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Ticks (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Ticks (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: October 26th, 2021.
    Director: Tony Randel
    Cast: Seth Gren, Alfonso Riberio, Peter Scolari, Ami Dolenz, Dina Dayrit, Ray Oriel, Virginya Keehne, Clint Howard
    Year: 1993
    Purchase From Amazon

    Ticks – Movie Review:

    Directed by Tony Randel and released by Paramount in 1993, Ticks may not be the most original horror movie ever made but it definitely is a lot of fun. Written by Brent V. Friedman, the man who gave us the Chuck Norris movie Hellbound and Syngenor, the movie begins in Los Angeles where a teenager named Tyler Burns (Seth Green) is dropped off at a highway overpass by his father. Here he meets a tough black kid calling himself Panic (Alfonso Ribeiro) who harasses him until a van shows up - seems they're both being picked up by Charles (Peter Scolari) and his girlfriend Holly (Rosalind Allen), two youth workers who are taking them out into the middle of the woods for a retreat. Filling up the van are suave Rome Hernandez (Ray Oriel), his ditzy girlfriend Dee Dee Davenport (Ami Dolenz), a quiet girl named Kelly Mishimoto (Dina Dayrit) and Charles' grumpy daughter, Melissa (Virginya Keehne).

    The van arrives and the group unloads - Charles and Holly in one cabin, the girls in the second cabin and the guys in the third. As they're hanging up some clothes, Tyler and Panic notice some sort of strange bug sack growing in the closet but they knock it to the ground, squish it, and move on. Later the next day Tyler and Melissa, who are hitting it off, go for a walk in the woods where some large bug attaches itself to her back. Tyler uses a stick to knock it off but when they report it to Charles and Holly, the adults don't believe them. It isn't until Panic's dog is attacked and then killed by something that Charles starts to take things seriously. A quick trip to the local vet's office reveals that the dog fell prey to a giant mutant tick - and it seems that one of the local pot growers (Clint Howard), who has been using steroids to yield bigger and better bud harvests, may have something to do with it. As the ticks starts to multiply, things start to get complicated. Panic takes off, someone starts a forest fire and two armed men, Jerry (Michael Medeiros) and Sir (Barry Lynch), start poking around the camp.

    There have been plenty of killer mutant bug movies made over the years but few of them are as gory as Ticks. Featuring some impressive effects work courtesy of the KNB Effects crew, the movie gets pretty bloody once the ticks begin their descent on the cabin and the surrounding area. They don't just bite people but, in grand tick style, burrow under skin and cause all sorts of icky problems for the various cast members culminating in a pretty great finale that brings to mind classic monster movies like The Thing. Ticks the size of grapefruits are constantly skittering across floors, over roof tops, across ceilings and over the ground outside which ensures that the movie does not want for monster mayhem. If the effects aren't always one hundred percent convincing they are done well and provide plenty of slimy, gooey, old school charm.

    Being a goofy B-movie and all, the movie is full of some pretty massive logic gaps. At one point Panic, having been stabbed and shot and attacked by ticks, uses Rome's steroids as pain killers - somehow this works and earlier in the film when Panic's dog is acting insane and possibly mutating, nobody seems in the least bit concerned. We could go on, but there'd be no point - Ticks isn't the type of movie you watch for realism.

    As far as the cast members are concerned, well, it's amusing in and of itself to see Ribeiro play a 'gangsta' type character - it's impossible to see him here and not think of Carlton Banks and while you can't blame the guy from wanting to take on a different sort of role than that, you spend a lot of the movie expecting him to break out into goofy dance moves. Seth Green is okay as the main lead here - he's likeable enough, though for reasons never properly explained he experiences some sort of psychic flash when bad things are about to happen? This subplot goes nowhere and never really adds much to the movie, but that's not Seth's fault. The rest of the cast sort of lumber through the movie but special mention must be made of the great Clint Howard, who has a pretty awesome death scene here and spends the early part of the film working on a contraption puzzlingly powered by a hamster in a wheel. Huh?

    When the dust settles, this one is a lot of fun. Is it good? Not in the way that The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre is good, no, but it's definitely enjoyable enough in its own goofy way and obviously counts for a lot. The movie doesn't overstay its welcome, it offers up just as much gory tick related mayhem as you'd hope for and it has both intentionally and unintentionally funny bits scattered throughout to keep things from getting too dark. It's a popcorn movie through and through, and a very entertaining one at that.

    Ticks – UHD Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Ticks to UHD in an HEVC encoded 2160p high definition transfer with HDR framed at 1.85.1 widescreen presented “newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm interpositive.” This is a really substantial upgrade over the 2013 Blu-ray release from Olive Films, which looked fine for its time but left room for improvement. Detail is generally rock solid here, though does understandably dissipate a bit in some of the scenes with heavy smoke in them, and we get really impressive depth and texture to the picture as well. Colors look great, always nice and natural, and there are impressive black levels here. Shadow detail is also strong, which is important given that a lot of this movie takes place in the dark. Flesh tones look very organic and the image always looks like film, showing virtually no print damage, edge enhancement or noise reduction but retaining the natural film grain it should. Compression is ever an issue and all in all, this looks really good.

    Audio chores are handled by an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Audio quality is very good. The levels are balanced and the track is clean, free of any sibilance, hiss or distortion. The score has some pretty nice depth to it and the sound effects used throughout the film are effectively icky.

    Carried over from the Olive Films 2013 Blu-ray release is an audio commentary with director Tony Randel and actor Clint Howard, moderated by Mondo Digital's Nathaniel Thompson. This is a solid track, the two men were obviously quite aware of what kind of movie they were making and don't take things any more seriously than they need to here. They tell some great stories about the different cast and crew members involved in the picture, discuss the effects work seen in the movie and talk about shooting bits and pieces out on location. There's some dead air here and there but overall this is a fun commentary that fans of the movie should enjoy. Thompson has done his research and asks a lot of pertinent questions and keeps the two involved and engaged in the discussion, making this well worth a listen.

    A second commentary track features special effects supervisor Doug Beswick and stop-motion animator Yancy Calzada, moderated by filmmaker Joe Begos, self-proclaimed 'Ticks Superfan!.' Obviously, the emphasis here is on the effects work featured in the film but they go over how and why the opening in the barn was shot and added, whether or not Alfonso adlibbed any of his lines in the movie, the importnace of the dog in the movie, shooting on location and on a sound stage, thoughts on the screenplay and Friedman's changes to Beswick's original version, how much geography the movie actually covers, which shots were done second unit, having to create a whole lot of fake ticks for the movie, where animation was used in the effects work, getting along with the other cast and crew members on the shoot and quite a bit more. It’s a good talk, there’s a lot of interesting information here.

    The included Blu-ray, taken from the same 4k restoration as the UHD disc, includes the same two commentary tracks but also brings to the mix Under The Skin: The Making Of Ticks. This is a three-part making-of featurette that includes input from director Tony Randel, actress Rosalind Allen, special effects supervisor Doug Beswick, actress Ami Dolenz, writer Brent Friedman, editor Leslie Rosenthal, composer Christopher Stone and executive producer Brian Yuzna.

    The first part, Origins, runs ten minutes and goes over how Beswick got into effects work and how he got the idea for the movie in 1971 after getting a tick on his arm on a camping trip. It goes over the influence of some of the seventies nature run amok films and fifties monster movies, writing a script for the picture and having it passed over for a good twenty years and how he eventually got hooked up with producer Jack Murphy. We then learn how Brent Friedman came on board to do rewrites, what he changed and why, Brian Yuzna's involvement in the film and what he brought to the movie and how Tony Randel came to direct the picture.

    Part two is the fourteen minute Metamorphosis. It goes over Beswick's effects work and the budgetary issues that they ran into, changes that had to be made to his original concept, working with a young crew, the locations that were used for the shoot, what was shot on location versus what was shot on a sound stage, putting the cast together, Randel's talents working with actors, what it was like acting in the picture and the camaraderie that developed amongst the cast, how to create the appearance of there being hundreds of ticks for the later part of the film without the advantage of digital effects and how things shaped up in a less than perfect way once they finished principal photography and the rough cut wasn't what they wanted.

    The third part is the fifteen minute New Blood and it discusses how the film's financer kept Randel but brought in a completely new production team to conduct a whole lot of reshoots, a bunch of which involved an added Clint Howard. It also goes over the editing that was required to make this work, improving the pace of the film, shooting the new opening for the picture, having KNB add effects to the picture, trying to make the new footage pay off in the best possible way. We also learn about what went into creating the score and where some of the inspiration for the music used in the movie came from, how the movie was renamed Infested for a brief period of time, the marketing campaign for the movie's VHS release, how the movie was received upon release and how the various interviewees feel about the movie all these years later.

    If you purchase the release directly from Vinegar Syndrome, the first 8000 copies will come with a limited edition rigid slipcase and slipcover set designed by Tom Hodge & Earl Kess. What this means is that you get one of the labels nice, embossed slipcovers that the Blu-ray case (which features some nice reversible cover art) fits inside, which in turn slides into the open side of a rigid embossed slipcase. It might sound like overkill, but really, when you see it in person it’s actually really nice and it displays beautifully.

    Ticks - The Final Word:

    Ticks is a gooey, gory good time - a great mix of sly humor and strong gore performed by a fun cast. The plot borrows from any other mutant bug movie you'd care to name but that's half the fun of a picture like this: familiarity can go a long way. Vinegar Syndrome UHD/Blu-ray combo pack release gives the film an excellent 4k presentation and throws a few really solid extras into the mix, making this an upgrade that fans of the movie should be happy to make.


    Click on the images below for full sized Ticks Blu-ray screen caps that don’t look as good as the UHD reviewed above (but reviews without screen caps are boring)!































    • Matt H.
      #1
      Matt H.
      MCMLXXX
      Matt H. commented
      Editing a comment
      The standard edition (without slipcover/packaging) is $7 cheaper, so I went with that.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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