House On Haunted Hill '99

Just thought I'd squeeze in a catalog title during a quick break between all these new releases.  This is one where, just going over my own site here, I was surprised to realize I hadn't already covered it.  I've done the original House On Haunted Hill, and I actually had the cover scans and screenshots from this version sitting on my hard drive for years.  I'd compared the DVD and Blu-ray for my own edification, noting the aspect ratio shift and which extras had been carried over from the new to the old edition.  I just never... wrote it up.  Whoops.  Well, it still definitely deserves to be up on this site, so okay, here we finally go.
House On Haunted Hill '99 is the first feature from Dark Castle Entertainment, a production company dedicated to remaking William Castle films, though they only did this and Thirteen Ghosts before branching off into other projects.  And sure, remaking William Castle at the on-set sounded like a terrible idea, and I can't say I was a rush to watch this when it was announced.  It's only thanks to the fact that us horror fans ultimately wind up watching everything that I did wind up catching this in theaters and being surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
Because, actually, William Castle films are kind of the ideal to remake.  Because they're fun, they stand up as much or more on their premise than their execution, and yet they're not artistic masterpieces.  You know, you don't want to remake a piece of crap, because who wants to be associated with that?  But you don't want to remake the greatest works ever, because yours will always be the inferior option.  House On Haunted Hill gives you enough to work with, and enough room to innovate and build upon. It's why remakes like The Fly and The Thing work, but A Nightmare On Elm St and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, while maybe not terrible, essentially don't.  ...Although someday, I'm sure some artist with a strong vision will come along and knock that pat little theory down.  But it's a decent rule of thumb for now.
This House On Haunted Hill stays reasonably faithful to the original, not just sticking to the same premise of a group of people staying the night in a haunted house in order to claim big prize money.  They follow most of the same twists, retaining everything that worked the first time, while still throwing in enough new scares to keep you on your toes, and Geoffrey Rush not only lives up to Vincent Price's signature performance, but revitalizes his central relationship with his hated wife.  But it's also ready to replace what doesn't work, from the creaky effects and corny scares to secondary characters who could be recast and reinvigorated to advantage.  The production values have increased to give us a bigger, more impressive house and cutting edge special effects by KNB and Dick Smith.  And the supporting cast here is full of noteworthy faces including a delectably vampy Famke Janssen, Jeffrey Combs in an all too small role, an admittedly slightly stiff Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher, and a surprisingly great turn by SNL alumni Chris Kattan.  The ending kind of lays an egg, going a couple twists too far and throwing in a cheese-ball CGI climax.  But by then, you've had so much fun, how can you not forgive it?
So, House On Haunted Hill's history on home video is pretty short and simple.  Warner Bros released it as a new release in 2000 (yes, it was a snap-case) as a pretty rewarding special edition DVD.  And that was basically the whole story until Scream Factory eventually snapped it up and gave it an even full Collector's Edition blu-ray in 2018, just in time for Halloween.  And it's still the go-to release to this day.  So let's see how much Scream improved things.
2000 Warner Bros DVD top; 2018 Scream Factory BD bottom.
Enough time passed between the two that Scream Factory didn't just try to slap the old DVD master onto an HD disc.  Scream has given us a new 2k scan from "the original film elements," which clearly means not the negative (or they would've said so), but definitely an upgrade, though even the DVD was anamorphic and quite respectable.  The first thing to note is that the aspect ratio shifts from 1.78:1 to a more accurate 1.85:1, tightening up not just on the top and bottom, but on the left.  Colors have been re-timed, and while it can be subjective shot to shot, overall, I'd say they're more distinct and attractive on the blu.  It's certainly a boost in resolution, with small detail cleaning up nicely.  Film grain is soft, there's still room for further improvement in the 4k era, but it's a welcome step up from the DVD.

Both discs offer the original 5.1 mix with optional English subtitles.  The DVD also has French subs, and the BD bumps the audio up to DTS-HD.
Now, as I said, the special features were already pretty nice on the DVD, starting with an enthusiastic audio commentary by director William Malone with a lot of good information about the filming, earlier cuts, etc.  There's a great 20-minute featurette comparing the remake to the original, and a series of very short featurettes detailing each scary set-piece in the film, centered around an on-camera interview with Malone intercut with clips and behind the scenes photos.  There are four deleted scenes, including a whole excised subplot featuring Debi Mazar, so it's surprising those got cut.  And all those deleted scenes are introduced by Malone.  Plus, there are trailers for both House On Haunted Hills and a highlight reel from Malone's early film, Creature.

Scream Factory keeps all of that except for the trailer of the original House and the clips from Creature.  But they've added brand new on-camera interviews with Malone, composer Don Davis and effects supervisor Robert Skotak.  Plus they've added three stills galleries and two TV spots.  Scream's release also comes with reversible artwork and a slipcover, plus a poster if you ordered directly from Shout's site.
So at the end of the day, this may not be a showroom floor release, but it's a fun, all-around BD of a fun all-around film.  Even the DVD was good, but this is worth the upgrade.  Yes, there's room for further improvement with a stronger scan and maybe some cast interviews.  But short of a full-blown 4k restoration - it's likely the case that they're just working with an older DCP with finished digital effects, so grain detail and such is just what it is outside of an all-out reconstruction - it's unlikely anyone will be going back to the well for this little flick.  And it may not be a classic, but it's one that deserves a spot on your shelf.

Two Invaluable Evil Dead Stories

I remember stumbling across BD-R copies of an indie, self-released documentary about Evil Dead effects artist Tom Sullivan on EBay a few years ago.  I was very intrigued, but a little wary that it might just be a glorified Youtube video some amateur horror fan decided to make a fancy cover for and sell to us suckers.  I came this close to biting the bullet a couple of times, but never quite pulled the trigger.  And now I'm glad I didn't, because Synapse has picked it up and given Invaluable: The True Story of an Epic Artist a proper, pressed special edition.  And, though the packaging doesn't give it as much attention as it's due, they've also gone and included the director's follow-up documentary, which is possibly even better and more exciting: Other Men's Careers, about the life and work of Josh Becker.
Invaluable is written and directed by an up and coming Detroit filmmaker named Ryan Meade, but besides being the subject, Sullivan is a producer and appears to be closely involved with the project (he's clearly behind the camera for some of the interviews), netting the film highly valuable access.  While some interviews were clearly grabbed at conventions and/ or shot on somebody's phone, we also get proper HD interviews with fan favorites like Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi, lots of vintage footage like Sullivan's childhood stop motion animations & early Sam Raimi 8mm shorts, rare artwork, and Sullivan good naturedly trekking around old shooting locations, even those only to be found deep within the woods.  Consequently, this film is able to dive pretty deep, giving us more than we've already seen on our DVD extras.  It gets into the more personal aspects of his life, like the loss of his wife and mental health issues he suffered after a serious car crash, and doesn't shy away from tackling the more difficult questions along with documenting all his popular and obscure artistic ventures.
Then, I don't know why they did it like this, but Synapse lists Other Men's Careers as a "bonus documentary" among the special features of Invaluable.  But it is every bit as good, if not better, than Invaluable itself.  Honestly, before seeing either film, I was already more interested in an exploration of Josh Becker's career.  He has an extensive filmography and rarely gets the coverage he deserves.  But even with that aside, this is a better film just in terms of being more polished.  It's a more recent film, Meade has been able to attract more major players like Lucy Lawless, Sheldon Littich and Joseph LoDuca into the mix (in addition to pretty much everybody who participated in Invaluable), and there's less low-fi footage of someone being cornered at a festival and more, high-end sit-down pieces.
We once again get to see plenty of rare, early efforts like student films and 8mm shorts, and this is film gets even more candid than Invaluable.  I was actually shocked how honest and critical people were willing to be about Becker, considering this is largely a "we're all friends here" environment.  This delves in the personal side just like Invaluable, getting into Becker's drinking problems and inability to hold onto a Hollywood career, but plenty of people are surprisingly open just calling him a bad writer, flat out.  But, at the end of the day, there is still a love and respect for the man and the artist, and if you're anything like me, you'll come out of this wanting to track down whatever Becker films you missed over the years (see also my Theatrical Musings page for a recent reflection on his overlooked TV movie Harpies from 2007, which is at once awful and delightful).
And instead of looking at the two in competition with each other, the two films actually compliment each other quite well, building on the same larger narrative of this Detroit cinematic microverse.  Becker contributes a lot to Sullivan's doc, and Sullivan returns the favor.  And while both got a little left in the dust by Sam Raimi's blockbuster career, their stories are very different.  Sullivan is sweet and remains in good spirits despite serious personal challenges, while Becker is bitter as Hell.  In both cases, though, it's a large part of their charm.  And while you could easily just watch either film in complete isolation from the other, in some ways they feel more like two parts of one larger, over-arching documentary which tells a more complete story than either of its halves taken on their own.
Synapse 2023 BD.
Top two: Invaluable; bottom two: Other Men's Careers.

Both films are 1.78:1, though the AR shifts around as both docs include mixed media from a variety of sources, giving very mixed picture quality.  Some shots look crisply high def, and others look like they over-compressed footage from a flip-phone.  We get some full-frame, some 2.35 and they occasionally make the annoying decision to window-box some widescreen clips.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn they just dropped all their footage into a timeline and never adjusted any of it.  The frame rate is also a little wonky on Invaluable, possibly due again to the mixed media, or just a faulty output setting from the editing software, resulting in intermittent ghost frames (see that first shot of Campbell).  I assume this is an issue with the original film, and not Synapse's presentation of it, as the problem seems to be resolved when we get to Other Men's Careers.

Both films offer the audio in full LPCM with, unfortunately, no subtitle options.
There are a substantial amount of extras, too.  Most are from Invaluable, not Other Men's Careers, though the distinction can be pretty slim, since it's often the same people talking about the same shared time periods in their lives.  There are some short deleted scenes/ interview clips with Sullivan, Cheryl Williams, Campbell and Becker.  Then there's the complete, unedited 50-minute interview with DP Tim Philo that covers his whole Evil Dead experience, and a vintage local television piece on Tim Sullivan that we saw clips of in the doc but turns out to run for nearly an hour.  There are also two short films by Meade, which I'd liken to amateur Kevin Smith.  Imagine Yoga Hosiers without the professional experience.  But one of them, Cosmos Locos, might still be of interest even if that doesn't sound appealing to you, because it features cameo appearances by Sullivan and Becker.  There's also a little behind-the-scenes footage for the other one of those shorts, plus trailers for all the films on this disc and an Invaluable stills gallery.  Synapse's release includes reversible artwork and the first 1000 copies comes in a slipcover.
If you only watch one documentary about a celebrated special effects artist this year, make it... Jurassic Punk.  But if you don't see any reason to arbitrarily limit yourself to just one, you should definitely pick up Invaluable, too.  Both of these films were pleasant surprises, and I was already expecting something pretty entertaining.  I hope Meade keeps making these; I'd love to see one on Scott Spiegel, say, or Nathan J. White.

Let's Get Extra, Super Serious About Inland Empire

Inland Empire is the David Lynch film that even puts some David Lynch fans off.You could say perhaps because it's his most self-indulgent film. It's certainly his most "abstract" since Eraserhead, without the more conventionally Hollywood story elements films like Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway at least had to anchor them. But on the other hand, that can be a strong reason to prefer it. It certainly holds more mystery than a lot of his films, and will draw some people to keep revisiting and studying it, whether or not they particularly prefer it.
Update 5/27/15 - 4/12/22: It's been seven years since we got serious about Inland Empire, and the world's caught up with us.  Now, Criterion has taken it to the next level with a (sort of) 4k restoration of one of the earliest shot on SD films ever.  Illustrated above is the seemingly ludicrous process they put it through (leaving out the final step of down-scaling it one last time from their 4k master to a 1080p blu-ray disc).  Although, to be fair, about half those steps are just what the filmmakers did before Criterion took the baton.  Honestly, based on reports I read pre-release, I thought I might've been buying this release just to dunk on it; but now, well...
If I were to try and break it down to a quick, one sentence pitch, I suppose I'd say: an actress (Laura Dern, who also produced) lands a role in a cursed film. But that's where the straight forward accessibility ends. The film within the film turns out to be a remake of a film that was never finished the first time around, because the two leads died during the filming. Meanwhile, everyone is warning Dern and her costar (Mulholland Drive's Justin Theroux), not to have an affair with each other, which seems easy and silly, since neither are particularly interested in each other. But as they embark on the film, time seems to collapse, worlds cross into each other, and people start inhabiting other peoples' lives. At one point Dern is talking to Theroux and remarks, "this sounds like dialogue from our movie," only to suddenly be surprised and discover that she IS on set, acting in front of the cameras. But even that makes it sound a lot more simple to understand than it, as mysterious characters come and go, and Dern seems to take on more than just the two personalities. Sometimes the characters are in LA, sometimes they're in Poland (and speaking subtitled Polish), and sometimes they're inside the world they've seen on television with the rabbit people. Yes, there's rabbit people.
Still, if you're familiar with Lynch's filmography, the world of Inland Empire is a little more navigable. Recurring themes and concepts from past work can help clue you in faster to what's going on here. You could certainly watch this film and never even begin to grasp that Dern's actress is taking on the life of the in-film character. But remembering similar switcharoos in Lynch's earlier films will probably push you along to figuring that out. On the other hand, though, I don't think even the deepest Lynch scholar could definitively tell you what every strange clue and moment mean. And that's partially because I don't think everything has a direct one-to-one, this-means-that correlation. Lynch is following deliberately stylized threads, and emotional plot lines more than strictly logical ones. Something could easily be in this movie because it came to him in a dream and it felt right; so at a certain point cogent analysis breaks down. But that doesn't make it any less relatable or powerful if you let yourself take the ride, and accept that your subconscious can follow the film down paths your rational mind might get stuck in.
It helps that Lynch is a master of creating vibrant images and sounds, and is able to manipulate music and pictures to create moods and atmosphere better than almost any director out there. If he wants to make a scene creepy, he can outdo any fancy horror director. Combine that with the cast he's assembled - including Harry Dean Stanton, Jeremy Irons, William Macy, Grace Zabriskie and of course Laura Dern, who gives the performance of a lifetime - and you'd be a fool to write this one off.

Now, Inland Empire has been available as a 2-disc, anamorphic special edition DVD since 2007 from, of all companies, Rhino. This is the film Lynch shot on digital video - and standard def video at that, so it's often been postulated that it's the one film of his that there's no point in upgrading to blu-ray. Still, somebody did it. In 2010, Studio Canal (who routinely manage to release these great special editions of his films overseas because they're the company that made the movies with him in the first place) issued it on blu in the UK with a bunch of exclusive extras. But can the film actually look any better? Criterion thinks so, because they've had a go at doing a 4k restoration of this film, which Criterion's booklet informs us involved upres'ing it to 4k "via numerous algorithms" in AI software.  They downscaled it back to SD, then blew it back up again because, we're told, "footage upscaled directly from the HD was less noticeably '4K-looking'," which sounds bloody crazy to me.  But let's look at the results.
1) 2007 Rhino DVD; 2) 2010 Studio Canal BD; 3) 2023 Criterion BD.
Well, even just moving from the DVD to Optimum's blu, we do see a little more detail, but that's largely because the darks have been lifted a bit. We can make out Stanton's ear, for example, when we couldn't before. There's a very slight vertical squeeze on the DVD that the blu corrects, tweaking the aspect ratio from 1.84:1 to 1.85.  Colors have shifted slightly to the cooler/ light side and some artifacts have diminished thanks to the better compression. But it's all very minor and if you're not really scrutinizing the image, it could be entirely lost on you.

And you can say the same for Criterion's new restoration.  It pushes the colors even a pinch further into the cooler and brighter side, and keeps 1.85:1 AR.  And you could make an argument for their new AI tweaking being a possibly revisionist process, but I have to admit, it kinda actually improved the image.  Look at Laura's eye in the first set of shots... you can actually make out her eyeball and brow in what is just more of a dark socket area on the Optimum.  And look at that candle on her table.  On the blu-ray, there's this dark echoe-y haloing effect around it (as it's all over everything in this movie), but it's significantly reduced on the Criterion, leaving more of just the actual edges.  And that's where you see most of the effect: not so much in faces or fine detail we're using to hunting for improvements in, but in straight lines.  Look at the lamp post behind Laura - it's much cleaner and more defined on the Criterion than the Optimum (let alone the Rhino).  Between this and the color/ brightness adjustments, it looks like someone used the "Clarify" tool in photo editing software.
ltr: 2007 Rhino DVD, 2010 Studio Canal BD, 2023 Criterion BD.
It kinda makes Stanton's face look skull-like in the second set of shots.  But it also makes him stand out more, though the actual hard line of his profile looks a little artificial.  That may sound a little 50/50, but in motion, when you're not zooming into the screenshot at 500+%, it's more of a net positive.  Raised gamma levels bring out his ear area, too.  Plus, we know this is Lynch's preference.  By accounts he's was fairly hands-on in the decision making during this process.  So I can only really conclude that this is another improvement, albeit another one so marginal most viewers will still never notice the difference.

The sound is a more distinct upgrade, and an area very important to Lynch's work. The Rhino DVD was pretty good in this regard already, with its two 5.1 mixes (near-field and far-field monitor playback) and Dolby stereo option, but fans will definitely prefer the lossless DTS-HD 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 tracks.  Both are included on both blu-rays, though they've been again remastered for the new Criterion.  Subtitle-wise, Rhino offered full English (burnt in during the Polish scenes) and French ones, which Optimum sadly chucked, instead only subtitling the Polish dialogue (though they're no longer burnt in).  Criterion doesn't burn in anything and gives us the choice of full English subtitles or just the Polish parts, though the menu just shows a basic On/ Off choice.
But even if you've upgraded, definitely don't throw away your DVDs! The blu-rays have some great stuff, and we'll be digging deep into all that; but the DVD's extras are plentiful and as essential as any special features ever have been. The biggest deal by far is "More Things That Happened," which, in the vein of the massive collection of restored deleted footage to Lynch's Fire Walk With Me and Blue Velvet blu-rays, is almost 80 minutes of additional Inland Empire footage. A few scenes are stretching things a bit, but most of it's almost as gripping as the film itself. There's a really impressive collection of monologues Dern recorded with "Mr. K," that could almost be a project onto themselves. And there's one more of those monologues tucked away on the first disc as an easter egg.
That rabbit is the easter egg,
and that "4:3/16:9" option refers to the on-screen subtitle placement.

There's also Lynch (Two), a roughly thirty minute behind-the-scenes documentary which is made up entirely of on-set footage. Its a totally fun and enlightening look at Lynch's process, and can give you some stronger insight into the film by seeing ideas come up with - and actors directed - in the moment. And there's an over forty-minute interview with Lynch where he talks about the origins and making of the film, starting with the original rabbit shorts he made for his website and going through pretty much everything. The rest are odds and ends, a short film by Lynch of a ballerina dancing, Lynch showing you a recipe, a stills gallery and three trailers.
Studio Canal, has a collection of interviews with Lynch recorded at different festivals and places. They do get a little redundant at times, with Lynch telling the same anecdotes to different audiences; but each has at least some original material. There's also an audience Q&A in there to spice things up, and one piece focuses on his paintings at a gallery showing (though he does touch on Inland Empire a bit here, too). That's it, except for the trailer. It's pretty decent stuff, but doesn't compete with what the old DVD already had. It compliments it alright, minus some repetition in the interviews; but together they made a neat little package.  And devotees of this film will probably want to get every possible tidbit they can get their hands on.

And for those Lynchians, there's more of everything to get.  Before I delve into Criterion's new extras, let's look at what else is floating around out there.
Avid's exclusive scene.
Room To Dream: David Lynch and the Independent Filmmaker was a freebie DVD you could get just by contacting Avid in 2005. That's because it's essentially a glorified ad for their editing software.  And there's a lot of tutorial footage showing you how to edit using their bells and whistles.  But there's also a 20+ minute featurette starring Lynch himself, which gives us a chance to "take a journey through David Lynch's creative process." For serious Lynch fans, it's kinda neat. And oh, but wait! Also on this disc is a sneak peek at the film he was working on at the time... which of course was Inland Empire. And the material we see turns out not to have been in the final cut of the film. So it's essentially an exclusive deleted scene. No, it wasn't in "More Things That Happened" or anywhere else in the other discs' extras. It's just over 6 minutes long with characters from the barbecue scene (where Dern was with her "other" husband). So another tiny piece of the puzzle. Helpfully, all these things are listed separately on the menu, too, so you don't have to ever watch the Avid guy pitch his software unless you're interested.

No, you can't get it from Avid anymore, but a lot of these were floating around back in the day. So if you hunt about online, you can probably still find a copy. Amazon has a listing for them.
And if you still want to see more about the film, you should definitely check out Lynch (One). Lynch (Two) was the 30-minute making of on the Rhino disc, but Lynch (One) is a full-length documentary made while Lynch was making IE. So, no, (One) isn't entirely about IE. A lot of it is about his artwork and the rest of his life. But a good 50% of it is looking at Empire directly or indirectly. We see him on set, we see him talking to the cast and explaining scenes. We see him first announcing the film to his website subscribers before it was made public. It's not the greatest documentary... the filmmakers seem a little too under Lynch's thumb, and enamored with showing us everything from his directing to how he likes his coffee.

It's an interesting peek into his life, though, that's for sure. We have one scene where he's giving instructions to his intern: "You can make short work of it. Meditate per usual. And when you've finished meditation, you write on a piece of paper three names. An actor in his forties, probably, that is a leading man with an edge, like a bad boy of Hollywood leading man. And you write those names on a piece of paper and present them to me on our power walk." How'd you like to work for him? So anyway, there's a lot of good stuff in here, especially about Empire.
A DVD extra of Lynch talking about his floor sander.
And Absurda's 2008 Lynch (One) DVD has its own extras. Most of it is kind of for die-hard Lynch fans only. More footage of him, his art... there's a gallery of one of his photo collections. Not much about Inland Empire, except for the trailers for the other Lynch docs. Yes, there's a Lynch (Three), and the whole trailer is just a clip of him working on the song "Strange" from Empire. Now, the doc is from 2008, so a lot of people might've given up on (Three) ever actually materializing. When I looked it up their kickstarter in 2015, they'd posted updates saying the film was finally finished. And in 2017, Criterion finally put it out on DVD and blu.
Yes, The Art Life is Lynch (Three).  I guess after a decade, they decided not to market it as the third in a long-stalled series, which was probably wise.  But this is that project.  "Our aim is to make a film that deeply explores the influences and experiences that have helped shape one of the most distinctive voices in modern cinema," they wrote; and that's what they've done.  It's better than I was expecting, honestly.  I'm generally less interested in hearing about a filmmaker's childhood and personal life than his actual filmmaking, but they tell a good story here.  And it feels more polished and professional than Lynch (One) and (Two) (again, probably why this is no longer titled (Three)).  For the purposes of this page, though, I have to point out that they don't get into Inland Empire in this one.
1) 2017 Criterion DVD; 2) 2017 Criterion BD.
Criterion presents the film as separate 1.78:1 DVD and BD releases.  Of course it's the same master used for both discs, with the BD looking naturally sharper and clearer being in HD.  Surprisingly, given that they're concurrent releases, the DVD has a slight vertical pinch that the BD corrects, revealing extra slivers of picture along the top and bottom.  The film has a 5.1 audio track, which is in DTS-HD on the blu, and both discs include optional English subtitles.  The DVD and blu both also include a 16+ minute interview with the director (of this doc, not Lynch).

So okay, now let's finally get into Criterion's 2023 Inland Empire special features, because there's a lot to talk about there, too.  Did I mention this is a 2-disc set?
1) 2007 Rhino DVD; 2) 2023 Criterion BD.
For starters, yes, they've included "More Things That Happened," and while the booklet doesn't get into whether they put it through the full AI up and down re-scaling process, they have noticeably restored it to HD, too.  On Rhino's DVD, it was slightly window-boxed, and this time vertically squashed, and distinctly more than the other discs were stretched.  So the geometry shifts from 1.94:1 to 1.78:1.  But discs just offer lossy audio with no subtitles, unfortunately.  And no, neither the easter egg deleted scene or the Room To Breath scene are included with these.
1) 2007 Rhino DVD; 2) 2023 Criterion BD.
What is included?  For a start, there's that 2007 Ballerina short film, which they've also boosted to HD and looks much better.  The framing has shifted from a slightly windowboxed 1.85:1 to 1.78:1, but it's just much clearer and attractive now in HD.  The DVD had some nasty combing to it.  Both just come with lossy stereo audio, though.  There are no subtitles, because there's no dialogue to transcribe.  It's barely a movie, just footage of this ballerina dancing in and out of focus to dark, Lynchian music, with a few camera moves. It's primarily just of interest because he wound up using a few frames of this in Inland Empire.
Lynch (One): 1) 2008 Absurda DVD; 2) 2023 Criterion BD.
Lynch (Two): 1) 2007 Rhino DVD; 2) 2023 Criterion BD.
They've also included both Lynch (One) and Lynch (Two).  These are technically both also upgraded from SD to HD, but they feel essentially like upconverts, showing very little improvement.  It doesn't help that both films use such low-fi imagery and often intentionally degrade the picture quality as part of their style.  Lynch (One), though, does fix a super slight horizontal stretch, adjusting the AR from 1.73:1 to a slightly pillar-boxed 1.75:1.  Lynch (Two) benefits a little more, since Rhino left a little windowboxing in the overscan area, which Criterion corrects in its 1.78:1 framing.  Criterion also brightens (Two) up a little, though I'm not sure if that's an improvement or just an arbitrary adjustment.  Both films only have lossy stereo audio on their DVDs and blus.  Disappointingly, Lynch (One) had optional English subtitles on the DVD, but doesn't on the new Criterion.  And no, none of the Lynch (One) DVD are carried over to the Criterion.

On the other hand, Criterion's come up with two new extras, a roughly half-hour conversation with Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan (who, no, you're right, was not in Inland Empire) and an audio-only excerpt of David Lynch reading from his book, which is also titled Room To Breath.  The trailer's back, too, and they include a full-color 28-page booklet featuring another interview with Lynch.
So the good news is yeah, the opportunity is out there to really gorge yourself on Inland Empire if you want to. Even more so now than before.  And honestly?  I recommend it.  It's a fascinating film that doesn't stop rewarding you as you delve deeper into it.  But if you want to really dive deep, it gets frustrating, because every release contains different pieces of the puzzle.  I'd say Criterion has (perhaps surprisingly) nailed it in terms of the definitive presentation of the film itself.  Militant purists may prefer the Optimum on principle, but I'd say Criterion has the superior PQ.  It's the only one with full subtitle options, though.
The bad news is, as you've just read, this situation is a sprawling mess.  Each of the three releases has substantial amounts of unique content.  Even the Lynch (One) DVD has exclusive goodies.  I understand Criterion couldn't realistically make this a 4-disc set and jam everything in, but some stuff, like the easter egg deleted scene, seems like an important and easy inclusion to have dropped the ball on.  The Avid scene would've been sweet, too, if they could've swung it.  Honestly, since they haven't really improved on Lynch (One), or even rendered the DVD fully obsolete, I would've much preferred if they left it alone and instead included the rest Inland Empire Stories from the Rhino disc, so fans don't have to buy ALL of these.  And if you have an older release, is anything Criterion did enough to justify a double or triple-dip?  For most viewers, probably not.  You're either the kind of fan who needs everything, in which case this new release just adds a little bit extra value to what you've already got, or you're the kind that'll still be fine with the old DVD.