Posted in: Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 11th, 2016
A detective appears to be trapped between heaven and hell in Convergence, which is not all that different from the way I felt watching this supernatural thriller. On one hand, I was impressed by some of the mood and unsettling imagery established by writer/director Drew Hall; the film is mostly set in an abandoned hospital, which inspires even more dread than spending time in a fully functional one. Then again, there are also a lot of nonsense characters and story elements here that don’t get a satisfying payoff, making Convergence an occasionally confounding and hellacious slog.
The story opens in 1999 with a series of terrorist bombings targeting clinics in Atlanta. Detective Ben Walls (Clayne Crawford) is supposed to be enjoying a day off with his wife Hannah (Alysia Ochse) and new baby when he is called in by his captain (Mykelti Williamson) to investigate the latest bombing. But faster than Det. Walls can say, “I’m not even supposed to be here today” he and a few others are rocked by the bomber’s latest explosion. The next thing Det. Walls knows, he is in an eerily empty hospital. Captain Miller is there too, but he insists that they can’t leave.
There are also a few unfamiliar faces. They include the fetching, old-fashioned Nurse Delilah (Chelsea Bruland), and security guard Peter Grayson (Gary Grubbs), who insists you call him “Grace.” There are a few other wandering souls, but the only person who seems to know precisely where he’s headed is bald, bearded Daniel (Ethan Embry), who is dressed like an EMT as he stalks the hospital’s other occupants. Daniel fancies himself as some sort of avenging angel — the “right hand of God”, to be exact — and he eventually sets his sighs on Det. Walls, who begins to puzzle out what’s going on in this hospital. (There’s also a past connection between Det. Walls and Daniel.) Can Det. Walls and his allies get out of the hospital and escape Daniel’s wrath? Is it even possible to get out of the hospital?!
It’s no secret that the main action Convergence is meant to evoke purgatory, which is not really a place most kill-happy/low-budget horror thrillers are interested in going. There are also a group of shadowy, demonic creatures who seem like a throwaway at first, but end up having a pretty nifty payoff. Hall also conjures some memorable imagery, most of which includes Daniel (thanks largely to a committed performance from Embry) and the team of blood-soaked baddies he assembles. (I was especially impressed by Bruland’s cuckooo, old-timey nurse.) Hall isn’t the first to use a hospital as a midway point between life and death, but I do give the filmmaker credit for attempting to put his own spin on that trope, even if the execution falls short. (Speaking of execution, there are some good ol’ fashioned slasher elements to be found here, including a tongue getting graphically ripped out.)
I get that Hall was trying to evoke a sense of disorientation to put us in Det. Walls mindset — Why can’t he call home? Why is there no way out of this hospital? — but the result is more head-scratching than engrossing. The murky, choppy editing during Daniel’s attacks is the least of it. The movie barely hints at the backstories of the other sad sack supporting characters; they’re such non-entities that there’s barely a point to having them in the film at all, other than to provide fresh meat for Daniel. (It would make sense if they were other victims of the bombing that hit Det. Walls and his captain, but they are clearly from different time periods.)
And speaking of Daniel, the character’s religious fanaticism doesn’t feel like it was fully formed. Daniel is supposed to be hunting people who have “lost faith”, but we don’t know nearly enough about the other characters to know if this is the case. It’s not even clear if this is the case with Det. Walls; we only know that he apparently carries baggage about the death of his parents — missionaries who were killed — because somebody else periodically brings it up to him, not because it’s a point of emphasis with the character or story.
The actors do solid work. In addition to Embry and Bruland, Crawford makes a relatably bewildered lead, and Williamson’s stature provides some needed stability…even if we still don’t know (or fully care) what the heck is going on..
Convergence is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 19 mbps. The film begins with some intentionally grainy news footage of the first bombing, but the baseline image doesn’t exactly sparkle by comparison. As you might expect from a movie that is largely set inside a largely abandoned hospital, the palette here is quite drab, pitched somewhere between beige and a dull gray. There’s also an effective, subtle haze to the image during certain sequences, which evokes leftover smoke from one of the bombings or Det. Walls’ blurry vision without his glasses. Fine detail is strong, especially when the imagery starts to get a bit graphic. Black levels are deep and offer impressive shadow definition, which is crucial for the characters involved in the film’s final act.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track makes a strong first impression with the room-rattling explosion that opens the film. After that, things settle into a solid groove. The surround sound field isn’t as active as you might expect from a hospital-set story since we don’t get the usual bustling activity of people and instruments. However, that effective use of eerie silence means the explosions of sound (mostly courtesy of Page Hamilton and Patrick Kirst’s score) pack more of a wallop. Gunshots during the movie’s firefights also carry an extra punch as they ping from one speaker to the next. Otherwise, this is a front speaker-heavy presentation that is well-balanced and subtly evokes a sense of dread.
All of the bonus material is presented in HD.
Making Of: (7:04) Writer/director Drew Hall and cast members discuss the project, which Hall says began as a story about a guy who forgot his glasses at home. Embry touts Convergence as a different way to tell a ghost story while other actors (correctly) point out that viewers are likely to catch subtle clues during repeat viewings.
Deleted and Extended Scenes: (17:12) There are 15 chapters total, including more material with Gary Grubbs’ “Grace” along with additonal action-packed footage during the shoot outs. The scenes are presented as a single entry on the Special Features menu, but you can skip from chapter to chapter.
I don’t doubt that Convergence would probably make more sense on a second or third viewing. The problem is that making the film — which certainly has some effective chills and a few strong performances — so vague and preachy the first time around won’t exactly have viewers racing to hit play again. I’d probably skip this trip to the hospital if I were you.