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Dreamscape – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

DreamscapeDreamscape is now seeing its first double dip on Blu-ray after a rather lackluster and a bit reviled release the first time around.  This time, though, we’re all lucky that the folks over at Scream Factory are the ones handling it.  They seem to have heard all of the complaints from the other version and have set out to correct them.  First off, they’ve got a brand new 2K transfer for the film as well as their normal slew of extras which are par for the course on their highly coveted “Collector’s Edition” series.  This hopefully will please the fans as well as maybe make some new ones and possibly give some people a better second look at the film as it looks better than it has before.  You can get your pre-order in for the release now, as it comes out December 13th.

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Film 

Alex Gardner is a man with an incredible psychic gift… but for years has used it solely for personal gain. Reuniting with his old mentor, Dr. Novotny, Gardner joins a government project in which he learns to channel his abilities in order to enter peoples’ subconscious through their dreams. As his powers grow, the young psychic soon finds himself in a living nightmare of conspiracy and murder… and the only way out is to go back in.

A Nightmare On Elm Street would sit in theaters the same year (3 months later) and become far more successful, but dream adventures were tackled already in 1984.  Dreamscape had come out and sort just whimpered around, now becoming a cult classic.  The film featured psychic people wandering into one another’s dreams and helping conquer fears but then you had bad people trying to assassinate through it.  There are a lot of ideas you’d see in later films like The Matrix and Inception, pioneered her in Dreamscape.

Its a very ambitious film that just went for it in terms of the scale, effects and story it wanted to tell.  The snake man from one of the sequences is quite well known through film circles.  Through the passage of time (and clarity of Blu-rays) some of these effects don’t hold up or you can (at times literally) see the strings.  However, there is a kind of movie magic charm to that and it helps it a bit retroactively in moments.  For someone like me, I always incorporate my imagination when the storytelling and performances are competent, so all they really have to do is give me a buffer and I can take it from there.

This one really has a heck of a cast.  Dennis Quaid is fine and our very typical 80s hero and very Quaid type of role.  Though, the character is a little bit of an ass (an 80s trait), but you can still follow him through this.  Max Von Sydow is, as always, fantastic in his role and its great to watch him spar off with Christopher Plummer.  And Kate Capshaw…say what you will…but man, I get it, Steven.  She’s also quite good here in this role (And very good in the one you all hate her in, but that’s a conversation for another day), and is able to keep Quaid’s character in check and be able to hold her own.

Dreamscape is an overall fun cult adventure.  It has a game cast and a game crew behind the scenes that was really trying to do something special and push the limits with what they were given.  And the passion truly shows here.  Oh and I forgot to mention it features another grisly David Patrick Kelly role.  If you’re into some fun, effects driven 80s fantasy, this is one to give a shot.  Or, if you dig A Nightmare on Elm Street or Inception or stuff of the like, then you should definitely see it.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  I have to say, I’m pretty damn impressed with Scream Factory’s new 2K transfer of Dreamscape.  I hadn’t got around to picking up the old one yet, but my research tells me that people were not happy with it.  This thing is clean, solid and almost modern in some aspects.  You get a lot of crisp detail and a sharp picture to see the textures and such all around.  Now, some of the effects work becomes a bit cheaper (Obvious green screen work, wires), but man…this is really a treat.

Depth:  Dimensional work is the highlight of this transfer. It almost looks like this could have made for some awesome 3D.  There is a fluid, smooth movement from all the characters, with a big confidence in every step.  Distance between foreground and background is concise and looks plenty spaced.  Seriously, this is really impressive.

Black Levels:  Blacks are solid and provide some pretty good shading and shadows to go along with some nice work on defining characters and objects.  Details come through pretty well on dark objects, fabrics and hair.  No crushing witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty damn strong here with red obviously being one of the big ones.  It fills out quite nicely being a filter on many of the dream sequences.  Blues also have some really strong moments, too.  Lots of 80s clothing and such are really well represented here too.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the duration of the film.  Some of the dream sequences feature different filters, but there facial details discernible from medium and close up shots that look quite good here.  Wrinkles, stubble, moles, make-up lines and lip texture are just some of the things to really take note of in the image.

Noise/Artifacts:  There are some minimal streaks and specs/dirt as well as a fine layer of grain in the image.  Its all very complimentary.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  I’m pretty sure this 5.1 track is a carry over from the previous release.  And that’s fine, it more than gets the job done.  Effects and stuff sound pretty distinct and layered here.  There’s a good balance between the film’s score, effects and vocals.  The dream sequences can get pretty immersive and impressive given the age of the film and its ability to present it on this Blu-ray.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  There are some deep sounds with car doors shutting, engines humming, clanging of objects, trains rumbling and more.

Surround Sound Presentation:  A lot of the action tracking and such is focused on the front and accurately depicted.  The rear speakers do get involved and its fun to hear all 5 channels come together to craft some haunting dream sequences with their soundscapes.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and clear.  No sort of analog distortion or anything to go with it.  A good crisp sound.

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Extras 

Dreamscape – Collector’s Edition comes with reversible cover art featuring the original poster desing.

Audio Commentary

  • With Bruce Cohn Curtis, David Loughery and Craig Reardon

Dreamscapes and Dreammakers (HD, 1:01:50) – A full on retrospective including interviews with director Joseph Ruben,  co-writer David Loughery, actor David Patrick Kelly and other members of the special effects team. There are terrific anecdotes about where characters came from in the script and some other stuff that came from Loughery’s interests.  There is also a bit on the cinematography of the film, using inspiration from Quadraphenia.  The effects team talks about their techniques and how Star Wars changed the game and that it was still rippling into Dreamscape.  This is a rich and terrific piece worth getting this release alone for.

Nightmares and Dreamsnakes (HD, 23:23) – This is dedicated to the origins, inspirations and purpose of the snake man to go along with how they brought it to live and executed the final product which you see in the film.  It also includes more behind the scenes and effects testing pictures not featured in the still gallery.

Dennis Quaid: The Actor’s Journey (HD, 14:50) – Quaid discusses the very 70s/early 80s film he thinks Dreamscape is.  He also talks about how he learns new trades for roles in each film that he still carries with him to this day (The Right Stuff piloting, being into football and playing pickup games).  The actor talks about how he had an actual dream or psychic experience while working on the film.  They have him go over the cast he worked with, with Quaid calling Max Von Sydow one of his acting heroes before working with him on the film.

Bruce Cohn Curtis & Chuck Russell: In Conversation 2016 (HD, 23:31) – The film’s producer and writer discuss their meeting, working together and all the little nick nacks of Dreamscape.  Also features some on set photos not appearing in the still gallery.

Snake Man Test Footage (HD, 2:16) 

Still Gallery (HD, 2:32) – This is all effects testing and model work for the snake man.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:13) 

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Summary 

Dreamscape continues to be a cool little cult movie that had that sort of idea that would pump into films like The Matrix and Inception many many years later, but manages to be a cool enough film itself.  This is the second Blu-ray release, the first coming over 6 years ago.  And let me tell you, this is WELL worth the replacement/upgrade.  Scream Factory has done a new transfer that is VERY impressive as well as added all the interviews and such to make this the definitive edition for years to come.  The only thing missing that I’d want is a Kate Capshaw interview, but alas, this is fine enough.  A definite recommend for your stocking!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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