Controversial Blus: The Confounding Case Of The Carrier! Code Red Catch-Up, Part 7 (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

And we wrap up Code Red Catch-Up not with an DVD/ Blu-ray comparison, but one I desperately wish was a DVD blu-ray comparison: a very strange, Michigan horror allegory called The Carrier.  Yes, like the films of Scott Spiegel (i.e. Intruder) and Josh Becker (i.e. Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except), this is one a small crop of 80s horror tied to the Evil Dead family.  Joe Loduca did the score, Bruce Campbell did the sound (and has a sort of cameo appearance), Peter Deming did the cinematography, Bob Kayganich and Gary Jones worked on the effects, etc.  But honestly, writer/ director Nathan J. White has definitely created his own weird thing that has to be taken on its own terms.  I definitely wouldn't recommend this film along "oh, hey, you like The Evil Dead?"  It's maybe more of an "oh, hey, you like The Spirits of Jupiter?"

Update 12/20-17 - 4/13/18: Wow!  My most requested HD upgrade from Code Red just arrived today, and it's already been discontinued.  What's the story?  Read on...
The plot summary of this film speaks for itself, so I'll just tell it.  A social reject in a small town called Sleepy Rock is attacked one night by... well, basically a big foot.  Yeti?  Anyway, he survives, but winds up with a strange curse where anything he touches becomes toxic, so if anybody else touches it, they melt horribly.  This starts to spread out of control horribly, and everybody in the town gets hysterical.  An out of town doctor comes into town to try and set everybody straight, but it's too late.  The town's populace has split into two warring factions, with flags and everything.  And the most coveted currency becomes cats, because you can use them to touch objects and see if they'll make you make you melt.  So everybody is killing each other over cats, and it's played about as straight as it possibly could be, like some sort of demented AIDS parable, or as the director tells us, a metaphor for guilt.
Why yes, all the characters do spend most of the film wrapped in garbage bags.  Look, this movie is a low budget and amateurish as it is ambitious and artistically committed.  Most average viewers looking for Hollywood gloss and conventional stories are going to hate this as soon as they can stop laughing at it.  But it's also kind of delightfully wonderful.  It's such a crazy story.  Two people are killed by a Dr. Seuss book, a rapist dissolves mid-assault and another guy melts into an outhouse, a stop-motion spider, three little kids fight three bikers to the death.  There's some real production value as mobs fill the streets with overturned cars, a period look and lots of special effects shots.  What's not to love?
Until 2018, this film had only been released once anywhere in the world: Code Red's 2010 DVD.  I'd been waiting for it for years and years, I even bought a VHS rip from VHSPS back in the day, which I've still got.  It took until almost the end of the SD era to get a legit DVD (and yes, VHSPS removed The Carrier from their catalog when Code Red released this properly).  And like the title says, it was already in desperate need of a reissue the day it came out.  It's only got truer over the last eight years.  But happily this month, as if in direct response to my pleas here, Code Red reissued it in HD with all new scans (yes, two).  And it's everything I wanted and more, except it's got one glaring issue.
1) VHSPS tape rip 2) Code Red DVD 3) Code Red theatrical blu 4) Code Red director's cut blu.
So, the DVDs are clearly fullscreen/ open matte, and even for SD, low on detail.  VHSPS just gives you direct rips of the original VHS tapes (in this case the Magnum Entertainment tape from 1988), FBI warnings and all.  And sadly, Code Red's DVD doesn't look much different apart from their disc being less yellow.  And yes, they both have serious interlacing problems; it just affects alternate frames.  Code Red tops VHSPS - it is a little more detailed and sharper.  But this film was shot on 35mm.  It should look so, so much better.  And to make it all the more frustrating, the director talks about how he has all the original 35 film elements on the commentary.  He even refers to having a director's cut, how it originally screened, with a scene the distributors made him cut out because they felt it was too extreme.  Why didn't Code Red use any of that?  It was so frustrating!

Until they did use all of that, and give us both cuts of the film in widescreen (1.78:1) with brand new scans!  Yahoo!  Finally this film looks like a movie, and I have to say, it really does give the film a more professional, quality atmosphere.  Some of the acting and all still lets it down, but it really is a distinctly different viewing experience from what we had before.
Code Red director's cut blu left; Code Red theatrical blu right.
And speaking of distinctly different viewing experiences, the two cuts doesn't just vary in length.  They're totally different scans.  According to the packaging, the director's cut was scanned first in 2016, then they made another scan in 2017 for the theatrical cut.  And I have to say, it was worthwhile, because it is a higher quality, more filmic scan.  At least in terms of capturing authentic film grain, while the director's cut looks more digitally blocky and artificially smoothed.  On the other hand, the brightness and color timing are remarkably different across the two cuts, too; and I might actually prefer the director's cut in that regard.  It's a tough call - I find my loyalty switching from shot to shot.  The director's cut crushes a few blacks, but the the theatrical sometimes looks blown out in response.  The theatrical pulls out a bit further to reveal a tiny bit of extra information along some of the edges.  Purely in terms of technical quality, and looking at screenshots up close like this, the theatrical cut is the clear winner, hands down.  But in motion, it's a little more subjective.  I still have to give it to the theatrical cut even then, but I wouldn't call anybody wrong for preferring one over the other.  And either one is obviously a light year beyond everything previous.
Deleted scene only in the newly recovered director's cut.
Anyway, the mono audio on Code Red's DVD was perfectly fine, and it's been bumped up to DTS-HD on blu (both cuts).  Predictably, there are no subtitle options on any of these discs.  So everything seems great so far, right?  What's the problem?  Well, the theatrical cut's audio goes way out of sync about mid-way through the film.  Like, not just a couple frames off, I'm talking about you're hearing one person talk while another character's lips are moving.  Frankly, it becomes legitimately unwatchable.

Thank goodness it's only on the theatrical cut.  The director's cut audio is perfectly fine all the way through.  And frankly, it's surprising Code Red even bothered throwing the theatrical cut onto the disc at all now that we have the director's cut.  Why would anyone bother with the theatrical cut now, anyway?  Oh yeah, the better transfer.  It's too bad the director's cut didn't get the 2017 scan instead of vice versa.  But here we are.  Code Red and Diabolik have pulled the disc, but it remains to be seen if there will be a reissue or this film just disappears from the market all together. 
Anyway, that's the story with the film.  I wish there was more to tell, but at least for now, that's where we're at.  In the meantime, let's talk extras.  The big upshot of getting Code Red's DVD was the great audio commentary with Nathan J. White and a very effusive Scott Spiegel.  I never thought I'd get to hear the director talk about his film.  And it's great, highly energetic the whole way through.  Lots of behind the scenes memories, Sam Raimi anecdotes and sorely needed explanations of the madness onscreen.  Bill Olsen chimes in with a couple good questions, too.  Besides that, the DVD gave us the original theatrical trailer, plus some bonus trailers including the obligatory Family Honor one on start-up.

Happily, the blu retains the commentary.  There's no trailer on start-up (yay!), but there is an option for a couple Code Red bonus trailers, and The Carrier's trailer is actually in there as well, so everything's been preserved.
So, I guess we wait and see if anything happens with this disc?  If they come up with a replacement program, that'd be fantastic, but I don't believe Code Red has ever once done one of those, and it's not because none of their discs has ever had an issue before.  So I can't say my hopes are too high.  But on the other hand, I've got the update I've been asking for; I practically squee'd watching the director's cut in HD last night.  And to be honest, I could care less about the theatrical cut now that I've got the complete version.  I wouldn't bother revisiting it again, despite it's superior transfer, even if the audio was fixed.  So I'm just happy I got my copy while I could, and I hope any nutter out there who loves this film as much as me can get their hands on it, too.  So, I guess it's a hugely disappointing, broken release that's an absolutely thrilling must-have for us fans?  😵

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