Alias (Vanguard)
Vanguard // Unrated // $29.95 // April 27, 2004
Review by Don Houston | posted May 23, 2004
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Movie: Thrillers are one of the most common genres of movies to be made all over the world these days. It doesn't matter what country you visit, there will always be a thriller on the marquee of the local theatre. There are probably a hundred reasons for this phenomenon, likely because audiences love a good scare but like to keep it at least plausible (unlike the latest supernatural horror flick). The latest release from the folks at Vanguard Cinema is a foreign movie by the name of Alias.

Shot for a budget approaching that of a mid-level American television sitcom (one without any superstars at that), the movie details a couple of professional gals that go on vacation in Belgium. While enjoying the sights, they stumble across what appears to be a suicide by a young, very attractive woman who thankfully had no clothes on when she fell. The leads of the movie, Eva and Patti (their real names are kind of obscure so we'll keep it easy), catch the event on videotape. They are then mugged by a couple of hoodlums in the street that they caught breaking into a car earlier in the day but find themselves saved by a young stranger, Deiter, who dispatches the robbers with a practices ease that includes slamming them around and bloodying them up a bit.

Eva, having some troubles with her boyfriend, is attracted to the young stranger who exudes a sense of calm reassurance and charm the likes she has never seen before. Patti, on the other hand, doesn't trust him yet can't say why, it being just a hunch. She takes the recovered tape into her studio and goes over it again and again, looking for some clue as to what really happened. As luck would have it, bad things start to happen to her and Eva yet Dieter is there to assist as needed.

Eva gets increasingly close to the young man and goes to meet his family, immediately after which, she senses something amiss. From his overly friendly mother to his overly cool father, she gets to feeling that she is in danger and when all is said and done, she learns that the victim of the suicide was a patient of Deiter's father in a mental asylum. Will he protect her from the old man or is something else going on becomes the question of the day.

Okay, the budget was low but the movie was actually pretty good considering it's limitations. Foreign films like this are commonplace and far too many of them get surreal all too quickly, perhaps in an attempt to look artistic. The nuts and bolts of this release don't show anything beyond the standard slasher flick yet if you enjoy that type of thing, this will likely appeal to you more than it did me. Heck, if I were on the crew making it, I'd suggest showing a lot more nudity, especially by the hotty that died far too early in the movie.

The themes on display here ran the usual range and this one wasn't exceptional in any way with regard to how it chose to look at them. From the rage to the sorrow, the actors went through the motions, doing a decent job for the most part but nothing I'd recommend for an award. The mechanics of the film were similar in scope and while I can't suggest it as a great movie, it was worth a Rent It, especially for fans of the genre.

Picture: The picture was presented in it's original 2.35:1 ratio widescreen format. It wasn't anamorphic widescreen but it looked pretty good once you overlook the grain and slight mosquito noise. A friend pointed out some edge enhancement to me as we watched it so if you're super sensitive to such aspects, you might want to prepare yourself.

Sound: The audio was presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Dutch with English subtitles. There wasn't a lot of separation between the channels and the dynamic range wasn't anything to put fear in the hearts of Hollywood producers, but it was adequately used here to convey the emotions and nuances of the visuals included.

Extras: The only extras were the trailer for the movie and a double sided DVD cover. On the bright side, if there had been an audio commentary, it would've likely been in Dutch and I'd be fussing about it.

Final Thoughts: I liked the movie far more than I should have, and I'm not a fan of thrillers for the most part. Some promise was shown by the director and cast, especially the leads, that might be better put to use in a bigger budget release. The technical aspects were okay and the dramatic elements were competently handled so I think it's worth a rental if you see it locally.

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