Lions Gate presents
Edge of Madness (aka A Wilderness Station) (2002)
"I wanted to kill my husband, so I did it!"- Annie (Caroline Dhavernas)
Stars: Caroline Dhavernas, Brendan Fehr, Corey Sevier
Other Stars: Paul Johansson, Tantoo Cardinal, Jonas Chernick, Currie Graham, Peter Wingfield
Director: Anne Wheeler
MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, sexuality, rape)
Run Time: 01h:39m:07s
Release Date: 2003-01-28
DVD ReviewCanadian director Anne Wheeler is probably best known for her well-received indie lesbian romance film Better Than Chocolate, released in 1999. Much like that film, which explored a type of human relationship that is often ignored in filmmaking, Wheeler's latest outing examines life, love and drama once again, only this time set in the rugged and unforgiving Canadian wilderness of the 1850s. Edge of Madness (aka A Wilderness Station) is probably an equally tough project to market, as the story itself stretches across a wide cross-section of genres as the tale unfolds.
Caroline Dhavernas is Annie, a young French-Canadian woman who, as the film opens, is seen staggering through the frozen wilderness, eventually stumbling across a small outpost where she announces that she has murdered her husband. She is immediately put under arrest. and a local investigator named Mullen (Paul Johansson) sets about trying to determine if her story is true, and to understand the events leading up to it. Annie's story is told in flashbacks, as we learn of her marriage to the abusive Scotsman Simon (Brendan Fehr), and her subsequent attraction to her husband's doe-eyed brother George (Corey Sevier).
This is not Little House on the Prairie, by any means. Annie's world is brutal and rough, and over the course of 100 minutes she is repeatedly raped, beaten and assaulted, to say nothing of having to fend off a pack of wolves. Even with heapings of unpleasant and bad things that happen to her character, Dhavernas is particularly excellent in the lead role, and her impish, downturned smile is nothing but completely infectious. The characters played by Sevier and Fehr seemed a little too pretty-boy-ish to me (and don't get me started on their Willie The Groundskeeper Scottish accents), but Dhavernas looks the part of the naïve young wilderness wife, and carried the film handily. She clearly comes across with equal doses of inner strength and frailty, even in the face of real adversity.
As a rule, I'm generally not a big fan of films set in the bygone era when people rode horses as their primary mode of transportation, which is probably why I'm not a huge westerns buff. My biggest problem in most of those films is that everything looks too clean, and that immediately pops the bubble that is supposed to keep me immersed in the story.
In Edge of Madness, Wheeler is "keeping it real," as they say, and the world in which these characters live seems as harsh and difficult as I imagine it probably was back then. Everything looks cold, bleak and well, just plain ruddy. The hammy Scottish accents by Fehr and Sevier notwithstanding, most of what I saw in this film sucked me in and kept me there.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer for Lions Gate's Edge of Madness looks properly drab, chilly and dark, with the color field awash in browns, grays and blacks. Even the film's brightest moments have a feel that all of the color has been somehow stripped away, and the image transfer reflects the look of the 1850s set by director Anne Wheeler. No noticeable defects or blemishes, and no major compression issues or artifacts. Image detail is generally quite good, though black levels are just a bit off, especially apparent during a couple of scenes lit only by campfire.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Audio comes in a clean, pleasant 2.0 English surround track that isn't particularly flashy, though for the material it really doesn't need be. Despite its woman-in-the-1850s-wildnerness premise, this is primarily a dialogue-centered film, and the bits of directional imaging (a crackling fire here, a creaking jail door there) give the soundfield some depth, and help to add some ambience. Rears are used infrequently, and their sporadic presence is nicely placed, in a low key kind of way.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Extras Review: The extras section is nonexistent here, with nary a trailer, bio or featurette to be found.The disc is cut into 24 chapters, and features subtitles in English and Spanish.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsEdge of Madness is really bits and pieces of a number of different film genres, including a murder mystery, a coming of age drama and a wilderness survival saga. Director Anne Wheeler paints a hard, coarse, and cold frontier world, and that is really what keeps this film grounded in a fairly believable level of ugly realism that is usually lacking in similar wilderness costume dramas that are set in the 1800s. Caroline Dhavernas's Annie is both adorably fragile and rugged, and hers is one of those beautifully balanced and engaging performances that merits making this at least worthy of a rental.
Rich Rosell 2003-01-27