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I've always had a weird soft spot for flicks from down under. I don't know why exactly (perhaps a childhood filled with watching the Mad Max flicks a hundred times each) but whereas some Americans gravitate towards Japanese horror or arty French feelms, I've always had a thing for Aussie cinema.
That affinity might help to explain why I enjoyed Sam Voutas' Crash Test perhaps just a little more than it deserves, but regardless of where the flick came from, it's still a pretty unique and quietly thought-provoking little sci-fi mind-bender -- even if it's also a little pokey in the center and fairly dry throughout.
Now when you hear the phrase "sci-fi," I don't want your brains to fill up with images of expensive special effects, crazy action scenes, or anything that could appropriately be described as "flashy." Nope, Crash Test is one of those "word-heavy" science fiction movies, the kind where the concepts and characters are the most interesting things on display.
It's a somewhat disorienting tale about an author who plans to publish a scathing exposé about Motorkore, Inc., a company that manufactures cars and is rumored to have used live humans as crash test dummies. Before you can say "I know where this is going," the writer is promptly knocked unconscious, only to awaken on a surgical slab while being informed that, guess what, he's now a human crash test dummy. Well, dummy-in-training, anyway.
For all its interesting concepts and effectively low-key directorial touches, Crash Test does manage to sag in the middle just a bit. This shortcoming might be due to the fact that director Sam Voutas pulled this 81-minute feature from a 5-minute short film, and it's true that Crash Test often seems to spin its wheels between the more compelling plot points.
Shot in a virtually colorless monochrome style, and packed with more conversations than anything resembling a fight, an escape, or a car chase, Crash Test is like one of those creepy sci-fi short stories that you'd buy in anthology form. Perhaps not the most exciting or fascinating story in the book, but a well-crafted and fairly intriguing one all the same.
Video: Sub Rosa brings this import home by way of a pretty solid widescreen transfer. Considering that Crash Test was probably produced for the sticker price of a fancy new car, I'd say the picture quality is rather commendable.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, with just a mild imbalance between the dialogue (low) and the score (not so low).
Two short films come with the main feature: the original 5-minute Crash Test and one called How Was Your Day?, which is a 31-minute break-up story from director Mark Cange.
Also included is a trailers collection: Crash Test, China White Serpentine, The Christmas Season Massacre, Insaniac, Killers by Nature, The Undertow, Strawberry Estates, and Buzz Saw.
Crash Test shoots for a THX-1138 approach, and while I don't think it matches that movie in any appreciable way, there's still an admirable sense of style & smarts that makes it well worth watching. Expect some indie-style weirdness and several lengthy bouts of dialoguing, but if you're cool with that, then Crash Test is certainly worthy of a Rent It award.