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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Cannibalism > Terrorism > Science Fiction > Neo Noir > Hills Have Eyes 4K (1977/MVD/Arrow 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Reminiscence (2021/Warner Blu-ray)

Hills Have Eyes 4K (1977/MVD/Arrow 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Reminiscence (2021/Warner Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A- Picture: X/B Sound: A-/B+ Extras: B+/C Films: B+/C+

Here are two ambitious genre films, one a classic and another that at least tries to be...

Arrow Video's definitive edition of Wes Craven's original horror classic, The Hills Have Eyes (1977), gets a sharper 4K upgrade. We reviewed the Blu-ray edition last year, and needless to say this is an improvement. Though crystal clear in terms of presentation, the grittiness of the film is still intact with a noticeable improvement in the night scenes, and overall details.

The Carter Family stops for gas on their way to California and end up getting attacked by a pack of crazed killers thirsty for blood. The film stars Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, Dee Wallace, Russ Grieve, and John Steadman.

The Hills Have Eyes is presented in 2160p Ultra High Definition on 4K UHD disc with an HEVC / H.265 codec, HDR a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and a lossless, English LPCM Mono (48kHz, 24-bit) mix. While the image is considerably sharp, Arrow has made sure that the grain from the original film stock is still intact and doesn't rob the film of its unique look. Hands down, it is the best presentation that I have seen on disc of this film, especially after a few rough earlier releases years ago.

What strikes me again watching this film is how casual it is, building suspense in indirect ways that work and match the laidback attitude of the time. It can be a time capsule, yet the terror and fighting is as relevant and as effective as ever. Even after it has a remake, a sequel and the sequel has a remake, it is easy to say this film is still a bit underrated and deserves more credit than it gets. That is why this new set is such an event in restoring and preserving the film.

Extras in this solid slipcase packaging include a highly quality paper foldout poster and high quality printed 40-page booklet on the film including informative text, illustrations and two essays. The set also contains six postcard-sized poster cards (double sided too), while the Blu-ray repeats the feature-length audio commentary by Craven and Producer Peter Locke, Looking Back At The Hills Have Eyes featurette, theatrical trailers, TV spots, an alternate ending now retransferred in HD and a Behind The Scenes Image Gallery. New extras include two new feature length audio commentary tracks (one by actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Susan Lainer & Martin Speer, the other with film scholar Mikel J. Koven) and two new Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurettes: an on-camera Martin Speer interview dubbed Family Business and The Desert Sessions, an informative interview with composer Don Peake.

The Hills Have Eyes is a classic and groundbreaking film just like the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (which we still await a 4K edition of despite an import 4K that looks good only being issued overseas for now.) This Arrow edition on 4K is top notch and a must own for hardcore horror cinephiles.

Then we have Lisa Joy's Reminiscence (2021) set in the near future where global warming has started to flood Miami, Florida (adding to their already endless problems) with Hugh Jackman as an investigator who uses a new technology that allows peoples minds to be projected onto a giant movie theater-like hologram screen. This is from a system that is meant to help depressed people cope with loss, injury, trauma or wishing for older, better days before everything started collapsing. However, with the help of a tech expert and friend (Thandiwe (not a misprint) Newton) needs to use one of the clips to finds a missing woman.

Done partly as a Noir or Neo-Noir, the mystery is a mixed bag and the tech themes are ones that have been done before, whether the brain is directly used a some kind of hard drive (Keanu Reeves' infamous Johnny Mnemonic) or connected to some kind of recording device or both (such as Douglas Trumbull's Brainstorm or Katharine Bigelow's Strange Days,) so you can see how Joy is trying to succeed where some major, previous big releases failed. Unfortunately, she cannot get any further, but at least has not turned out a totally wrecked result. It just does not take off either, even making the Logan's Run mistake of allowing the holograms to be trapped inside another object versus out in the open, like the faked one out of R2D1 in the original 1977 Star Wars and its early scene of Leah getting a message of Obi Wan Kenobi that he is their 'only hope' against the Empire.

The actors are not bad and money is on the screen, but it also lands up reminding us of better such films too often (Scott's Blade Runner, Gilliam's sci-fi trilogy, etc.) so the look is nothing we have not seen before and sadly, it cannot finds a way to visually distinguish itself despite a consistent approach. At least all involved tried to do something intelligent, a rarer and rarer thing at this budget level.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is a decent HD shoot (versus the 35mm color Kodak Vision 3 camera negative Joy and company have been using on the Westworld series) and has its moments, but the digital visual effects can look off, though maybe they look better on the 4K edition we hope to catch up to. In the meantime, this is passable. However, like the 4K edition this also offers a decent (if not always demo-calibre) lossless Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) that has some good sonic moments and is as well edited as it is recorded. The combination is fine for the format, though it makes me want to see the 4K (even though it is apparently only with regular HDR) all the more.

Extras include Digital Copy, while the disc adds these featurettes: You're Going on a Journey, The Sunken Coast, Crafting a Memory, Reminiscence: A Family Reunion and Save My Love.

- Nicholas Sheffo (Reminiscence) and James Lockhart



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