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Image Entertainment presents
Blackout (2007)

"We need to think logically, ok?"
- Claudia (Amber Tamblyn)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 13, 2009

Stars: Amber Tamblyn, Aiden Gillen, Armie Hammer
Other Stars: Mabel Rivera, Erin Guzowski, Emma Prescott, Kate Jennings Grant, Katie Stuart, Eloisa Bennetts
Director: Rigoberto Castaneda

MPAA Rating: R for sadistic bloody violence including a rape, nudity and language
Run Time: 01h:25m:02s
Release Date: January 13, 2009
UPC: 014381526721
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- D-B-B- C+

DVD Review

The premise here is that three strangers who live in the same apartment building become trapped together in an elevator over a long, hot 4th of July weekend. And what's with the backcover so boldly spoiling a key plot point about one of the three being "a psychopathic serial killer"? That little reveal doesn't come right away, but knowing it was coming pretty much took the dramatic wind out of director Rigoberto Castaneda's storytelling sail, and instead I spent the time leading up to that confirming the obvious.

And while the malfunctioning elevator occurs just 13 minutes in, Castaneda dabbles in flashbacks to fill us in on his three leads, showing us their alleged personal drama and how it pushed them to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Amber Tamblyn is rushing back to her apartment to retrieve something for a dying relative, Aiden Gillen is a meek-and-mild widowed doctor heading home and Armie Hammer is the tattooed tough about to run off with his lover. We're given the expected tensions and arguments, as well as the obligatory climb out the roof of the elevator and scramble up the cable; time drags on, and just as the backcover promised, one of the three blows a gasket and reveals their true self.

Castaneda shows a promising skillset for manufacturing a dark, bleak visual structure, and though I couldn't give two hoots about any of the characters, I found myself lulled into casual interest simply by the way the film was assembled and how he moved the camera around. He's certainly not reinventing the genre, but he's at least attempting to contribute engaging stylistic touches that the pointless Ed Dougherty screenplay can't come close to matching. And by the time the big dramatic payoff takes place, apparently the film's meager budget couldn't muster a fitting piece of visual effects that the moment required, and Castaneda is left to top off his thriller with a startlingly disappointing sequence.

I've seen genre films like this before, where a young director has really nothing to work with story-wise, but tries to put a little proverbial perfume on the pig by showing off his visual style. It's kind of like saying "watch for me, but not necessarily right now". Folks like Tamblyn—who was so terrific on Joan Of Arcadia—seem to use a project like this as a check-cashing experience, something to fill in the cracks between the next Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants sequel. Castaneda will likely use Blackout as a rock in the river, a stepping stone to something bigger, and for his sake, better.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: D-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A generally very solid 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Image for this one, especially given its low-rent production. The level of clarity during most of the film is excellent, with very minute details (eyelashes, goosebumps, dust motes) appearing clear and distinct. The quality suffers a bit during the elevator sequences, where it is understandably darker, and it's here that specific edge details begin to noticeably soften.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio choices are offered in either 2.0 surround or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. There are plenty of mood-enhancing creaky elevator sounds that come to life moreso under the 5.1 mix, creating a slightly more live texture to the presentation. It's not a showcase track, but like the image transfer, it's certainly more impressive given the low budget nature of the film. If you're stuck with 2.0, it's not a total dealbreaker, as dialogue under both mixes is clean and discernible.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Ping Pong Playa, Blindsight, American Fusion, This Is Not A Test
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Aside from a few trailers, the only extras are a trio of interviews from actress Amber Tamblyn (07m:14s), producer Valerio Morebito (12m:19s) and director Rigoberto Castaneda (20m:32s). The segments feature questions on title cards, with the participants responding as if they had just been asked the same. Tamblyn doesn't have all that much to say, but Castaneda comes across as a young director who appreciates the thriller genre, though even with the obligatory Hitchcock mentions it in no way elevates Blackout to anywhere near the same status. He seems like a nice guy, and that makes dumping on his film seem all the more cruel.

The disc is cut into 10 chapters, and features optional subtitles in Spanish and English.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Here's a title that tries hard to be more than it is, though on the plus side director Rigoberto Castaneda at least makes a film that is visually attractive. The story? That's the weak link, and the whole trapped-in-an-elevator shtick wears thin quick, with a trio of characters that are not especially endearing.

I'll look for Castaneda's name in the future when he hopefully gets a better script to work with.


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