Eden Log
Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // $34.98 // May 19, 2009
Review by Adam Tyner | posted May 18, 2009
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Graphical Version
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figure awakens in a muddy pool. Disoriented, he has no idea where he is or how he got there. Off in the distance, a flashing light pulses, offering a blink of a respite from the shadows that surround him. After tearing this light off a set of skeletal remains, he skulks throughout the cave only to find that these are the decrepit remnants of some sort of futuristic complex. The purpose it once held is unclear, but its carcass is pockmarked by unchecked plant growth and swarming with feral creatures barely recognizable as human. Heavily-armored soldiers are also prowling around the remnants of Eden Log, in chase of the rat who designed this labyrinthine maze and gunning down whatever creatures they happen to stumble upon. His mind is fading quickly, devolving into just another of the sort of mindless, murderous beasts that litter the complex, and the few firing synapses that remain fuel him with a primal need to escape.

Eden Log is saddled with the stop-and-go rhythm of a lackluster first-person-shooter. Its central character -- whose name isn't revealed until its final moments -- is a blank cipher. More likely to grunt than speak, he has little dialogue and essentially no personality aside from his snarling bouts of de-evolution. As he claws his way through this sprawling underground complex, Eden Log feels more and more as if he's moving from one level of a game to the next, falling into a repetitive cycle of running, fighting, and listening to interminable exposition. It's deliberate that he's such a blank slate, of course, but the lack of any semblance of personality keep him far enough at arm's length that I never have any reason to care what happens. Eden Log also fails to capitalize on its central character's spiraling mindset all that effectively. Then again, it's probably for the best that he has so little to say; the acting across the board is gratingly exaggerated, from convulsing, snarling physical performances to cringeworthy, scenery-gnawing line readings.

Rather than find some way to deftly weave Eden Log's story into the action, the movie opts instead to stop the pace dead in its tracks and ramble on for several minutes at a time. If I'd had a DualShock controller in hand rather than a remote, I'd be
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mashing the Start button to skip past these long, awkward cutscenes and move onto the next level. While the core of Eden Log's story does seem somewhat derivative -- think Cube with ravenous mutants and Aliens' production design -- the way the film approaches it through an enveloping atmosphere rather than strictly by plot is intriguing, at least to a point. Eden Log also ensures that the audience as kept as confused and disoriented as its central character is for the overwhelming majority of the movie.

Despite not having tens of millions of dollars of CGI to lean on, Franck Vestiel has fleshed out a convincingly futuristic ravaged world, and his directorial debut showcases the startling amount of style he can produce on what I'm sure is an extremely modest budget. Its most outstanding sequences are achieved purely through practical effects: this man suspended inside a translucent cube he violently rocks back and forth to escape as well as cobbling together some sort of screen with whatever happens to be in arm's reach to view a projected image. If anything, Vestiel makes me wish he'd been able to shrug off computer graphics altogether; the scale of the dodgy CGI in the finalé grossly outstrips its reach, and it's really kind of embarrassing.

Still, Eden Log absolutely deserves credit for being so wildly ambitious, and even though its philosophical bent doesn't strike me as fully realized, at least this is a movie with something to say rather than just another rote action flick posing as science fiction. Really, it's the uncomfortable middle ground between action and high-minded art Eden Log settles into that ultimately disappoints, failing to deliver enough on either front to truly satisfy. Eden Log is unable to maintain the momentum and intrigue it establishes in its first half hour, feeling too quickly as if it's a meandering stylistic exercise rather than a feature film. Rent It.

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Eden Log is intensely stylized, boasting a consistently gritty texture and largely monochromatic visuals. There's essentially no color at all, really, with most every last frame of its 1.85:1 image flanked by cold metal or draped in an ashen gray. For a movie so deeply blanketed in shadow, black levels are disappointingly erratic. Clarity and fine detail are also below par for a day-and-date release on Blu-ray, although this is almost certainly a factor of its threadbare budget, limited lighting, and deliberate visual style rather than an authoring misstep. Go in with reasonable expectations.

Eden Log has been encoded with VC-1 and fits comfortably on a single layer Blu-ray disc.

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Its 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack easily ranks as the best aspect of this Blu-ray disc, bolstered by pounding, punishing bass and an aggressive sound design. Eden Log immediately establishes an unsettling atmosphere that doesn't relent until the end credits make their upward crawl. Dripping water, howling wind, and whirring machinery add an eerie sense of immersion, and the frequent reverb conveys just how cavernous and sprawling this underground complex really is. There's a fair amount of directionality to its dialogue as well. Most impressive, though, are the mutant assaults; the creatures slowly encircle their prey, and their gutteral snarls attack from every direction. Eden Log's score sounds outstanding as well, particularly the massive presence on display as its characters dart up a winding staircase. This is an exceptionally strong effort.

There aren't any alternate soundtracks in tow for this high definition version of Eden Log, although subtitle streams have been provided in English (SDH) and Spanish.

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The only extra is the French version of Eden Log, presented in soft, murky standard definition and Dolby Digital 5.1 (448kbps). Optional English subtitles are also offered for this alternate and somewhat shorter cut of the film.

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The Final Word
Eden Log draws its claustrophobic, disorienting inspiration from all the right places, unspooling like some combination of Bioshock, Aliens, and Cube. Saddled with an erratic rhythm and cringeworthy overacting, though, Eden Log too quickly eases its grip, losing hold of the intensity and intrigue that drive its first act. Eden Log does deserve some measure of credit for its ambition and for having a sincere point of view, but neither the movie nor its release on Blu-ray are compelling enough to warrant anything more than a rental. Rent It.

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