Blu-ray Review Arachnophobia Blu-ray Review

Matt Hough

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The kind of amusement park thrill ride that makes you laugh and scream almost simultaneously, Frank Marshall’s Arachnophobia is a terrific good time. With squirm-inducing visuals and suspense thick enough to cut with a knife, the movie is a surefire winner, and it boasts a fun cast and impressive direction that keeps one on the edge of his seat. Hold on to someone or something and enjoy (but just make sure there isn’t something crawling up your arm during the viewing).





Arachnophobia (Blu-ray)
Directed by Frank Marshall

Studio: Hollywood
Year: 1990
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 105 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 French, Spanish
Subtitles:  SDH, Spanish, French

Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 20.00


Release Date: September 25, 2012

Review Date: September 21, 2012




The Film

4/5


A rare, almost prehistoric breed of lethally venomous spider found in Venezuela has killed a photographer and hitched a ride back to the United States in his coffin. By various means, it finds itself in the barn of new country doctor Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels) who has moved his wife (Harley Jane Kozak) and two children away from the hubbub of San Francisco into the country expecting to take over the medical practice of old timer Doc Metcalf (Henry Jones). But when perfectly healthy people start dying of what appears to be heart attacks, Jennings wants autopsies performed, but Metcalf balks at such a suggestion. What he doesn’t know is that the South American spider has mated with a female in the barn and their offspring are now arachnid killing machines infecting the countryside and posing a significant threat to all life.


The Don Jakoby-Wesley Strick screenplay strikes an almost perfect balance of false alarm “boo” moments and the real thing (even though the violence is never overly graphic and the director keeps the creatures mostly out of sight for awhile apart from a leg here or a web there), and the fact that the victims and near-victims range from the innocent (a pretty young girl in a shower is unaware there’s a deadly spider scurrying around her only inches away) to the obnoxious keeps the murders and threat of danger random and constantly holding our attention. Apart from his own shower scene, director Frank Marshall has taken another leaf from Hitchcock’s Psycho playbook as he has Jennings (who has a mortal dread of spiders, hence the title) and his cohorts exploring a house knowing that the deadly entity can spring out at them from almost anywhere (much as Vera Miles’ wandering around the Bates house was unbearably suspenseful). And the tension only increases as the presence of spiders multiplies and the protagonists realize a single bite can cause almost instant death. By the time we get to the human and arachnid heads of household facing off at the climax, it’s gooseflesh time for a beautifully sustained final few minutes even if the hero’s ability to make his way through hundreds of spiders upstairs verges on the unrealistically miraculous.


Jeff Daniels makes a fine everyman battling against the antiquated methods and instincts of the lunkheaded old time doctor Henry Jones portrays, and it takes no suspension of disbelief to understand he doesn’t like spiders. John Goodman adds a shambling comic presence as the near-incompetent exterminator who gets off a few choice one-liners. Julian Sands as the doctor who makes the discovery in South America of these vicious creatures and Brian McNamara as his assistant both convey convincing scientific demeanor throughout the film. Harley Jane Kozak makes a rather indifferent wife for Daniels, but Mary Carver as one of the earliest victims is a bright presence which makes her loss all the more keenly felt. Stuart Pankin as the bullying, scoffing area sheriff certainly earns more than his share of audience disgust making him number one on the hit list, a very effective if one-note performance.



Video Quality

4/5


The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The image has an overall pleasant sharpness that’s never razor-edged, and color saturation levels are well managed apart from flesh tones which occasionally get a bit rosy and oversaturated. In the Venezuelan sequences, the transfer struggles just a bit with the lessened light and the amount of fog, but back in California, the brightness brings forth better overall resolution and nice black levels. The film has been divided into 8 chapters.





Audio Quality

4.5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix makes the most of its elements with noticeable ambient jungle sound effects from the very beginning spread around the soundstage and later sounds of crowds at a party or the various night sounds which night signal one of the spiders somewhere on the premises. Trevor Jones’ music gets the wide soundstage treatment as the fronts and rears give wonderful support to its effectiveness especially as the tension ratchets up in the later scenes of the movie. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and has been placed in the center channel.




Special Features

2/5


All of the bonus features are presented in 480i apart from the promo trailers.


The production featurette is a 2 ¾-minute montage of sound bites offering just the barest amount of information from the cast and crew (director Frank Marshall and star Jeff Daniels gets a word or two) on the film’s subject and genre.


A featurette on director Frank Marshall offers some of the same sound bites from the above featurette in this 3 ¼-minute look at Marshall’s first feature film directing job (he had served as second unit director on other projects).


A very brief 1 ½-minute glimpse of the cast and crew working in Venezuela for four weeks makes up this vignette.


The theatrical trailer runs for 2 minutes.


The promo trailers in 1080p on the disc are for Frankenweenie and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.



In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)


The film’s the thing here: Arachnophobia is a wonderfully scary and funny comic thriller focusing on a fear lots of people share (a dislike of spiders). The bonuses don’t amount to much, but the video quality is quite pleasing and the audio is especially effective making for a film that is so good that a few minor drawbacks don’t really matter very much. Recommended!



Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC

 

Johnny Angell

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I've already preorderd this, but your video review has got my "cancel" finger itchy. I'm fighting it because I do like this movie.
Jeff Daniels sure has played a variety of parts.
 

Todd Erwin

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Keep in mind that the previous DVD release was non-anamorphic.....


Originally Posted by Johnny Angell /t/323279/arachnophobia-blu-ray-review#post_3966904
I've already preorderd this, but your video review has got my "cancel" finger itchy. I'm fighting it because I do like this movie.
Jeff Daniels sure has played a variety of parts.
 

Dick

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The U.K. DVD (available from Amazon UK) is anamorphic (like so many other titles Disney released here in plain old letterbox), and looks much better than the U.S. DVD. I am interested in how that one compares to this new Blu.
 

Adam Gregorich

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I had a love/hate relationship with this movie. I never had the DVD and got rid of my copy on VHS a long time ago. I think I will put this one on my Amazon wishlist and wait for the price to go below $10
 

Colin Jacobson

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Originally Posted by Johnny Angell /t/323279/arachnophobia-blu-ray-review#post_3966904
I've already preorderd this, but your video review has got my "cancel" finger itchy. I'm fighting it because I do like this movie.
Jeff Daniels sure has played a variety of parts.
Keep the preorder - the Blu-ray looks fine. Is it demo material? No, but it looks like a lot of other movies from the era - they had some ugly film stocks back then, and this one reflects that. I think the "problems" we see here are a result of the source material and not the transfer itself...
 

WillG

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Too bad there isn't more in the Special Features department. I know not every title gets lavish treatment, but this movie did pretty well when it was released and seems to be generally well remembered. Also there was a lot of publicity floating around at the time of release, especially involving the Spider Wranglers. Would have been nice to see some more of that material, especially since one must assume that if the movie was made today the spiders would be mostly CGI (especially at the climax of the movie)
 

Sky Captain

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Colin Jacobson said:
Keep the preorder - the Blu-ray looks fine.  Is it demo material?  No, but it looks like a lot of other movies from the era - they had some ugly film stocks back then, and this one reflects that.  I think the "problems" we see here are a result of the source material and not the transfer itself...
Which is why people should be glad about digital film-making/projection, and not be so negative about it. Plus, The Hobbit is going to make digital film better.
 

Billy Batson

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Sky Captain said:
Which is why people should be glad about digital film-making/projection, and not be so negative about it. Plus, The Hobbit is going to make digital film better.
I'm not negative about the idea of digital, just the execution, seeing as so many films look rubbish at the cinema (& a few look rubbish at home). And the jury is out about The Hobbit (trilogy!). I thought a lot of Lord Of The Rings didn't look good at all with Jackson tweeking out the colour a lot of the time (& GREEN getting in everywhere!), & with what he did to the extended Fellowship (GREEN!). This shooting at 48fps or whatever (someone told me they'd changed it to 60fps), may make things too realistic, so to counter it Jackson may have his hand on the big colour knob..... turning it anti-clockwise!
 

Johnny Angell

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jacksparrow900 said:
Disney has recalled all copies and is releasing it sept 25
Do you know the reason? On Amazon, it still shows September 4th in my list of open orders, but on the product page it says the 25th.
 

Matt Hough

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I received an e-mail from Disney today informing me that the discs were being recalled, that the review copy should be destroyed, and that a new review copy would be issued in September for the September 25th release. I will leave this review up until I get the new copy and can adjust the video and audio quality once I've seen it.

The e-mail said only that the current edition had "encoding issues" which didn't measure up to their quality standards.
 

Mark-P

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I noticed that the review here as well as the one at another site (which has now been taken down) noted that the black levels were lacking. The screencaps (since removed) looked very washed out to my eye. Maybe this is what will be fixed by the recall?
 

FoxyMulder

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Originally Posted by Mark-P /t/323279/arachnophobia-blu-ray-review#post_3969064
I noticed that the review here as well as the one at another site (which has now been taken down) noted that the black levels were lacking. The screencaps (since removed) looked very washed out to my eye. Maybe this is what will be fixed by the recall?
A quick digital fix could just make things worse, i'd rather they paid the cash and struck a new master from the OCN, i'd gladly wait another six months for it to be done right.
 

Douglas Monce

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Billy Batson said:
I'm not negative about the idea of digital, just the execution, seeing as so many films look rubbish at the cinema (& a few look rubbish at home). And the jury is out about The Hobbit (trilogy!). I thought a lot of Lord Of The Rings didn't look good at all with Jackson tweeking out the colour a lot of the time (& GREEN getting in everywhere!), & with what he did to the extended Fellowship (GREEN!). This shooting at 48fps or whatever (someone told me they'd changed it to 60fps), may make things too realistic, so to counter it Jackson may have his hand on the big colour knob..... turning it anti-clockwise!
The Hobbit was shot at 48fps, specifically so it could be down converted to 24fps for theaters that need film prints. Peter Jackson was raving about 48fps, until the rather disastrous preview of about 20 min of footage a few months ago that got a rather strong negative reaction. Jackson now seems to be back tracking, stating that he and the director of photography now prefer the 24fps down convert to the original 48fps presentation.
Doug
 

Matt Hough

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I received the new release of Arachnophobia today and have revised the previous comments on video, audio, and in conclusion.
 

Adam Gregorich

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Originally Posted by MattH. /t/323279/arachnophobia-blu-ray-review#post_3978356
I received the new release of Arachnophobia today and have revised the previous comments on video, audio, and in conclusion.
Matt-
I can't remember how you initially scored it. What changed with the updated disc?
 

Matt Hough

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Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich /t/323279/arachnophobia-blu-ray-review#post_3978362
Matt-
I can't remember how you initially scored it. What changed with the updated disc?
It's the video quality that's the biggest change. There was a veil of contrast which hung over the entire film, and now that's mostly been lifted. The video went from a 3.5 to a 4, and the final score from a 3.5 to a 4 with a recommendation.
 

MarkA

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I saw this at Best Buy yesterday and it looked like a Canadian release with the ratings symbol, etc. Is there a US release that is different? Is this the same corrected copy after the first messed up review copy?
Thanks
 

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