Hobo with a Shotgun Blu-ray Review
Like titles such as 300, War Of The Worlds, Minority Report and Planet Terror, Hobo With A Shotgun has a very highly stylised appearance and seems purpose-built to make the reviewer's life difficult. Some of the things that we normally complain about and denounce with other transfers are actually integral components in the appropriate video presentation of this particular movie and have to be accepted and even celebrated. Jason Eisener and co wanted to create a very certain look that was neon-scorched yet deliberately gritty, and heavily saturated with dense colours, the resulting image one that is boosted, brightened, heightened and overtly garish.
And this is precisely how the AVC transfer of the 2.40:1 film looks.
Shot with new digital Red Mysterium X cameras, which Rutger Hauer seems to believe exhaust the actors because “there's no let up” (whatever that means), the film has a beat-up look with grain added after the effect. Now, I know that there are many people who despise this practice, but the desired effect that the filmmakers are after is their concern and not ours. The image is, therefore, quite gritty at times, but not at all the noisy mire that it could so easily have been. I think it adds the required texture and grubbiness without looking too squalid or fake. This said, some noise is generated in scenes of lower light.
Contrast is ramped, as is the brightness. The blacks are strong and unyielding. The palette is sickeningly gaudy, with a definite push towards a dripping red and a burning orange. But you quickly get used to this nuclear spectrum and settle down to enjoy a densely saturated and primary-showered picture. There are times when the frame is completely awash with one main colour – the big three of RGB usually – and these moments exhibit no banding, which could so easily have been a consequence. Nor is there any smearing going on.
Nothing is lost in the detail either, although the very composition of the frame, the lighting and the colour scheme don't seem to favour too much in the way of background information. Facial and material detail is terrific. As you would expect, the grizzled countenance of Hauer's Hobo takes centre-stage in this department, with every crag, cut and wrinkle revealed in hi-def glory. Eyes have plenty of life to them, too. And, of course, the copious blood-letting is also exhibited in often startling clarity. Look at the chunks of skull and brains that hit the wall beside Abby after the Hobo saves her from one determined miscreant. Or the giblets that shower out from an eviscerated upside-down victim. And look at the staggering amount of convincing detail on that severed bonce near the start. All the necessary ingredients are rendered with clarity.
For the record, I encountered no glitches, aliasing or edge enhancement.
A massively stylised image, then … but one that has been wonderfully transferred with accuracy and eye-popping dazzle. A very strong 8 of 10 from me.
The raw bombast and savagery of Hobo With A Shotgun is brought vividly to rebellious life in your home via an appropriately violent DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.
All the channels are swung into action with the pulsating and energised soundtrack that definitely competes well with the punishing effects that do their utmost to dominate. Naturally, you want the multitude of shotgun blasts to carry weight and force and impact, and they do not disappoint. Each boom is a belter, the accompanying squelch of blown-away flesh and the solid crashing of hurled corpses as they hit the deck a ballistic-junkie's delight. The thuds of heavy objects meeting vulnerable bodies is just as good, as evidenced in the scrapyard execution and the dodge'em decapitations. The roaring of The Plague bikes is nice and meaty and the sound of their grappling-noose contraption as it smashes unfortunates up through ceiling panels is just as effective. The music is brash and alive … especially those irresistible synth cues that pulse with a profoundly infectious beat.
Positioning is keen and the width across the front is appreciably broad. The surround channels are employed extensively, the intention to immerse then viewer in the endless chaos of Scum Town very well realised and maintained. Score bleed and the echo of gun-blasts, screams, chainsaw shrieks and the overall pumping surge of the film's steady flow of hyper-adrenaline all reach around the back and help to promote an experience that is wilfully wraparound. The sub regularly kicks-in with some satisfying low-level rib-smackage. The victim of all this cacophony, at times, is the dialogue, which can sound dialled-down in the mix. Most of the comical obscenities come across perfectly okay, but there are times when some choice lines are allowed to slip beneath the barrage from music and effects. If I'm honest I would say that this could actually be quite intentional and in-keeping with a homage to the often rushed and low-calibre soundtracks of many original cheapo exploitationers that would spike the effects at the expense of the dialogue, but it does seem a little more obvious given the embellishments of this, otherwise, bravura lossless track.
Now, I've been banging-on about how exciting the action aspects of this track are, but there is something about this audio transfer that drops it well below the examples of the form set by, say, Knowing, The Expendables or The Lord Of The Rings. To me, even given the amount of steerage and activity around the soundfield, this still sounds “contained” for lack of a better phrase. It sounds just like it should, I suppose … like an ambitious project that is curtailed only by budget. The booms are big, the music pounding, the action well-distributed, but the track lacks the necessary finesse and breadth to truly convince in the way that the best in the business do. That said, you're still sure to have a ball with it and Hobo gets another 8 out of 10.
This US release is full of good stuff. It also includes a digital copy.
For a start we have Shotgun-mode which means you can activate, via an onscreen target, featurettes within the movie that go behind-the-scenes at the appropriate junctures to learn the thoughts of the cast and crew, see rehearsals, gaffes and watch how effects are rigged. These little chunks of footage can also be viewed separately and with a Play Option come to 107 minutes – which is longer than the film itself.
A couple of interesting commentaries also grace the disc. Eisener appears on both. The first teams him up with his Hobo, Rutger Hauer and the second finds us in a more ensemble deal with producer Rob Cotterill, writer John Davies and the bear-loving eccentric oddball star of the original trailer, David Brunt. Some overlap occurs, but these are all worth your while, with the first being the more free-wheeling and interesting and the second a little more technical.
A great indie-style, warts 'n' all documentary entitled More Blood, More Heart runs for 45 minutes and charts the development of the production from the boys winning the trailer contest and gaining a proper producer and some cash, through the casting and the shoot and ending with a report on the film's smash success at festivals and its gaining of a worldwide theatrical run. This is certainly fun and offbeat. Lots of interviews, lots of honesty, lots of enthusiasm. The cast have their say and the FX people play out, but the director and his loyal entourage – all childhood friends – manage to somehow keep a lids on things despite all the craziness in front of and behind the cameras.
There's around 6 minutes of Deleted material, incorporating two actual dropped scenes and a montage of other snipped-snippets. In the Alternate Ending, something that had been “bigged-up” elsewhere, we get a rather poor finale that tries to wrap up the next phase of The Plague.
There's a brief look at the Red Camera and its powers.
We get the outstanding original fake trailer with David Brunt (hey, wouldn't it have been great if we'd had David Brent in the role?!!), as well as another winner for a competition that the filmmakers, themselves, set up, and then the rest of the extensive goodies on offer revolve around the marketing of the film and the concept.
There are nine Video Blogs, 45 minutes of interviews with Eisener and Hauer for Fangoria magazine (still going strong thirty years later!), an HBO promo, trailers, including the Red Band offering and Canadian TV spots, plus a coming soon section from Magnet.
This is a great selection of splattery stuff for a great little gem of a movie.
Warped-out, screwed-up and exultant in its own overdose of excess, Jason Eisener's red, raw and dripping exploitationer roars out from the screen with youthful enthusiasm, inspired anarchy and a delirious sense of the shockingly cavalier. Born out of fanboy dreams and played with wild and OTT splendour by the great Rutger Hauer, Hobo With A Shotgun is like The Evil Dead of the vigilante genre. Energetic, irreverent and irresponsible, the film is an unstoppable barrage of neon-lit atrocity whose gross-out panache is sure to bother some people, but delight others. So long as you know which camp you fit into, there shouldn't be any problems.
With a great transfer that seems to depict the vibrant, comic-book style and in-yer-face attitude that its young makers wanted, and a smart, apt and hugely entertaining set of extras, this is a terrific package from Magnet that showcases the Grindhouse winner at its best.
Appealing to a certain demographic, and unashamedly so, Hobo With A Shotgun is there with a bullet, a chainsaw, a barbed-wire noose, a flame-thrower … and an entire slaughterhouse of fresh, gleaming offal.
It comes, therefore, very highly recommended for those with the appropriate mindset. But best wear an apron and keep a mop and bucket nearby, I'd say.
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