The second film from the Raw Feed line from Warner Brothers, Sublime finds producer Tony Krantz (whose credits include 24 on Fox and David Lynch's Mulholland Dr.) taking a shot at directing for the first time. Unfortunately, the results aren't nearly as impressive as they could have been thanks in no small part to a meandering script and some impressive but ultimately derivatives set pieces.
On the surface it would seem that George Grieves (Thomas Cavanagh) has it all – a cute red headed wife named Jenny (Kathleen York) who obviously loves him, a gorgeous house and plenty of disposable income. Unlike his brother, Frank (David Clayton Rogers), who is a bit of a wanderer, George found a very successful job in the IT industry. He and Jenny head to the hospital one day so that George can go in for a check up, but he winds up being put under. When he wakes up from his anesthesia, he's surprised to find things are very different. A very comely nurse named Andrea (Katherine Cunningham-Eves) is in his room, paying special attention to him, and things just seem off. Soon enough, George convinces Andrea that she should help him into his wheelchair and get to the East Ward of the building, which has since been blocked off and left alone. She agrees, but he's soon come face to face with his own fears and personal demons until he realizes that he hasn't come to the hospital to get better, but to die.
A cross between Memento and Jacob's Ladder (the film borrows very heavily from the former) with a healthy does of Cronenberg thrown into the mix for good measure, Sublime relies very much on flashbacks to flesh out the back-story and make us understand and care for George. This part of the movie works, and the character is established enough that we feel for the guy when it all starts to hit the fan. Unfortunately, it's once it all hits the fan that the movie starts to stumble as it basically just takes the better parts of Jacob's Ladder and remakes them, albeit without as much intensity or with as many scares. Once Andrea wheels George into the East Ward of the Mt. Abaddon Hospital, we know exactly where the movie is heading and if you pay attention to the earlier scenes (the staff keep mispronouncing Grieves as Graves, for example, and then there's the 'Last Supper' picture...) you'll know what to expect.
It's even more of a shame then that Sublime actually starts off fairly well. By using the flashbacks the filmmakers are able to at least keep us guessing as to what exactly is going on. Performance wise, the movie also fares positively with Cavanagh doing a fine job of realistically relaying his characters understandable confusion and duress. Paget Brewster does an interesting job with her part, playing the role with equal parts sinister knowing and genuinely endearing feminine charm. You can see how and why George is attracted to her and she's very well cast as this type of character.
Had Sublime tried a little harder to work as a more original picture, it could have been a really interesting movie. As it stands, because it does ape Jacob's Ladder to such an extent, it's ultimately rather unremarkable. The film starts off well and it looks quite good but sadly loses itself and its point around the half way mark where the filmmaker's seem more intent on showing off some eerie visuals rather than fleshing out the story to any satisfactory extent. Unfortunately there just isn't enough here that works – there are moments, but they don't save the movie.
The 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks quite good. If you look for it you'll pick up on some line shimmering here and there but other than that there aren't any digital transfer problems to report, edge enhancement is kept to a minimum and mpeg compression artifacts aren't an issue. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and the black levels stay strong throughout the duration of the movie. Sublime looks quite good on this DVD.
The English language 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound mix is good, but not as good as it could have been. Surround usage in the rear channels helps add some atmosphere to a few key scenes, those that take place in the hospital being the ones that benefit from this the most. Dialogue is always clean and clear and there aren't any issues with hiss or distortion worth noting. The score comes through with a nice amount of punch and clarity though bass response from the subwoofer didn't seem to be as strong as it could have been. An English closed captioning option is available for the feature only as are removable subtitles in English, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean.
Warner Brother has supplied a few interesting extra features starting with a commentary track featuring director Tony Krantz and writer Erik Jendresen. Much of the track details things like the lighting and how shots were set and, more importantly, why they were set up they way that they were. The two participants aren't short for material and they keep the pace moving nicely. They do a fair bit of talking about the locations that the hospital scenes were shot in and some of the odd things that they ran into while doing this, and they also cover casting and various script ideas that were bandied about. You definitely get the impression that these two tried really hard to create a smart and intelligent horror film. Their hearts were definitely in the right place...
Raw Feed Interviews is a pair of on camera interviews, one with Krantz (18:25) and the other with Jendresen (19:29). Although they cover some of the same material here that they did in their commentary, these are still reasonably interesting discussions that cover how the movie was put together and some of the various ideas and themes that they tried to work into the picture. Also included here is a featurette entitled Surgical Exorcism (5:18) which is, according to the packaging, 'sociocultural anthropologist Dr. Falk's webcast of a live surgical exorcism in the mountains of Peru.' Without wanting to spoil this, let it suffice to say that it ties into the movie nicely.
Rounding out the extra features is a trailer for Rest Stop (though no trailer for the feature itself), animated menus, and chapter stops for the feature.
Warner Brothers has done a nice job with Sublime on DVD but the feature itself is slow, meandering, and rather dull. The film boasts some nice production values but the creepy moments are few and far between and the lethargic pace hurts what could have been an interesting concept. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.