I want to preface this review with a select few thoughts before we dive into the gloriousness that awaits. First and foremost, the idea of a collection of films has always been something tricky because physical media does carry a high price point and slapping together a box set of titles that do or do not make any lick of sense together to sell to the collector is always seen as iffy in some eyes. For me, personally, it has to contain at least 50% of things I want to begin with, or at least be first time purchases. When looking at things like the Columbia box sets and the Sony box sets, and, even to an extent, the Hitchcock box sets, those were all first-time releases on 4K UHD, but the logic behind some of these other than sharing a studio was left unseen.
Now, when we get to the Paramount Scares Vol. 1 box set, they did things a little differently and borrowed a page seemingly from Shout! Studios as well. Instead of releasing a box of five movies that have never been on 4K before, they curated a horror-themed box (I would certainly argue that while it is creepy, Crawl (2019) is more a thriller than a horror, and, to that point as well, which we’ll dive into further later, so is the mystery title) and one of the titles is a mystery! Now, the question has to be asked, without knowing the mystery title (which we will not be revealing as we want people to be surprised, but there will be some tidbits to pick up on that allude to the title itself) what is going to make a consumer want to drop more money on titles they may already own? First and foremost, Rosemary’s Baby (1968) only released two weeks prior to the Paramount Scares Vol. 1 box set, so if one was intending to buy the box set, it would be safe to assume that one would wait on that purchase. Moreover though, as previously mentioned, borrowing from Shout! Studios, Paramount has elected to entice the slipcover crowd with exclusive slipcovers for all five of the features.
This is where things really get interesting. Normally, a slipcover would have the title of the movie on the front, maybe a pull quote and some artwork and the back of the slipcover would have a synopsis, a pull quote (again), and a list of features. Instead of following in tradition, Paramount Scares Vol. 1 decides to change the game and make each slip cover unique to the film itself. For example, the Rosemary’s Baby slipcover is an upside down cross with a hand extended to grab it while the back is the necklace Rosemary wears in the movie. My next personal favorite is Smile (2022), which has the disturbing corpse in the body bag smiling on the front with just a bloodied smile on the back, simplistic but effective. My absolute personal favorite, however, is the mystery title slipcover on which the front and back feature the titular character’s personal choice of torture, dripping with blood as it is posed in their hand. The best part about all of these slipcovers though, is they have a metallic glossy finish to them, so if you’re looking at Crawl, the alligator’s teeth are sharp and shining directly in one’s face, or if you’re holding Pet Sematary (1989) the cat’s eyes pierce your soul into frightening depths.
Atop of the five films included in this box set, there are a few other bonuses that are exclusive to this collector’s item. We’ll start with the smaller items like the seven stickers (one generic, two for Rosemary’s Baby, and one for the mystery title) to decorate one’s laptop, water bottle, etc., or to keep intact with the set itself. There is also an exclusive Paramount Scares pin which features the Paramount logo covered and dripping in blood. Lastly there is a Paramount Scares exclusive Fangoria magazine issue that deep dives into the five titles and contains the Fangoria goodies that can be expected with an issue.
Now we get to dive into the nitty gritty of things and breakdown how the 4K transfer looks on both the 55th anniversary of Rosemary’s Baby and the mystery 4K where the director’s wife is a co-lead in the film. To start, this was my first time watching Rosemary’s Baby, and while the movie works as a psychological horror, it fell a little short for me. I personally believe this is due to seeing so many things parody and allude to the film itself over the years, that finally sitting down and watching the picture didn’t land as effectively as other people’s experiences with the film.
However, despite my thoughts on the film, the transfer is one of the most stunning studio non-boutique releases I’ve seen. Paramount spared no expense restoring and remastering this modern thriller to the point that it glistens with clarity and beauty which lets the dim color palette shine throughout the feature and truly capture the horror and chaos that unfolds throughout the movie. Seeing this for the first time in this exquisite presentation certainly made the immersion that much more capable and dissection of the film and the events that occur within the film that more masterful. With the colour grading, specifically, in Rosemary’s Baby, it just has a dark and gritty atmospheric tone to it with the colors that just allude to the film itself with the deceit, horror, and dirty, for lack of a better word, feeling that the film leaves with the audience. The presentation of Rosemary’s Baby is astonishing, and without having another version to compare it to, I cannot comment on the quality uptick between this 4K and the Blu-ray Criterion, but the uptick in pixels and quality between Blu-ray and 4K should be noticeable enough to argue that this may be a better presentation of the film.
Now, onto the mystery title, again, without naming what the film is because there is no fun in ruining the surprise for anyone. ::side-eye from Paramount reps:: The film is directed by a visionary director who people certainly either love or hate with a cast of well-knowns. Speaking of partners ::side-eye from Paramount reps increases:: this director has worked with various members of this cast on several occasions. Before we dive into the quality of this 4K, I want to make mention of how this fits into Paramount Scares as a whole. While we have the two “classics” in the set in Rosemary’s Baby and Pet Sematary, and then the two modern films with Crawl and Smile, this film falls between the two categories and is a horror/thriller mixed with another genre of film (which naming would nearly be a dead giveaway as to what the title is).
Thankfully, I own the old Blu-ray of the mystery title, and when I saw what the mystery title was, not only was I smiling ear to ear with pure happiness, I was in disbelief because of the distribution rights that come with this particular title. When it was released theatrically, it was shared amongst studios, which lead to a mess for home release, and this leads me to believe that is mainly the reason why the Paramount Scares box set is a U.S. exclusive, because Paramount owns the rights for the mystery title domestically and another studio owns it in other locations. Alas, that is speculation as to why it is a U.S.-only release, but that really is not here or there. If you’re a fan of this movie that is [information redacted], then this 4K is going to an absolute delight. The Blu-ray, while fine for the time, screamed and demanded a new transfer with an upgrade, and this is undoubtedly the best this film will ever look and has ever looked. It is undeniably beautiful, even if the Dolby Vision seems to be a little bit of overkill, especially in the opening title sequence that looked more CGI than desired, but weeps in beauty still. The film uses a very dark color scheme with moments of pure beauty in color, that this 2160p/4K upgrade finally allows the film to be shown in the highest of qualities and possess something so naturally beautiful and toned and refined that it almost feels like you’re watching the film for the first time. Time and time again people argue what they would refer to as a “reference quality disk,” and as far as that argument goes, for live action films, this mystery title deserves to be thrown into the mix. It is a testament to the artistry that the director of the film exudes in his films and would arguably be one of the best things he’s directed in his illustrious career.
This film, while it may be a turn off for some horror fans as it does fall into a genre that has a specific love or hate aspect to it, should be set aside, because a 4K disk that looks this pristine should be owned almost regardless as to feelings on the film itself. It is a disk that takes no prisoners and, make no mistake about it, it is a gorgeous unmatched quality that will leave the audience just speechless. I personally had to watch the film in segments because I had to pause to just appreciate how undeniably gorgeous and spectacular this disk looks. Fans of the film, or people who are just awestruck of reference quality disks will be very satisfied, and I would go as far to say they’d humbly brag they have this magnificent disk to show off to friends and family. Personally speaking, this is a film I am going to be watching several times a year as it truly is a favorite of mine, but it looks so flawless and crisp that it’s going to be a hard argument on movie night when I want something to not suggest revisiting for the umpteenth time the … ::a dart flies past my head, holding a note reminding me that there’s an embargo on the identity of the mystery title::
Overall, the Paramount Scares box set might be one of the best 4K box sets to come out, behind Columbia Classics Vol 1 which contained heavyweights upon heavyweights of cinema. While the Paramount Scares box set contains two certifiable classics, a creature (an alligator is in fact a creature) film, a modern classic (my initial home review can be found here), and a mystery title that will have your feet tapping and your heart clambering throughout the bloody good time, this is a box set for everyone. It has the collectible slipcovers for the slipcover fanatics in the community, it has the exclusive Fangoria magazine and has the bonus title that is sure to make audiences want to ::gets dragged away screaming by Paramount reps intent on keeping the mystery intact::
Paramount Scares Vol. 1 4K UHD Details:
- Exclusive Fangoria magazine
- 5 exclusive slipcovers for Smile, Crawl, Rosemary’s Baby, Pet Sematary (1989), and mystery title
- Exclusive Paramount Scares pin
Rosemary’s Baby Special Features:
- Rosemary’s Baby – A Retrospective
- Mia and Roman
- Theatrical Trailer
- 50th Anniversary “Redband” Trailer
Pet Sematary Special Features:
- Commentary by director Mary Lambert
- Pet Sematary: Fear and Remembrance
- Pet Sematary: Revisitation
- Stephen King Territory
- The Characters
- Filming the Horror
- Storyboards Introduction by Mary Lambert
- Behind the Scenes
Smile Special Features:
- Commentary by director Parker Finn
- Something’s Wrong with Rose: Making Smile
- Flies on the Wall: Inside the Score
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by director Parker Finn
- Laura Hasn’t Slept – Original Short with Introduction by director Parker Finn
Crawl Special Features:
- Intro to Alternate Opening (HD)
- Alternate Opening (HD)
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD)
- Beneath Crawl (HD)
- Category 5 Gators: The VFX of Crawl (HD)
- Alligator Attacks (HD)
- Delivering even more suspense and surprise, the fifth film in the box set is a secret. The fan-favorite movie makes its 4K Ultra HD debut with the release of this collection.
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures October 24th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Paramount Pictures Paramount Scares webpage.
This piece was written during the SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.