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Abominable     2006     MVD Visual Blu ray

                                               It’s good to have friends. No one knows that better than director Ryan Schifrin, whose debut feature film boasts plenty of

                                     them before and behind the camera. The son of world-famous composer Lalo Schifrin (the “Mission Impossible” and “Starsky                                      and Hutch” television themes), Ryan calls in plenty of favors—from Drew Struzan (poster art) to genre stalwarts Dee Wallace                                        Stone (Halloween, 2007; Cujo, 1983), Jeffrey Combs (Would You Rather? 2012; Re-Animator, 1985), and Lance Henriksen (          

                                     Harbinger Down, 2015; Aliens, 1986); from casting director Junie Lowry-Johnson (“True Blood,” “Deadwood”) to                          

                                     cinematographer Neil Fredericks (The Blair Witch Project, 1999)—making Abominable a low-budget film with an impressive pedigree.

            Preston Rogers (Matt McCoy; Deepstar Six, 1989; The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, 1992) is broken in body and spirit. Paralyzed in a rock climbing accident—in which his wife also died—he returns to his mountain home at his doctor’s orders as part of his recuperative therapy. Assisting him is Otis (Christien Tinsley, makeup artist on HBO’s “Westworld” and FX’s “American Horror Story”), his antagonizing porn-stached nurse. The two have no more than gotten settled when four young ladies arrive for a bachelorette party at an adjacent cabin.

            Left alone when Otis goes back into town, Preston is sure he’s witnessed one of the women being abducted by somethingin the forest. He tries to contact the girls but the phone lines are down, and his attempts to get their attention make them think he’s a Peeping Tom. When Otis returns he is unmoved by Preston’s desperate claim that something is out there. Otis attempts to sedate Preston but the tables are turned. He injects Otis instead (an action that further isolates him by removing the one person who might be able to help him warn the neighbors).

            Preston takes up a vigil by the window, searching the forest with flashlight and binoculars. And he sees a Bigfoot-like monstrosity start picking off the women one by one. His attempts to email the local police (through a internet satellite link) leave Sheriff Halderman (Paul Gleason; Principal Richard Vernon in The Breakfast Club, 1985) thinking it’s just a prank.

            Meanwhile, Amanda (Haley Joel)--whose poster image bears a striking resemblance to Angelique Pettyjohn [Shahna from the “Star Trek” episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion”]-- escapes the Sasquatch-styled carnage and finds refuge with Preston. Together they plan their escape but it isn’t long before the Abominable smashes in. Preston and Amanda flee the house. But how long can a paralyzed man and traumatized young woman survive in the woods, pursued by an unstoppable menace? And when the police finally do arrive, what is the horrifying secret they discover—and where are all the bodies that Preston and Amanda claim to have seen?

            Abominable is old school creature-feature fun, the sort of thing that populated video stores shelves in the 1980s (emphasized by the retro packaging design), or that would’ve shown up on 1970s television as a Movie of the Week, sans the gore. It’s a simple story of isolation and survival that is probably better than it has a right to be, owing to the incredible talent Schifrin had to work with. Schifrin embraces his influences--Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), Anatole Litvak’s Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), and “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet,” the 1963 nerve-jangling episode of “The Twilight Zone” directed by Richard Donner—and uses them to their fullest, unapologetically melding them into a monstrous love letter to the films he grew up watching.

          Since it is a low budget production there are some obvious gaffs that make it into the final cut: blood on the bathroom wall mysteriously vanishes in the next shot, and the death of one character (who’s face is literally bitten off—an homage to “The Crate” segment of Creepshow, 1982) fails to leave a single drop of blood on the floor. But they are typical missteps for a young director helming his first feature. Another aesthetic choice Schifrin makes is to rely heavily on close ups, crowding the screen with talking faces and little else. Yes, it adds to the sense of claustrophobia inherent in the story but does get rather tedious after a while.

            Filmed in 35mm in 2006, Schifrin decided to scan the negative and digitally upgrade it for preservation purposes. In an (optional) introduction to the film, Schifrin spends a significant amount of time explaining the upgrade process and the reasons behind it. While informative, it would’ve likely been better served as a supplement instead of an introduction.

            There is no doubt that the 2K transfer is an impressive upgrade. Blacks are solid throughout thanks to improved color timing. Details such as tree bark, moss and hair spring into clarity. Colors also hold their balance. The new version is so good that it’s easy to tell that the “forest” outside the fake window is just a painting. Audio quality is clean and solid with only the occasional bit of dialog sounding too thin.

            MVD Visual has released the film in a Blu ray/DVD combo Collector’s Edition as part of their MVD Rewind Collection. Included in the extras is Schifrin’s introduction; two of the director’s short films—Basil & Mobius: No Rest For The Wicked (starring more genre stalwarts Ray Park, Malcolm McDowell and Kane Hodder), and Shadows, his USC student film; a poster and stills gallery; a storyboard gallery; outtakes; and deleted and extended scenes. “Back to Genre: Making Abominable” is a 35m+ featurette with interviews from key cast and crewmembers. An audio commentary with Schifrin, McCoy, Combs and editor Chris Conlee is an enjoyable time spent in the company of friends, adding depth and appreciation to the production.

          And for the Abominable fan that just can’t get enough of the shaggy behemoth there’s the original 2006 cut of the film (without the enhanced CGI effects and color correction of the 2K transfer). Two trailers for the film, along with other MVD titles (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Savannah Smiles, Black Eagle, and Return of the Swamp Thing) are also included. A collectible poster rounds out the cryptid-inspired contents.