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- English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
- English Subtitles
- French Subtitles
- Spanish Subtitles
- Audio Commentary
- Music Video
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Warner Home Video / 2008 / 113 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: April 22, 2008
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Non-format-specific portions of this review were also published in our HD DVD review of 'Sublime.'
There are a few dependable subgenres of the horror film: the ghost story, the slasher flick, sci-fi/alien invasion, and the man-in-a-suit monster movie. Then there's the "medical terror" film, usually set in a hospital or some other sinister institution, and involving mad doctors, botched experiments, and various other grisly happenings involving sawed-off body parts. Though there have been few outright examples of RX horror doing gangbusters at the box office (save perhaps for 1979's 'Coma'), Hollywood never tires of trying out the concept, decade after decade.
Which leads us to the direct-to-video 'Sublime,' which follows in the footsteps of such forgettable medical terror flicks as 'Horror Hospital,' 'X-Ray,' 'Visiting Hours,' and the recent 'Awake.' This Raw Feed production (the second from Warner's in-house direct-to-video premiere division) combines all the hallmarks of the genre (namely, plenty of gooey gore), but it's a bit more ambitious than, say, 'Dr. Giggles.' It's got a topical theme, makes a few broad swipes at cultural relevance, and is generally more thoughtful than your typical slasher in a hospital. Unfortunately, it isn't all that scary, either, and never it quite surmounts its direct-to-video budget.
Thomas Cavanagh (TV's 'Ed') stars as George Grieves, who gets to celebrate his 40th birthday with what was supposed to be a routine colonoscopy at Abbaddon Hospital. However, George's chart gets switched with a fellow in the next bed, and (oops!), he undergoes the wrong operation. Traumatized, and his leg now amputated, George teeters on the brink of insanity as he battles bureaucratic indifference regarding the incident. Growing more and more obsessed, he plunges deep into the dark history of Abbaddon, discovering that the hospital has performed a statistically-abnormal number of botched surgeries, and that the ultimate truth is far more sinister than even he imagined.
'Sublime' is notable for its, well, sublime exploitation of bodily fears. I'm not a huge fan of the type of baroque bloodletting and shock visuals doled out in the film, but the result can be undeniably effective. Unfortunately, actual scares are in short supply, and unlike superior medical thrillers like 'Coma,' George's descent into the underbelly of Abbaddon fails to deliver the slow-simmering tension of a true, get-under-your-skin thriller. Like so many of these direct-to-video horror flicks, 'Sublime' seems torn between delivering the easy shocks and gore that the diehard genre fan base requires, and producing the more thoughtful thriller that the filmmakers are clearly gunning for.
The film's tonal identity crisis is a shame, since for good chunks of 'Sublime's overly-long 113-minute runtime, director Tony Krantz is surprisingly forceful at weaving sociopolitical commentary in with the cheap jolts. Not-so-subtle digs at the Bush Administration and our current failed health care system (not to mention an Iraqi War connection that pulls no punches) are a bit too didactic, but at least Krantz is aiming higher rather than lower. Unfortunately, the uneven tone throughout 'Sublime' is made even worse by the requisite "twist" ending, which isn't much of a twist and ultimately rather eye-rolling. The whole thing just never fully coalesces.
Given its considerable flaws, it's hard to recommend 'Sublime.' However, if you set your sights low -- this is a direct-to-video flick, after all -- there is still enough going on to at least hold your interest. The film is technically proficient, and Cavanagh's performance is strong enough that it's able to anchor the film throughout. Krantz also has something to say, however heavy-handed. 'Sublime' is probably worth a rental for genre fans, or those who just have an ax to grind with their health insurance company.
'Sublime' comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p/VC-1 encode (framed at 2.40:1). It's above-board for a direct-to-video release, but certainly can't compare to a fresh theatrical release.
Quite frankly, 'Sublime' came across as chintzy. The image has that kinda fuzzy, overly-lit look of a high-gloss cable flick. Colors are definitely eye-catching if perhaps too saturated, with consistent noise and a lack of strong detail. Blacks are spot-on, though shadow delineation due to a heavy black crush obscures fine textures. Contrast is likewise on the hot side. Overall, depth and detail aren't bad, however, particularly in brighter-lit and close-up shots. It's not an entirely clean encode, either, with some motion artifacts and a few instances of posterization, but all in all 'Sublime' looks pretty good.
Warner offers but a single audio option for 'Sublime': English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps), plus English, French and Spanish subtitles. It's a serviceable mix, nothing more.
Surrounds are active in a few key scare moments, in which they are loud and stinger-ish. Don't expect much subtlety, however, with little sustained atmosphere. At least the score is nice and robust (it's probably the highlight of the mix), and dynamic range ain't bad. 'Sublime' does have that slightly cheap feel of a direct-to-video flick, with low bass that can lack bite and lots of looped-in dialogue. Things are generally intelligible, however, so I can't say there are any major problems with the soundtrack -- nor can I say there's anything all that exciting about it.
Warner carries over the goodies found on the standard DVD version of 'Sublime' (and even throws in a couple of exclusives -- see below), though the material is presented 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only. It's a solid package.
- Audio Commentary - The track features director Tony Krantz and writer Erik Jendresen, and it's quite the technical discussion. With a runtime of 113 minutes, it becomes a bit much to listen to such extensive dissection of the photography, effects, locations, editing etc. Thankfully, there are bursts of insight on the casting and story, but for me it was too few and far between. Truth be told, I got rather bored...
- Featurette: "Surgical Exorcism" (SD, 6 minutes) - This six-minute piece is supposed to be "sociocultural anthropologist" Dr. Falk's webcast of a live surgical exorcism in the mountains of Peru." What a bunch of hooey!
Nothing major, but Warner has tossed in a couple of Blu-ray exclusives.
- "The Shebeen Josie" (SD, 9 minutes) - This bizarre bit takes you inside an "African Juke Joint," where we eavesdrop on a conversation between a social worker and a... demon. Though not labeled a deleted scene, it sure feels like one.
- Music Video (SD) - A clip for the Bird York tune "Have No Fear."
No easter eggs reported for 'Sublime' yet. Found an egg? Please use our tips form to let us know, and we'll credit you with the find.
'Sublime' is a pretty typical direct-to-video horror film. It's gleefully unrated, with plenty of gratuitous violence and nudity, but comes up short on real scares or creativity. At least there's an ambitious message beneath the carnage, but will it be enough to entice diehard horror hounds? This Blu-ray is solid if unspectacular, with pretty-good video and audio, and fairly extensive supplements. 'Sublime' is worth a rent if you're a fan of the genre, but likely nothing more.
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