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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Organizm
Organizm
Image // R // June 10, 2008
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Justin Felix | posted June 17, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
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The Movie:

Organizm, recently released on DVD by Image Entertainment, has all the hallmarks of the old 1950s horror and science fiction flicks that used to dominate local Saturday afternoon television schedules when I was growing up in the late 1970s / early 1980s. It's got scientist heroes, a small town, a giant killer organism, mandatory evacuations, and lots and lots of military stuff - tanks, jets, guns, bombs, etc. And, it plays out just like those movies did - with no surprises. The only mystery in this movie is why the distributors went with the z instead of the s in the title. I guess they thought it looked cool.

Johnathon Schaech and Erica Leerhsen play the leads in Organizm. The former is a New Jersey science teacher named Frank Sears and the latter is a Hazmat specialist named Carrie Freeborn. Frank's crazy mother carved a warning about a certain location within a military installation into his hands when he was 10. This was before she shot his stepfather and herself in one the fakest-looking pair of murders I've ever seen on film (keep an eye out for the absolutely dreadful CG work in this early scene). Years later, Frank discovers the military compound is being shut down and he drives 36 hours to the compound itself to warn them. Carrie Freeborn is responsible for the hazardous cleaning of the compound along with her husband - who we know from the start is doomed in this movie (if the sentimental clues don't help, you'll know from the DVD's main menu, which shows him getting killed). Heeding Frank's warning, they investigate this area, find a canister, and rather foolishly let loose an unconvincing CG tendril-creature-thing that quickly lays waste to the military compound and the nearby town. With her husband dead, Carrie aids Frank in trying to kill the organism.

Organizm plays it very safe and follows the normal conventions of creature feature fare that came before it. Schaech and Leerhsen are good as the main characters. Leerhsen, who is making a niche career for herself in genre flicks, tends to over-emote, but she's attractive - and this isn't exactly Shakespeare that's being produced. The CG is low-budget and unconvincing, but it's all par for the course.

Organizm is fun midnight movie fare - and it's all right to laugh at it. Ultimately, it's forgettable, so I'll go with a Rent It recommendation.

The DVD

Video:

When the third season of the television series The Dead Zone was released on DVD, many consumers complained of a shifting black and white line at the top of the screen. It was something I noticed when I viewed those DVDs as well. Lionsgate finally issued a statement that was posted on TVShowsOnDVD's website claiming the problem was only on certain brands of DVD players. "On these players," they wrote, "the upper matte is not flush with the picture by 1 line of pixels, resulting in the thin white line on the top of the window."

I mention all of this because the only time I've ever encountered this visual defect was with that Dead Zone release - until now. Organizm appears to have the same defect - a flashing white and black line atop the image. Image Entertainment advertises their release of Organizm as "a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ration enhanced for 16x9 TVs," and that is, indeed what's presented. The line appears on the very top of the upper black bar. I was able to zoom in on the image on my widescreen television to watch the movie without the topmost black bar. Consumers viewing this on a standard television, however, probably won't have that luxury. On my computer, using the program PowerDVD, the line was noticeable even in full screen mode. It doesn't affect the movie image itself, but the line can be distracting.

Aside from that issue, the movie doesn't look bad. It's sharp - though there are some minor defects like aliasing. Colors are muted, favoring blue, which may have been an artistic decision.

Sound:

Two audio tracks are offered on this DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. The Dolby Digital 5.1 seems to be the default, and it's surprisingly good. Dialogue comes across strong and sound effects surround the viewer. Spanish subtitles are provided, as are English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Extras:

When the disc is played, trailers precede the menu for Taxi to the Dark Side, Love and Other Disasters, Careless, and Banshee. These trailers are not accessible through the menu system, but there is a link to the trailer for Organizm. This trailer has the same visual flaw as the film itself - although the other trailers appeared fine.

More important is a commentary track featuring the writer and director Richard Jefferies, and stars Johnathon Schaech and Erica Leerhsen. They seem cordial and talk continuously through the film.

Final Thoughts:

Campy but entertaining, Organizm is a fairly diverting creature feature yarn in the tradition of classic 1950s horror and sci-fi. Special effects are substandard, though, and this is probably best categorized as a Rent It.

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