Magnet's 6-Shooter Film Series is a clever little marketing ploy to promote six genre films from around the world. There's Sweden's atmospheric vampire love tale 'Let the Right One In,' USA's action/comedy 'Special,' Spain's time-travel caper 'Timecrimes,' a thriller from the UK humorously called 'Donkey Punch,' Japan's superhero/mockumentary 'Big Man Japan,' and this one -- France's cyberpunk-esque 'Eden Log.'
'Eden Log.' That's a bizarre title for a movie, isn't it? When I first came across the name on an upcoming title list a few months back I had absolutely no clue what it was about. For some odd reason something in the back of my mind told me it was a Christmas fireplace screensaver, although I knew that couldn't possibly be it. Then part of me wondered if it was a documentary on the type of lumber Adam used to build Eve that cabin down by the snake. Nah. So what, pray tell, could it be? Whatever it was, the title did its handiwork and captured my interest enough to volunteer to review this Blu-ray. It turns out that the film is actually a philosophical science-fiction thriller--and a case one could say where curiosity killed the cat.
The plot for 'Eden Log' follows a man (Clovis Cornillac) who awakens deep in the bowels of a cave. Although cold, wet, and naked, he still finds himself confused more than anything. Where is he? How did he get here? Will he find a way out? Most importantly, who is he? Those are the burning questions running through his mind like wildfire, and he sets out to answer them. As he explores his unfamiliar surroundings, the man notices strange roots growing out of the walls, hi-tech stations scattered throughout the caverns, and it soon becomes clear that he isn't alone. Somehow, everything is connected--but what does it all mean?
Good question -- and I say this because even after watching the film, I honestly couldn't tell you.
I'll give Pierre Bordage and director Franck Vestiel credit for writing a unique screenplay that has its fair share of intriguing moments, but the problem is that it doesn't clearly explain what the heck is going on at any point in the film. Sure, there are hints--at least I think they're hints anyway, but they're so vague it's really hard to tell--and that's pretty much it. I thought maybe it was the type of picture where it would all come together and be revealed at the end, but after the big climax I was left scratching my head trying to make sense of everything. I consider myself to be pretty quick on the uptake and normally I appreciate movies that make the viewer think, however this one totally lost me.
Aside from the mass confusion, Vestiel does make it all look slick in his feature film directorial debut. Using real sewers and underground tunnels, he cleverly creates a gritty environment which sets the claustrophobic mood of the film. Visually it can be quite stunning at times--the lighting, the use of shadows, and the camera angles all have a stylish flair to them. The futuristic props and the make-up effects are also very well done considering the fact that this is an extremely low-budget production.
Unfortunately, we then run into severely problematic areas in his direction, with the big one being the pacing. There's really just a handful of significant checkpoint encounters for Cornillac's character, and the rest of the time focuses on him taking baby steps down the corridors with a puzzled look on his face. Perhaps this is a genuine response, but it sure doesn't make it fun for the viewer to sit through. It wouldn't have been so bad if the film was integrated with strong tension that made us feel concerned for the man's safety, except I felt no emotional connection to him whatsoever. Worse still, any ounce of compassion we have for him immediately vaporizes when we get to the animalistic rape scene. It's yet another perplexing sidetrack in a long and tedious affair that is the prime example of style over substance.
'Eden Log' almost entirely takes place in a desolate subterranean cave system, and Magnolia's 1080p/VC-1 (1.85:1 aspect ratio) encode does a fairly good job at maintaining the dreary atmosphere.
Except for the often murky grayish-green of the shadows, colors are practically nonexistent in the first half of the film. It isn't until a couple of brighter scenes around the midway point where we're able to see any sort of pigmentation, and even then it has a very drab washed-out look. Black levels are solid and only fade slightly to a dusky gray when the picture is shrouded by darkness. Detailing is also quite pleasant in close-ups, particularly the speckles of dirt on Cornillac's face and the grimy texture on some of the machinery, but the background details do suffer a little bit and there isn't much "pop" to this transfer. The image is free of noise and other ugliness to my eyes. 'Eden Log' is by no means a reference-quality disc, but it does have a faithful video presentation.
The U.S. version of the 'Eden Log' Blu-ray is reported to be region free and therefore should play in all PlayStation 3 and standalone players.
Magnolia opted for a lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and provides optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. It's a an active mix, and one that ended up being better than I expected.
'Eden Log' doesn't have all that much dialogue, but what little there is comes through without a hitch. Surround use is very impressive--from the howling winds whistling through the caverns to dripping water echoing in the distance. The original music by Alex and Willie Cortés also fills the soundstage well, and surprisingly lays down low bass as thick as molasses. While the track probably won't blow anyone away, it's more than enough to keep Mr. Sandman at bay--unlike the actual film itself.
Whether this qualifies as a bonus supplement is debatable, but there is the French version of the film listed as a special feature with optional English subtitles. However, it's worth noting that this version is presented in standard-definition video and audio only. Why not upgrade the BD-25 to a BD-50 and have HD all around?
I suppose 'Eden Log' will attract some audiences, but like I said, it's style over substance and is primarily geared towards a specific (and tiny) niche. The Blu-ray looks and sounds good, although the lone supplement is really just an alternate DVD-quality audio option. Therefore I'd recommend giving this one a rental test drive before adding it to a collection.