Darkman - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Darkman


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Movie: :4stars:
4K Video: :4.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :5stars:
Final Score: :4.5stars:




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Movie

Ahhhhhh yes, Darkman. The super hero movie that wasn’t based off of a comic book, and became one of Sam Raimi’s more mainstream cult classic. While we all know him for his horror offerings, back in 1990 he decided to make his OWN super hero, outside of the weight of comic book lore in his own warped and twisted vision. The end result is a film that blends three genres nearly perfectly, and is still one of my favorite cult “super hero” films that could have been so much more if Raimi had stuck around. Sadly the cult hit spawned two mediocre sequels with Arnold Vosloo, of The Mummy fame, which sadly under performed and almost tarnished the fun and simplicity of the 1st film.

Now, the big thing about this release is that it hasn’t been treated very well on HD. Back in the day it was known as one of Universal’s big Blu-ray flops, and even the 2014 disc that Shout Studios released a decade ago was still utilizing that same mediocre master (just with an AVC encode over the bit starved VC-1 encode that Uni used). So I was MORE than eager to see that Shout had gone back and done a new 4K rescan of the negative and added a whole bunch of extras (as well as used said remaster for the Blu-ray included in this combo set) to spiff it up for modern audience, FINALLY giving us fans what we have so dearly wanted. A really nice presentation of the film for the first time in over 20 years.

Back in 1990 Raimi was coming off his Evil Dead high and decided it was time for a different approach to a tired genre. While everyone was enamored with another Superman or Batman flick, Raimi decided to forge his own path and create a super hero out of nothing. The story revolves around scientist Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) and his girlfriend Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand). Peyton is a brilliant scientist who has discovered a new synthetic skin whose only problem is that it only lasts about 99 minutes in the sunlight. Their story book romance is interrupted when mobster Robert Durant (Larry Drake) kills Peytons assistant and permanently scars the scientist looking for a some incriminating evidence against his boss (who happens to be Julie’s boss as well).

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Instead of dying, Peyton is horrifically scarred beyond recognition, and thanks to a lab experiment gone wrong by the people who found his body, he now no longer feels any pain whatsoever. Wrapping himself in bandages so the world can’t see his face, Peyton continues working on his synthetic skin formula and uses it to craft Mission Impossible esque masks so that he can carry out his revenge on the people that hurt him.

As I said above, Darkman manages to blend three different genres with alacrity thanks to Raimi’s passion and quirkiness. He somehow manages to blend his trademark horror, with thriller, and even slapstick comedy without it ever seeming silly or out of place. The film dances the line between all three, just coming to the line of ludicrucy before cackling and hopping the other direction. The end result? A film that is hilariously fun to watch with a twisted bite that keeps Darkman from following the typical super hero trope avenue. If I had to go out on a ledge, it was something akin to Zack Snyder’s The Watchman, just with 1990s effects and a more horror oriented flair.

Personally, I find that Darkman is one of Raimi’s most under rated films of all time. He made a name for himself with The Evil Dead series, and went on to direct some of the best Spider-man films out there, but here is where he got his start dabbling in the super hero genre, and he makes no bones about how he wants to subvert the typical tropes and expectations here. It’s silly, fun, overly gory, and we even have a last minute Bruce Campbell cameo (because why not) along with his family making their own appearances (Ivan in the writing room, Ted of course on screen).




Rating:

Rated R by the MPAA




4K Video: :4.5stars: Video: :4.5stars:
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I mentioned it up in the film review above, but Darkman has had a checkered past in terms of home video releases. The DVD was bitstarved back in the day (including a really bits starved 3 pack), and the Blu-ray was one of the first Uni releases of the format war, including a overly brightened and halo’d 1080p VC-1 encode that NO ONE really liked. Shout Studios rescued the film in 2014 and did the best they could, but it looked like Universal gave them the same master they used for their Blu-ray, and Shout simply did a brand new encode. It was decent, but nothing great. HOWEVER, Shout Studios has gone back to the OCN and stuck a new 4K remaster which they used to make this disc AND the Blu-ray included in the combo pack which ends up being a huge upgrade. I won’t say that this is the most perfect 4K disc of all time, but the 2160p encode is light years better than anything we’ve seen in the past for the film. The Dolby Vision tweaks have really brought the brightness levels down to realistic tones, while still keeping the overly burnished red tinge that was so popular in the early 90s. Fine details are absolutely incredible, showing tons more detail than I’ve ever seen (which can sometimes be a bit TOO much detail, as the obvious 90s green screen technology is a bit too obvious at times). The colors aren’t overly brightened and rich, but they are definitely richer and more vibrant than the 1080p disc included, and we ACTUALLY get to see a nice layer of grain over the entire production. Simply put, this blows the doors off anything we’ve seen to date and is the version we’ve been waiting for.








Audio: :4stars:
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The only part of this entire package that SLIGHTLY disappoints me is that Shout Studios simply repackaged the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that they used for their 2014 release, which is sort of a shame as Sam Raimi films are loaded to the gills with audio cues. The same is true of Darkman, which features tons of surround nuances and LFE punches. The 5.1 track does the job quite nicely, but personally my gut reaction was to wonder what this could have sounded like with a brand new Atmos mix.













Extras: :5stars:
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4K UHD Disc
• NEW 4K RESTORATION FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE approved by Director Sam Raimi and Director of Photography Bill Pope
• DOLBY VISION/HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
• NEW Audio Commentary With Filmmaker And Darkman Superfan Josh Ruben
• Audio Commentary With Bill Pope

Blu-ray Disc
• NEW 4K RESTORATION FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE approved by Director Sam Raimi and Director of Photography Bill Pope
• NEW Audio Commentary With Filmmaker And Darkman Superfan Josh Ruben
• NEW Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary With Bill Pope
• "Dissecting Darkman" – An Interview With Actor Liam Neeson
• Interview With Actor Frances McDormand
• "The Name Is Durant" – An Interview With Actor Larry Drake
• "The Face Of Revenge" – Interview With Makeup Designer Tony Gardner
• "Henchman Tales" – Interviews with Actors Danny Hicks and Dan Bell
• "Dark Design" – An Interview With Production Designer Randy Ser And Art Director Philip Dagort
• Vintage "Making-Of" Featurette – Featuring Interviews With Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, And More…
• Vintage Interviews With Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson And Frances McDormand
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots
• Still Galleries – Posters And Production Stills, Behind The Scenes, Make-Up Effects And Storyboards













Final Score: :4.5stars:


I wish there were more films like Darkman out today. The 1990s were a wild time, and Darkman was that one film that sort of bridged the 1980s gore with 1990s zaniness with nimble ease. Also, Shout Studios has gone out of their way to really make a great package here (they’ve also released a 4K steelbook as well which looks REALLY ). Great video, good audio, and the disc is just loaded with special features making this the definitive version of Darkman out there. Highly recommended.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels, Larry Drake, Dan Hicks
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Sam Raimi, Chuck Pfarrer, Ivan Raimi
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Sugtitles: English
Studio: Shout Studios
Rated: R
Runtime: 96 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 20th, 2024
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Recommendation: Highly Recommended

 
Last edited:

Sonnie

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I don't remember seeing this one... may have to try to catch it on a 4K stream, assuming it's available.

Thanks for the review!
 

Asere

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Thanks for the review. Sadly I did not watch it until years later but I thought it was an excellent film.
 

Todd Anderson

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Very cool... nice to see this getting a proper release!

And, btw, don't kidnap Darkman's daughter. I hear he has a very special set of skills in that department :redgrin:
 

Travis Ballstadt

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I remember this coming out, but don't think I've ever seen it.

Really wish SHOUT! was better about releasing on Kaleidescape. :(
 

Mike Schramm

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I haven't seen this one either. I am absolutely intrigued. Great review!
 
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