Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Christophe Gans.
Starring Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Vincent Cassel.
Horror, France, 150 minutes, certificate 15.


Released by Studio Canal on 4K UHD and Blu-Ray on 15th May


Twenty-two years after its cinema release, this French action/horror/period-drama finally makes its hi-def debut with this impressively realised release. Telling the tale of a mysterious and savage beast terrorising the countryside and the explorer brought in to track it down, this lengthy film also heaps in a sizable dollop of court intrigue to go along with its martial arts fight sequences and creature feature sequences. It may not gel together as successfully as it wants to, but it still manages to entertain, particularly with its action-packed second half. This is a welcome reminder of the directing skills of Christophe Gans, who seems to have been MIA since his SILENT HILL adaptation, and also the presence of the eternally underrated Mark Dacascos in one of his best roles here.


This three-disc set contains the director’s cut, with twenty extra minutes, on a 4K disc and the unrestored theatrical cut on a separate Blu-ray disc. The remastering work on the main disc makes this film, with all its effective period trappings, look fresher than it did when projected on cinema screens and its subsequent DVD release two decades ago. No grain or flicker is apparent on the screen, making Dan Laustsen’s atmospheric cinematography, with its mixture of misty countryside landscapes and interior locations of candlelit castle halls and illicit bordellos, stand out even more here. At the same time, the outdoor scenes now shine vibrantly without ever looking artificial. Being a film made at the turn of the century, however, there is an over-reliance on digital effects, which stick out in all their pixelated glory here, mainly with the creature sequences.


All three discs are stacked to the gills with a hefty dollop of extras. The remastered director's cut contains two commentaries, the first by Christophe Gans and the second with producer Samuel Hadida and a garrulous Vincent Cassel. In contrast, the second disc includes two lengthy and fascinatingly honest documentaries that dive into the myriad problems when filming such an ambitious project with its large cast, multiple locations and a director under fire struggling with his most significant project yet.


Alongside these documentaries, there is a more recent ninety-minute interview with Gans and an interviewer who does not try to hide his vaping habit and asks the longest questions in the world. Again, this is a refreshingly honest look at the film itself and the state of genre cinema in France at the time and since then. The legend of the Beast of Gevaudan, which partly inspired the film, is also looked at, and there is also a selection of deleted scenes introduced by Gans. The third disc with the unrestored theatrical cut comes with a sizable selection of short featurettes that delve into aspects of special effects, make-up, the soundtrack and design of the film and one much shorter interview with yet another heavy smoker.


This is a highly recommended upgrade from the previous bare-bones DVD release for film fans. At the same time, newcomers would also do well in investing in this welcome reminder of big-budget Euro cinema that seems all too rare these days. With its extensive cast of familiar faces, a melding of genres, and impressive scope all beautifully remastered for this excellent release, this is a more than welcome reminder of Christophe Gans skill and whets the appetite for his upcoming RETURN TO SILENT HILL nicely. This is an excellent release of a film that seemed to be threatening to slide into mild obscurity, and Studio Canal should be commended for giving it the home video release it more than deserves.


Iain MacLeod.



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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans