Phenomena (1985) | Limited Edition | 4K Blu-ray Review


Another Dario Argento film makes its way to the 4K UHD format thanks to a collaboration between Arrow Video and Synapse Films. Today, I’ll be looking at the Synapse Limited Edition release to find out if it is worth picking up..


If after checking out the review, you decide to pick the Synapse version, you can find it here: Buy it here!

Or if you decide you are interested in the Arrow Video version, you can find that here*: Buy it here!

Phenomena Limited Edition 4K Blu-ray cover art

Tech Specs:

Format(s):2x UltraHD/4K Blu-ray (BD-100)
Released By:Synapse Films
Release Date:March 8th, 2022
Video Format / Codec:H.265 (HEVC)
Resolution:Native 4K, 2160/24p
Digital Intermediate (DI):4K (from negatives)
High-Dynamic Range (HDR):Dolby Vision (MEL), HDR10
Aspect Ratio:1.66:1
Audio Format(s):Italian/Extended Cut:
Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)

English/Italian Hybrid: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)

International Cut:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)

U.S. Cut (Creepers):
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and 1.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Subtitles:English, English SDH
Packaging:Dual-disc snap case with rigid slipbox
Booklet
Poster
Art Cards
Region Coding:Region-free

Video Review:

Before jumping into the video quality, I want to highlight that aside from the artwork, most of what I’ll say here also applies to the Arrow Video release in the U.K., so if you prefer the artwork style of that release and want to spend a few extra bucks to import that, you’ll get the same audio, video and bonus features as included on this set.

Diving into the video on this release, it’s a very solid transfer and encode. On the detail side of thing, this is definitely a much better transfer than in the previous Synapse Blu-ray release with far more detail presented in skin textures, especially those close-ups on Donald Pleasance, fine hair, closeups of the insects and environmental details such as textures on props and set pieces as well as the fine blades of grass blowing in the wind and more. There are some scenes that present it with a bit more softness, but overall it looks very good. For grain structure, the grain is definitely better defined on this transfer which is staying in the moderate level, but well structured and natural looking. There are a couple of scenes which present a heavier layer, but nothing that bothered me, but may be more apparent to those folks who are not a big fan of grain.

On the color front, this transfer definitely has a different color grade than what we have had on the past Synapse release. That past release had a much bluer, dreamier look to it. I would not call one better than the other, but this one definitely looks more natural on those indoor scenes, while still bumping up the primaries, especially those blues, where appropriate. Green foliage gets a bump, reds are more vibrant and yellows pop off the screen. At times, the green intensity started to push up a bit, but overall it did not go over the top and I generally enjoyed the color presentation. Most notably, the fiery explosion towards the end of the film gained a much warmer, orange look than the fairly washed out look of the past release.

On the dynamic range front, this Dolby Vision enabled encode handles black and white levels well, with whites becoming brighter and blacks much more inky with the extreme extends still presenting much of the detail with minimal signs of crush. Specular highlights get more of a bunch overall.
There is no included Blu-ray in this limited edition release, with the second disc containing the other two cuts of the film, both coming in with similar properties the the Italian (116-minute) cut found on the first disc.

Video Score (BR): 4.4 / 5 (Very Good)


Comparisons:

Audio Review:

As with other past releases from Synapse, as well as Arrow, we get a selection of audio tracks to choose from. On the Italian/Extended Cut we have three options, a 5.1 mix in Italian, a stereo mix in Italia, and a 5.1 English/Italian hybrid track to select from. The latter is mostly in English, but as 6 minutes of the extended cut does not have English audio available it switches to the Italian track and enables subtitles. This similarly happened on the Arrow release of Deep Red from last year and it did not bother me in either case, however I will note there is a difference in the tracks and it is noticeable (aside from the obvious language change) when it switches.

On the International Cut, we get a 5.1 mix and 2.0 stereo mix in English, and the Creepers (U.S. Cut) comes in with a stereo and mono mix.

The dialog on all tracks remains clean and clear throughout the run time and the integrity of the audio tracks is very good with only slight instances of defects and artifacts. For the surround mixes, the back channels are mostly leveraged for ambiance and environment building with little instances of discrete surround effects. Bass and LFE was actually a pleasant surprise with it coming in with a fullness and authority I was not expecting. It’s not a sub-busting experience by any means, but it’s definitely more aggressive than other movies from this time frame.

Overall the wider soundstage of the 5.1 mixes was my preferred experience, but the other included tracks were also enjoyable and would certainly please those who prefer it.

As a note, in early marketing material this set was reported as having the stereo and mono tracks coming in as uncompressed PCM, however the j-card, as well as my processor and media programs all identified them as DTS-HD Master Audio as I listed in the specs. As the lossless compression encode of the Master Audio format is just decoded to PCM, in theory there should be no detectable difference, but just something I wanted to highlight.

For those who may upmix, I would say this does not really benefit much from the process. Though the 5.1 mix contains a decent amount of ambient surround activity, I did not notice an appreciable level of immersiveness over the native track and would say it’s probably best to stick with the 5.1 on the disc.

Audio Score (BR): 4.0 / 5 (Good)

Special Features and Packaging:

For extras, the biggest thing to note here is we get all three cuts of the film from the 116-minute Italian Cut, the 110-minute International Cut and the 83-Minute U.S version under the name Creepers. This matches Synapse’s past Blu-ray release as well so it was nice to get them again here, fully remastered. On top of that we get two audio commentaries, the feature length documentary previously an Arrow exclusive, archival interviews, trailers, music videos, visual essays, radio spots and more. Some of this is from Arrow and some of it from Synapse, so it’s a nice compilation, but nothing is really new. Still it’s all well done and enjoyable for fans of the film.


For packaging and physical extras, this is a really nicely put together set including a booklet, poster and artcards, reversible cover art on the case and a nice quality slip box. Aside from the artwork, this is the same between this and the Arrow release. The quality of materials is very similar to Arrow’s past releases. The artwork on the Synapse release versus Arrow’s is likely going to be a matter of personal taste and given how different they are I’m sure it will be a bit polarizing. I am happy with the Synapse release, but also part of me wishes I had grabbed the Arrow release to match the other Argento releases in my collection.

Features Score: 4.5 / 5 (Excellent)

Phenomena (Synapse Films) Limited Edition Overview
Phenomena (Arrow Video) Limited Edition Overview

Buy/Upgrade-worthiness:

In general I recommend this release for a fan of the film. I personally feel this is the best version of this film, especially the level of detail. The color grade is different but more natural while still giving that color pop, and we get plenty of choice on audio and extras to dig through. For that reason I do feel this is a worthwhile purchase/upgrade, but it comes at a limited edition pricing. Whether you buy the Synapse here in the U.S or snag the Arrow Video version they are both going to cost you north of $40 before shipping. The Synapse is marketed as being limited to 6,000 copies, and they claim they are not planning on a standard release (but we’ve heard that before) so if you don’t want to risk missing out, this would be the time to pick it up.


Buy Recommendation: YES!

If after checking out the review, you decide to pick the Synapse version, you can find it here: Buy it here!

Or if you decide you are interested in the Arrow Video version, you can find that here*: Buy it here!

Summary and Overall Scores:

A great release and collaboration between Synapse and Arrow Video to bring this Argento flick to the premium format. It does carry a premium price, but in general this is a worthwhile addition to any fan’s collection.

Experience Score**: 4.3 / 5  (Very Good)

** Experience score does not take into account the quality of the film itself, just the technical presentation, packaging and included features.


Video Review:


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