A Spring Break whale-watching cruise goes off-course and then blows up, thanks to the stupidity of the popular kids, and two groups of high schoolers find themselves washed up on a deserted island. The aforementioned populars, led by the egomaniacle The Rog (Robert Adamson) immediately establish their dominance, squandering supplies and tormenting the unpopulars. These unfortunates turn to reluctant leader Flynn (Gary Entin), who begins planning a revolution. Pulled between the two groups is Peggy (Lindsey Shaw), cheerleader and girlfriend to Rog who nonetheless has too much intelligence and self-respect to remain satisfied with either role.
The feature-length directorial debut of Severin’s own John Cregan sheds new light on that company’s interest in 80s teen comedies. But Cregan’s touchstones go deeper than that. Obviously, the proceedings are very Lord of the Flies, but there is also a hint of Massacre at Central High (1976) with the idea that deposing one tyrant might simply lead to the rise of another. Devolved doesn’t go all the way in plumbing those depths of darkness, though. It is, first and foremost, a comedic satire, and its touch is quite assured. The writing is sharp, and the action is frequently interrupted by a reality-TV-style narrator who portentously comments on the events, occasionally providing helpful animated diagrams.
Cregan’s goal, he explains in the extras, was to examine the conflict between those who have peaked at 18, and thus never want high school to end, and those who can’t wait to be freed and begin their real lives. Within the boundaries of his chosen genre, he handles handles his theme deftly, and establishes himself as a talent to watch. Devloved is, in its own modest way, the Scream of teen sex comedies.
The beach-and-forest setting does indeed, as Cregan observes, nicely disguise the tiny budget. Where those limitations are a bit more visible is in the meat-and-potatoes nature of the cinematography. The colours are naturalistic enough, but are also a bit flat, and don’t inspire a lot of visual interest. The image is sharp enough, though, and the transfer itself is beyond reproach. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
The audio is a bit more disappointing. The sound is clear enough, but very weak. The volume of the main feature is considerably less than that of the extras, so be prepared for a sudden grab for the remote if you’ve had the sound cranked and decide to switch from the film itself. The music does have a decent bass to it, and the score makes use of the rear speakers. Otherwise, there is little evidence that this is a 5.1 track.
Commentary Tracks: There are two. The first has Cregan host cast members Entin, Shaw and Adamson, and the group has fun talking about their experiences making the film. Some of the usual confusion of who is saying what that attends group discussions is present here. I liked the second track, which Cregan handles solo, much better. He proves himself to be as witty a speaker as he is a writer, describing the correct tone for a commentary as somewhere between claiming to have invented cinema a penning a suicide note. He is just as articulate explaining what he wanted to achieve, and how we went about it.
“Devolved: Behind the Scenes”: (18:57) Much more interesting and thoughtful than the typical featurette.
“Live Tomorrow Today” and “Restive Planet”: (17:07 and 13:26) Two short films by Cregan, the first a Tony Robbins-style informercial aimed at teens and hosted by Ted (Isaac from The Love Boat) Lange, the second a juxtaposition between two sorts of hell – high school and a retirement home. Here we see in embryonic form the ideas and humour that would be more fully explored in Devolved.
Deleted Scenes: Eleven of them.
Audition Footage: (8:51).
Music Videos. Three of them, using music original to the movie. They are “Center of the World,” “Searched for Me” and “Del Coche Que Tango.” The latter is supposed to be the work of masked-wrestler-turned-rock-star T. Rey. Funny stuff.
This was a very pleasant surprise, a pointed, witty exercise that stands as a most promising debut.