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Umbrella Entertainment Releases ‘Next of Kin,’ ‘Day of the Dead,’ and More on Blu-ray

Umbrella Entertainment are one of my favorite distributors. The Australian-based company has been in the game since the DVD days, but they’ve really begun stepping it up during this Blu-ray era. On more than one occasion, they’ve beaten many other distributors to the punch and been the first to release certain titles in their high-def debuts. (They were the first company to give us a Region A-friendly release of The Punisher and Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, for instance.)  And their work continues with the below releases, three of them being worldwide debuts and all three region friendly.


In horror maestro George A Romero’s gruesome follow-up to the acclaimed Dawn of the Dead, the flesh-eating undead have wiped out every last vestige of the civilized world and now outnumber the living 40,000-to-one! Hidden deep within a fortified underground missile silo, an isolated and increasingly unstable ragtag group of scientists and soldiers continue to work to find a cure for this unstoppable plague. Tensions soon escalate between a maniacal bloodthirsty military leader and a borderline mad scientist, sparking a climactic assault on the bunker by thousands of zombies… one final battle for humanity’s survival. Named by Romero as his favourite “dead” movie, Day of the Dead showcases his tight, taut direction and unleashes a cavalcade of non-stop zombie carnage courtesy of gore wizard, Tom Savini.

George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead has always been my least favorite of his original zombie trilogy, and I’d cite the mean-spiritedness and the cartoonish evil of all its antagonists as the main reason why. That and the underground environments start to feel claustrophobic and depressing after a while, which was likely the point. However, it contains the best special effects of Romero’s long-running zombie series (some would say too long), all essayed by Tom Savini with assistance from a burgeoning Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead). This region-friendly edition thankfully resurrects the 5.1 DTS audio track abandoned by Shout! Factory’s previous collector’s edition, leaving listeners with only their hiss-filled 2.0 stereo track. A major restoration would be needed to improve Day of the Dead‘s soft appearance across all Blu-ray releases of the title so far, and there’s enough love for this entry to believe it could one day come. For now, the transfer here isn’t anything new, though it does thankfully fix the slightly squished aspect ratio that was evident on the Anchor Bay release. Thankfully, this edition is packed with special features, culled from previous releases across the globe, including Shout’s feature-length retrospective, World of the Dead.

Special Features:

Disc 1 (Blu-ray):

  • Audio Commentary with George A. Romero, Tom Savini, Cletus Anderson & Lori Cardille
  • Audio Commentary with Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, Everett Burell & Mike Deak
  • World’s End: The Legacy of Day of the Dead (HD 85:26)
  • Behind the Scenes: On Set (SD 21:12)
  • Behind the Scenes: Tom Savini (SD 30:42)
  • Interview with George A. Romero at the 2008 Melbourne International Film Festival (SD 49:26)
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD 05:23)
  • TV Spots (SD 02:31)
  • Gateway Commerce Centre Promo Video (SD 08:12)

Disc 2 (DVD):

  • The Many Days of the Dead (SD 40:14)
  • Joe of the Dead (SD 50:53)
  • Reflections of the Living Dead (SD 78:39)
  • Travelogue of the Dead (SD 17:44)
  • Image Gallery (SD 8:54)

John LeTour (Willem Dafoe, John Wick) is a good man in a bad business working for Ann (Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise) on the wrong side of the law. When Ann decides to close up shop, LeTour has to go straight and come up with a future. But time is running out on him as he must dodge the cops, confront a killer and find his heart before he can leave his past behind.

Every time I watch a film by Paul Schrader I hadn’t yet seen, I love the filmmaker a little more. Light Sleeper is no different, and continues his interest in the loner character previously explored in films like Taxi Driver, and as recently as First Reformed. A sort of spiritual sibling to William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in LA (but a lot less chaotic and action-oriented), Schrader’s New York-set story, whose streets are piled high in garbage bags and other refuse in the midst of a waste removal strike, serve this story about drugs, crime, and retribution very well, dropping you in the middle of a three-person drug operation, which all three of its personnel are trying to leave for their own reasons. Part crime, part drama, part thriller, part love story, and total gut-punch, Light Sleeper puts Willem Dafoe in a rare leading role as the tried-and-true trope of the drug dealer looking to make one last profitable deal before getting out of the grind for good (but with a Schrader twist, of course).

Special Features:

  • AUDIO COMMENTARY WITH FILM CRITICS EMMA WESTWOOD & SALLY CHRISTIE
  • Q&A WITH CINEMATOGRAPHER ED LACHMAN & DIRECTOR PAUL SCHRADER
  • TRAILER
  • VHS PROMO

Linda Stevens, 24, has just inherited a big old house. An evil house. All night she hears a voice that whispers slowly from somewhere deep in the back of her mind. Taps turn themselves on and off. Candles light without a flame being put to them, And just last night she found the corpse of an old man in her bath. The house is called Montclare and something evil lives there.

For the first time, Umbrella Entertainment presents Tony Williams’ NEXT OF KIN, remastered in 4K from the original 35mm interpositive and with a new 5.1 audio mix of the pulsing synth score by German electronic music pioneer, Klaus Schulze. With superb cinematography by the late Gary Hansen, NEXT OF KIN evokes the style and atmosphere of classic European horror and features a cast of Ozploitation veterans including John Jarratt, Alex Scott and Gerda Nicholson.

Next of Kin manages to borrow inspiration from the likes of The Shining, Phantasm, The Haunting, and more while also crafting its own unique identity and feel. This is a dreamy, purposely-paced, eerie, and subtly sad supernatural horror-thriller that for a long time has gone unheralded except for the hardest of the hardcore horror crowd. It’s difficult to discuss without getting into the different plot twists and unique take on this kind of story, so I’ll refrain from further examination. Another worldwide debut from Umbrella Entertainment (appropriate, being that this title was an Australian production), Next of Kin comes to Blu-ray with a silly amount of special features. I

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with Director Tony Willams and Producer Tim White
  • Audio commentary with cast members John Jarratt, Jackie Kerrin, Robert Ratti and Not Quite Hollywood Director, Mark Hartley.
  • Return to Montclare: Next of Kin Shooting locations revisited
  • Extended interviews from Not Quite Hollywood
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • VHS Trailer
  • German Trailer
  • German Opening Credits
  • Before the Night is Out – Complete ballroom dancing footage from 1978
  • Image Gallery
  • Tony Williams shorts from 1971: Getting Together + The Day We Landed on the Most Perfect Planet in the Universe

For mechanic Larry Stilson (Steve Bisley, The Great Gatsby) and his wife Carmel (Arna-Maria Winchester, Coda), a weekend in paradise turns into their most horrifying nightmare. At their retreat in an isolated mountain valley, they are confronted by Heinrich (Ross Thompson, Boulevard of Broken Dreams), the victim of a deadly nuclear spill who is in the throes of a horrifying radiation death. A top-secret government security team moves in with an army of vicious decontamination workers to seal off the valley, forcing Larry and Carmel to attempt a daring high-speed escape… …But, the question growing more urgent by the minute is – can the radioactive waste be contained? Boasting high-octane car chases and spectacular stunts staged by George Miller, the director of Mad Max, and appearances from the stars of that film (Steve Bisley, Hugh Keays-Byrne and Mel Gibson), The Chain Reaction is a slick, futuristic action thriller that hurls you into the nightmarish world of terror and nuclear holocaust.

Special Features:

  • Extended NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD interviews (1:04:04)
    • Steve Bisley
    • Arna-Marie Winchester
    • Director Ian Barry
    • Associate Producer Ross Matthews.
  • THRILLS & NUCLEAR SPILLS Featurette (31:37)
  • THE SPARKS OBITUARY Featurette (24:50)
  • DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES (08:14)5. THE MAN AT THE EDGE OF THE FREEWAY: Early cut
  • THEATRICAL TRAILER
  • TV SPOT
  • VHS TRAILER
  • IMAGE GALLERY

 

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J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.