Death Spa appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer came with a lot of issues.
Sharpness was mediocre. While the movie displayed acceptable delineation, it never looked particularly precise. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I witnessed no edge haloes.
However, print flaws became a major concern. Throughout the movie, these presented specks, scratches, blotches and other marks. These never became tremendously heavy, but they created a lot of distractions along the way.
Colors were bland. The hues seemed somewhat heavy and dense much of the time, which left them as unsatisfying. Blacks came across as a bit inky, and low-light shots tended to be moderately thick. They weren’t overly dark, but they suffered from some muddy qualities. The image suffered from too many problems to rate above a “D+”.
Don’t expect a whole lot from the film’s DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack, as it offered a subdued presentation. Music displayed inconsistent stereo imaging; some songs/score gave us nice spread to the side channels, but others remained essentially monaural.
Similar thoughts greeted the movie’s effects, which varied in terms of ambition. Some scenes displayed decent involvement and movement, while others tended to stay pretty centered. At its best, the soundfield delivered acceptable breadth but it never did much to involve the viewer.
Audio quality was mostly decent. Speech remained intelligible but could be somewhat reedy and thin. Effects showed similar tones; though they could sound a bit scratchy at times, they were acceptable.
Music varied as well and gave us decent range with occasional lackluster spots. I noticed some hiss and background noise at times during the movie. Nothing here did much to impress, so I thought the mix merited a “C-”.
When we shift to extras, we launch with an audio commentary from director Michael Fischa, producer Jamie Beardsley and editor Michael Kewley. Connected via satellite, they offer a running, screen-specific take on cast and performances, editing, sets and locations, effects, and other production areas.
Though they occasionally offer filmmaking nuggets, the participants mostly laugh and remark on what they see onscreen in a literal way. Kewley makes a lot of lame jokes and the track never goes anywhere. I’ve heard worse commentaries, but this one remains pretty useless.
In addition to two trailers - one theatrical, one video – we find a new documentary called An Exercise in Terror. It runs 50 minutes, 55 seconds and includes notes from Beardsley, Kewley, co-screenwriter Mitch Paradise, cinematographer Arledge “Ace” Armenaki, production coordinator David Reskin, art director Robert Schulenberg, composer Peter Kaye, Steadicam operator Elizabeth Ziegler, and actors William Bumiller, Shari Shattuck and Hank Cheyne. “Terror” examines the film’s roots and development, script/story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, Fischa’s work during the shoot, cinematography, production design and editing, ratings issues, music, the movie’s release and reactions to it.
After the commentary, “Terror” comes as a relief. While not the tightest documentary I’ve seen, it covers a lot of appropriate bases and does so in a pretty frank manner. We get a good overview of the film here.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Death Spa. It includes all the same extras as the Blu-ray.
If you hope to find a lost genre classic with 1989’s Death Spa, you’ll only encounter disappointment. An awkward mix of Hitchcock, horror and music video, the movie lacks much to make it worthwhile. The Blu-ray offers flawed visuals, mediocre audio and a few bonus materials. I can’t find much positive to say about this terrible film.