Arrow Video’s ‘Pitch Black’ 4K UHD: The Conskipper Review

Pitch Black‘s box office doubled its budget when it hit theaters in 2000, but the cult classic science fiction horror film truly found its audience once it debuted on DVD. The home video sales of the film turned Vin Diesel’s Richard B. Riddick into the popular protagonist of a lengthy franchise that continues to this day. Given those factors, it only makes sense that Pitch Black is a strong candidate to deserve Arrow Video’s specialized treatment for a 4K UHD package. Featuring a beautiful 4K restoration by Arrow Films of the theatrical and directors cuts of the movie and an impressive arsenal of classic and original special features, Arrow Video’s Pitch Black 4K UHD is the definitive home video release of this cult favorite film.

At first first thought, Pitch Black isn’t the kind of film that you would think could benefit strongly from the advantages of 4K resolution and HDR. Many of its early scenes are monochromatic, and the second half is dimly lit. Arrow Video puts those preconceptions to rest with a transfer that is full of detail and delightfully colorful. In a newly recorded interview, writer/director David Twohy explains that the color tints of certain scenes, depending on which sun is shining on the desert planet that the film’s protagonists are stuck on, were achieved using the risky technique of skipping the bleach process when developing the film. Applying this technique directly to the negative meant there was no going back if things didn’t work out. Arrow Video faithfully reproduces the result of this process, and the HDR helps highlight all of the reds and yellows that are tucked away in the negative. The result is an eerie look which helps sell the idea that these characters are stuck in a foreign environment, and it proves that Twohy was right to take this risk during the development process to achieve a superior look. The 4K disc is loaded with visual details throughout. The desert locales are full of grainy surfaces, and the skeletal remains scattered about are crisp and sharp. The first two thirds of the film benefit from the 4K UHD/HDR treatment the most, as the second film becomes claustrophobic and dark as it takes on more of a horror tone. However, the dark scenes have a solid composition to them, and things like flares, fires, and glow-in-the-dark tubes and bottles really benefit from a touch of HDR.

Between the way they were shot and the early use of computer generated visual effects, many movies from the early 2000s don’t hold up as well twenty years later. Pitch Black is an exception to this rule, as the film is at its heart a character-driven piece. Vin Diesel, a rising star at the time, is elusive and engaging as Riddick, and Radha Mitchell is a strong force throughout the film. The movie harnesses the stronger qualities of Alien and Aliens, and the creatures of the film are serviceable. The monsters suffer from early CGI awkwardness, and they certainly look best when the practical effect of a real hand or a head is shown in a close-up shot. Fortunately, the rest of the movie is interesting enough to allow the viewers to suspend their disbelief over the computer effects. The Riddick franchise is all about Vin Diesel looking cool, being tough, and beating up things, and Pitch Black establishes that formula with pizzazz.

Arrow Video rounds out the package with an informative booklet that’s chock full of images and essays, and tons of special features on disc. They’ve curated a wealth of new video and audio interviews, including a “Black Box” series of retrospective voice overs from a variety of supporting actors. The disc also contains The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury, an animated movie which takes place between the first and second films of the franchise. If that wasn’t enough, Arrow also includes many of the special features which were created for the 2004 home video release of Pitch Black. This new disc basically contains all of the supplemental materials you’d ever want to own in one comprehensive package.

Pitch Black shows that the folks at Arrow Video know their stuff when it comes to high quality applications of 4K UHD and HDR to classic films. Fans of the franchise will be happy to add this release to their collections.

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