Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on December 19th, 2010
Written by Dave Younger
A couple, Alex and Kate (Nicholas Shaw, Zoe Richards), has fallen asleep on the couch watching a movie. Kate wakes up muttering, “Don’t open it.” Someone rings the doorbell. You know they shouldn’t open it. It’s only David (Giles Alderson), a good friend, a little freaked out because he’s just discovered his girlfriend is cheating on him. They agree to let him spend the night. Bad idea. He’s more than a little freaked: he can’t sleep, and he sees monsters. We can’t see the monsters too well, but what we do see is reminiscent of the phantasmagoric creatures on The Outer Limits. We’re mostly aware of them through sound – they make spectacularly creepy and eerie sounds – thumping, banging, screeching, and hissing combine with constantly unsettling music.
The next day, David asks Alex if he heard anything last night. “Dead to the world, mate,” Alex replies. “We get a lot of foxes round here. They make a hell of a noise some nights.” Is that the explanation? It turns out David based his supposition Sarah had been cheating on him on some photographs of her – not naked, not even risqué, really – in her underwear. Kate discovers a notebook of David’s that contains paranoid scribbles and drawings of hideous beasts. How long has he been like this? Is David, until recently a normal guy, missing a few screws?
That night Kate wakes up with a start to find David in their bedroom. He has a weird look in his eye that Kate recognizes as sleepwalking. Alex wants to wake him up, but Kate had a friend when she was little who would sleepwalk, and Kate knows better than to waken him. But David is acting so weirdly that they are fearful of what he is going to do next, so they do wake him. Pretty soon the lights go out – some kind of landlord-installed austerity measure (don’t ask) – and that’s when the suspense really ratchets up. But it’s hard to tell what’s going on in such low light, and even when they figure out how to turn the lights back on, David keeps screaming at them to turn them off because he can only see the demons in the dark. WE can’t see them in the dark, though. There are flashlights moving around, but everything is seemingly shot with low-res handheld camcorders that have only two colors: green and black.
Also contributing to the confusion is the cramped and confined claustrophobic settings for most of the second half of the film. When they’re hiding from the monsters in a tiny closet, who’s doing the filming? Early on the filmmakers (Andrew Cull and Steve Isles) set up a Paranormal Activity-type plot with a webcam that is always on and records whenever things are moving around. You might think one of them is filming with a handheld camera but no. And you might think they would check the webcam and see what if anything it has recorded, but that’s just a hanging thread they set up and forgot.
The aspect ratio is 1.78:1. Lots of spectacularly low-resolution video mars the presentation. There is much grain and many artifacts. Meager effects (split-second glimpses of faces in tiny slivers of light) substitute for clear looks at the creatures. Even with this much darkness, poor black levels hinder the picture. Shaky cameras combine with low light levels that are masking special effects on a budget. The film does start off looking decently, and, to be fair, they did use the exact same camera that was used to film The Social Network. But in trying to be spooky on a no-budget film, they have to dim the lights so much you can’t really tell what is going on.
Setup has two subtitle options: English SDH and Spanish.
The sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1. Virtually all the creepiness of the movie is in the sound. Deep rumblings and thumping emit from the subwoofer. Screams and whimpers emanate from the surrounds. The whole sound of the movie is as high-res as the visuals are low-res. Good gurgling sounds, and squishy monsters walking around are highly effective terror aids.
A trailer. Three minutes. “IFC Films are presented with anamorphically enhanced transfers, although bonus features are generally non-existent (unless, of course, one is willing to count a trailer as a bonus feature.” Not really.
There is a great deal of promise in the beginning: An intriguing Paranormal Activity-like setup (this was conceived and shot BEFORE that film), appealing characters, good acting by everyone involved, wonderfully creepy sounds, bizarre creatures… It’s too bad there was no budget for special effects. But then plotlines are dropped, no back story is ever developed for David and Sarah, no clues are given as to what David is pouring on the floor under the doors, and we never have any idea whether these monsters are real or just in David’s head. The action DOES get scary at the end, and you fear for these people’s lives. You just wish they hadn’t lost you before we get to that point.