Thursday, 7 March 2013

They / Cursed - Miramax Blu-ray Double Bill

Firstly, the films: Cursed is a Wes Craven directed, Kevin Williamson written werewolf flick from 2005. It's widely acknowledged that there were significant production issues that may or may not have damaged what Cursed was eventually to become. It's basically about a teen brother/sister duo (the latter being Christina Ricci) who become infected by a werewolf following a road accident. It keeps you awake, but I was fairly disappointed with what the talented Craven/Williamson duo have put together here - it feels like it's desperately trying to be hip in its attempt to do for werewolf films what Scream did for slashers.

I've seen They a few times on DVD and whilst it's easy to dismiss it as a pretty generic contemporary shocker, I do quite like it. Focusing on youngsters who have experienced night terrors (extremely vivid and often violent dreams that can result in somewhat unwanted physical activity) that have left lasting scars, we find that these issues are now manifesting themselves in the characters' adult lives, with fatal outcomes. This results in the appearance of hostile alien-like creatures whose apparent objective is to drag their victims off to some hellish netherworld. Whilst `they' appear to be real, it could be theorised that whenever the characters are witnessing the emergence of these monsters, they're actually experiencing the very night terrors that plagued them as children, i.e. they're still dreaming (an idea supported by the bathroom incident with Julia, where her experiences in the bathroom are followed by her being `woken' by her boyfriend, and Julia not actually remembering entering the bathroom at all). It could also be theorised that the creatures have been given physical birth somehow by the power of these people's dreams. I think that's one of the things I like about the film - it does stimulate some thought, and the atmosphere is often quite subdued and dreamlike.
The first thing to know about the Miramax double bill is that it's locked to region A (i.e. the US standard), so it won't play on most UK machines (unless multi-region capable of course). Both PG-13 rated films (the equivalent of our 12 rating; always undesirable when it comes to 'horror' movies...) are on one disc, though they average around the 90 minute mark each so even with extras it's not a great push for Blu-ray's 50Gb capacity.  Although the packaging states plain old DTS for audio, both films come with DTS-HD MA tracks, either in 2.0 or 5.1 variants. Cursed pleasingly looks and sounds very clean with a very light layer of grain, although it is inexplicably presented in 1.78:1, compromising its OAR of 2.39:1 - if the film had been more important I would have been concerned, but I still find this decision strange.  There are about 25 minutes worth of featurettes as bonus material for Cursed.  I understand that this film has been available in an 'unrated' variety stateside, though having not seen it before I can't comment on differences.

They is thankfully presented in its OAR of 2.39:1, looking quite drab, however, this appearance may be a symptom of the cinematographic approach. I made some direct comparisons to the UK EIV DVD: the Blu-ray runs at the correct speed (24 fps) as opposed to 25 fps on the PAL DVD (running time approximately 90 minutes on Blu, 86 minutes on DVD), it features a slightly meatier lossless audio choice instead of plain old Dolby Digital (again a 2.0 or 5.1 choice) on the DVD, both discs feature an alternate ending as an extra, but the Blu-ray also has some deleted scenes. Also, there is a little extra visual information at the sides of the widescreen image on the Blu-ray. Contrast is higher on the DVD (whether artificially boosted or not I cannot say) but fine detail is noticeably superior on the Blu-ray (to illustrate, the nice overhead shot of Julie walking into the diner to meet with estranged ex: the blinds of the diner window are clearly defined in HD, whereas they're a bit of a blurry mess on the DVD). Aside from the reduced contrast which loses the image some possible vibrancy, the Blu-ray of They is all round an upgrade over DVD.

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