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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Supernatural > Anthology > Science Fiction > TV > George Romero presents Deadtime Stories V. 2 (Millennium DVD)/The Phantom Carriage (1921/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)/Silent House (2010/IFC/MPI DVD)/Vlog (2011/Anchor Bay DVD)/We Are The Night (2010

George Romero presents Deadtime Stories V. 2 (Millennium DVD)/The Phantom Carriage (1921/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)/Silent House (2010/IFC/MPI DVD)/Vlog (2011/Anchor Bay DVD)/We Are The Night (2010/IFC/MPI DVD)


Picture: C/B/C/C-/C+     Sound: C/B/C+/C/C-     Extras: C/B/C-/D/C     Main Programs: B-/B/C/D/C



Continuing the (pun intended) onslaught of Horror titles arriving on disc is an interesting mix of classic, good and bad…



George Romero presents Deadtime Stories Volume 2 is the follow-up to the three story Volume One disc I was not very impressed with as this link will confirm:





So it came as a surprise that this was a marked improvement with a so-so trapped tale called The Gorge, in which hiking friends get stuck in a cave.  Then came On Sabbath Hill, which can be awkwardly made at times, but is an interesting tale of a married, no nonsense school teacher (Nazism is the current subject) who has an affair with a sexy young student with wild repercussions that are more effective than expected despite the gore and blood being overdone to the point of satire.  Also impressive is Dust, where a scientist is experimenting with red grains (et al) from Mars and may be uncovering more than anyone expects.  When he tells a guard whose wife is dying of cancer that this unidentified material might reverse cancer, the guard steals some with amazing results… while they last.


The result is a set of episodes much more in line with what you would expect from the Romero name and is as good as any of his previous anthology work.  A Making Of featurette is the only extra.



Victor Sjostrom’s The Phantom Carriage (1921) is a major silent classic with an immense influence on world cinema, especially when it comes to death, horror fantasy and especially the films of Ingmar Bergman.  In five connected sections, the story involves a tale that anyone who dies at midnight between years (giving New Years Eve a new problem) will (especially if they are evil, we gather) be forced by Death to be the Grim Reaper driver for a horse and carriage that picks up the dead anywhere and everywhere it happens.  A mean, broken man tells this tale to some fellow bums who beat him and accidentally kills him at that time on the clock, so he must take the reigns, but does not believe he is dead at first.


A woman who loves him and tried to help him at a shelter (he turned on her) got deathly ill literally when sewing his dirty shirt and calls for him before she dies on her deathbed.  He is so bad, he abandoned his wife and two children.  The situation is that bad, but death (in the Christmas Carol mode) shows him what is really going on and we also get flashbacks that tell all of us more.  Sjostrom was a giant director in Swedish cinema and it shows here.


I was amazed how smart this film was and how well it held up considering the older visual effects.  Based on Selma Lagerlof’s novel, the actors are compelling and the themes as chilling as anything we are seeing now.  At first, it may seem like many films you have seen before, then it starts to build into a tale of spiritual terror that may be based in dualistic Christian religious ideas, but it manages not to always be as oversimplified as that sounds.  Any serious Horror film fan MUST see this film.


Extras include an informative, illustrated booklet that includes tech information on the film and a fine essay by Paul Mayersberg, while the DVD has a feature length audio commentary track by film historian Casper Tybjerg (he is very good and well spoken), vintage 1981 Bergman interview on the film, the great peter Cowie narrating The Bergman Connection short that shows the influence of this film on Bergman’s many classic works and footage of the studio being built in Sweden (still standing today) back in the late 1910s where the film would be shot.



Two different and poor imitators of the ever-awful Blair Witch Project have also been issued.  Gustavo Hernandez’s Silent House (2010/aka La Casa Muda) has a young lady visiting her father at a home in the middle of nowhere until they are interrupted by person or persons unknown who want to kill, but something else is going on.  The film wants to suggest something spiritual or supernatural itself, but that turns out to be pointless when it collapses into formula with a dumb ending to boot.  A trailer is the only extra.  Joshua Butler’s Vlog (2011) wants to be a cyber version of the film as a torture porn mess and is worse than it sounds.  What a bore!  Useless bonus vlogs are the only unfortunate extra.



Finally we have Dennis Gansel’s We Are The Night (2010) about a small gang of female vampire gals who just want to have fun, as long as it includes murder and blood.  They love the nightlife, they’ve got to boogie and they are reckless, but a police investigator starts to catch onto them (not knowing who they really are) and the involvement of a new female recruit who is unsure she should even be with them becomes the basis for the drama.  We’ve seen worse, but this plays second fiddle to the likes of the first Blade and series True Blood, so there is nothing new here, but this is a film made in Germany so it at least has a somewhat different feel to it.



The 1080p 1.37 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Phantom is restored as much as possible from two prints to create the best possible presentation.  The materials have flaws and other issues typical of silent films, but it looks incredibly good for being 90 (yes ninety!) years old and we’re lucky it has survived.  The DVDs are all anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 each save 1.85 X 1 on House and 2.35 X 1 on Night.  All are softer than expected, especially Vlog which becomes very unwatchable often, though Night has better color and might improve the moist in a Blu-ray edition.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 3.0 lossless mix for the music by Matti Bye on Phantom is a solid, more traditional music score for a silent film, but I liked the equally good-sounding PCM 2.0 Stereo score by the duo KTL (Peter Rehberg and Stephen O’Malley) which is more experimental and creepier.  You can pump them up with various surround modes, but they sound fine on their own.  All the DVDs offer Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, but are surprisingly weak and pushing simple stereo at best, though Night is oddest of all with the sound coming too much from the right hand side like an encoding error is happening.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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