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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Vampire > Supernatural > Virus > Outbreak > Murder > Australia > Anthology > British TV > Mystery > D > The Caretaker (2012/MVD Visual DVD)/Chiller – The Complete Television Series (1995/Yorkshire/Synapse DVDs)/MidSomer Murders – Set 21 (2011/Acorn Blu-rays)/War Of The Dead (2011/E1 Blu-ray w/DVD)

The Caretaker (2012/MVD Visual DVD)/Chiller – The Complete Television Series (1995/Yorkshire/Synapse DVDs)/MidSomer Murders – Set 21 (2011/Acorn Blu-rays)/War Of The Dead (2011/E1 Blu-ray w/DVD)

 

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

 

 

Now for the latest Horror releases…

 

 

Tom Conyers’ The Caretaker (2012) is an Australian low-budget Vampire romp that has some interesting moments, but cannot sustain its ideas as a good vampire (Mark White) meets up with a group of people in a rural area as a disease starts turning others into vampires without the bite.  If they can protect him during daylight, he can fight off all of them at night, but this arrangement will not be so easy as doom closes in.

 

The actors are well-cast, the acting not bad, but the makers are only able to come up with so much new and even a change of locale becomes too familiar thanks to a script that does not go far enough into the promising, interesting direction it does.  Still, we have seen worse and the makers are at least trying to make something good and smart, which I cannot say for the majority of junk in the genre we have suffered through of late.  At least diehard fans will want to see this one.

 

Extras include a silly Rap clip, feature length audio commentary track by Conyers and co-star/producer Mark White, a making of featurette, teaser and trailer.

 

 

In 1995, Yorkshire tried to launch a Horror anthology series, but for several reasons (including scheduling issues), Chiller – The Complete Television Series only lasted for five episodes.  Was it the quality of the shows that killed it?  Based on the five shows here, the answer is definitely no.  The show had smart scripts, good casting decent production values and a sense of the supernatural that actually works.

 

Those five hour-long shows are:

 

Prophecy in which a group of young people participate in a Ouija board séance and five years later start slowly turning up dead in usually horrible accidents.  Did they bring it on themselves?  Sophie Ward and Nigel Havers star.

 

Toby has a couple (Martin Clunes and Serena Gordon) loose a baby before it is born.  Disconnected from each other, she seems suddenly pregnant, but despite all the medical experts telling her she is not, something is wrong and their baby may be coming back in a whole new murderous form.

 

Here Comes The Mirror Man does not feature the great hit record by New Wave band The Human League, but is an interesting piece about social worker Anna (Phyllis Logan) trying to help a disturbed young man in a big old house while also investigating the mysterious death of her predecessor and will get more than she expected.

 

The Man Who Didn’t Believe In Ghosts features a professional writer (Peter Egan) who built his reputation on deconstructing spiritual fraud moving into a house with his wife and son, but bad, bizarre things start to happen and people start to die, so is it coincidence or possibly revenge against him?

 

Number Six has a child killer on the loose, so police start to investigate, but one young man starts to see haunted children who do not otherwise exist and the murders might have more to them than just one deranged killer.  Kevin McNally stars.

 

 

I liked the show and am shocked it ended early since the makers were on track to creating a really good show that could have become better and even a classic at the rate they were going, but it got killed off and ended too early.  Maybe it was too intense for some at the network, but it is easily as good as any anthology series since the 1980s and deserves rediscovery.  Already issued in a DVD set by Network U.K. that will go out of print in January 2013 (they offered it as a limited edition website-only release), Synapse is bringing it to the U.S. market and fans of the supernatural should put it on their must-see list.

 

Sadly, there are no extras.

 

 

So with such a promising show not working out, what gets to survive on British TV?  Try MidSomer Murders – Set 21 (2011) which is a Murder, She Wrote-like fuddy duddy detective TV show that now has an extended life beyond the Angela Lansbury hit as they have just had a change in co-stars as longtime Inspector John Barnaby (John Nettles) was replaced by his “cousin” John (Neil Dudgeon) and Jason Hughes as his investigative partner Ben Jones, who has been on the show since 2005, though the show began in 1997.

 

That means this is the first season with the original leads gone and despite 21 sets, the show actually has 15 seasons, but GEEZ is that going on long!

 

We get four telefilm mysteries this time over two Blu-rays that play with that played-out theme song and seem like every telefilm episode we have seen before.  The show plays it safe, keeping it a hit, but with zero of the excitement we used to get all the time like Chiller and we’ll see how this new duo works out for the producers.  However, this is competent corporate mystery product at best and plays as well as any of its flat U.K. or U.S. competitors, so it is for fans only… if they like the new leads.

 

There are no extras.

 

 

Finally we have Marko Makilaakso’s War Of The Dead (2011) in which Nazi experiments about keeping people barely alive in sick experiments that seem to have been meant to keep Nazi soldiers alive and able to survive in 1941.  Towards the end of the war, that area is disturbed and the dead Nazis rise as zombies who kill.  Obviously not intended as a work of good taste, I was impressed that the makers did not allow this to be a silly exploitation work but one where science fiction (even if it has a legacy of quackery and definitely genocide) took the material seriously enough to make a serious script of it.

 

Unfortunately beyond that, it is not very convincing, the Holocaust and WWII are somewhat trivialized as a result and in a zombie subgenre played out beyond belief, they made this one way too late if it was ever going to work.  At least they had some ambition and I did not feel intentionally insulted, but I did eventually get bored.

 

A trailer is the only extra.

 

 

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Dead is the best of the DVDs, even when it is soft and style choices hold it back, which is why it is preferred that one sees the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer looking better and not as soft or distracting with its image limits.  It was shot on 35mm and 16mm film including in the Super 35mm film format.  The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the four episodes on MidSomer are not as stylized, but have at least as much softness throughout despite looking as good as any previous set, it is still not the best of the series.  The 1.33 X 1 on the 35mm-filmed Chiller episodes and anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 RED HD-shot image on Caretaker are the poorest performers here.  The Chiller episodes are off of older video masters including specks and dirt, while Caretaker is just plain soft.

 

Caretaker also offers lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo options, but the 5.1 is just a bit better, but as limited as the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the Dead DVD with limited soundfields and not just because both have their silent moments.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Chiller actually sounds really good for its age, well recorded and professionally mixed on all five episodes.  To think this could sound better lossless.

 

The Blu-rays win the sonic sound battle with a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Dead that has its moments and reveals more of the quality of what the soundmaster actually has to offer, while MidSomer has DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mixes on all of its episodes that decode nicely with Pro Logic on home theater systems.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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