Before directing Lord of the Rings, director Peter Jackson was know for his horror
and splatter films, as well as a few other unique films. For his first mainstream
film, Jackson chose the true story of two New Zealand girls who were convicted
of a horrible crime. Telling what they were convicted of will only spoil the film
and I'll intentionally try to work around it in this review. The callousness
of the crime is quite shocking; especially in the stark way Jackson filmed it.
Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet Hulme (a pre-Titanic Kate Winslet)
met in school during the 1950's and became instant friends. Each feels
alienated at school and at home and they find a solace in the relation they
build with each other. Not content with the world in which they inhabit, the
two create a Camelot-like fantasyland replete with fancy parties and knights
in shining armor.
As the girls continue to withdraw into their creation and each other's
company, their parents begin to worry. The girls are quickly losing track of
reality and plot a way to make their parents let the stay together when they
are threatened with being torn apart. Things come to a shocking conclusion when
Juliet's mother takes the girls on a trip.
The DVD is billed as the uncut edition and it's been a while since I've
seen the original. With that in mind, comparing running times and doing a little
research, it seems about 10-minutes of footage have been added. The relation
between the girls is more developed and leans toward a sexual one. In the original
version, this was a hotly debated topic and it's for the worse that's
more clearly defined. A few scenes of dialog and a slight amount of blood were
the only other things I noticed and all were marginal.
Jackson's first dramatically themed work, although steeped in fantasy,
was a masterpiece that went largely unnoticed. The way his visually blends the
fantasy world of the girls with the real world was a prelude to his work in
The Frighteners and Lord of the Rings. His ability to handle the relationship
that is building between these tow girls shows that he understands not only
the shocking nature of his roots in horror, but the all-to-real pain that life
can often throw at a person.
Video: The DVD is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect
ration with anamorphic widescreen. While it's not a perfect transfer,
it's the best the film is likely to see until Jackson sees fit to produce
a special edition (which he should). Overall, the film looks nice and sharp.
There are moments of softness, although I can't decide if it's the
transfer or the original film. There are a few moments of pixelation and a few
appearances of slight edge enhancement. It's still a perfectly good transfer
and well worth picking up.
Audio: The audio is presented in a standard 2.0 Dolby surround.
The vocals are sharp and never unintelligible and what little sound effects
are score are present, are done perfectly well.
Extras: Perhaps Peter Jackson was too busy with Lord of the
Rings or perhaps Miramax wanted to test the waters with a basic edition first,
but other than a few trailers and the additional foot, noting exists in the
way of extras. I would have loved a commentary and the deleted footage should
have been included in a separate gallery with commentary as well. When watching
this film in school years ago, the teacher had dug up a few television interviews
with the girls (now women and out of prison). These would have been nice to
see as well.
Overall: Heavenly Creatures is an exquisitely good film and
should not be missed. The DVD may be lacking when compared to all the blockbuster
editions that are released every week, but few films stand up to repeated viewings
and dissection as well as this one.