PictureWhereas the film itself has its good and bad points, the same cannot be said of the video quality. We are presented with a theatrically correct 1080P 2.35:1 transfer - but the resulting image is little better than a DVD.
The first area that should be mentioned is black levels. The deep levels of black never really show up on this transfer - the black looks very washed out and grey. The image is also very very flat, with little of the 3d pop that we should expect from HD transfers these days. Colour also seems very artificial. Some colours are artificially pumped up, whilst others are muted and restrained. The result is very peculiar indeed and quite unlike any other disc I have yet seen on Blu-ray.
One of the results of all this is that detail levels are not what you would expect. A lot of artificial processing seems to be going on here, and the suppression of detail is one unfortunate result. Look, in particular, for the close ups of Cusack's face. There is simply no pop, no deep detail here. We should expect more.
The positives, however, are that the source is pristine - there are certainly no defects to mar the watching experience here. Grain is at a pleasing level, which enhances the natural quality without spoiling the print. The transfer is marginally sharper than an SD DVD, but this is far from reference material. It is not the worst transfer I have seen, but certainly is a disappointment.
SoundThankfully, the sound mix is a lot better. We are presented with a TrueHD and Dolby Digital English sound track, and it was the former that I chose to watch.
Quite frankly, this is a sublime mix. It is subtle in ways that the film is not, and really does do a lot to enhance the chills seen on screen.
The first thing to note is the firm anchoring of the dialogue to the center speaker - and the dialogue is always clear and precise and easy to hear. This is complemented by excellent front separation, with spooky sound effects (as well as every day sound) well placed throughout the front sound stage. The score is well integrated and always sounds clear without ever drowning out the dialogue and effects.
The LFE also gets excellent use throughout the film. It may be used sparingly, but when it is used it is always effective. It really does underpin the action on screen well, and packs plenty of punch.
Rears, also, are extremely well used. They are not always active, but when they are the addition of atmosphere provided is immense. They are cleverly used in order to provide background to the scare scenes, little effects pattering around behind you, and the odd more up front jolt also providing effective frights.
This really is an effective soundtrack. The designers have realised that it is not always necessary to hammer you with unnecssary ambience, and have used the whole soundscape well. This is certainly one of the better mixes I have heard.
ExtrasDirector Mikael Hafstrom is joined by co-screenwriters Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski on a rather technical and self important commentary. The participants do provide some interesting insights into the making of the film, how it differs from its source, and the different endings shot. As such it is certainly worth a listen - but may be a little dry for repeat visits.
Four mini featurettes examine the making of the film, but really do skate the surface. The total of all four is only 20 minutes, and despite some interesting looks behind the scenes at the destruction of the set, there is very little here that provides great insight.
More interesting is twenty minutes of deleted scenes including the original theatrical ending which is really quite different to the one in the director's cut - and is in my opinion far worse. It is interesting to see what cinema audiences saw, and it's good to see for a change that the better ending makes the cut on Blu-ray.
Finally, we get two webisodes which are so brief as to be almost throwaway (around 2.5 minutes each) and an HD Trailer for the film, which promises much more than the finished product delivers.
Verdict1408 is a strange choice to adapt for the cinema. The source story is so brief as to be inconsequential, and through necessity the filmmakers have added much to the meat of the original. This, sadly, proves to be a mistake as what we get is as much soap opera as it is horror. This is an even greater shame, as the opening half hour promises much - with great performances and subtle shocks preparing you for more than the film actually manages to deliver.
This rather disappointing feature is provided with a superlative, subtle sound mix that enhances the atmosphere greatly, and a video transfer that is very disappointing - with little to impress.
The extras package is substantial in quantity, if rather lacking in quality - and the film is provided in the director's cut version which provides an alternative ending to the cinematic version. Whether this is worth an upgrade or not will depend on how much you enjoyed the film on the first viewing. However, if you are new to the film I would recommend a rental first to all but the most avid of King / Cusack collectors - the latter should pick this up without hesitation.
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