Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Take On Twilight Time's Night Of The Living Dead (1990) Blu(e)-Ray!


I'm sure by now you've already read about 100 different people's takes on this much maligned Blu-ray release, which has been talked about and hated on all over social media outlets and the horror blogosophere for the better part of the past month.  It's certainly the most discussed Blu-ray release of the year, and I think it's now time I throw my hat in the race, and offer up my two cents.

If you're not familiar with Twilight Time, the skinny on them is that that they're a home video distributor that puts out limited edition DVD & Blu-ray releases through Screen Archives Entertainment.  Earlier this year they made a name for themselves in the horror community by releasing the original Fright Night on Blu-ray, the first time it has been given the high def treatment.  Twilight Time's releases are usually limited to only 3,000 units worldwide, which makes them highly sought after amongst collectors.  Basically, they sell them for 30 bucks, they go out of stock, and then can be found soon thereafter for quadruple the price on eBay.  Their Fright Night Blu-ray can often be found these days selling for well over $100!

Naturally, when I heard that next up on the chopping block was Tom Savini's exceptional Night of the Living Dead remake, I made sure to be near a computer when it went on sale, and I immediately snatched up a copy.  The Blu-ray completely sold out about a week later, and already starting popping up on eBay for double the amount.  I admit, I was torn between opening it and just going ahead and selling it, especially after all the negative reviews started flooding my Facebook feed, but I've ultimately decided to crack it open, check it out, and offer up my thoughts on the whole debacle.  Simply put, the urge to blog about this wins out over my urge to sell it and make double what I paid for it.  Priorities, man!

Now on the off chance that you're not familiar with what I'm talking about, in regards to this disc being hated in the community, allow me to elaborate.  When fans of the film popped in the disc, excepting a transfer the caliber of Twilight Time's Fright Night release, they were horrified to see that many of the daytime scenes in the film had a dark, almost blue, filter over them, making those scenes look like they took place at dusk (or, more fittingly, TWILIGHT!), rather than during the day time, the way they were shot, and the way they've always been seen in the film.  Since the idea of Blu-ray is really to present a film in the way it was originally presented in theaters, film purists and hardcore fans of the movie became incredibly upset with Twilight Time over this, flooding their Facebook wall with hatred, and demanding refunds.  I saw several people go so far as to comment that this release would 'ruin' Twilight Time, a company that is fairly new on the scene (they came around in 2011).

 Here's a little video that someone uploaded onto YouTube, which speaks louder than words...

What does Twilight Time have to say for themselves?  We'll get into that in a bit.  In the meantime, let's talk about the movie, and about my thoughts on the transfer.

Like pretty much everyone I've ever talked to about the movie, I'm a big fan of what Romero and Savini did with 1990's colorized and gory version of Night of the Living Dead, which is one of the better horror remakes out there.  In fact, it's one of those ones I always like to reference when remake haters start to bitch and whine that 'all remakes suck!!'.  If that statement were true, then this movie would suck.  And this movie does not suck.  So sorry, remake haters of the world.  There are good and bad remakes, just like there are good and bad original horror films.  And this one's a damn good one.  In fact, in many ways it's the perfect remake, staying true to the original but updating it for the times.

But you know all of this already, so I won't waste your time raving about the movie.  Instead, let's focus on the transfer, which is really why we're here tonight!

As I kinda suspected, I must say that all the hatred over the transfer is largely much ado about ... well ... not all that much.  There is a noticeable darkening of the early daylight scenes, with a blueish sort of tint added to them, but if I'm being honest, I don't mind it in the least.  Sure it's kinda shitty that Twilight Time never warned people about this, because I could see why film purists would be upset that they paid 30 bucks and got a transfer that was altered from the original source, but for me personally, I don't think it hurts the film at all, and it certainly doesn't make me feel betrayed or cheated.  Also gotta mention that the film doesn't look nearly as dark as the pictures people have been posting (or the above video) would make you believe it looks.  It's just ... duskier, is all.

Would I prefer it if weren't altered from the original print?  Sure, but not because it looks bad this way.  Point being, it's by no means an 'abomination' or an 'error' on Twilight Time's part, like many have been ranting.  In fact, if you play around with your TV's settings, you can remove the blue coloring all together, and make it a look a bit better (though it'll still be darker than usual).

The unfortunate thing about all this is that everyone seems to have looked past the overall picture quality, which is damn good.  The transfer would've likely been highly praised if it weren't for the tinting, tinting that is really only prevalent in the first 20 or so minutes of the film.  So it's really a shame that so few seem to have been able to look past the tint job.

Now lest you think I'm just being blasphemous here, and that I'm crazy in not minding the removal of sunlight, I assure you, I'm not alone.  In fact, Tom Savini, the director of the goddamn film, as well as the film's director of photography, both highly approve of this transfer.  The DP, Frank Prinzi, is the one who added the dark blue tint to a few portions of the film, for a planned 20th anniversary re-release back in 2010 (which never came to fruition).  Take a look...


Again, I totally see why some would be turned off by this altered transfer, but I personally don't have any issues with it, and I see no reason to get too up in arms about if it comes with the Savini stamp of approval, which it does.  So I'm not gonna say I don't understand the hatred, but I do think we should all lay off Twilight Time a bit here.  Even if you are totally pissed about the product you were sent, keep in mind that this is a transfer that was approved by Sony, and the film's DP, so you really can't get too mad at Twilight Time about it.  They're simply the delivery men.

And hey, if you really hate the way the movie looks, you can always just go ahead and make your money back, and then some, by selling it on eBay, to someone who will appreciate it more.  So go ahead and thank Twilight Time for making you some money.  If you missed out on buying this while it was on sale directly from the company, eBay is the only place you're gonna be able to get a copy, from those disgruntled customers, and you can expect to pay around double what it was originally selling for.  Due to this whole issue, it's currently selling for far less than the Fright Night release is, so take advantage of that.

When it comes to special features, all this release has is the Savini commentary from the DVD, and the original trailer.  Noticeably absent is the "Dead Walk" featurette from the DVD, a 25 minute making of that showed behind the scenes footage as well as the unrated footage that Savini shot, which has never been released onto home video, as part of the film.  Not sure why they didn't include this featurette, but it's a bummer that they didn't.  In fact, I'm more upset about that not being on there than I am about any issues with the transfer!


If it's any consolation, Twilight Time threw in a nice little booklet with the release, with some words about the film from film historian Julie Kirgo.  For what that's worth.

The bottom line is this.  If you like to own movies that reflect those movies in the way you've always known and loved them, then stick with the DVD on this one, the same way you've stuck with your original Star Wars home video releases.   If you want to see the film in high def, with a new director approved transfer, then snatch Twilight Time's Blu-ray up, before the price skyrockets even higher.  I'm not gonna say it's worth the inflated price (though I foresee it being a nice collector's item down the road), hell I don't think any movie is worth that much, but it's there if you want it, just as it can be not there if you don't want it.  No reason to get your panties in a bunch, as I'm sure the film will get another more mass produced Blu-ray release in the future, likely without the added tinting.  The way I see it, it's only a matter of time.

Now here's to hoping the unrated cut is included on that disc, when that day does come!


The Horror! Addiction! said...

Great review, agree completely. Classic case of overreaction - the price and business model were the big factor here, but TT came through with refunds for those who wanted them. I'm very happy with the disc - fixing the picture on one of my TV's non-main settings by upping the brightness, contrast, Green gamma and adding a warm colour palette, I find it looks pretty much like it ALWAYS did, but a little tiny bit darker. I wish that video would go away, it's not like that at all viewed on standard. You can see a TON of detail on the front grill of the truck, not some big black block like that.

DrunkethWizerd said...

Those darkened scenes on youtube look like absolute shit! How it looks in person I'll probably never know, since I'm not buying this... but I don't like what I'm seeing here.

Johnny said...

Definitely looks way darker in that video than it really does, playing on a TV. I can assure you of that.