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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Taboo (2001)

"You can't have dead bodies littering about the living room! What would the neighbors think?"
- Christian (Nick Stahl)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 18, 2003

Stars: Nick Stahl, January Jones
Other Stars: Eddie Kaye Thomas, Lori Heuring, Amber Benson, Derek Hamilton
Director: Max Makowski

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content, and some violence
Run Time: 01h:20m:06s
Release Date: February 18, 2003
UPC: 043396095663
Genre: suspense thriller

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

DVD Review

Taboo starts jarringly, without studio logos or credits of any kind, with a scene of six rich kids (you know, movie rich kids, all corrupt, slutty, and sociopathic) playing a game called "Taboo," which involves pulling a card with a randy question on it ("Would you sleep with a sibling?") and answering it anonymously. I'm instantly annoyed, because the actual Taboo is a game about similes, increasing your word power, and berating people who don't know the meaning of simple words like "construe." It has nothing to do with entitled brats who have nothing better to do than titter about how having oodles of money allows them to be all deviant.

Anyway, these six friends gather again a year later, on New Year's Eve, after they've graduated from college. They all give pithy, faux-ironic toasts that tell us a bit about their personalities. Christian (Nick Stahl) is holier-than-thou, as is his timid betrothed Elizabeth (January Jones). Piper (Amber Benson from Buffy) is an annoying drunk. Katie (Lori Huring) is Sarah Michelle Gellar from Cruel Intentions. Adam (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is an amoral Eddie Kaye Thomas from American Pie. Benji (Derek Hamilton) is ashamed of his flaming homosexuality, instead of the fact that he is named after a series of films about a heroic dog. I love one-dimensional characters; it makes not paying attention to the rest of the movie so much easier.

A mysterious package is delivered to Christian in a mysterious manner. In it are five mysterious note cards printed with words like "homosexual," "infidel," and "hypocrite," all words that tie in to the game of Fake Taboo they played the year before. Soon, characters start dying (mysteriously), and their bodies are found with these labels affixed—they are being murdered for their sins. Meanwhile, I'm distracted by the fact that the film equates homosexuality with deviant behavior like prostitution and sleeping with minors.

I'm sure there's supposed to be some suspense involved in the way things play out. Except that I've never seen a more predictable thriller, nor one that so clearly telegraphs each and every plot twist. I was constantly about five minutes ahead of the characters, and waiting around for them to finally realize what has been obvious to viewers since the film began is, well, boring. Director Max Makowski doesn't help matters, following the "loud noise=brilliant way to build tension" school of thought. Though there are a few scenes at the end that are satisfyingly askew and macabre, even those are basically ripped from other films (including a dinner scene right out of War of the Roses). The score is also fairly offensive, alternating between pounding shock chords and the plink-plink of the Piano of Rising Dread.

The entire cast gives fairly dreadful performances, save perhaps Thomas and Benson, who at least seem to realize that hamming it up is the best way to make a bad movie better. The rest hover around high school play level, delivering each and every line woodenly and without emotion. Since they've all been good elsewhere, I can only blame the director and the script.

Somehow, Taboo was accepted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered at a midnight showing. The most common compliment from reviewers was on the mercifully short runtime. Sans credits, the movie is barely 75 minutes, and it looks like it took about that long to make.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The back of the box lists this as full-frame, but a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is actually what is included, though an average one at best. Colors are rendered fairly well, and blacks are nice and deep, but shadow detail is lacking, which is unfortunate with all the scenes that play out in total darkness. There's some occasional artifacting and aliasing, but edge enhancement isn't much of a problem.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is offered in DD 2.0, but in this case, I think I would have actually preferred plain old stereo. The biggest problem is the showy use of the surrounds. There's a storm raging outside for most of the movie, and you get to enjoy listening to every second of it rumbling unsubtly behind you. The rears are also to pronounced in augmenting the score, to the point where they occasionally drown out the front soundstage. Speaking of, the main channels are no great shakes, either. Dialogue is weakly positioned in the center with lots of bleeding into the mains, and it is mixed at such a low volume that is it very difficult to hear (turning it up doesn't help; that just makes the blaring surrounds that much more irritating). There's no LFE to speak of, which is probably a good thing.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Portuguese, Chinese with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Swept Away, New Best Friend, So Close
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extras are trailers for the Madonna bomb Swept Away, the thriller bomb New Best Friend, and a Hong Kong flick called So Close that looks like it's going to be the bomb. Heh.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Ah, Taboo, I used to love that game. Any leisure activity that allows you to build your vocabulary is a good thing in my book. Hey, makers of the filmed version! I've got a word for you: "nadir." As in, "This movie is the nadir of the teen thriller genre."


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