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- Apr 4, 2017
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Stephen King 5 Movie Collection - Blu-ray Review
WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM ALL 5 FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW
WARNING: THE SCORES ABOVE ARE A COMBINED SCORE FROM ALL 5 FILMS, THE INDIVIDUAL SCORES ARE CONTAINED BELOW IN THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS OF THE REVIEW
With the pandemic going on right now, studios are being forced to dig into their archives and pull out some classic titles to release (or re-release) on Blu-ray in the interim of this dearth of new releases, and Paramount has not only pulled out some previously released movies, but a couple that haven’t seen Blu-ray before (well one that hasn’t Blu-ray in the states, Scream Factory DID do a collector’s Edition of Silver Bullet about a year ago). I was pleasantly surprised to see that The Dead Zone was FINALLY getting a release on Blu-ray in the states, and while the extras package is a bit bland for the release, having 5 Stephen King flicks for less than $30 is a STEAL.
The Dead Zone:
Ahhh, David Cronenberg and Stephen King, a match made in heaven. Luckily the first disc out of the boxset happens to be the ONE film in the set that has never been released on Blu-ray domestically. Filmed at the height of 1980s thriller careers, The Dead Zone is one of the less creepy Stephen King adaptations. Instead of being horror or creepy thriller, it’s more of a character study of a many who comes into enormous powers, and the responsibility he feels towards other.
The story revolves around Johnny Smith, a high school teacher in Castle Rock, New Hampshire (yup, that city name comes up again in Stephen King’s works as you well know), has it all. He’s got the girl of his dreams, a good job, and soon to marry said girl of his dreams. That is until a freak accident lands him in a coma for 5 years, in which time his girlfriend moves on and marries someone else, leaving him with a crippled right leg and a lot of therapy to work through. However, it has also left him with a bit of a gift, as his sudden brush with death has given him the power to see into someone’s past/present/future simply by touching their hand.
After to coming to grips with his new power, Johnny uses his abilities to track down a local serial killer, but due to the negative press moves out of Castle Rock and turns to private tutoring to pay his bills while he fades from the limelight. While there he runs into the biggest conundrum of all. Touching the hand of a politician (played by Martin Sheen) who just may be future “Hitler” (in a way), leaving him with the conundrum of having to decide what to do. Does he allow the future to play out? Or does he step in and try to change the future with his own actions and save countless lives.
The Dead Zone is barely a thriller, and more of a dramatic mystery. It takes elements from Cronenberg’s work with Scanners and tames it down just a little bit, as he takes on King’s “shining” character (Stephen King has made a point of saying that ALL his novels and movies and characters are in the same universe, and those special “magical” moments/people/events that happen in each story are a variation of “the shine” that we learn about in The Shining). Christopher Walken is great as the tortured Johnny, giving him a sort of semi unhinged, semi sweet tone that makes him a very sympathetic protagonist. Martin Sheen is perfectly adept at playing the sleazeball politician, and overall I feel that this is one of Stephen King’s more forgotten GOOD works. The movie is very laid back and even tempered, but also has just enough creepiness and adventure to be exciting. It may have a slightly weak ending that feels truncated, but overall it’s a great film and I’m extremely happy to see it finally hit Blu-ray.
Stephen King is a man of ambition, disturbing introspection, and a man of great heart. He’s made creepy thrillers like The Dead Zone, horrific stuff like The Shining and sweet tales of heartfelt joy and sadness in The Green Mile. While he’s had good to great success in films, he’s also had his share of mishaps in the form of miniseries. Before IT was a giant two film blockbuster, it was a middling TV miniseries (yes, I know it was well received at the time, but is very dated and only covers the latter half of the book), Under the Dome was a great novel, but HORRIBLE in it’s Miniseries form, but The Stand was one of the better minis that took on the King name.
Deep in the California desert a facility is trying to work on a “super flu” virus strain that the human body cannot repel. A strain that sadly gets out of containment, infecting the crew, including a guard named Campion (Ray McKinnon) who runs off across the United States hoping to be safe from it’s reaches. Unfortunately he gets as far as Texas before the illness that he was exposed to gestates and over takes him, and his acts as the catalyst for a state wide infection. An infection that can NOT be resisted, which soon takes over the nation and eventually the whole world. 99% of the world is destroyed by the virus in VERY short order, leaving only a very small percentage as survivors. Soon the nation splits into two factions. The Nebraskans headed up by Mother Abigail (Ruby Dee), and the other faction in the heart of Los Angeles under the heavy hand of the psychotic Randall Flagg (Jamey Sheridan). There the forces of good vs. Evil square off as they try to rebuild what is left of the world.
Unlike many of the Stephen King adaptations, King himself wrote the screenplay for The Stand, but even at 6 hours long the massive novel is not replicated 100% as well on the Silver Screen. That being said, King does a great job at sticking to the core principals of the book and tells a very nuanced tale of a sprawling world that is shambled. The show builds to a great climax and even though you can TELL that it is a bit light in the loafers compared to the weightiest of Stephen’s book (it’s a mass 800+ page book), it’s a very good miniseries with some great characters. I’m a HUGE fan of Laura San Giacomo (I had a crush on her back in her Just Shoot Me days) and she is on point as the slightly nutty New Yorker siding with Randall Flagg. Luckily she’s rounded out by some other big names like Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald and Ed Harris as well.
Being that we reviewed the Scream Factory collector's edition a few months back, the writeup for the plot can be found HERE
Pet Sematary is notably the ONE book that Stephen King admits that he went “too far” with. The plot doesn’t sound that scary when you read it from the back of a movie box, but when watching the movie in person it totally hits you you. And to make matters interesting, the book is even more disturbing. King responded in an interview that when he went and re-read what he wrote that he said to himself “OK, this crossed the line a bit”. The addition of the child and the visual effects for the chilling last act makes for a truly sickening and horrifying experience, even if the actual events aren’t THAT bad (there’s something about children and death that really gets to people I’ve noticed). The movie itself isn’t all THAT faithful to the book in some ways, but VERY faithful in others, making it one of the most controversial Stephen King adaptations to date, but still one of my favorites.
The Creeds have just moved from busy city life to a rural home out in Maine where father Louis (Dale Midkiff) is looking to setup shop as a doctor in a local college so as to adopt a slower pace of life and life with his family. Sadly the little rural house that they now call home is right next to a busy highway. A highway which seems prone to taking the life of local pets, which has prompted the townsfolk to setup a little patch of land near the Creed’s new home as a pet sematary. Their idyllic life is soon interrupted when they meet a kindly old neighbor named Jud (Fred Gwynne of The Munsters fame) who befriends the youngest children with ease. To be honest, Jud isn’t the evil one here, but rather a pawn as well, because soon after settling in the family cat, Church, gets hit by a passing vehicle.
Children Gage (Miko Hughes) and Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) are devastated by the loss of their pet, prompting good natured Jud to do the unthinkable. Help the family get their pet back by showing them an ancient Indian burial ground that is rumored to bring things back to life if buried there. Desiring to get their pet back, the unthinkable is done, and magically it just so happens to be true! But with any supernatural deal there comes a price, and the price that the Creed family pays for their transgressions may be the undoing of them all.
Pet Sematary is a virtual tour de force film, with a seemingly peaceful beginning that draws you in until the viewer realizes that they’re right in the middle of the one of the most horrible tales of dread and despair yet. The movie is really about loss and what one will do when they truly love someone, but at the same time it is absolutely sickening and terrifying when you see what you reap in your desperation. That is the true scary part of the film. Not that things come back to life, but rather watching the gut wrenching realization that happens to the victims when they understand that they brought this on themselves. The addition of having a child victim come back as pure evil is a lynch pin to the visceral nature of the movie, and I can totally see why King felt that he “went too far” as he said. It’s an uncomfortable film to watch, and while I kind of like the 2019 remake, is truly more terrifying than that film could ever be.
Pet Sematary 2019:
Being that the included Blu-ray is the exact same disc as found in the stand alone release that was reviewed last year, You can read up on the story HERE
Rated R by the MPAA (The Dead Zone) / Not Rated By the MPAA (The Stand) / Rated R by the MPAA (Silver Bullet) / Rated R by the MPAA (Pet Sematary) / Rated R for horror violence, bloody images, and some language (Pet Sematary 2019)
I haven’t seen the Australian or Spanish (Spain) editions of the film I have heard it on several reports that this U.S. disc is struck from the same master as those two releases. I have no word on how old the master is, or what resolution it is struck at, but the end result is quite pleasing and very nice for an 80s looking thriller. The disc has a lightly blue tinge to it if you look, but it is still rather neutral for the most part in the color grading. The opening shot is rather grainy and course, but as the film progresses it smooths out (not smooth such as DNR smooth mind you) and takes on a very gorgeous look. Faces are clean and precise in terms of the skin tones, and detail is exquisite. While there is some very minor grain spikes during low light sequences, the film maintains great shadow detail as well.
1994’s The Stand looks about what one would expect for a 1990s made to TV miniseries. It’s framed in the old 4x3 format and looks very much like video from the 90s. It’s clean, clear of most defects except for some random speckling and print damage that crops up, and the colors are slightly hot with a hefty push towards red and orange. Skin tones are slightly ruddy, but still within reason, and detail on the screen is very nice. There’s some smoothness softness indicative of a low budget TV flick, but at the end of the day it looks as good as the source will allow.
While Silver Bullet WAS released last year on Blu-ray, it was done by Scream Factory and not by Paramount, but judging from the A/B shots of the two discs, it’s from the same master. It looks very solid with great daylight scenes, but suffers from the same issue of overly grain night shots, and some sporadic print damage. There’s some smoothness to the image, but it doesn’t look like it was DNR’d, and if it was it was very slight. Fine details are generally excellent, and the colors are very punchy and well saturated. It’s a solid transfer, and outside of a slightly tweaked contrast, looks nearly identical to the Scream Factory special edition (just sadly missing all the cool swag and special features of course).
This Pet Cemetary Blu-ray is the same Blu-ray that’s been out for the last 8 years, with the same decent (if not flawed) video encode. Paramount’s BD-50 is great in daylight sequences, with bright and well saturated red greens and blues, but some troubling low light sequences. The vivid detail and clarity in the daylight shots are contrasted with the noticeable variations in the dark scenes, which tend to look a bit milky. Facial details are quite good, but skin tones are a bit flat and pasty, and there’s a drab look to the interior shots. There’s some film grain there, but it’s all a bit smooth and looks sort of DNR’d, even though if it is it isn’t wildly obvious. As a result background objects can look smooth and slightly soft, while foreground objects maintain stronger clarity. A good transfer, but a bit dated and using a (IMO) compromised master).
Pet Sematary 2019:
Video Score analysis can be found HERE
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track for the disc is rather good for an old Stephen King flick from the early 80s. The mix is decidedly front heavy and the surrounds are only used for ambient noises (such as snow crunching under foot, or the rumble of cars in the distance), but everything else is well done. Dynamics are pretty good and the front sound stage is lively and well balanced. Dialog is crystal clear throughout and ambient noise from Johnny using his powers adds some wallop to the low end as well. It may not be a wild and wooly action track, but it certainly is very pleasant and clean listening.
Sadly the effects of having 6 hours of content on ONE BD-50 has it’s drawbacks, and that drawback comes in the form of no lossless audio. Even though it was a paltry 2.0 stereo track made for TV, The Stand is given a 192 kbps lossy Dolby Digital track, which is rather thin and meager on the volume and dynamics. Now I know that the miniseries was never a robust and vigorous mix during the DVD era, but it really sounds no different than my old DVD, with thin vocals and a very weak dynamic range, and of course no real bass or surround usage (obviously). Decent enough mix for 20 years ago, but sorely lacking today.
The 2.0 Mono track in lossless DTS-HD MA is comfortably appealing, and has a solid amount of crispness to it for a mono track from the 80s. Dialog is clean and clear in the mains, and the rumbling and roaring of the beast comes through impressively as well. There’s not a whole lot of depth to it considering that it’s a simple mono track, but I didn’t detect any hints of hiss or other analog abnormalities to it either. A simple track with a clean presentation at its core is all we can ask for, and that’s what we got. Comparing this against the Scream Factory release, it's pretty clear that it's the same mix that Paramount must have given Scream, as they are functionally identical.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is a bit of a boost over the mediocre video quality, giving us a very active and robust sounding lossless mix for the creepy film. Surrounds are active with a very engaging (and creepy) score, as well as the bump in the night moments in the second half. The low end is surprisingly hefty, giving weight to many of the scarier moments and amplifying the already great sounding score to new heights. The near constant sound of heavy trucks rumbling by on the freeway keeps that low end really roaring, and the airport sequence part way through adds some great surround usage to a really throaty low end bit. The dialog is crystal clear, except for some muffled noises from the cat, and the dynamics of the front sound stage perfectly balanced with said score. All in all, a good mix.
Pet Sematary 2019:
Audio Score Analysis can be found HERE
• Audio Commentary with Writer Stephen King and Director Mick Garris
• Making Of
• Audio Commentary with Director Mary Lambert
• Stephen King Territory
• The Characters
• Filming the Horror
Pet Sematary 2019
• Alternate Ending
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Night Terrors – Family Haunting Visions
- Ellie• The Tale of Timmy Baterman
• Beyond the Deadfall
- Chapter One: Resurrection – Directors, screenwriters and cast discuss bringing this classic back to life
- Chapter Two: The Final Resting Place—A deeper look into finding the right location for the terror to unfold
- Chapter Three: The Road to Sorrow— Inside the film's tragic themes and creating the iconic cat "Church"
- Chapter Four: Death Comes home—Unearth the creepy elements behind the climax and final scenes of the film
This new boxset is a mixed bag for those of us who already have most of these films on Blu-ray or 4K UHD. Both the Pet Sematary films are on 4K UHD with some seriously great looking video and audio specs, and Silver Bullet got a massive collector’s edition last year from Scream Factory. The Stand is still the same release that got put out a year ago (almost to the day actually), leaving the only new disc unavailable before being The Dead Zone (which admittedly is a great thing). However, you have to take into effect that the video encode for Silver Bullet is near identical to the Scream Factory release, AND this whole box set costs $27.99 (at the moment of this review) for all 5 films. If you have the 4K UHD discs it makes things a bit sticker. HOWEVER, if you’re Blu-ray only and haven’t collected everything individually, this set gives a lot of bang for your buck with good video and audio specc’d discs. (sadly the extras for both Silver Bullet is completely non existent, and the other films that were already released have the same extras that they came with). Still recommended as you get 5 King flicks for dirt cheap.
Starring: Denise Crosby, Christopher Walken, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Tom Skerritt, Gary Busey
Directed by: David Cronenberg / Mick Garris / Daniel Attias / Mary Lambert / Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmeyer
Written by: Jeffrey Boam / Stephen King / Stephen King / Stephen King / Matt Greenberg
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC / 1.37:1 AVC / 2.39:1 AVC / 1.78:1 AVC / 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English Dolby Atmos (Pet Sematary 2019) , German, French, French (Canadian), Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), Portuguese,, Italian DD 5.1, German, Spanish, French, French, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, English DD 2.0
- The Dead Zone = English, English SDH, French
- The Stand = English SDH, German, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
- Silver Bullet = English SDH, English, French,
- Pet Sematary = English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
- Pet Sematary 2019 = English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Rated: NR (The Stand) / R (the other 4)
Runtime: 103 Minutes (The Dead Zone) / 359 Minutes (The Stand) / 95 Minutes (Silver Bullet) / 103 Minutes (Pet Sematary) / 101 Minutes (Pet Sematary 2019)
Blu-ray Release Date: September 15th, 2020