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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Watchers & Watchers II (1988/1990)

"That's absurd. We didn't create a killing machine. Why do you ask?"
- Dr. Steve Mareno (Jonathan Farwell) in Watchers II

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 11, 2003

Stars: Corey Haim, Barbara Williams, Michael Ironside, Marc Singer, Tracy Scoggins, Jonathan Farwell
Other Stars: Lala, Blu Mankuvic, Colleen Winton, Irene Miracle, Mary Woronov, Tom Poster
Director: Jon Hess, Thierry Notz

Manufacturer: JAGMedia
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, gore, sensuality, nudity, language)
Run Time: 03h:10m:10s
Release Date: September 23, 2003
UPC: 012236146612
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

In making a horror film, it's always good to have a lovable hero. The Watchers series ups the ante by using lovable golden retrievers as the heroes as they battle government-engineered monsters. From the novel by Dean R. Koontz, this double feature provides some good suspense and a lively dollop of ghastly horror.

In the first picture, former teen heartthrob Corey Haim stars as Travis Cornell, who picks up Furface, a golden who has escaped from the Anodyne biological research labs, where he was bred for super intelligence in Project Francis. Unfortunately for all concerned, Furface is telepathically linked to a monstrosity known as OXCOM (Outside Experimental Combat Mammal), which is determined to kill the puppy and everyone around it. Oh, and it likes to rip out eyes, too. Soon Travis, the dog and Travis' mom (Barbara Williams) are on the run from both OXCOM and a pair of sinister federal agents (Michael Ironside and Blu Mankuvic).

For the most part, this entry is fairly restrained, although a couple of brief gory shots of the mayhem left by the OXCOM are included. The director wisely doesn't let us get a good look at the creature, following the Val Lewton theory of best keeping such things half-hidden for effect. Haim does surprisingly well with the lead, and has a believable rapport with the dog. Ironside is a terrific villain, getting more and more nasty until he's in full Jack Nicholson mode. Comic relief is provided by a pair of idiot cops, one of whom (Colleen Winton) gets the classic line: "That was the maintenance man at the high school, screaming. If it was important, he'll call back." The film is fully paranoid, reading like an extended X-Files episode as the government is behind all manner of nastiness and evil, all at the expense of a nice doggie. Really, how hard can it be to tell who's on the good side here?

In the sequel, Anodyne is again up to its old tricks, though this time around certain names of things are changed, and the OXCOM is now The Outsider (though it still has the same nasty habits) and Project Francis is now Project Aesop. This time around, the NSA shuts down the project but the guiding scientist, Dr. Steve Maleno (Jonathan Farwell) can't accept defeat. Engineering a raid by PETA, Maleno sees to it that the animals, including a golden named Einstein, get released, but the Outsider escapes as well. Einstein rescues Paul Ferguson, a Marine who's being taken to prison for striking a superior officer when the Outsider attacks the jeep that is carrying Paul to prison. Now a fugitive, Paul gets in touch with animal psychologist Barbara White (Tracy Scoggins) to learn what the situation is with Einstein. Unfortunately for Paul, the fact that the Outsider kills everyone who has come into contact with the dog makes him effectively framed for the gruesome killings engineered by the Outsider and he is therefore unable to get any outside help in dealing with it.

The framing angle and the fugitive aspect are interesting innovations that help keep this from being too repetitive. And there is a lot repeated here: a gag with motels that don't accept pets, a videotape that serves for exposition and a knack of the dogs to type on a computer keyboard. One aspect that isn't repeated, unfortunately, is keeping the Outsider in the shadows. It is now revealed as the silly-looking rubber suit that it probably was in the first installment, but when it kept to the shadows it was much more effective. The principal cast is passable, with Singer doing a plausible Bruce Willis imitation. Scoggins' character starts in a promising manner but rapidly degenerates into a stereotypical helpless screaming female. Had her character been better written this could have been much more effective. This installment also stoops to a couple cheap shocks that the original was above.

Running time is about 10 minutes shorter than the 200 minutes indicated on the keepcase (nearly 9 minutes of the discrepancy stems from the first film). Although the connection between the two films is basically a rehash, the two are fairly entertaining suspense fare. And who can resist the eyes of a golden retriever, anyway?

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Both films are presented in 1.33:1 full frame ratio, but they appear to be open matte, since both films are framed perfectly when blown up to a 16:9 screen. Thus the disc isn't docked as much as usual for lacking original aspect ratio. There are other issues with the transfer, however. The picture is quite soft and lacking in fine detail, with subdued colors. On the positive side, shadow detail is decent, and the frequently heavy grain is well rendered so as to not appear sparkly. Black levels are decent. At a couple spots, the picture completely breaks up into heavy pixelation for a frame, indicating that not much care was taken in QC of the compression process.

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Although the 2.0 audio is billed as Dolby Surround, it certainly sounds like mono to me. No significant sound comes from any speaker besides the center channel with Pro Logic engaged. The audio is lacking in deep bass authority, and hiss and noise are prominent in the quieter sections. Pretty poor for recent audio tracks, though at louder moments it does pack a decent punch.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 45 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:21m:40s

Extras Review: There are no extras. Chaptering is adequate. Surprisingly, the disc is RSDL instead of dual layer, with the layer change occurring near the end of the first film.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Nice doggie. A pair of amusing B-movies are given a barebones treatment by Artisan, with the usual poor transfers.


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