Altered/Unearthed (2006/2007)
By: Paul Ryan on December 17, 2010  | 
Icon | Region Free | 1.78:1/2.35:1 | English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | 180 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Directors: Eduardo Sanchez/Matthew Leutwyler
Starring: Adam Kaufman, Michael C. Williams, Brad William Henke/Emmanuelle Vaugier, Luke Goss, Charlie Murphy
Screenplay: Jamie Nash/Matthew Leutwyler
Country: USA
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Taking to the Blu-Ray format like the proverbial duck to water, Icon have been pairing up many of their horror titles in high definition as part of their Insomnia range.

This disc teams up two very different creature features, 2006 alien chiller Altered, and from the following year, Unearthed.

While it's been common for most directors with a breakout indie horror hit to step up to the big leagues straight away, this hasn't been true for Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, helmers of the box-office smash The Blair Witch Project. Only loosely involved with the flop sequel (Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2), and the failed FOX series Freakylinks, the pair have instead separately worked on a number of creditable straight-to-DVD projects. Which brings us to Altered.

Friends Duke (Brad William Henke), Otis (Mike C. Williams), Cody (Paul McCarthy-Boyington) and Wyatt (Adam Kaufman) are bound together by a long ago alien abduction in which one of their friends died. Now, Duke, Otis and Cody believe they have found the creature responsible, trapping it and bringing it to Wyatt's secluded home in the woods. Now living as a recluse with his partner Hope (Catherine Mangan), Wyatt is reluctant to assist, fearing retribution from the aliens, but his friends have little hesitation in beating and torturing the creature. That is, until the alien gets loose, and this creature is far more cunning than any of its victims expect.

Tense, clever and genuinely scary, Altered is a unheralded gem. Sanchez builds suspense carefully and methodically, with plenty of good jolts and moody visuals. Aiding matters is the excellent alien design, creating a truly vicious, believable monster, a combination of first-rate prosthetics and the eerie physical performance of Misty Rosas inside the alien costume. There's a lot of action in and around forests here, but Sanchez makes the film stand well apart from Blair Witch. Highly recommended.

From Matthew Leutwyler, director of Dead and Breakfast (try not to hold that against him), comes Unearthed, a jokier monster mash than the film it shares disc space with, and a part of After Dark's yearly "Eight Films to Die For" programme. In it, a long-buried alien beastie is accidentally unleashed after 900 years underground. The creature, who appears to figure in the history of the long-lost Anasazi Indian tribe, causes a tanker truck to crash on the highway (in budget-friendly off-screen fashion, that is). This blocks the only road out for anyone in the nearby flyspeck town, grudgingly policed by alcoholic sheriff Annie Flynn (Emmanuelle Vaugier). Moreover it provides plenty of potential victims for the rampaging beastie, including a fast-talking jerk from the big smoke (Charlie Murphy, brother of Eddie), a pair of dizzy blondes (Miranda Bailey, Whitney Able) an obnoxious local big-shot (M.C, Gainey) a sage old Native American (Russell Means) and many others. At least help is on hand, in the form of improbably brawny and tattooed anthropologist Kale (Matt Goss), who knows far more about the creature than he's willing to admit...

Better put together – not to mention considerably less smug – than Dead and Breakfast, Unearthed is conventional all the way, from it's very Giger-esqe critter, to it's cliched Infinitely Wise Old Indian character. Still, despite some often lackluster CGI, it is perfectly watchable. Unlike Altered, the cast here is made up of familiar faces, though the casting is highly questionable at times. The gorgeous Vaugier isn't the most convincing alcoholic, emotionally-troubled sheriff, though she gives it a good try, and while there are many who more readily associate Luke Goss with his roles in say, Blade II, to me, he'll always be one-third of prissy 80s boy band Bros, making his badass act here tough to swallow. Still, Charlie Murphy is very entertaining as a frustrated city slicker trapped in a dustbowl. It's not nearly as good as Altered, but it makes for okay late-night viewing anyway.
Both films look superb on Blu-Ray with spotless 1080p video. There are no film artefacts to be found, and night scenes in both are pleasingly low on video noise. Subtitles for the hard of hearing are available on each film, and reproduce the dialogue very accurately.
Two lossless audio options here, with DTS HD 5.1 and Dolby True-HD Multi, and they're both excellent, with the DTS track just that bit punchier.
Extra Features
With two films on one Blu-Ray, there's apparently no room for extras. The individual DVD release of Altered includes a few trailers (while Region 1 also has some deleted scenes), while Unearthed's standard-def edition comes with cast and crew interviews and and behind the scenes featurettes. It appears that for now, the only way to get both films on Blu-Ray is in this edition, sans extras. Oh well.
The Verdict
There's a definite gulf in quality between the two films on this Blu-Ray, but they nonetheless make for a good double-bill on a slow evening. With both films on the one disc sporting top-notch video and audio, it's hard to complain about the lack of extras.
Movie Score
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