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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Revenge > Mystery > Psychology > Sexuality > Erotic > Comedy > Cannibalism > Supernatual > Bad Dreams/Visiting Hours (Shout! Factory DVD Set)/De Palma’s Dressed To Kill (Unrated/1980 MGM Blu-ray)/Ghost Hunters – Season Six, Part One (Image Blu-rays)/Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977/Image

Bad Dreams/Visiting Hours (Shout! Factory DVD Set)/De Palma’s Dressed To Kill (Unrated/1980 MGM Blu-ray)/Ghost Hunters – Season Six, Part One (Image Blu-rays)/Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977/Image Blu-ray)/Paranormal State: Season Five (A&E DVDs)/Scary Movie 2 + 3 (2001 – 3/Miramax/Lionsgate Blu-rays)/Secrets In The Walls (2010/RHI/Vivendi DVD)


Picture: C+/C+/B/C+/C/C/C+/C+/C     Sound: C+/C+/B/C+/C/C/C+/C+/C     Extras: C+/C-/B/D/B-/D/D/D/D     Films/Episodes: C+/C+/B/D/B/D/D/D/D



Now that Fall is approaching, that only means one thing for the home video business… Halloween sales!  What follows are the return of many releases in new editions, upgraded formats and a new one that is just plain awful.



We previously reviewed both Bad Dreams and Visiting Hours as now discontinued DVD singles from another label, which you can read more about here:


Bad Dreams:



Visiting Hours:




My fellow writer liked them more than me, but they are at least ambitious and take themselves seriously.  The new Shout! Factory DVD set dubbed “Killer Double Feature” essentially offers the same picture, sound and extras as those singles, but now in a convenient single-sized package.  Catch them if you have never seen them.



After Carrie (1976, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) was a hit, Brian De Palma returned (not happy United Artists did not go all the way in promoting the film to make it a bigger hit) to his explorations of the thriller and work of Alfred Hitchcock in particular with Obsession (1977) and The Fury (1978).  When they were not bigger hits than Carrie, he (like Stanley Kubrick with The Shining the same year) decided to do a more commercial, all out thriller with Dressed To Kill (1980) that did some business, but was also attacked by critics who did not get it.


Following Hitchcock’s Psycho somewhat, Angie Dickinson in a performance that shocked the establishment by its themes as well as how amazing she looked even when it was not her body double is a woman who is having a series of wild sexual trysts that are provocative, involve sex in public places, intense sex and enjoyed sex.


However, a killer is on the loose and as she finds out a few personal surprises of her own, the killer is next after her.  This horrifies her son (Keith Gordon) who is a technology geek and intends to find out what is going on and even befriends a police woman (Nancy Allen, playing the kind of role Dickinson was playing popularly on TV at the time and Allen would herself then play in the first three Robocop films, reviewed elsewhere on this site) who is seeing the same analyst (Michael Caine) as his mother, as things become more complicated and bizarre with the killer stepping up his reign of terror.


Despite changes in the times and technology, the film is still a very effective thriller with a sardonic humor that likely also ticked off some viewers and critics who wanted an all-out serious thriller, but De Palma (who based his script loosely off of his original ideas for Crusing, a film William Friedkin would make with Al Pacino accompanied by much more controversy) makes this very effective and it remains so.  When it was not the hit he wanted, his next two films (Blow Out (1981, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and Scarface) would push De Palma into doing his most serious, brutal and effective films ever.  This is an underrated De Palma film and this Blu-ray will finally demonstrate to those who missed it on the big screen how strong a film it is and how underrated De Palma remains.


Extras include an Animated Photo Gallery, Theatrical Trailer, comparison of the R-rated and TV cuts (which you can compare to this uncut edition after watching it), a making of featurette, An Appreciation by Keith Gordon featurette and Slashing Dressed To Kill featurette.



Two bad reality TV shows that supposedly have their real life people supposedly finding real supernatural phenomenon are supernaturally still on the air!  We have only reviewed each show once before and they are the same as they ever were.  The only difference is that Ghost Hunters – Season Six, Part One is on Blu-ray and not DVD like the Season One, Part One set we covered years ago when the show debuted on home video:




That leaves the even wackier, equally condescending Paranormal State: Season Five on DVD following Season Four set we suffered through more recently:




In both cases, you will root for evil spirits just to stop from being pandered to, but they have an audience (note they both started around the same time) and they are ever obnoxious.  I tried to like them both and hoped they might somehow get batter, but that was obviously a big mistake.  Three episodes of State have pointless cast audio commentary tracks; the only extra between the two of them.



The original Wes Craven The Hills Have Eyes (1977) was the follow-up to his highly controversial Last House On The Left (1972) and actually is a better film with a better story, more suspense and what is still Craven’s most realized work to date and the most underrated film he ever made.


A cast of then unknowns (though Dee Wallace became a star later) are very good and impressive here as a family goes on a vacation in their trailer, only to get stuck in the middle of nowhere and slowly discover that they are being watched and targeted by a strange, backward family in a primitive state who apparently are also cannibalistic.  The combination of mystery, suspense and bold twists starts to accelerate and the film just gets better and better until the climax.  This is one of the last of the great independent Horror films of the 1970s and along with Last House and Swamp Thing make up Craven’s best trilogy of work before he got franchise-silly.


This is the filmmaker at his best and it has all been downhill from here.  Extras include a feature length audio commentary by Craven and Producer Peter Locke, theatrical trailers, TV spots, Behind The Scenes Photos, an alternate ending and two featurettes: Looking Back At The Hills Have Eyes and The Directors: The Films Of Wes Craven.


Here are links to our coverage of the underrated remake:


Theatrical Film Release



Unrated DVD



Fans are still wondering where then Blu-ray is on that one.



Lionsgate continues their release of more popular titles form the Miramax catalog with separate Blu-ray upgrades of Scary Movie 2 (2001) and 3 (2003) finally filling in the empty space (ironic considering how empty this franchise is) between the high definition Blu-ray releases of the first film and the fourth.  Here is our previous coverage of those films:


Scary Movie (2000, original Disney Blu, reissued at the same time as 2 & 3)



Scary Movie 4 (2006, due on Blu-ray very soon, this is the older HD-DVD)




The last on the list is our only new entry, another wacky, goofy telefilm from the RHI Company that is so Lifetime/Hallmark Channel safe that terror takes on a new name, Secrets In The Walls (2010).  Jeri Ryan and Marianne Jean-Baptiste are wasted in this awful, flat, dull, dumb and totally unconvincing wreck about a woman who buys a house for her family.  Of course it turns out to be haunted, but the teleplay is even more haunted y formula and clichés, so expect this to be worse that I am describing and chalk up Director Christopher Letich as a hack.  There are no extras.



All five Blu-rays have 1080p digital High Definition image transfer presentations, but they are all disappointments except Dressed To Kill and sometimes shockingly so.  The 1.85 X 1 Scary Movie sequels are second generation HD masters with a worn look and Paranormal State is one of the noisiest HD shoots of any TV we have seen on any Blu-ray to date with lots of motion blur, staircasing and aliasing issues.


I hoped Hills Have Eyes (also 1.85 X 1) would be great and join the growing number of films shot on 16mm film to perform well on Blu-ray and show how the format delivers everything 16mm better than DVD.  Unfortunately, this not only joins the Blu-rays of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974) and John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978, its greatest imitator) as the biggest Horror disappointments in the format (Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre looked better, as do either import Blu-ray of Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead fare better) when it could have really delivered.


Loaded with ugly edge enhancement, motion blur, softness, print damage, digital video noise reduction, staircasing and other issues, this is not what Craven of Director of Photography Eric Saarinen (Fillmore, FTA, Jimi Plays Berkley, Eat My Dust) intended.  It looks like someone took a 720p HD master at best and did everything wrong they could.  Instead, the film needs extensive restoration and if this is truly the best copy around, the film is actually in danger of being lost and it is especially too important for that to happen.


The 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 36 MBPS HD image on Dressed To Kill the only film looking as good as it should.  Though MGM and Criterion chose not give this the deluxe treatment they just gave Blow Out, we still get a pretty good transfer and consistent image quality as delivered by Director of Photography Ralf D. Bode (Saturday Night Fever, Distant Thunder, The Accused) that mixes several variants of purposely shot soft shots, split screen work and very wide big screen shots (this was lensed in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision) with careful lighting and an exceptional use of the widescreen scope frame.  Except for minor issues, this could not look much better.


That leaves the four DVD titles, with Walls being pointlessly anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 as it is so soft, the Bad Dreams and Visiting Hours reissues with the same framing they had before and Paranormal the weakest of all with a letterboxed 1.78 X 1 image.



As for sound, Hills Have Eyes offers a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 6.1 lossless mix that is not awful or not great, but I preferred the second option of PCM 2.0 Mono that is the best and most authentic representation of its sound, though that does not save the Blu-ray picture, of course.  Dressed To Kill has a surprisingly good DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix as the film was originally issued in optical monophonic sound, so the upgrade is impressive with the Pino Donaggio score figuring prominently and except for some slight occasional harshness having a fine soundfield for its age.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on the Scary Movie sequels are as second generation as their transfers and not impressive.


Ghost Hunters has “Dolby Stereo” listed as its sound type in the back of the case, but it is actually better uncompressed PCM 2.0 Stereo, though it has problems of its own including location audio.  Bad Dreams and Visiting Hours repeat their Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and Walls has a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is really, really pushing some weak stereo recording.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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