It is Halloween and Universal Studios Home Entertainment has given fans a nice treat with the Blu-ray release of the Horror Starter Pack (Land of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and The Thing). All three films look great on Blu-ray and are perfect for watching during the spooky season.
The three films come with U-Control that allows Picture in Picture access to behind the scenes making of the movies and interviews. The reasonable price helps sell the set as does how great all three movies look with Blu-ray’s 1080p picture.
Although it doesn’t fit the zombie feel of the other two films, the main reason I wanted this set was John Carpenter’s sci-fi/horror classic The Thing. The movie has always been one of my favorites, and I was amazed at how clear the picture looked on Blu-ray.
The film sees Carpenter once again teaming with Kurt Russell for a remake of the classic The Thing From Another World. It was released in 1982 and follows a twelve-man team at a remote Antarctic research station.
The group has to deal with a revived alien who has the ability to become anyone it comes in contact with, and things get bloody fast. The group slowly turns on each other as the movie plays out, and you are never really sure who the alien has killed and replaced. Tension continues to build throughout the movie, and Carpenter uses every bit of his cold and isolated setting to help sell the horror of what is happening on screen.
In my opinion, this is one of John Carpenter’s best films and it still manages to hold up to today’s standards – despite some dated technology and effects. Russell is at his best in the film and brings a lot of depth to a character that could easily be a bit of a joke (especially when he is sporting the giant hat).
The film really looks great on Blu-ray, but the crystal clear picture does hurt some of the value of the effects – which were done before the days of CGI dominated movies. At times, the blood looks a little too fake, and the creatures a little too rubbery.
The Blu-ray features commentary from Carpenter and Russell (which is almost more fun than watching the film), and the U-Control Picture in Picture feature.
The Picture in Picture is worth watching because it takes you into the making of the movie and features interviews from cast and crew that share the secrets of how the effects were created and the creature brought to life.
While The Thing is worth picking up in this Starter Pack, I don’t know if I would recommend it as a stand alone buy. The film was released on DVD as a Collector’s Edition in 2006, and that version came loaded with features and goodies for the fans. If you already own that version, you might want to hang on to it for the features, or skip the Blu-ray release until it can be double-dipped with more features.
Zack Snyder (300) remakes zombie master George A. Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead, and succeeds in delivering a good flick – even if it lacks some bite from time to time. The film stars Mekhi Phifer, Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, and Jake Weber.
It appears the dead have returned and they are really hungry so they naturally head to the mall to snack on a group of survivors. The group uses the mall like a castle that is under siege while trying to figure out a way to get past the dead without becoming lunch.
Snyder fills the film with gory moments, plenty of heads popping off, lots of blood, and even a scare or two. The film doesn’t quite feel as good as Romero’s original, but it does manage to keep some of the elements that made the original a classic. You have to love all the little things (such as the elevator music) that bring a laugh – even when the blood is spraying all over the screen.
With the exception of the zombie birthing scene, I really enjoyed Dawn of the Dead, and the film looks great on Blu-ray. The picture really helps you pick up all the gooey gory details of the zombie make-up effects, and the brain bits that go flying when the heads go pop. The action is a little over-the-top, but it is a fun film that will keep horror and gore fans happy.
Again, the Blu-ray release feels a little light on special features compared to the DVD release. The release includes a nice commentary from Snyder and producer Eric Newman, and the in-depth look at the film through the Picture in Picture function on U-Control.
Finally, the set includes zombie icon George A. Romero’s return to the undead with the 2005 release of Land of the Dead. The film stars Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo.
The dead have pretty much taken over the world, and one city has carved out a resemblance of an existence thanks to a group of fighters who roam the ruins for supplies. The city is ruled by Hopper’s character and it is clear the actor is having fun in the film. He chews the scenes and brings his own icon status to the character.
Thinking life can finally start again, the city has broken back into the upper and lower class structure, and you would think it was life as normal if you lived with the upper class. Of course, everything changes when the zombies arrive and show they don’t care if you are rich or poor – it appears they both taste the same.
From then on, the film is a classic zombie flick – with lots of action, gore, and a few scares. While this isn’t Romero at his best, the film is worth watching and lots of fun if you are a fan of the genre.
Like the other releases in the set, Land of the Dead looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray. Along with the Picture in Picture function of U-Control, the disc comes loaded with some nice features that take you into the making of the film, and gives you a look at the zombie creation. It also features commentary from Romero with producer Peter Grunwald and editor Michael Doherty.
Despite lacking some needed special features on The Thing, Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s Horror Starter Pack is a good treat for Halloween or any fan wanting to boost their Blu-ray collection. All the movies look and sound great on the format, and each has something to offer fans of the horror genre.