Here’s a look at a pair of horror films recently released in the 4K Ultra HD format, unleashing two radically different styles of terror on audiences.
Predator (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated R, 107 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $21.99) — The original film that introduced a science-fiction pop culture icon to movie audiences back in 1987 debuts on ultra-high definition to give fans a fresh look at director John McTiernan’s (“Die Hard”) survival horror masterpiece.
The story by screenwriters Jim and John Thomas presented a heavily armed, machismo-dripping, special ops team dropped in a Central American jungle to rescue a government official. They instead run into an intergalactic hunter looking for human trophies.
That’s about all any newbie to the film needs to know other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his thick accent, stars as the grizzled warrior Dutch. He gets help from comrades such as Carl Weathers as CIA operative Al Dillon, Sonny Landham as Billy Sole and the gruff but lovable Jesse Ventura as Blain (“I ain’t got time to bleed”) Cooper.
I am still amazed how much fun this brutal cat-and-mouse game was to watch as the director managed to mix some heavy-duty action sequences with gore while introducing a nearly unstoppable species.
4K in action: Despite a reported, new 4K scan of the original camera negative, the movie retains its fair share of grain and grittiness throughout. That leads to a very organic experience, like literally watching the movie in a theater 30 years ago.
However, I noticed plenty of moments not as gritty such as the dimly lit, misty jungle footage of the warriors in action sharpening considerably when the sun shone and as the movie progressed.
Also plenty of scenes offered crisp highlights down to bright green leaf foliage and soldiers’ facial sweat (drips on upper lips, brows and napes of the neck) while an early firefight lit up the screen with saturated red and orange explosions.
It was equally impressed looking through the Predator’s thermal vision goggles with its neon blues and reds, the color popping from its green fluorescent blood and, of course, scrutinizing the design of creature creator Stan Winston’s masterpiece as the ultimate warrior revealed itself.
Best extras: The 4K disc contains a previously released audio commentary track with the director (heavy on technical aspects); and an optional text track appearing over the film with movie historian Eric Lichtenfeld and key crew members, including editor John F. Link, visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek, cinematographer Donald McAlpine and the screenwriters.
Both are worth diving into for a fount of knowledge about the production.
Next, pop in the included “Ultimate Hunter Edition” Blu-ray disc (originally released in 2010) to find roughly 90 minutes of other vintage featurettes. Viewers will not find a newly remastered high definition version of the film.
Best of the featurettes is a 28-minute “making of” segment featuring plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew. They all agree that shooting the grueling film in the jungle was really more about survival than actual performance.
Also, watch another 31 minutes on the production, broken up into seven segments, covering the use of a hand-held Gatling gun, character and production design and an homage to the guy inside the Predator suit, Kevin Peter Hall.
Hereditary (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, rated R, 127 minutes, 2.00:1 aspect ratio, $29.99) — The horror associated with the loss of loved ones exposes a mother and her family to the paranormal in a griping supernatural drama from first-time, feature film director Ari Aster.
Now ready to emotionally drain home theater audiences in the ultra-high definition format, the movie stars an almost skeletal-looking Toni Collette as Annie, a tortured mother consumed by grief after the death of her mother and dealing with the Ioss of a child.
Cajoled by a new friend to try a séance to reconnect with the dead, Annie’s attempt leads to nightmarish results.
Co-stars Gabriel Byrne as the devoted husband at his wit’s end, the always disarming Ann Dowd as a support group pal connecting Annie to the great beyond and Milly Shapiro as a creepy daughter help sell the tale, but Miss Collette really dives into the role.
Word of warning, after watching the simmering plot, the last 15 minutes of this film actually had my arm hairs stand on end, no better a compliment to this disturbing effort.
4K in action: Within a near full-screen presentation, a sickly pale green hue is cast over most of the interior scenes guaranteed to make viewers uneasy during every riveting family moment.
Although 4K is an eye-popping format for the blockbuster, horror films work best with the less resolution the better.
So despite an appreciation for those crisp exterior cemetery shots, better detail during a foggy night drive and some subtle lighting effects enhance by high dynamic range tweaks, I most enjoyed the murkier moments around a fireplace and attic that increased blood pressure levels.
Also, no Dolby Atmos immersive soundtrack to appreciate here, but the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track still delivers layers of atmospheric sound effects and an ever present low-frequency, hair-raising rumbling whenever the family’s life gets weird.
Best extras: For such a great film, I am bummed by the lack of an optional commentary track with the director, but I still enjoyed a 20-minute production featurette that examined Mr. Aster’s vision and was supplemented with his words and interviews with the key actors.
Viewers also get 15 minutes worth of deleted scenes that add some exposition (especially to son Peter’s relationship with dad and mom) but were best excised; and a photo gallery on some of the highly detailed miniatures (Annie was an artist that built dioramas) created for the movie.
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