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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Thriller > Science > Horror > Thailand > Slasher > Holiday > Disease > Psychological > Action > Contagion 4K (2011/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Cracked (2022/Film Movement DVD)/A Creature Was Stirring (2023*)/The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra (2002/IndiePix DVD)/Latent Image (2022/Cinephobia Releasing

Contagion 4K (2011/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Cracked (2022/Film Movement DVD)/A Creature Was Stirring (2023*)/The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra (2002/IndiePix DVD)/Latent Image (2022/Cinephobia Releasing DVD)/Polar Rescue (2022/*both Well Go USA Blu-rays)

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

Now for a a new and varied group of thrillers...

Steven Soderbergh's Contagion 4K (2011) is one of the director's films that falls between his blatantly commercial ones (the Ocean's Eleven revivals) and more serious, mature fare (The Limey, Erin Brockovich) as he and screenplay writer Scott Z. Burns (just off of working with Soderbergh on their ever-amusing The Informant! two years before) imagine what would happen if a pandemic or epidemic broke. Of course, we have the latest science, everyone would listen and the effects would be limited. Right?

Despite the horrendous differences that would happen about a decade later, they got most of what happened correct and without knowing it. They do leave no stone unturned, so versus when I first saw it upon release, what was the sadly unthinkable had happened and worse and actually, is still happening (albeit in a declined way, for now?) as you read this. However, they did their job and adding to past films that dealt with such crisis (The Andromeda Strain and The Satan Bug would likely be on their minds more than most) are up there with the best of them. It is never exploitive.

The cast is also strong, including Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Lawrence Fishburne, Jude Law, Brian Cranston, Elliott Gould, an always amazing Kate Winslet and a turn by Gwyneth Paltrow that is as shocking now as it was when she did it. A glamorous Oscar-winning actress whose work endures, she could have played things safe and not even done this film, but her character is most graphically affected by the virus early and the film is near NC-17 graphic and ugly in not holding back and showing how it destroys her, her body, her face, her image and her soul! One shot even reminded me of her mother's turn in the underrated Futureworld (the 1976 sequel to the 1973 classic hit movie Westworld that also inspired the great HBO TV series) that is just remarkable and brutal.

It was a warning about what was to come and could come, but sadly, most people did not get it and many of them are now gone!

Cheers to to the supporting cast of mostly (still?) unknown actors who deserved to be more known after all their great work here. Yes, a few things have dated since the real thing happened and technology has changed a but, but Contagion holds up well and this 4K upgrade could not arrive soon enough. Already, some are forgetting what happened (for personal and political reasons, unbelievably) so its timing is as prime as ever and I highly recommend it, even if you have already seen it, but especially if that was long ago.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.78 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image is an early 4K shoot and Soderbergh (who lensed it under a pseudonym as cinematographer) for better and maybe worse, was an early switcher to high definition video. Being as visually adept as he is, this looks pretty good and should get credit for being one of the early (and few) good HD (and certainly Ultra HD shoots of the time, not as colorless and repetitive as so many, even to this day. Compositions are really good here too.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is also just fine as it is, as it was upon its original theatrical release and like all of his films, are always as professional as they are sonically interesting. Composer Cliff Martinez is ever underrated and delivers another solid score.

Extras include Digital Movie Code, while the disc adds three featurettes:

  • The Reality of Contagion

  • The Contagion Detectives

  • Contagion: How a Virus Changes the World

A creepy and well made horror thriller, Cracked (2022), is a creepy Thai horror film that centers on a woman who returns to New York from Thailand to settle her father's estate and brings along her nearly blind daughter. She inherits two paintings that her father created that hold supernatural elements beneath cracks in them. When a painting restoration artist comes to fix cracks in the paintings, an unthinkable horror is released. The film is pretty entertaining and reminded me a little bit of the Grudge series.

The film stars Chayanit Chansangavej, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Nutthatcha Padovan, Byron Bishop, Nichkhun, and Machida Sutthikunphanit.

Cracked is presented in anamorphically enhanced, standard definition on DVD with a 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy 5.1 Thai-language Dolby Digital Audio mix with English subtitles. The compression issues do detract from the otherwise nicely shot film which could benefit greatly from an HD release.

The only extra is the trailer for the film and other releases from Film Movement.

Damien LeVeck's feature film debut, A Creature Was Stirring (2023) lands on disc from Well Go USA. The Christmas themed horror film features Rob Zombie Halloween series star Scout Taylor-Compton who does what she can with the limited amount she has to work with.

The film also stars Annalise Basso, Chrissy Metz, Connor Paolo, and George Schichtle.

A drug infused mother is trying to keep her daughter from transforming into a strange creature. Snowed in during the Christmas holiday, two intruders enter the home only to come across this troubled family. As the daughter starts to transform and mysteries surrounding her condition unravel, the strangers must fend for themselves against these maniacs. Or is it all in the head of one character and our point on view on the story is obscured?

The result is a decent looking indie horror film (heavily influenced by the lighting of Dario Argento in parts) with not much else going for it. I thought this was going to be a Christmas fable come to life similar to the Krampus film as the marketing leads you to believe. The monster itself looks better when not too much of it is shown. Seeing a tail or a few spikes pop up and slither around a corner looks good, but the final reveal of the monster comes across a little cheesy.

A Creature Was Stirring is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and a lossless English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The film is very colorful and this translates fine to 1080p Blu-ray disc although a few shots here and there they pushed the multicolored boundaries a bit too much. The film on the whole doesn't look back for an independent production. The sound mix is fine and all the whole the film looks passable here.

The only extra is the trailer for the film and previews for other Well Go discs.

If you're looking for a film that is just downright gross and weird in every regard, then you might want to check out The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra (2002,) a film from South Korean filmmaker Park Syeyoung, which tells a story centered on the life and death of a relationship and the life of mold left behind on a mattress that grows into a creature that steals the vertebrae of humans who sleep on the bed. Yes. This is a movie where the main character is a piece of mold.

Shot and produced well enough, the film tries to be David Cronenberg levels of weird, but ends up being a bit too out there for its own good. I'm not sure what drugs these filmmakers were on when they made this project, but something strong by the looks of it.

The film is presented in standard definition on DVD with an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Korean stereo mix with optional English subtitles. The filmmaking reminds me a lot of a music video and this is conveyed in the way its shot, its use of sound effects, and overall feel. It looks fine on DVD, though compression is evident when watching on high resolution monitors.

The only extras are teaser and theatrical trailers.

The Latent Image (2022) is a psychological thriller where a gay writer's horror story ends up coming to terrifying life in a remote cabin in the woods when a drifter visits him and isn't all that he seems. In many ways it was hard for me not to compare the movie to the Johnny Depp-led thriller Secret Window as it also features a writer going up against his story coming to life. This is definitely a more homo-erotic take on that plot line, which felt a little too forced at times.

Directed by Alexander McGregor Birrell, the film stars Joshua Tonka, Jay Clift, and William Tippery.

The Latent Image is presented in anamorphically enhanced standard definition on DVD with a 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio mix. Compression is evident in the image, but doesn't detract too much away from the presentation.

Special Features:

Short Film with optional commentary

Feature Film commentary

and Cinephobia Releasing Trailers.

Lastly, Donnie Yen's Polar Rescue (2022) has the actor/martial artist continuing to take over more of his own career, playing half of a couple looking for a missing young boy who has disappeared after a really horrendous snowstorm, but time is of the essence. Can they find him and if so, will he be alive?

Well, the screenplay is alive with all kinds of cliches and predictability, plus this does have some problematic 'child in jeopardy' issues that also get in the way. At 103 minutes, that means this drags on and on and on and on more than a little bit too, but it is assumed by the makers that the audience in its home territory has not seen this kind of film enough (versus the 1970s Hollywood natural disaster cycle, et al) so it is limited in scope and also assumes you don't watch many films. Either way, a surprising dud, most viewers will not want to be 'rescued' at all.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is a little softer throughout, but might look better in 4K, but still, there are more than enough CGI visual effects and too much for being a film that is supposed to take place in areas of danger. The Mandarin DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix has some good moments, but also sounds on the boxy side and does nto have the most consistent soundfield, for some weird reason. The combination is a little disappointing and undermines any impact the film intends.

Trailers are the only extras.

- Nicholas Sheffo (4K, Polar) and James Lockhart



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