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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Whispers in the Dark
Whispers in the Dark
Paramount // R // September 7, 2004
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted November 4, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Whispers in the Dark is such a relic of the early/mid 1990s that it almost exists as something of a cinematic time capsule. All it once it is emblematic of the type of "erotic thriller" films that dotted the film landscape of the era - copious amounts of flesh, sex, violence, and would-be thrills, all slung together into a virtual mélange of titillation and thrill/kills. Like almost any other film genre, there was a handful of decent films, a whole slew of mediocrity, and endless buttloads of utter crap - most of which comprise the bulk of Showtime's 3:00 a.m. weekend lineup (usually starring Nikki Fritz and Taimie Hannum). Obviously the film that set the gold standard was 1992's Basic Instinct, a wickedly tempting and wholly ridiculous movie that managed to entertain and indulge the guilty pleasures of horndogs everywhere. The film launched Sharon Stone into superstardom (although she would never again reach this height of success) and grossed a blockbuster $117 million. Yeah, the movie was garbage, but it was wickedly enjoyable garbage, and soon afterwards audiences were subject to a slew of knockoffs and imitators, and the entire "genre" devolved into one giant parody of itself. Did anyone involved with Madonna's crap-laden Body of Evidence believe they were involved in a solidly engaging project? Really? Get him on the phone...

Anyway, in regards to Whispers in the Dark, what you have here is an entirely mediocre movie that has several moments of guilty, goofy glee, and just enough sex and nudity to satisfy even the stingiest of horndog-o-meters, but not enough compelling material to raise the entire product to anything above shrug-inducing ho-hummery. The film stars Annabella Sciorra as Ann Hecker, a psychiatrist whose practice includes treating the psycho/sexual disorders of Eve Abergray (Deborah Unger), a patient whose sexual fantasties, hangups, and obsessions with her nameless partner have a profound effect the lovely young Ann (manifested in numerous scenes of Ann lying in bed, squirming and dreaming about Eve's sexual exploits.) Ann's closest confidantes are Leo Green (Alan Alda), her medical school professor and mentor, and his wife Sarah (Jill Clayburgh), with whom she bares her most intimate secrets.

A chance meeting introduces Ann to Doug McDowell, a handsome pilot who seems to be the man of her dreams. This being Hollywood, their first date ends in a sexual encounter so choreographed and icily unrealistic that, naturally, they must be in love. Things go sour when Ann discovers Doug having lunch with Eve, and she realizes that Doug is Eve's nameless yet super-freaky lover! Soon, Ann's medical records are stolen from her office, and she comes home to find Eve dead in her living room, an apparent suicide by hanging. But the investigating police officer Larry Morgenstern (Anthony LaPaglia) soon discovers the truth: Eve was bashed in the head before she was placed in the noose - a murder, not a suicide.

Who killed Eve? Honestly... who cares? The list of suspects is pretty slim, and the film is paced in such a manner that it makes one rather indifferent to the final outcome. The script is loaded with some unintentionally hysterical one-liners. One of Ann's patients, a serial rapist played by John Leguizamo, utters the following to explain his psychosis: "... a nd then one day pubic hair starts to grow and you got new instincts, and you want to against the law and you want to f**k..." And LaPaglia's descriptive response to breast mutilation has to be heard to be believed. Then we get to the final resolution of the mystery, at which point the film descends into high camp and melodrama. You get the sense that the filmmakers, mid production, just looked at each other and started cracking up, while yet still taking the project seriously.

The DVD

Video:

Whispers in the Dark is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and has been anamorphically-enhanced for your widescreen viewing enjoyment. This transfer seems slightly weak and lifeless. Sharpness levels are pretty soft, with no fine image detail and no notable definition to speak of. Colors are muted and drab. There is occasional artifacting and print wear throughout the transfer which, while not excessive or overly detracting, still hurt the quality of the transfer. Contrasts are also somewhat ho-hum, making this transfer seem flat and uninspiring.

Audio:

The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The mix is pleasant and satisfying, neither remarkable nor distracting. Dialog sounds warm and natural. The score comes across sounding rich and satisfactory. Audio cues seem to be well-rendered, with nice of use of surrounds to highlight background noise and occasional punch to the LFE.

Extras:

There are no extras on this disc.

Final Thoughts

There's not much to recommend with this DVD release of Whispers in the Dark . The transfer is disappointing, there are no extras to speak of, and the film itself is an unintentionally hilarious paradigm of mediocrity. You're best off waiting for that next Nikki Fritz Cinemax extravaganza.

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