Koma DVD Review
PictureComing in with an anamorphic 1.78:1 image, Koma may hold Law's wonderful composition together with reliability but it runs the gamut of the usual Asian disc anomalies. Edge enhancement plagues the picture and there are many instances when “jaggies” put in a very unwelcome appearance. The image may not have much in the way of grain or print damage, but the faded, washed-out look makes it a positively dreary viewing experience all the same. Blacks just aren't black and the contrast is set way too high - just check out an early moment at the wedding reception when the revellers practically vanish into a horribly yellow mire. Lots of well-lit interior scenes suffer from the terrible lack of colour and overall haziness and there is an abundance of shimmer on background detail, such as blinds or on finite objects like jewellery or hanging beads. So long as objects in the frame are front and centre, stark, bold and large, the image has no problem with them. But once depth and clarity are required for the smaller components of the picture, the transfer struggles. And with such a visual technician as Law creating the image, this is a terrible injustice.
Sometimes the monochromatic look of the film seems deliberate, as though Law had opted for a bleach-bypass approach, but this really isn't the case as the sickly yellows, faded reds and pinks, and blues verging on the grey betray a transfer that has been drained of all vitality.
Sadly, having not seen Tartan's R2 release, I cannot compare and contrast the two.
SoundWell, now we're talking. Koma has a great DD 5.1 mix on offer but, if you can use it, there is a pretty damn effective DTS-ES mix here, as well, that is the definite track of choice. Extremely loud when called for, and very enveloping on occasion, the mix is a definite room-shaker. The stingers can be monstrously bombastic, literally jump-out-of-your-seat stuff with full-on, aggressively deep bass levels and far-reaching directionality. The steerage may not be quite as spot-on as you would like - a lot of the film, like many Asian releases with similarly enticing soundmixes, is predominantly played across the front and with surprisingly limited width - but when the surrounds engage you are in for a treat.
The audio litmus test of a good horror disc is its ability to effectively and realistically convey downfalls of rain, and conveniently Asian horrors almost always have such a sequence. And, happily, Koma provides some nicely evocative and immersive waterworks, namely during a moment when a fire-sprinkler is activated towards the end of the film. The effects all have impressive weight behind them - one severely jolting moment even managing to rattle the attic floorboards (I actually went up the three stories of the house just to test this out - a cool indulgence on my behalf). Dialogue is pretty clear and robustly presented and as for that pilfered score ... well, I reckon it is given a much better presentation here than that afforded it in Signs (even the DTS mix that adorned the R2 version!) with a pounding and powerful mix spread around the full set up, and a lovely clear high end that makes the most of that demonic fiddle-playing.
One niggle, though, is the nightclub sequence that is a letdown. It just sounds too subdued and lacking in presence or directionality to be an effective showcase for the extended surround of DTS-ES. However, a nice subtle effect is the sound of a scalpel slicing through flesh ... very clear and very squishy, folks.
ExtrasThis Panorama release offers very little of further enticement. We get a theatrical trailer along with a longer MTV Promo which runs for 3.18 mins. There is a Making Of featurette that lasts for 15.24 mins, but this plays without any English subtitles, despite having the words “Making Of” plastered in English on the menu and on the opening titles of the feature, itself. Whilst this looks like a reasonable, but brief, overview of the film's production - featuring lots of footage of the actual filming and interviews with the director and the stars on-set and in Post-Production - I could glean nothing factual from this presentation.
And, erm, that's your lot.
VerdictKoma is a pretty effective little horror/thriller that benefits from a couple of strong performances from the leads and several nerve-jangling set-pieces. The plot isn't particularly inventive, although it does allow for some neat twists and a nice heroine/villainess subversion towards the end. Visually accomplished and with a knockout score - albeit totally ripped from Signs - Koma is a satisfying enough entry in the Asian horror genre to please most aficionados out there. Sadly, despite having a wonderful DTS mix, the picture quality is a constant letdown, and the extras on this release are sparse and offer nothing unless you can speak Chinese.
Still, this is available on R2 from Asian stalwart Tartan - and is certainly worth a look.
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