Haunted Castle

Haunted Castle (2001)
E Realbiz (Slingshot)
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Trailers, Photo Gallery, EPK

3D movies come in all forms and shapes and the quality of the 3D illusion is just as varied. Some of the better technologies involve polarizing glasses. Unlike the red-blue glasses they don’t discolor the image and at the same time manage to create an image the has the true feel of 3-dimensional depth. That however comes at a price, as polarizing glasses run from $100 upwards.

With ’Haunted Castle, ’ Slingshot Entertainment is now sending one of a series of 3D titles into the race, all of which had originally been running in IMAX theaters. The experience has been transferred to the TV screen now for these DVD releases and we had the chance to give it a first look.

’Haunted Castle’ is an entirely computer rendered film running about 35 minutes. The image seems to come directly from a digital master and no defects or blemishes of any sort are evident. The movie can be viewed in either a traditional 2D version without 3D effects, or as a 3D presentation that requires polarizing glasses to enjoy the effect. It turned out to be a bit tricky to get the effect to work successfully, as the technology is fairly finicky. First we had to make sure not to run the disc in a TV anamorphic mode because it distorts the pixel aspect ratio, which destroys the effect. Next we had to turn off all line-doublers, because the 3-dimensional effect is created by feeding two frames of a TV image to the eyes separately – this is where the glasses come in. Line doublers destroy the illusion because they ’mingle’ two or more frames from the video stream. Once everything is adjusted correctly, the effect works quite well, although the technical limitations are still quite evident. Nonetheless, it is a cool experience and the film ’Haunted Castle’ does a great job, creating some breathtaking 3D effects as the camera sweeps over shrouded hills and along dark castle walls, always pointing downwards and creating a deep effect of foreshortening. But also more subtle image elements work quite well as nightmarish creatures approach you and tress come crashing down in front of you, seemingly almost crushing you.

The DVD contains audio tracks in 5.1 channel Dolby Digital and DTS, both of which are good. Being entirely post-produced with Foley effects and voice-overs, one shouldn’t expect too much, but the track does a great job helping to immerse the viewer in the 3 dimensions he seems to see on the screen, as sound effects aggressively race through the surround channels. The frequency response and dynamic range are good, making for an engaging experience.

As bonus features, the DVD contain a commentary track by director Ben Stasson which offers some insight into the production of the film, elaborating on the 3D technology, the inherent problems and computer imagery in general, but is a bit dry at times in his delivery. A 7-minute ’Making Of’ featurette gives you a look at the production of the film, complete with interviews with director Sassen. The DVD also contains trailers for the film, a photo Gallery that is presented in selectable 2D or 3D and the Electronic Press Kit for the movie, as well as a biography of ’Arid’ the band featured in the film.

’Haunted Castle’ is an interesting treat and the 3D effects work quite well once you have tweaked your system accordingly. Fortunately Slingshot has included a 50% rebate offer for the glasses required to enjoy the 3D effects so that stepping stone is also somewhat reduced.