Anchor Bay's dedication to the UMD format continues with their recent releases of Wes Craven's 1977 original "The Hills Have Eyes" and Kathryn Bigelow's vampire-fuelled cult favorite "Near Dark". Anxiously looking forward to watching the UMD of "Near Dark", I fired up my PSP to give the disc a check up.
"Near Dark" is a true vampire themed favorite of many horror fans, even considered one of the best vampire films that the genre has ever produced. I'm not going to tap into that argument, as "Near Dark" by no means delves into story or vampire history as other such films in this category. But writer/director Kathryn Bigelow does manage to take us on a semi-stylized journey filled with bloodthirsty horror and action while mixing up the usual formulas by adding in a western-style theme, which for the most part works for "Near Dark". While not as good as I remember, "Near Dark" still holds it's own amongst horror films of new and old.
When young cowboy Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) is seduced by mysterious Mae (Jenny Wright), he gets a little more bite from a make out session then he would like, setting Caleb on a slow transformation into a creature of the night. While Caleb begins to deal with the changes affecting him, Mae attempts to persuade Caleb to join her roaming group of ghouls in their endless search to satisfy their cravings. Eventually crossing paths with Caleb's father and sister, who have their sights set on saving him from theses demons, the two unknowingly become targets of the group themselves. The turn of events forces Caleb to choose between his loyalties to the vampires and the bond of his family.
Anchor Bay delivers a fine presentation of "Near Dark" on UMD, if you don't look too closely. Print quality is on par with what we have come to expect from this distributor of some of the better collector editions available on DVD. Color saturation is good, providing naturally appearing flesh tones and showcasing the rich reds of blood splatter. Impressive black levels become evident during the various night scenes within the film. The overall transfer of "Near Dark" is free and clear of dust particles or compression elements.
With that said, I must now deliver the bad news. This UMD suffers a dreaded "ghosting" effect that is prevalent throughout the entire presentation. Some attribute this to the limitations of the PSP's own LCD refresh rate, while others see it as a matter of the individual UMD in question. This is a definite problem that must be corrected. I for one simply cannot pass this off as a hardware issue, only because I have witnessed too many great looking UMD transfers with varying fast motion scenes and color saturation levels that were completely void of this problem.
Anchor Bay's commitment to releasing films on UMD with a Dolby Headphone soundtrack easily puts a smile on my face. I have been quite pleased with the sound that is produced from an encoded 2.0 Stereo track to give the sonic presence of a 5.1 presentation. Listening to the UMD of "Near Dark" with the PSP's supplied mini-bud headphones provides a great soundstage overall. Volume level is strong with vocals that are reproduced to appear natural throughout. The only evidence of dated sound comes from the gunshots heard at various points within the film, other than that; "Near Dark" offers up a great soundtrack for it's UMD release.
I really wanted and expected a little more with this UMD of "Near Dark". For horror fans that like to take their gore with them, I honestly can't recommend this UMD as an overall "must-buy". The soundtrack is impressive, but given the issues with the "ghosting" and lack of any added value material, I must caution fans of "Near Dark" that are looking for a portable version of the film.