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Warner Home Video presents
"To you, bud. Today is the first day of the rest of your life."
DVD ReviewWarner Home Video recently launched their newest project labeled Raw Feed, a direct-to-DVD outlet for filmmakers to work outside certain constraints dictated for theatrical releases. The label's first film, Rest Stop received a cool reception from the reviewing faithful. Sublime, their sophomore effort, boasts a better casting pedigree; the star of TV's Ed and Love Monkey, Tom Cavanagh, leads the way, and if this sort of engaging psychological terror is representative of what Raw Feed is all about, it should be a major success.
George Grieves (Cavanagh) is enjoying his 40th birthday party, which is also on the eve of a routine colonoscopy. Somewhat nervous (and rightfully so) about the procedure, George arrives at the hospital the next day with his wife Jenny (Kathleen York). Once the anesthetic kicks in, George's world turns upside down. He begins hallucinating, seeing his nurse, Zoe (Katherine Cunningham-Eves) in a skimpy outfit, witnessing a bow-tied orderly (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) murdering another patient, and catching Jenny in the act with his doctor (Cas Anvar). George's mind shifts between his blurred reality and flashbacks to past interactions with family, friends, and his free-wheeling brother Frank (David Clayton Rogers). A hospital stay has never been scarier, and this particular patient might be stuck in a place he can never leave.
This release has the air of a feature-length Masters of Horror episode, minus the big-name director, with its fair share of gore, gratuitous nudity, and macabre twist ending. Veteran producer Tony Krantz takes his first turn behind the director's chair for this creepy, engaging thriller, doing a fine job reining in his cast and keeping things as tight and smooth as he can given the slightly over-long running time. His cast is a solid ensemble, with Cavanagh, cast against type, just believable enough as this tortured soul. If you think the orderly looks familiar, he's played by Welcome Back, Kotter's Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs. Other familiar TV faces like "Bird" York and Paget Brewster give solid performances as well, with spot-on casting throughout.
While there are a few too many scenes that don't really serve to advance the plot, an overwhelming sense of dread is dominant and very welcome. This can easily be compared to similar projects like Jacob's Ladder and pretty much anything by David Lynch, but there's enough originality, especially in the ending, to set it apart. As with the most effective psychological mind benders, it's difficult to figure out the true nature of the George Grieves character until Krantz and screenwriter Erik Jendresen finally tip their hand, unveiling the truth of George's condition in the subtlest of ways. The best possible audience reaction in this case is a simple "Oh yeah, that makes sense" after the big reveal, and those just might have been the exact words that came out of my mouth with about 10 minutes left in the film.
There's a few surprisingly touching moments as well, including one that takes place between George and his daughter, Chloe (Shanna Collins). Some might feel that there's a bit too much compassion and melodrama for a horror film, but when these elements are integrated smoothly into any story, they can boost a mediocre film to the next level. If this much attention was paid towards professional acting, a coherent yet challenging story, and sharp directing on a regular basis, more theatrically released genre pictures might be worth seeing. Until such a trend starts, we'll settle for surprises like this one.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: This 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is topnotch, reproducing the director's trippy visuals in much sharper fashion than often seen on direct-to-DVD material. The color scheme is rendered well, fleshtones are natural, and shadow levels consistent. There's the slightest bit of grain, but this is a blemish-free transfer overall.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: A Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track makes active use of the surrounds, allowing just enough spooky sound effects to creep to the rear speakers. Some nice directional effects are in play, while an aggressive bass presence jump-starts a few scenes. There's never a problem with dialogue clarity, as it's blended well into the proceedings.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Reaping, Rest Stop
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Tony Krantz and writer Erik Jendresen.
Packaging: Keep Case
There's also Surgical Exorcism, the full five-minute clip briefly shown in the film, and a pair of Raw Feed interviews with Krantz and Jendresen. Krantz's runs nearly 19 minutes, and touches quite a bit on the film's overriding theme of fear. Jendresen's lasts almost 20 minutes, and he goes over numerous story details, throwing in some nice anecdotes as well. Finishing things up is the trailer for the first Raw Feed feature, Rest Stop.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsEd fans have never seen Tom Cavanagh like this before—his starring role in Sublime certainly casts him in a new light, and an impressive one. This gem is worth checking out for reasons beyond Cavanagh's work; this second release from Warner's Raw Feed label is treated as if it was originally released on 3000 screens, including very impressive audio and video transfers and a nice collection of extras.
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