Home » Weird Science Shines in 4K [Review]

Weird Science Shines in 4K [Review]

Weird Science

John Hughes helped define, not only a generation of movies, but the generation itself. His films captured the cultural identity of suburban youth during the ’80s. Weird Science, his third feature as writer and director, is a rare departure from his typical teen dramas. The fantasy world he built for this coming-of-age story enabled Hughes to push his creative limits. And the collaborations involved helped the picture turn out to be one of his finest achievements. 

The story behind Weird Science is really a simple combination. Take two teenage boys who just can’t find acceptance by their peers, add the basic concept behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and that is the essence of this film. Instead of a monster, the boys create a woman named Lisa. She takes them under her influence and helps guide them through their adolescent struggles. In the end, the boys get what they need and she disappears into the ether of the digital world. 

Hughes is the main reason this film shines. This is his most outside-the-box idea he ever managed to get produced and it’s a shining example of what he could have done beyond a genre he nearly created himself. A director’s success is dependent on collaboration and Hughes gathered an abnormal mix of talent to bring all the pieces together on this project. And while most of his films are built around a more serious, soul-searching element, Weird Science is the Hughes film where he took a chance and made one for fun.

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My favorite detail of Weird Science is the theme song by Danny Elfman. Written on a whim at the suggestion of Hughes, the song is a perfect pairing to the sci-fi comedy. It would be the only time Elfman and Hughes worked together, and Elfman has stated the song to be one of his most regrettable recordings. The song is better served to the audience. It is a poppy, repetitive romp with wailing guitars, amusing lyrics and dancing horns that can be irresistible if you don’t have personal associations to the music.

The cast of Weird Science is another element that allows this wacky premise to shine. Kelly LeBrock as Lisa plays the perfect matriarch to this teenage fantasy. Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith star as Gary and Wyatt, the youth at the heart of this adventure. Amongst the other supporting cast, Bill Paxton stands out as big brother Chet. Many consider this one of his greatest performances and the one that opened the door to his career as a leading man.

The most impressive aspect of Weird Science is the way it blends genres. Like every other Hughes film, it mixes comedy and drama in some type of coming-of-age story. Its Frankenstein influence blends aspects of horror, fantasy and science fiction that Hughes never really had a chance to delve into. There are moments, especially with John Candy in Uncle Buck, where Hughes plays with his ability to try and frighten audiences. Weird Science has a few similar moments that, while being tongue-in-cheek, still provide viewers with a glimpse at the other types of stories Hughes was capable of telling. 

Also see: Back to the ’80s: Heathers

Arrow Video is releasing a new 4K version of the film. While it is essentially the same as their special edition Blu-ray release from 2019, this 4K restoration is a worthy upgrade for anyone already in possession of the previous version. Out of all of Hughes’ filmography, this is the most deserving of such an improvement. 

Special features include the basics. There’s an image gallery, TV spots, theatrical trailers and radio spots. Another bonus are the interviews with cast and crew members reflecting on their experiences making the film. Actor John Kapelos, composer Ira Newborn, and casting director Jackie Burch, editor Chris Lebenzon and special effects makeup artist Craig Reardon all share stories about their most memorable moments working with Hughes on Weird Science.

An older featurette titled “It’s Alive! Resurrecting Weird Science” is also part of the 4K release. While this is not a new documentary with new interviews, it’s still a fun slice of nostalgia that adds a small amount of insight into the film’s production and behind-the-scenes action. Diablo Cody, Anthony Michael Hall and Amy Heckerling are amongst some of the interviewees. They guide us through the film and its impact on the ’80s culture and Hughes’ brilliance as a filmmaker. 

Multiple versions of Hughes’ third film appear on this new release. A standard definition edited-for-TV version is included if only because of a supporting featurette that highlights the various dubs and edits. There is also an extended version with two deleted scenes that can also be viewed on their own. 

The 4K version of the film is the main benefit of this Arrow offering. This is no doubt the most colorful film from John Hughes. The upgrade to 2160p accentuates the wonderful cinematography and special effects that make this film so unique. When an old movie looks this good in 4K, the director deserves a special kind of recognition for having such a visual command of film. Some visual highlights that really popped were the exploding door that introduces Lisa and, of course, Chet’s transformation into a steaming pile of crap. 

A proper re-release of physical media is only as successful as the artwork and literature included with the packaging. This newest edition does not disappoint. Included are a collectors’ booklet, a poster, and a reversible sleeve featuring some wonderful artwork, all of which were part of the 2019 release.

Weird Science is available August 22nd on 4K UHD from Arrow Video. While not the most lauded of Hughes’ films, it is certainly his most experimental. And the things that make it a departure from his norms are what make it a worthy choice for a 4K conversion. 

Wicked Rating: 8/10

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