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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Asunder
Asunder
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // R // February 11, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 28, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Asunder begins cheerfully enough. Successful photographer Chance Williams (Blair Underwood) appears to be hopelessly in love with his wife Roberta (Marva Hicks), a lovely woman who's seven months pregnant with their first child. The two of them spend a charming evening at the fair with their best friends, Michael and Lauren Hubbs (Michael Beach and Debbie Morgan, respectively). Just as they're all about ready to call it a night, Michael insists that they go on just one more ride. The Ferris Wheel seems inoccuous enough, and when it unexpectedly stalls, Michael and Chance make the most of the opportunity. The two of them goof around, rocking the carts back and forth to give their wives a good-natured scare. It sounds like devious fun, sure, but it winds up leaving Roberta's lifeless body splattered across the pavement.

Chance's hopes for an idyllic life dies with Roberta and their unborn child. Lauren and Michael do their best to console their friend through these dark times, even inviting him into their home as Chance deals with the indescribable loss. Mentally unhinged by the tragedy, Chance tries to re-establish the life that he lost through Lauren, attempting to reignite a torrid affair they once enjoyed. Michael quickly grows suspicious, and soon neither of them want Chance in their lives any longer. Chance has never been one to deal well with rejection, and his attraction soon grows fatal, if you catch my drift.

Take whatever prejudices you may have about direct-to-video or 'original TBS movie' fare, and it probably applies reasonably well to this movie. Asunder is seemingly disinterested in striving for anything greater than being a less-successful carbon copy of Fatal Attraction or the more recent box-office success Unfaithful. As a life-long slasher fan, I'm well-aware that originality is somewhat overrated. If a movie isn't going to be original, it should at least be interesting, and that's not something Asunder consistently manages to do all that well. Following the chaos at the fair, there's not much of interest until Chance snaps, even though for the most part, he's more of an ominous presence than an imminent threat. Blair Underwood seems to have a lot of fun with the role, and though I'm not wildly enthusiastic about Asunder, I'm certain I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much if most anyone else had been cast. He definitely gets the point across that Chance is nuts, and in one particularly memorable scene, he stands bare-assed nekkid in front of a brick wall adorned with pictures of Lauren for a moment before pressing his body against it. The climax is suspenseful and executed more effectively than in similar fare, following Chance stalking Lauren around her house with a butcher knife in hand. As familiar as that scenario sounds, it's spoiled by an unnecessary slasher retread, and the last few seconds before the credits roll are nothing short of embarrassing.

During my first couple of years of college, back in those dark days before DVD gained its current stranglehold on the home video industry, my roommates and I used to scour the 'Erotic Thriller' section of the local Moovies. Asunder isn't any better or worse than any one of those countless formulaic flicks, and that isn't exactly the greatest vote of confidence. These sorts of movies were strictly guilty pleasures, and if it required any more than 99 cents a pop to pick 'em up, I'd like to think that we wouldn't have bothered. I don't see myself ever buying one as a permanent addition to my DVD collection, especially a movie like Asunder with its bloated list price of $29.99. It's not a bad movie, but Asunder isn't a particularly good one either. The same could be said for its release on DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Video, who fished Asunder out of the obscurity where it languished for several years.

Video: Asunder is presented in anamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and the results aren't anything spectacular. Light grain is pervasive throughout, buzzing around particularly heavily in some of the more dimly lit interiors and one wide shot of the city. The palette seems a little flat. The fair and Lauren's fashion studio are colorful, but for the most part, hues don't leap off the screen and aren't particularly bright or vivid. Shadow detail is often somewhat murky, and mild haloing rears its head intermittently. The image is fairly sharp, and there isn't an overabundance of flecks or any sort of damage to the source material to distract. It's a fair presentation, and I'd imagine it's somewhat reflective of the movie's low-budget origins. That doesn't make Asunder look any more impressive, however, and this presentation doesn't stack up remarkably well next to other recent direct-to-video releases.

Audio: The Dolby stereo surround audio starts off sounding great. Asunder begins with a series of close-up shots of machinery at the fair, and the sounds of gears clanking ominously and electrical buzzing gives the movie an appropriately creepy atmosphere before any of the characters have even been introduced. My opinion took a near-180 degree turn once the cast strolled on-screen, however. I noticed that the dialogue was leaking into the rears, and these characters weren't in any sort of vast, echoey chamber. I hoped this would fade away as the movie progressed, but no such luck. The surrounds constantly chirped with activity, but I just couldn't get past the constant presence of dialogue in both the front and the rears. Bass response is minimal, limited to any great extent to a couple of scattered instances near the beginning and end of the movie.

This DVD release of Asunder includes English subtitles and closed captions.

Supplements: There's not much to talk about. The only extras are trailers for other Dimension releases, and Asunder isn't among them. Along with the usual 'Dimension Cutting Edge Films' promo are trailers for Undisputed (1:40), Tangled (1:11), Ordinary Decent Criminal (1:01), and Halloween: Resurrection (1:23). Aside from the non-anamorphic letterboxed Halloween sequel, the trailers are full-frame. As a totally random aside, some of these trailers are pretty lousy, particularly Tangled and its overwrought voiceover. Yikes.

Asunder sports a set of static 16x9-enhanced menus, and the movie has been divided into sixteen chapters.

Conclusion: Asunder is pretty firmly entrenched in rental territory. The movie's okay, but I'd be reluctant to plunk down more than a couple of bucks on a rental, let alone its hefty list price of $29.99. Fans of the talent involved may want to drop by the video store and give it a gander, but I can't really recommend Asunder with any enthusiasm. Rent It.

Related Links: Though its release on DVD is about as bare-bones as it gets, Asunder's web site includes a trailer, production notes, and a couple of other features along those lines.
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