Blu-ray Reviews, Or How I Stopped Paying Crazy eBay Prices and Got the Blus I Wanted
By Brian M. Sammons
Director: Chuck Russell
Stars: Shawnee Smith, Kevin Dillon, Donovan Leitch Jr.
Night of the Living Dead
Director: Tom Savini
Stars: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles
Both reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Here in the U.S. there is a Blu-ray releasing company called Twilight Time. Now to be clear: I have NO problem with Twilight Time. They do good work, I have plenty of their discs, and they have many titles that are must-haves for any serious horror collector. But I dislike that when they bring out a Blu-ray, they always do so as a very limited run. I said I dislike that, not hate it, because it’s their right to follow that business model and no one is putting a gun to your or my head to buy what they are offering. Now I really dislike all the scalpers that will buy as many copies as they can, as quickly as they can, just so they can put them up on eBay for ridiculous prices. Again, I get it, free market, capitalism, and all that. But when a very tiny print run of discs meets up with greedy jackasses buying as many discs as they can, that means some fans who were not Johnny on the Spot to get the latest Blu-ray of one of their favorite films could be left out in the cold, their only recourse being eBay and the crazy prices therein. So it is with great joy I turn your attention to Umbrella Entertainment that offers two much sought after titles that Twilight did, but have been long out of print there and only available on eBay and the like. Anything I can do to burn that cottage industry of reselling discs at crazy prices down, I’m happy to do.
“Now, Brian,” I hear you say, “isn’t Umbrella from Australia? And doesn’t that mean the discs won’t work on my American BD player?” To that I say yes, they are from the land down under, but no, these Blu-rays will work for you as they are not region locked.
“But, Brian,” I hear you speak up again, desperate to justify your $70 price for one of these discs on eBay (yeah, $70, no lie), “doesn’t that mean if you order something from Australia for the U.S., shipping is going to be crazy expensive. To that I say, sure, it might be. But would it be $70 expensive? Hell no. Oh and then there is this little bit: both of these titles are available on Amazon for between $14 and $17 (as of this writing). That’s a hell of a lot lower than $70, isn’t it?
So what are these movies in question? Only two of the best remakes ever. Yes, really. Whenever anyone does a Top Horror Remake list, both of these are high up on that, unless, of course, the writer hasn’t seen one of these movies. Or, you know, has no good taste at all. I’m talking about The Blob from 1988 and Night of the Living Dead from 1990.
The Blob is great. It’s basically the same story you no doubt know already, but it modernizes the plot, puts a sinister spin on it (never trust the government), and for the gorehounds out there, is pretty damn gruesome with some amazing special effects. And hey, no near-thirty-year-olds (Steve McQueen) playing a “kid” out to show the “grownups” how it’s done. I mean, I love McQueen, but him playing a teen was a bit of a stretch. Kind of like Caroline Munro playing a high school student in Slaughter High at the age of 37. But I digress. There is a lot to like in this one, from the creative blob kills, to a far more menacing blob than the one we got in 1958, to some clever satire of horror movies that were popular at the time, to actress Shawnee Smith doing very fine work as a not helpless heroine and looking cute as hell while she does it. But really, the star of the show here are the incredible effects. Whether it’s a guy getting sucked down a tiny drain by his face, a homeless man being melted in half, the jock boyfriend getting dissolved right before your eyes, or the sheriff floating around in the pink goo, these bits all hold up very well today.
Now as for Night of the Living Dead, those had to be some mighty big and intimidating shoes to fill. Come on, nothing like trying to redo a legend. But special effects master Tom Savini proved he was more than capable of stepping into those shoes as he delivered a great movie, one easily living up to the Night of the Living Dead legacy. Here the story gets a much-needed update as Barbara is no longer comatose through most of the film. Tony “Candyman” Todd just kills it as Ben, and all the actors are either good enough or excel at their roles. Once again the special effects take the spotlight as these are some of the best-looking zombies, ever. Well, at least until The Walking Dead came along.
On to the extras on both Blu-rays from Umbrella Entertainment. In chronological order, we start with The Blob. And admittedly there’s not much here. There is an 18-minute interview with director Chuck Russell and a theatrical trailer. That’s it. But the Night of the Living Dead release does have much more. First there is a very good audio commentary with director Tom Savini. Savini also comes back for a nearly half-hour-long interview. There is a 24-minute “The Dead Walk” featurette that is really good. There is an interview with the special effects team of John Vulich and Evertt Burrell. Yes, everyone usually assumes that Tom Savini did the makeup effects in this, because you know: he’s Tom Savini, but Tom had his hands full with directing so he gave the FX work to these guys, and this interview runs for 21 minutes. There is a 16-minute interview with lead actress, Patricia Tallman. Then there is a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s just over eight minutes. Lastly there is the theatrical trailer on here as well.
The Blob and Night of the Living Dead (the remakes) are both wonderful and here they are, looking better than ever, and thanks to Umbrella Entertainment, it won’t cost you an arm or a leg to add these movies to your collection. So yes, I highly recommend both of these releases.