, with stronger detail and light but authentic grain.  The colors look much more natural, and actually a bit closer to the old DVD.  The framing definitely doesn't ruin the film.  Casual viewers could watch the whole film and not notice any of it.  In fact, it appears that's exactly what most people are doing.  It's just an unfortunate flaw.

Arrow really loads up the lossless audio options, too; giving us the mono track and a stereo mix both in LPCM, plus a 5.1 in DTS-HD.  Optional English subtitles are included, too.
And special features?  Yes sir!  The 2001 DVD just had the trailer and a stills gallery, but the 2010 Anchor Bay DVD had a engaging audio commentary by director Michael Gornick, who really lays the story of this film down in an excellent, direct manner.  In addition, there's a great featurette with Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger on the crazy, behind the scenes stories of this film's effects (they're not afraid to dish on who got fired, etc), plus a brief bonus featurette about Berger's friendship with Rick Baker, two trailers, and a nice, 4-page insert with notes by Adam Rockoff.
Thankfully, Arrow carried all of that over (except the insert).  When 88 Films released their blu-ray in the UK, they recorded two new interviews: one with George Romero and one with Tom Savini, including some extra behind-the-scenes footage of his as The Creep.  Arrow carried all of that over, too.  So it's got "all legacy extras," as Sony would say.  And they've got two new, on-camera interviews, with actors Daniel Beer and Tom Wright.  These new interviews are by Red Shirt and up to their top of the line quality.  The limited edition comes in a nice, hardbox sleeve in either red or purple (for the US and Canadian editions, respectively), has reversible cover art, a 20-page booklet with notes by Michael Blythe, and a really exciting additional comic book.  The comic is really substantial, has a square spine, and it gives you the complete lost "Pinfall" story that was supposed to be filmed for Creepshow 2 but got cut out for budgetary purposes.  I have to admit, I just quickly flipped through the comics Arrow included with Society and Bride of Re-Animator, but as this is the lost story from the film, it was a must-read for me, and a strong reason to spring for the limited edition instead of waiting for a standard release.
Look, I opened big with the framing issue and took so many screenshots because people are denying it and I felt a case had to be made.  But it's not really such a big deal that you should miss out on everything that's great about this release.  Terrific picture quality of a fun film with the ultimate set of extras.  Would another label's blu, like 88's, be preferable to avoid this framing issue?  I don't know; that'll have to be your call.  But there's a lot to recommend this set and I'm glad I got it myself.  Would a replacement disc from Arrow be ideal?  Certainly, then there'd be no question which is the completely definitive, perfect release.  But Arrow is just now re-issuing their mis-framed Hellraiser 3 in a second box for the US market, so I really don't see them recalling any of these Lakeshore framings.

2 comments:

  1. The Anchor Bay special edition wasn't UK only -- they reissued it in the U.S. as part of their Divimax line, with the commentary, Nightmares in Foam Rubber featurette, etc.

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    1. You know what's embarassing about that? Not just that you're right and I made a little mistake, but my copy is actually the US release and I just assumed it was the UK disc the whole time I was taking screenshots and everything. lol

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