Paramount Scares Volume 1 4K UHD Review: An Embarrassment of Riches

The Paramount Scares Volume 1 4K UHD box set comes packed full of scares. First there are the five movies, all in 4K UHD and all with quality bonus features. The movies are Rosemary’s Baby, Pet Sematary (1989), Smile, Crawl, and Sweeney Todd.

The Movies:

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – An absolute classic, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is best described as a psychological thriller. Young couple Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her husband, stage actor Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes), are struggling financially but find a good deal when they move into the Bramford, an aging apartment complex in New York City. Something is off about the Bramford, but, at first, only in small, annoying ways: music can be heard at all hours of the night; all the other tenants are elderly and overly doting; and Rosemary starts having what feels like both dreams and reality at the same time. Rosemary wants to be pregnant, and after a night that leaves her with scars across her body and a dream that she is having sex with some sort of demon, Rosemary begins to believe they are living in the center of a coven of witches.

The lead actors bring a wonderful naivete to their situation, but the real stars of the show are aging (at the time) actors, such as Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Ralph Bellamy, and then a young Charles Grodin in his film debut. The members of the coven play opposite to type as sweet old ladies and men who have nothing but Rosemary and Guy’s best wishes at heart. This makes her situation even more scary, and Rosemary’s situation is truly frightening every step of the way.

Bonus Content (on Blu-ray Disc):

  • Rosemary’s Baby – A Retrospective                                      
  • Mia and Roman                            
  • Theatrical Trailer                                         
  • 50th Anniversary “Redband” Trailer

Pet Sematary (1989) – Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary at times looks and feels like a movie, and at other times looks and feels made for TV. Lines like, “Don’t shilly shally, Louis,” don’t exactly help to give it an air of seriousness. It should be serious, though, because the Creeds, Louis (Dale Midkiff), Rachel (Denise Crosby), Ellie (Blaze Berdahl), Gage (Miko Hughes), and their cat Church have moved to rural Maine where their lives are in imminent danger – they live next to a busy road with constantly racing semi-trucks. Also, nobody has ever thought to build a fence at the edge of the property. Just didn’t occur to anybody. Never crossed anyone’s mind. The cat may still be a problem, but, seriously, one strong fence and the plot falls completely apart.

Filling out the cast is Fred Gwyne as Jud Crandall. All Gwynne adds to the plot is a deadly back story and a terrible Munsters vibe. Brad Greenquist plays Victor Pascow, the world’s worst dressed ghost. Apparently he was killed in the midst of a track meet or something. He also seems to spend his time re-warning Louis to stay away from the second, much more mysterious, Pet Sematary hidden behind the first one – a place Jud has already warned Louis about. In other words, Louis wouldn’t have known the spooky Pet Sematary existed if the living and the dead would just shut up about it. Midkiff and Crosby hold their own here and hold up most of the film. It is a classic, and it needs to be seen, but don’t expect too much from Pet Sematary.

Bonus Content (on Blu-ray Disc):

  • Commentary by director Mary Lambert                                           
  • Pet Sematary: Fear and Remembrance                                             
  • Pet Sematary: Revisitation                                                     
  • Stephen King Territory                                             
  • The Characters 
  • Filming the Horror
  • Galleries                                                       
  • Storyboards Introduction by Mary Lambert                                                    
  • Storyboards                                                 
  • Behind the Scenes                                                                     

Smile (2022) – Parker Finn’s Smile is a low-key horror film that is surprisingly delightful. The premise is simple enough, there is an entity that possesses people and forces them to commit suicide in front of another person, then that person has four to seven days before repeating the process and killing themselves in front of someone new. Are there whiffs of The Ring here? Absolutely. The good news is Sosie Bacon, who plays Rose Cotter, the therapist who works at a mental hospital and get caught up in the terror. Rose is in pretty much every scene and her acting ability strengthens each of those scenes. You will be worried for her, and you will hope she finds a way to break free from the curse and escape the entity.

The best part of Smile is that people act like “normal” humans throughout. They don’t go alone into the scary room. They arm themselves. People are worried about each other. There may be a few unearned jump scares, but Smile usually earns its horror and should keep you downing the popcorn and waiting to see how this baby wraps up.

Bonus Content (on 4K Ultra HD Disc):

  • Commentary by director Parker Finn      
  • Something’s Wrong with Rose: Making Smile      
  • Flies on the Wall: Inside the Score                         
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by director Parker Finn                                    
  • Laura Hasn’t Slept – Original Short with Introduction by director Parker Finn

Crawl (2019) – In Alexandre Aja’s Crawl, university swimmer (it’s about alligators, of course she is a swimmer) Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) is worried that her father (Barry Pepper) does not answer her calls exactly as a Category Five storm is headed directly toward him. Somehow, despite downed trees and power lines, Haley gets to her dad’s house without incident. Unfortunately, Haley and her dad get stuck in the house’s crawlspace as the storm approaches, filling the space with water and astonishingly large, and hungry, American alligators.

It’s called Crawl because, you know, when you think of things that crawl, you think of alligators. Despite the lame title, the movie has found a way out of the depths of gore porn and into the realm of a genuine creature feature. Jaws in a cellar, anyone? This is a great B-movie that almost earns itself to an A: the acting by Scodelario and Pepper, and the strong special effects, propel the movie to an exciting ending.

Bonus Content (on 4K Ultra HD Disc):

  • Intro to Alternate Opening
  • Alternate Opening
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • Beneath Crawl
  • Category 5 Gators: The VFX of Crawl
  • Alligator Attacks

Sweeney Todd (2007) – What seems most improbable about Sweeney Todd is that Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter can sing. It almost seems unfair. But Sweeney Todd is about 80% singing and 20% talking, so get used to some crooning. In fact, even the talking sounds like singing because of the background music, so we are really moving to the edge of a musical and verging on opera territory here.

The movie oozes atmosphere. Tim Burton’s streets of London are choked with soot and grime. The color palette is awash with grays, blacks, and perfectly placed streaks of white that ultimately give the picture a bit of humanity. There is a lot of blood – this is the story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street after all – but the blood is highly stylized and looks more like Pepto Bismol than anything that might pump out of someone who simply wanted a shave. While there is death from the first set of credits to the last, the playfulness, the music, the singing, and the sheer whimsy that radiates from Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter give the distinct impression that an R-rating was excessive and unfair.

Bonus Content (on Blu-ray Disc):

  • Sweeney Todd Press Conference, November 2007
  • Sweeney Todd is Alive: The Real History of the Demon Barber
  • Musical Mayhem: Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd
  • Sweeney’s London
  • The Making of Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • Grand Guignol: A Theatrical Tradition
  • Designs for a Demon Barber
  • A Bloody Business
  • Moviefone Unscripted with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp
  • The Razor’s Refrain
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

Extra Extras:

  • Fangoria Magazine: Full-sized, special edition, produced specifically for the Paramount Scares release; it includes archival and new articles about each of the five films. 
    • Rosemary’s Baby – A new retrospective by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. Focuses on producer William Castle and actors Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes. Special attention is paid to the film’s role in the feminist / sexual politics at the time of release. 
    • Pet Sematary – A visit to the set by Rodney A. Labbe focused on the “difficult set” as most closely experienced by director Mary Lambert. 
    • Smile – An in-depth interview with the director, Parker Finn, and the star, Sosie Bacon. 
    • Crawl – A very personal discussion of the making of the movie written by the director, Alexandre Aja. Also, Aja curates a short, but interesting, photo gallery. 
    • Sweeney Todd – A long article that includes an involved visit to the set.
  • Paramount Scares Enamel Pin
  • Unique Stickers
  • Access to a Digital Copy of Each Film
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Greg Hammond

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