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4K UHD reviews: ‘Schindler’s List: 25th Anniversary Edition’ & ‘Halloween’

January 23, 2019 GMT

Here’s a look at two films now available in the ultra-high definition (UHD) format that present radically different types of horror and heroes.

Schindler’s List: 25th Anniversary Edition (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, rated R, 196 minutes, $21.74) One of the most important movies in the history of cinema debuts in the UHD format after a quarter of a century to once again remind viewers to never, ever forget the Holocaust.

Director Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning effort delivered a true story that intertwined the Nazi atrocities perpetrated on the Jewish population during World War II with the rare compassion of one man helping the potential victims.

Specifically, German businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), with help from bookkeeper Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), turned as many Polish Jews as he could afford into munitions and enamelware factory workers to protect them from the slaughter.

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While constantly finessing his way into the good graces of the German high command and dealing with the despicable Plaszow concentration camp commandant, Amon Goth (Ralph Fiennes), Schindler proved that even in the most overwhelming prevalence of evil, one human could make a difference for generations to come.

It’s often a very hard movie to watch due to its difficult subject matter. Viewers will find its ominous, mainly black-and-white presentation nightmare-like and not only emotionally draining but also sickening, especially during scenes such as the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto.

4K in action: Mr. Spielberg supervised and approved the remastering and restoration of the original 35mm camera negatives for this new 4K digital release, and the screen-filling results are haunting.

Most notable is the lighting of cinematographer Janusz Kamiński that still focuses and oppresses throughout with high-dynamic range tweaks perfectly balancing and never washing out imagery even in the starkest environments.

UHD clarity makes minutiae such as mesmerizing cigarette and candle smoke, sweaty concrete walls, the grains and sheen in suit jackets and the cemetery stones used for roads much more apparent.

That clarity also includes the horror of witnessing the ash falling like snow as Nazis burn piles of bodies and smoke billowing out of Auschwitz crematorium during a winter’s night.

Best extras: Contained on a separate Blu-ray disc, viewers first get a nearly 40-minute on-stage conversation at the Beacon Theater during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, after a screening of the movie, that features Mr. Neeson, Mr. Kingsley, Caroline Goodall (Emile Schindler), Embeth Davidtz (Helen Hirsch) and Mr. Spielberg.

Moderated by film critic Janet Maslin, the discussion touches on the origins of the film, reactions to rewatching the film and memories on the set as well as including behind-the-scenes vintage footage.

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Next and almost more potent than the movie, the disc offers a 77-minute documentary about the killing and persecution of Jews in Poland with first-person accounts from the survivors, historical footage and memories of Schindler.

Remembering these past events does not get any more impactful, and this segment is required watching for anyone who dares not understand the horrors of the Holocaust.

Halloween (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, rated R, 106 minutes, $39.98) The unstoppable horror icon Michael Meyers returned yet again last year to terrorize movie audiences and now strikes out on UHD home theater screens.

First of all, let’s not forget that there have been no less than 10 movies to the franchise before this latest effort from director David Gordon Green.

Now we return again to Haddonfield, Illinois, in this direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 film, to watch the mask-wearing serial killer wreak havoc on the small town 40 years later on Halloween night.

However, Myers first protagonist, an older, wiser and combat-trained, yet emotionally damaged, grandmother Laurie Stroud (Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her legendary role) will have none of it and gives her adversary a taste of his own violent medicine.

Mr. Gordon Green maintains the old school slasher film mentality throughout, short on jump scares but scattered with savage killings of teens and adults. Yet, he also helps bring forth a plot ripe with generational revenge and a character study of a survivor living with an ultimate horror.

4K in action: A stark, uncomfortable video quality permeates throughout the film’s upscale to 2160p that almost embraces the franchises 1970 celluloid roots and often bathes scenes with a yellowish tint.

As previously reported, I’m no fan of UHD clarity in horror films and rather appreciate grittier visuals, but it works here.

No grit, but the crispness of many of the imagery and that sickly hue choice work especially well when juxtaposed against some of the blood-red-soaked violence.

Also, the DTS:X soundtrack brings to light an aural choice that now features Meyers rasping behind his mask like Darth Vader.

Best extras: Most significant of the smattering of bonus content, all contained on the 4K disc, is a roughly 5-minute-long roundtable discussion between Ms. Lee Curtis, Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Gordon Green and producer Jason Blum.

This should have been much, much longer especially considering the lack of any optional commentary track. Getting Ms. Lee Curtis and Mr. Carpenter talking together is a dream for fans.

An additional four, short featurettes cover Meyers’ mask, the legacy of Ms. Lee Curtis’ character, the music and comparing the first and latest film.

Also available are 12 minutes worth of deleted/extended scenes that include Miss Strode contemplating suicide and a crazed psychiatrist (monitoring the killer) displaying some really odd behavior.