A plethora of Blu-ray discs went through the patented HMS Whimsy benchmarking system today, starting with American Psycho, which arrived from DVD Pacific this morning. Unfortunately, this is hands-down the worst high definition transfer I’ve seen to date. In fact, it’s downright guff, with edge enhancement that makes An American Werewolf in London’s ringing seem mild, and intrusive noise reduction that destroys the texture of the actors’ faces, making it look like everyone has taken a bath in a tub of grease. Indeed, I’d go as far as to say that I’m strongly considering selling it on and just hanging on to the standard definition version: it’s not that the HD version looks worse, but I can probably get more money by selling it than I would with the DVD. That’s how bad this looks.
Next up, Hostel, a rental copy of which arrived from LoveFilm. It’s not as bad as American Psycho, but it’s pretty naff, marred once again by edge enhancement, which gives it a decidedly harsh appearance. How can a master for a film little more than a year old look this bad?
The film itself was pretty disappointing too. It’s part of the recent wave of exploitation horror movies originating from the US, such as Saw and The Passion of the Christ, which have no actual purpose beyond repulsing the viewer with as much mindless gore as possible. In these films, there is no real plot to speak of, and the violence takes the form of sadistic torture carried out against defenceless prisoners with no justification. I have a feeling that this type of film is going to come to define the horror genre in the early 2000s, just as the late 90s were characterised by self-referential, “post-modern” Scream rip-offs, and the 80s became known for their Halloween-inspired teen slashers. For the first 70 minutes, it’s frankly tedious, a sort of bizarre look at an imaginary, squalid, barbaric Eastern Europe populated by skinhead ogres and busty, sex-crazed sirens who lure innocent young American boys to their deaths. If it’s meant to be ironic, it doesn’t come across, with the two aforementioned Americans neither annoying enough to give cause for cheer when they finally started getting hacked up, nor likeable enough to care what happens to them. The final 20 minutes do constitute something of a reversal of fortunes, with the sole survivor turning the tables against his torturers and staging a dramatic escape attempt, but it’s too little, too late. 4/10
Finally, Lyris received his DVD Pacific order containing Chicago and Flightplan. Unfortunately, the grossly edge enhanced Chicago looks like it’s going to be another title to go up on eBay in the very near future. Flightplan, meanwhile, looks considerably better, albeit not stunning. It’s one of a tiny number of Blu-ray titles to be encoded with VC-1, the codec more commonly associated with HD DVD.
Blu-ray, so far, has been a really, really mixed bag. Basically, I’ve seen two stellar transfers, several mediocre ones, a couple of poor ones and one outright awful one. Obviously, I’ve only seen a small number of Blu-ray titles in comparison with those available on HD DVD, but at this stage it’s fairly clear which format is delivering the more consistently impressive experience.