Region 2 [UK] DVD

Director:  Eli Roth

Starring Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent

A group of young adults camping in the woods are infected with a flesh-eating disease.

Eli Roth's $1.5m horror film generated a lot of pre-release buzz, and deservedly so, since it's pitched a notch or two above the anaemic fare that usually passes for horror in the twenty-first century. It might even impress viewers who are too young to have seen the movies that the director freely admits to being influenced by (The Evil Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, amongst others). Seasoned horror mavens won't find much to spark those jaded synapses, however. For all of director Eli Roth's good intentions about making a full-fledged horror film, it's still essentially a wimpy 15-rated movie. Go figure.

Redbus Home Entertainment's Region 2 (UK) DVD is presented in 2.35:1 ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Despite pressure to make the film on a digital video format, Roth held out, and It was eventually shot in Super35 format. Picture quality is generally fine, although there's a nagging doubt that it's not ever as sharp as it could have been (despite some visible evidence of edge-enhancement). The film's colour scheme generally tends towards the autumnal, with occasional flashes of vivid colour. Flesh tones - and there's quite a lot of skin on display, most notably that of Not Another Teen Movie's foreign exchange student Cerina Vincent - are accurately reproduced. The film's cinematography is not outstanding, but entirely serviceable under the circumstances. As the film progresses it's designed to become darker, with enhanced contrast, and more graininess.

The film is only eighty-eight minutes long, but the average bitrate is relatively low, at 6.11Mb/s. The film has subtitles (both English and English HoH types), but none of bonus materials do. The animated menus (including animated scene selection menus) are different from the American ones, and are easy to navigate. The American menus are far more atmospheric - the UK ones are pretty generic. The bookmarking feature has been disabled, for those players that support it. There are no player-generated subtitles or captions.

The audio is a 5.1 Dolby Digital presentation (at 448kbps). Dialogue is clear, and the track has good dynamic range, but the mix isn't very adventurous. Most of it is weighted to the front speakers, and surround effects are used judiciously.

The layer change, at 78'50" into the film, is perfectly placed at the end of a scene which fades to black and silence, and is only detectable when you're listening to the commentary tracks.

The UK disc has a different selection of bonus features to the Region 1 version. The more gimmicky features on the US version (a "Chick Vision" presentation of the film which superimposes hands in front of the image whenever there's something frightening on-screen, for example), have wisely been dropped.

Both versions feature five separate full-length commentary tracks, featuring various combinations of cast and crew members. The first features sickeningly young director Eli Roth, a protégée of David Lynch, alone. It's rarely scene-specific, but it does give plenty of detail about how the film was developed, how it was finally sold, following a feeding frenzy among distributors, many of whom had already turned down the opportunity to finance it. It offers plenty of advice for aspiring film-makers. (If you don't sell your script, it's worth re-submitting it every year, because the turnover of staff at the studios is so great, for example). Thankfully, Roth is well aware that he's not making great art, and realises that it's his enthusiasm and determination, as much as his talent, that's carried him this far. Unless you're a fan of the film, or the actors in it, you probably won't want to plough through the other commentaries in their entirety, but they're there if you're inclined to listen to them.

The half-hour Beneath The Skin featurette is also included on both the UK and US versions of the disc. It's a nice fly-on-the-wall look at the shooting, but doesn't linger long on any particular aspect of the production. There's a look at some of the make-up effects, and chatty interviews with various cast and crew members. There's also a sequence showing how the production wasted a day filming a scene with a dog that was supposed to be fierce, but turned out to be a pussycat. Genre fans will get a special thrill from seeing some behind the scenes footage shot at the famous Bronson Caverns location, which has been used for everything from Star Trek to the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Three episodes of Roth's stop-motion animated series Rotten Fruit are also offered. These four-minute shorts are very funny if you're on the right wavelength. Think Meet The Feebles crossed with Spinal Tap.

A thirty-nine minute documentary appropriately titled Exclusive Featurette is where the UK disc really scores over the Region 1 disc. It's essentially an extended monologue with Eli Roth, illustrated with clips from the film. Some of it covers the same ground as his solo commentary track and the Beneath The Skin featurette, but there are a few new anecdotes, and Roth never runs out of steam. Also apparently exclusive to the UK disc is at least one Easter Egg. It's hidden away on the Special Features menu. This five-minute segment has to be seen to be believed! (There were rumours that this feature would be on the US disc, but no-one seems to have found it). Unfortunately, the Easter Eggs from the Region 1 disc, which feature the Deputy Winston character, do not seem to be present on the UK version.  The US disc also features another Easter Egg: some film footage of the scene with the original dog that had to be re-shot with a more aggressive mutt.

Assuming that the transfers are more or less equal, it seems on balance that the UK disc is the one to get. The UK's Exclusive Featurette is much more worthwhile than the rather silly features on the US disc (which also include a short music video of the film's weird karate kid, 'Dennis', going through his moves). The absence of the US Easter Eggs is disappointing, however. The UK Easter Egg is an interesting addition, though, and it will be a cool thing to show your friends next time they visit!









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