Friday, December 6, 2013

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Synapse Films Limited Edtion Demons Steelbook (DVD/Blu-ray)


We take yet another opportunity to talk about Demons  here on Film Deviant and we also have an in-depth look at the new Limited Edition Steelbook Demons  Blu-ray by Synapse Films. 

If you've been reading Film Deviant for awhile...and you've been paying attention...then, you should be aware of two things: 1) We're pretty goddamn awesome. 2) I'm absolutely, unapologetically obsessed with Lamberto Bava's Demons. And because I love that film so much, I own it on pretty much every format possible. I have two different VHS releases (New World Pictures and StarMaker), a Special Edition LaserDisc (don't ask), several DVD editions and, now, a couple of Blu-rays.

Firstly, I have to point out that I was pretty damn sure that I purchased the definitive version of Demons  last year when I got the Arrow Video Steelbook Blu-ray. That one also had Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns  included as a 2-pack set. The only issue that I came away with was that this version was Region B. Luckily, I own a region-free Blu-ray player...so, it was a non-factor. However, I could see a fan of the film excitedly purchasing this version not bothering to catch that small detail and ultimately being frustrated with the disc not playing. While it didn't really affect me, I just don't understand why companies like this don't bother making sure that every "special edition" disc they put out is region-free to ensure a satisfied consumer no matter where he or she lives. It's those little extra steps that sometimes make it all worth it.

So, earlier this year (May to be exact), I was thumbing thru an issue of Rue Morgue and noticed an ad for a new "Limited Edition" Demons  Blu-ray coming out soon by Synapse Films. I paused momentarily, only to shrug it off on account of already owning the best possible version of my beloved film. Then, I noticed the ad again in an issue of Horror Hound I purchased (way cheaper than Rue Morgue) and ended up pre-ordering it because I'm a weirdo and I simply had to own every version of Demons  that I could find.


Since ordering the new Steelbook, I did more research on Synapse Films, only being casually familiar with the company over the years. I even went as far as chatting with a representative at their booth at a recent horror convention. I scanned most of their titles and came away feeling comfortable that this was to be a formidable release, perhaps coming close to matching the quality of the Arrow Video version. As their original release date of October 29th drew closer it was revealed through the official Synapse Films Facebook page that Demons  would be delayed for another few weeks because they were having issues with some of the color-corrections...as well as other stuff they were finding. This also revealed how much time, money and effort Synapse was putting into creating an outstanding version of the film.

So, finally...I came home one night, just before Thanksgiving only to find a package that came in the mail. In a fit of excitement I opened the box only to find my copy of Demons! I immediately watched the film and compared the quality to the Arrow Video version, which I watched directly afterwards. But, before I get into my comparison/review...let's talk a little bit about the film itself. Because...what would this article be without more talk about one of my favorite films of all time.


While technically far from being a masterpiece, Demons  certainly is loved by millions the world over for simply being a balls-out frenetic horror gorefest born from one of the best decades genre fans have ever seen. The film didn't have any known stars and wasn't directed by anyone really big back then. As a matter of fact, the only thing the film had going for it was Dario Argento's writing and producing credits. So much so...that his name was prominently featured above the film's title on just about everything in order to lure his established fan base. Argento fans snatched up VHS rentals wherever Demons  could be found, expecting to watch his latest giallo masterpiece...only to find the demonic blood-soaked horror film instead. The tale is a simple one. People are lured into a mysterious movie theater with free tickets to watch a documentary style movie about some young people finding a tomb belonging to Nostradamus. Someone in the film they're watching finds a mask, gets his face scratched by it and turns into a demon. Meanwhile, a theater-goer finds a mask, gets her face scratched by it and turns into a demon. It's the old movie-within-a-movie technique...only with demons.

It's hard to say where the charm lies when it comes to Demons. Is it the memorable performances by Bobby Rhodes or Geretta Geretta? Is it the awesomely over-the-top FX done by Sergio Stivaletti and crew? Is it the insanely awesome original premise? Or perhaps it's the punk rock coke heads and the soundtrack populated by a who's-who of early 80's rock. I suppose the short answer is...all of it. Every part of Demons  is why we love it so much. Every frame. When the film is great...it's fucking great! And when it is bad...it's fucking great! I remember spotting the original New World Pictures VHS on a video store shelf and snatching it up...after reading something on it in Fangoria. Upon watching the film for the first time...I knew, even in those early days, that I had to own the film for myself. Unfortunately, video tapes were over a hundred bucks back then...and I was way too young to have that kind of scratch on my own. So, I did the only thing I could do at the time...rented the film every week. I'm sure my obsession could be traced back to these particular days.


Anyway, I've always dreamed of owning the definitive version of Demons  one day...and now, thanks to Synapse Films, I can proudly make that claim. The amount of time and effort that went into making this Blu-ray can clearly be seen in every frame. The picture quality is absolutely stunning and the audio tracks are painstakingly brought back to life. And...don't worry...the Coke can scene is intact. When I got the Arrow Video Limited Edition Demons  Blu-ray Steelbook last year, I thought it to be a decent release. However, I wasn't exactly blown away by it. While it was a good transfer and had all the goodies I was looking for, the quality never really blew my mind. It wasn't as rich as some of the other Blu-rays that I have gotten over the years. But, it certainly wasn't bad. It was the best transfer at the time. Until, of course, I compared it to the Synapse Films transfer.

It's almost as if I've been living in the dark this whole time and only accepted mediocrity to be the standard. Arrow Video is certainly no slouch when it comes to their film releases...but, comparing both versions is like night and day. The Synapse Demons  simply out performs theirs in every way. The lighting and color-corrections are handled with surgeon-like care. I felt as tho I was watching Demons  for the very first time. Even the Steelbook design is fucking awesome, with original artwork by genre artist Wes Benscoter. Lord...and the special features this thing has can literally occupy your entire evening...including brand new interviews with Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento! Did I mention that this thing also comes with a goddamn replica of the invitation ticket as seen in the film?!


I realize that I'm coming off like a freakin' Synapse Films employee, or something. Almost as if I've been paid to write all this praise. But, seriously...if you've been waiting for a definitive release like this all these years...then, you'd be pretty excited, as well. Demons  is the kind of film that made me fall in love with the genre in the first place. We've shared some truly special times together and it has found a special place in my heart . If a helicopter ever crashes into my house and kills me...I will have died a happy man, clutching this Demons  Steelbook in my blood-drenched hands.

If you love Demons  and absolutely need to have the best possible version of the film...look no further than the Synapse Films Steelbook. Available as a Region A Blu-ray (which pretty much means that you don't need a Region-Free player to experience the horror), you can find it HERE...while supplies last!

For more info on Synapse Films..."Like" their Facebook page HERE to keep up with the latest news on upcoming release (including a new Blu-ray release on Suspiria!!)

Next on my list: The Synapse Films Limited Edition Steelbook of...Demons 2: The Nightmare Returns!


Here is the full list of all the awesome features included on the discs:

-Limited Edition (3000 units from synapse-films.com) Steelbook Featuring All-New Artwork from Wes Benscoter

-Each Steelbook is Blu-ray packaging sized, and will be a “Combo Pack” containing both a Blu-ray (BD-50) and a DVD (DVD-9) of the feature and extras.

-Unlike previous releases, we have the original Italian Language Stereo mix, the “International” stereo alternate dub mix and the original U.S. mono soundtrack!

-Audio Commentary Track with Cast & Crew Featuring Recollections from Director Lamberto Bava, Make-up Effects Artist Sergio Stivaletti, Musician Claudio Simonetti and actress Geretta Geretta.

-Removable English Subtitles for both the U.S. Language Dub Version, as well as the Original Italian Version.

-Collectible Reproduction of the Original Metropol Theatre Ticket seen in the Film.

-The transfer is from a new HD scan of the original 35mm negative, in 1080p/23.98fps 1.66:1 aspect ratio [not the same muted colors and weak black levels as previous released versions].

-All audio tracks will be encoded in DTS-HD MA.

Featurettes (from Calum Waddell’s HIGH RISING PRODUCTIONS Company) include:

PROFONDO JONES – THE CRITICAL PERSPECTIVE – Interview with Alan Jones

CARNAGE AT THE CINEMA – LAMBERTO BAVA AND HIS SPLATTER MASTERPIECE – 30 Minute Interview with Director Lamberto Bava

MONSTROUS MEMORIES WITH LUIGI COZZI – 30 Minute Interview

SPLATTER STUNT ROCK – Interview with Stunt Man Ottaviano Dell’Acqua

DARIO AND HIS DEMONS – PRODUCING MONSTER MAYHEM – All-New Exclusive Interview with Producer Dario Argento.


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!



Thanks for reading,

bryan.




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