Vestron Finally Shows Our Parents Some Love (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

I remember first seeing the ads for Parents when first came out as a kid.  I didn't see it in theaters, but finally caught it on cable.  Back then, I was pretty disappointed, because I only knew Randy Quaid from movies like Vacation and was expecting this to be more of an overt comedy.  Sure, I could tell from the campaign that it had its dark, twisted side; but I was till imagining something like The 'Burbs or even Hysterical.  But as an adult, I appreciate that Parents, while it has some genuinely funny moments and could certainly be classified as a dark comedy, is more of a dramatically and artistically substantive piece as well, with more in common with Blue Velvet than Saturday the 14th.  So it's not a title I sought out in its early days on DVD, now the film feels like an absolute essential for my collection.  And happily Vestron has my back with a fancy new blu-ray.
Our hero is a little boy living in an idyllic 50's suburbia who only has one thing to fear: his parents.  And don't get smart with me and tell me that's two things.  His parents, as a collective unit, are one thing; and it is played to perfection by Quaid and Mary Beth HurtSandy Dennis is also excellent as a school psychologist with no idea what she's walking into, as we explore the darkness that brews underneath our supposed post-war utopia.  Not only does actor Bob Balaban (Gosford Park, Tex the Passive Aggressive Gunslinger) prove himself a capable director in getting strong performances even out of his child actors, but fills the flick with striking visuals and an immense amount of atmosphere for such an innocuous environment.  The production design is also immaculate, and particularly impressive for such a low budget feature.
Parents was originally released through Artisan/ Pioneer as a barebones, fullscreen DVD in 1999.  But in 2006, Lions Gate quietly repackaged it in a double bill with 1990's Fear, which actually upgraded it to a proper, widescreen presentation.  That widescreen transfer resurfaced in 2015's Horror Collection 6 Movie Pack, where it was still barebones of course.  But now in 2017, Vestron Video has included it in their blu-ray line, not only bringing it to HD, but loading it with special features.  Let's have a look!
So, the first thing you'll notice is, well... I'm not sure what the first thing you'll notice is, because the blu is an improvement in so many ways.  Clarifying contrast, brighter colors and much clearer detail - you can actually make out all the little bricks in the wall of the second shot!  It doesn't help the DVD's case any that it has a serious interlacing problem, which the blu of course cleans up.  And the framing's also been adjusted from a slightly off 1.76:1 to a more intentional 1.85:1.  Taken on its own, the blu's grain resolution might still be a little soft, but it's a massive upgrade.

All previous DVDs have had the stereo 2.0 mix, but the blu has it in DTS-HD, and as usual with Vestron, they're giving the film subtitles for the first time ever.
It's a couple decades late, but Parents finally has a special edition.  Previously, the only extras this film ever had was the trailer on the original full-screen DVD.  But Vestron and Red Shirt, as always, have killed it.  First, we get an audio commentary by Bob Balaban and producer Bonnie Palef, who both remember the stories behind the film very well.  Screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne history with the film goes back even further, though, and he has a lot of light to shed in his on-camera interview.  Did you know this was almost Todd Solondz's first mainstream feature?  That actually would've made a lot of sense.  Anyway, we also get another one of Red Shirt's patented "isolated score" tracks, where the first half is an interview with composer Jonathan Elias, and the second half is the soundtrack album.  They also scored on-camera interviews with Mary Beth Hurt, the unique perspective of "decorative consultant" Yolando Cuomo and DoP Robin Vidgeon.  There's also an extensive stills gallery, the trailer and two goofy radio spots.  And once again, Vestron presents it in an attractive, shiny slipcover.
Man, I've said roughly the same thing before, but this Vestron line is the most exciting things to happen to horror fans in a long time.  All these long-shelved titles finally getting their due.  I mean, the fact that this was in one of those Horror Collection sets was a good indicator, but otherwise I never would've guessed we'd see a title like Parents get this treatment in 2017 - not that it doesn't deserve it.  They've already got a set of all the Wishmaster films coming up next, but I can't wait to see what they announce after that.

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