As the fall season arrives it's time for the creepy season - what better way to kick things off with the Stephen King 5-Movie Collection featuring some of his best hits. Pet Sematary, Pet Sematary (2019), and Silver Bullet all have already enjoyed worthwhile Blu-ray releases, but this marks the first time out for The Dead Zone and The Stand mini-series event. As a cross-section of Stephen King releases through the decades and mediums, the A/V presentations range from iffy to excellent. If you're a fan of the films, this set is a convenient way to get some great flicks for those dark cold rainy nights. Recommended.
"The ICE is GOING TO BREAK!"
Growing up as an 80s brat - Stephen King was synonymous with "horror" - walking through the horror section of my old Mom & Pop rental shop the shelves were top to bottom with the author's adaptations. While I never got to rent the tapes as a young tot, I got to at least enjoy the neutered for television cuts void of nearly all gore, language, nudity; the fun stuff that would corrupt my tender little mind. The first Stephen King movie I actually got to watch - and I wonder if my mother was even aware it was based on his book - was The Dead Zone. It was one of those times where I couldn't sleep but my parents didn't want to stop the movie so they put me under the blanket thinking I wouldn't be able to see anything. While I don't remember much of that first viewing - I do remember watching the murder at the gazebo and being pretty damn freaked out by it. Over the years I got to rent them on my own and see each of these in their full gory glory and read the books again and again.
The Dead Zone - (1983) - Directed by David Cronenberg and starring Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith, a simple teacher who wakes up from a coma with improbable psychic abilities. Initially, a curse that haunts him daily, Johnny soon learns his abilities can save lives or could even avert a global catastrophe when firebrand Senate Candidate Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) would eventually become President and launch a nuclear holocaust. 5/5
Silver Bullet - (1985) - Based on the short but effective Cycle of the Werewolf - this film expands on the story casting an entire town into the throws of a monthly murder spree as a young boy in a wheelchair named Marty (Corey Haim), his sister, and his crazy Uncle Red (Gary Busey) try to thwart this creature's lunar reign of murder and mayhem. It may be a bit light and fluffy but when the gore pours it's a fun ride! 3.5/5
Pet Sematary - (1989) - Perhaps one of King's most iconic books rises to be one of the best adaptations with its unflinching and disturbing brand of horror. The Creed Family just moved to town buying an old house that buttresses an old cemetery for dearly departed pets managed by the local kids. Beyond the cemetery lies a terrible secret that will consume the entire family one by one. 4/5
The Stand - (1994) - King's massive sprawling tome of the end of days could only be properly captured in a 6-hour 4-episode miniseries event. After a plague destroys the world's population, forces for good and evil collide for one final battle. The massive scale and impressive performances make this a fan favorite with a new event series on the horizon it's due for a revisit.
Pet Sematary - (2019) - This remake suffers the fate of many heartless cash-grabs - failing to change areas of the story that would benefit a remake while also making radical changes during the critical final act that miss the point of the source material, on top of being bland and generic aping every modern horror movie trope in the book. Amy Seimetz is the only performer bringing anything to the table while the rest of the cast coasts to the clunky finish. 2/5
Ever since Carrie hit theaters in 1976, King's books have become a staple of movie theaters and television picking off one novel after another until practically his entire catalog has been adapted in one form or another. The Stephen King 5-Movie Collection represents four of the best and most successful adaptations while also including a remake most fans would probably wish hadn't ben included in this set. Thinner would have been a more welcome addition to this set instead of Pet Sematary (2019) as it would have better fit the time period the rest of this collection came out. As is, 4 out of 5 of this set are well worth the time and having in your collection - if you don't have them taking up shelf space already.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Stephen King 5-Movie Collection arrives on Blu-ray in a 5-disc set from Paramount Pictures. All five discs are housed in a sturdy 5-disc case with each disc getting its own tray to rest without stacking any discs. The Dead Zone is pressed on a Region Free BD-25 disc that opens to a static image main menu with standard navigation options. Silver Bullet is also pressed onto a Region Free BD-25 disc that opens to a static image main menu with standard navigation options. Pet Sematary (1989) is the same BD-50 disc issued for the 30th Anniversary in 2019. The Stand is the same BD-50 disc from 2019. Pet Sematary (2019) is the same BD-50 disc from 2019.
The Dead Zone - It's a bit of a bad news first sort of scenario here. While offering a better 1080p presentation with bolder colors and black levels than its streaming counterpart, this long-awaited disc release isn't the sparkling transfer fans have been waiting for. The principal issue is the fine film grain is a smeary mess. This looks a lot like how Murder By Decree turned out in a lot of ways. I've seen a film print of this projected and while a dreamlike haziness is inherent in the imagery, the loss of genuine fine details and smeary grain isn't. If a character or object is static in middle-ground/close-up things generally look pretty good, not amazing but you know - decent. When the camera moves or a character even moves an arm or shifts their weight all fine detail in facial textures, clothing, all of it smears out. The best sequence of the film is when Johnny helps solve the Castle Rock killer with the juxtaposition between the real world and his flashbacks to the event - even then it's still not the picture-perfect presentation as fine details in the house are routinely lost from the smeary grain. But again, colors are solid for this release and black levels are on point so there is a hint of image depth - but yeah, I've waited a long time for this one to come to Blu-ray and I'm disappointed. Lots of room for improvement from a boutique label like Scream Factor or Criterion to step in and wow us with a fresh restoration. This is watchable, it gets the job done, but nothing better than that. Being generous, it's a 2.5/5.
Silver Bullet - As this already had a great release on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in a Collector's Edition release, it would appear that Paramount recycled that transfer again - it's in great shape, free of any age-related issues. The image boasts some great detail clarity with a natural grain structure. Black levels and contrast are on point with a welcome sense of depth to the image. I was happy with the previous release's transfer so it's nice to see this stripped-down bare-bones disc get the same treatment. 4/5
Pet Sematary (1989) - This is the same disc that was released in 2019 when the remake came out on 4K UHD. It's still a gorgeous disc - while some may decry Lambert's slight color timing revisionism, I think the changes help more than hurt. Overall it's a vivid image with impressive details, bold colors, but maintains that creepy drab vibe I've known since childhood and has been creeped out by for 30 years. 4/5
The Stand - Again, this is another recycle offering fans the same disc that was issued this time last year in 2019. It's a solid video presentation offering clean details, bold colors, and a genuinely appreciable film-like presence for a made-for-TV event series. While it gets a BD-50 disc, that's a lot of video real estate at a six-hour runtime plus bonus audio commentary and making-of to cram onto a single disc. I can't help but wonder if two discs would have alleviated some of the slight compression issues and helped the overall visual appeal of the series. Still - it's miles away better than the old DVD sets. 3.5/5
Pet Sematary (2019) Read our review of this original Blu-ray release. I hadn't really sat down to watch this one since I saw it in theaters. I bought the 4K disc for collection completion's sake and fired it up briefly but that was it. This is a solid looking Blu-ray release even if my opinion of the film itself is lackluster. 4.5/5
After receiving some additional questions about the image quality of The Dead Zone I went back and grabbed some more screenshots to highlight my points and linked them to full-size images you can click to access. After looking at it a second time, it may not be as bad as my first reaction, but I'm still not pleased with this. There are a lot of films from the late 70s early 80s with this same sort of dreamy diffused quality that doesn't experience this gloppy/smeary details that can shift from one frame to the next. Again - the more "still" an object is the better, and there are some decent moments, but I'm certain this movie can look better than it currently does. Cinematographer Mark Irwin also shot Cronenberg's The Brood, Scanners, and Videodrome with similar visual stylings and those releases fare far better on disc than The Dead Zone. I've adjusted my grade for this release slightly by half a point. I compared it to Murder by Decree, and this is somewhat better, but it suffers from some of the same gauzy fuzzy detail troubles.
The Dead Zone - Well, if there's one bright spot with this release it's the audio mix - this DTS-HD 5.1 mix does a great job establishing tone and mood while feeling open and atmospheric. So much of this film takes place in that fall/winter season where there's a constant sound of moisture in the air whether from rain or tires rolling through puddles or feet crunching in the snow. Imaging is pretty good throughout the movie - there may not be a lot of full surround activity, cars driving usually offer most of the rears activity as the vehicle pulls into frame from off-camera. The Stillson rally at the end is a great moment as well offering plenty of crowd noise and action beats with some effective cannon-fire gunshots. The Michael Kamen score is still haunting beautiful stuff. All around excellent audio - I wish the video matched in quality then we'd really have something to celebrate! 4/5
Silver Bullet - Like the video - this is the same DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that was used in the Scream Factor release and it's pretty damn good stuff. As a mono mix matrixed through the front/center channels there's some great element spacing and a nice sense of atmosphere to the mix. Action beats pick up nicely - the werewolves dream sequence, as bizarre as it is, is effective stuff. Slapping on my DTS Neural:X function helped space things out and punch up some distinct elements a little but not enough to make that a requirement for viewing. Dialog is clear and free of any age-related issues. 4/5
Pet Sematary (1989) - Again like the video, this is the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that was used on the Blu-ray and 4K UHD Blu-ray release from 2019. Read our thoughts on the 4K release audio for a full review of the audio. 4/5
The Stand - Sadly the same lacking Dolby Digital 2.0 mix was again used for this disc. It's good enough to get the job done, but yeah - it's pretty basic stuff without much punch or presence beyond covering the basics. 2.5/5
Pet Sematary (2019) - The same Atmos audio mix is here as this disc was simply recycled - it's a beast of a mix and very creepy, honestly the A/V is the only good thing that came from this remake. read our review for full coverage of this Atmos audio mix. 5/5
Bonus features are a bit skimpy I'm sorry to say. The Dead Zone doesn't have anything at all to speak of, neither does Silver Bullet as all of the great bonus features stayed with the Collector's Edition from Scream Factory. The Stand conjures up a great set of commentary tracks from director Mick Garris covering the production in detail and is a treat for fans. Pet Sematary (1989) and (2019) have the same set of on-disc bonus features as the 2019 releases, so nothing new there.
Even if you don't read horror or like horror movies or ever want your tender-hearted kids to ever see a horror movie - Stephen King is a household name. For the last forty-odd-some years the man has been terrifying readers and movie-going audiences. Some adaptations are better than others, some are just crap, but most of the time the film adaptations are pretty good or at the very least provide solid diverting entertainment value. The Dead Zone is my personal all-time favorite from Stephen King and I love Cronenberg's adaptation - I've been waiting a long time for a Blu-ray release, and thanks to a disappointing transfer, I'll be waiting a bit longer for a quality release. Silver Bullet is classic fun from front to back - generally a kids movie with r-rated gore and trappings with one of the 80s Corey's fighting a werewolf. Pet Sematary is an all-time 80s horror classic, unnerving from start to finish it's often the benchmark for King horror adaptations. The Stand was to epic in scale to achieve in a single film and in 1994 a grand mini-series event captured the terrifying essence of King's masterpiece. Pet Sematary (2019) had many opportunities to conjure up some genuine scares but opted for bland retreads of tired tropes, it's watchable, but with the original close at hand it's hard not to grab that one instead. While I wish we could have had a couple different movies in this set, and I would have loved to see a fully restored The Dead Zone - this is still a fun grab bag of horror. Stephen King 5-Movie Collection gathers together four of the best adaptations keeping things light with few bonus features that weren't already present on previous Paramount-released discs. Despite some qualms, I'm calling this one Recommended.