Creepshow Blu-ray Review
Creepshow is presented in Romero's favoured 1.85:1 aspect and the leap from SD DVD to 1080p Blu-ray is highly appreciated. Encoded via VC-1, the film looks very nice indeed. Whilst there are still moments when the image falls back into something much softer, grainier and less distinct, the overall picture is much sharper, far better saturated with its comic-book colours and filled with more refined detail. The transfer seems to have been taken from the previous R2 Special Edition from 2007, which had been scrubbed-up and restored, but this looks much better again.
Just look at the title credits for some marvellously lurid colours that do genuinely lift from the screen. And this sets the tone for much of what will follow. Whilst the palette, across the board, is cleaner and stronger, it is the comic-book embellishments that really stand-out. Whilst the big full-on reds, greens and purples don't look dazzling and wildly “modern” in a Speedracer sort of way, they perfectly capture the style of the EC comic-book plates and fully embrace the entrancing, eyeball-bathing vibrancy that so troubled the studio's colour-timing engineers at the time of production. “The Crate”, especially, seems to go all-out in bringing such intensity to the fore. When Fluffy appears and makes his ferocious attacks, the screen becomes massively saturated with thick, smothering blankets of reds and pinkish-purples - and there is no evidence of banding, smearing or any pockets of “blockiness” as a result. Other instances of such flash-colourisation abound and all are reproduced with more vigour and attention than ever before. Skin-tones may veer towards the ruddier of complexions but, again, they now look more consistent and natural than they have on previous DVD incarnations and, besides, this “flush” appearance was intentional all along.
Contrast is much better handled than previously and the transfer offers some terrific black levels that certainly go a long way to adding both atmosphere and visual distinction to the film. The austere whites of Upson Pratt's penthouse are more solid and possess more depth than I've ever seen them evince before. Shadow delineation is fine and tight and I never once thought that the image was losing any detail due to crushing. And detail ... well, the film, though still soft compared to more modern fare, now exhibits a far more finite level of visual information. Close-ups look great, with wrinkles, eyelashes, hair and wounds now far better etched. The fur on Fluffy and the creases in his brown, leathery fingers and around those gleaming yellow, feral eyes are all much more acute. There is sharper edging on the nasty flesh-gouges that Robert Harper receives, better definition on the bloodied bark behind Wilma's blasted head, and much more grisly attention to be enjoyed of Savini's work on the shambling cadavers in “Father's Day” and “Something To Tide You Over”.
The print, itself, may have the odd nick here or there, but the grain remains light and even throughout. Any noise reduction that the image has received is equally light and unobtrusive. But there are still some fine photography differences between the segments - nothing too distracting and certainly nothing that is the fault of the hi-def transfer. However, one element that niggled me - though, once again, this inherent in the print, itself, and therefore unavoidable - is the red/green fringing around some edges during some very occasional shot changes. This is possibly most noticeable during “The Crate”, when angles shot at the opening lawn party visibly alter in clarity and distinction from moment to moment. This is only a slight problem, though, and easily overlooked. And, thankfully, edge enhancement is kept to a minimum, as well.
Overall, Creepshow looks fine in this new high definition transfer and it marks a definitely worthy upgrade in my opinion, easily trouncing the old R1 disc and improving upon the much better R2 Special Edition.
Purists take note - this BD edition of Creepshow entirely does away with the DD 5.1 remix that the UK 2-discer has and offers up a very reasonable, cleaned-up Dolby TrueHD 2-channel presentation that, in my opinion, does the film proud, as well as the original DD option.
Now whereas the previous version actually did supply some interesting surround detail and an agreeably warm presentation of effects and score, this lossless mix is no slouch. Boasting a very wide and deep stereo image, the audio is surprisingly clear and aggressive. In fact, I was surprised at how energetic and enjoyable the audio experience was. I hadn't expected much, but Creepshow certainly comes alive with the lossless transfer.
Details abound. The grating of the big tombstone groaning its way closer to Ed Harris' stricken body. The unpleasant crunching of a spinal column as a head is twisted all the way around. Listen to the janitor's torch rolling over the floor near the start of “The Crate” - it is only subtle, but I love the scratching it makes over little stones and the assorted grit. Then there is the ever-present jangling of Wilma's beads, bangles and bracelets. The sound of hammers on wood and the prising of nails, the rasping of fingernails and claws, and the scampering of cockroaches later on in “They're Creeping Up On You”. Gunshots, however, still sound a little subdued and muffled in the mix. There is a hint of the old Lucio Fulci sound effect for such blasts, which is further proof of Romero's extensive use of library effects tracks. The records playing on Pratt's jukebox - one of which is also heard playing on the old gramophone in the cellar of The Evil Dead's Tennessee shack - have some slight degree of depth within the mix, as do Gaylen Ross's gulps for air as the waves crash over her. Dimensionality isn't great, obviously, but these two examples, as well as many others, show that the soundscape, although limited, still provides some elements of width and spatiality.
John Harrison's rich and varied score also comes in for a welcome makeover. His different approaches to each story all come over with clarity and a vigour that sounds warm and dynamic. And the voices of the undead - the rotting corpse from beneath the ground and, most memorably, the watery dead from beneath the sea - have suitably disturbing vocals that the track presents with total clarity and a nice balance of the sonic enhancement they have received.
All in all, this is a great TrueHD track that delivers far more than you think it will. A strong 7 out of 10.
Now this is where it hurts, folks. After all the improvements made with the AV, the release is then scuppered by shearing away all of the fantastic extras that came with the UK's 2-disc Special Edition, except for the film's theatrical trailer. Huh?
So no commentary, no feature-length retrospective documentary, no deleted scenes, still galleries or on-set footage of Tom Savini at work. This is a serious set-back that means fans will have to cling on to that previous R2 copy. However, knowing like-minded fans of Romero, this will not be a chore. You have to look at it this way - you are getting this version for the improved transfer alone.
It should be all in one package, though.
Well, despite making the grave error of not supplying any of the terrific extra features that are already out there, Warner's release of Creepshow (Universal carry the film in the UK) still gets by on the basis of a great transfer that brings out more cockroach, fur and fangs for your money. Romero's film is cheerful, intriguing and often highly amusing. It completely trounces the combined let-downs that are Parts 2 and 3 with its mixture of a great cast of genre veterans and unusual luminaries, fun special effects and a devout insistence on capturing the pure ghoulish charm of the original EC Comics. The wraparound story may be hampered by King's son who is just terrible but, on the whole, Creepshow is great little show-piece of pure, unadulterated Halloween fun.
”The Crate” is the best of the assortment's grim delights, bringing a true sense of the uncanny and a palpable sense of dread. Romero was never the best at making audiences actualy jump but he more than brings home the bacon with Fluffy's celebrated appearances. Elsewhere, the tone may be uneven, but the nostalgic love for those halcyon days of hidden caches of taboo comics - the veritable “video nasties” of their day - is wonderfully evoked. The film, despite some shortcomings, has actually aged quite well and this BD transfer presents it with an entirely new lease of life ... and death. Looking fresh and suitably garish, and sounding surprisingly strong and detailed, Creepshow gets a very commendable makeover from Warner.
But the essential thing is this - if you have the R2 Special Edition, then hang on to it. But, if you want to see Creepshow at its best, then don't hesitate in picking up this BD incarnation of the Romero/King collaboration of comic-book carnage and adding it to your collection. It is, of course, entirely possible that a UK Blu-ray edition will mimic the previous 2-discer's crypt-full of bonus material but, until that day dawns, this release will sit very appreciably beside it on the shelf.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.97
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