- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A pair of horror films recently released in the ultra-high definition format offer two perspectives of very different types of monsters.

Cloverfield (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 85 minutes, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $31.99) — The popular found footage monster film celebrates its 10th anniversary sporting an ultra-high definition facelift.

A hand-held video camera held by a millennial dimwit sets the perspective for a stomachache-inducing dive into unrelenting terror as a 30-story-tall creature attacks New York City.

As the beast flails around Manhattan, a quartet of friends (played by Michael Stahl-David, T.J. Miller, Jessica Lucas and Lizzy Caplan) must navigate the ever-escalating chaos to survive and help save one of their own (Odette Yustman).

Director Matt Reeves delivered part theme-park ride, part human drama and part nail-biting adventure in a too-short movie that was a fresh perspective on the Godzilla film genre.

4K UHD in action: One might expect a 2160p upgrade to a film that recreates footage based on using a consumer video camera to go against the creator’s vision, but it has its benefits for the viewer.

Specifically, watching “Cloverfield” on a 65-inch-plus television in a full-screen presentation is quite the immersive and jarring experience.

Nighttime scenes in most of the movie are much more crisp and revealing, clearly showing the multistory beast to offer a steady stream of chills.

The footage throughout often goes from blurry, to shaking, to pixilated, or to tightly focused when required. The high dynamic range helps here to notice such minutiae as dimples on the painted concrete, dust falling from subway ceilings as the monster stomps or the oozing wounds of a victim.

As far as the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundmix, carried over from the Blu-ray and no Dolby Atmos, it still packs a punch. Cries from the monster, buildings collapsing and rockets literally zooming over my head targeting the beast fully complement the chaos unfolding before a viewer’s eyes.

Best extras: Viewers get one of the cooler picture-in-picture presentations made for the medium called “Special Investigation Mode” in the included Blu-ray version of the movie.

A segmented screen pops up, playing the movie on the left side and showing a map of Manhattan on the right. The map has ever-shifting icons showing the current locations of the Large Scale Aggressor, Human Subjects and Primary Military Activity.

Underneath the film, a box offers a steady stream of text facts (such as the 95-year-old Woolworth building was the first structure to be destroyed) and photos about the Cloverfield incident culled from Department of Defense. The resource also has a panel showing radar blips of the creature’s movement when about to strike.

After appreciating that geeky multimedia resource, fans would be wise to listen to director Matt Reeves’ optional commentary track that is loaded with information about making this classic monster film.

Mother! (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, rated R, 121 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $34.99) — Director Darren Aronofsky’s divisive psychological horror thriller can now be hated or appreciated in the ultra-high definition format.

Slathered in biblical allegory and ever-escalating grotesque imagery and violence, the movie plunges viewers into a bizarre world set in a seemingly secluded, octagonal-shaped Victorian mansion.

Jennifer Lawrence endures as a woman trying to deal with a creatively stymied, poet husband (Javier Bardem) as he looks for inspiration for his next work but ends up finding a ever-growing collection of fans intruding his quiet abode.

Despite some great performances by Miss Lawrence, Mr. Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, most viewers will be scratching their heads without a thematic scorecard. However, even a well-equipped scorecard will not contain enough information to fully untangle this foggy web of a nightmare.

Released in the age of superhero blockbusters, it easy to understand why “Mother!” never caught on with mainstream audiences. It’s perhaps best left to the art-house crowd or soon to be relegated to cult-film status for its die-hard fanatics.

In fact, I recently screened the film with an audience mixed with older folks, high school seniors and college students. It led to obvious reactions. The younger humans all embraced the chaos and dug deep for its meaning while older folks looks like they just witnessed a living autopsy.

4K UHD in action: Here’s an example of film that never really needed a 4K UHD upgrade. Shot mostly in 16mm and highly stylized with a murky greenish yellow tint throughout, the movie really needs to be downgraded and seen using a Super 8 projector for the most uncomfortable experience.

However, forget the lack of vivid color and detail, and relish the cinematic choices that will lead to bouts with suffocating claustrophobia as the camera was either positioned over the lead actress’ shoulder, in a tight close-up on her face or showing the action from her perspective.

Where the 4K UHD disc presentation does shine is with the Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The sounds are wildly escalated to the point of disorienting so that a creaking door, clanging cookware and buzzing of a horsefly will cause near heart attacks from the surround sound and deep bass levels.

Best extras: Pop in the included Blu-ray to find a 30-minute overview of the film that required three months’ worth of actor rehearsals and building multiple versions of the house. Viewers get to hear mainly from Mr. Aronofsky about the process as well as interviews with Miss Lawrence. Mr. Bardem and Mr. Harris.

I also enjoyed a seven-minute look at some of the creepy special effects, explained by head makeup effects artist Adrien Moret. The effects were focused on a brutalized newborn baby, the toilet monster, an ash corpse and a soldier suffering a shotgun wound to the head.

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