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Old 10-27-2010, 08:06 PM
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Scored: 3
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Disturbed




Reviewer: Jeremy
Review Date: October 27, 2010

Released by: Celebrity Video Distribution
Release date: 4/7/2009
MSRP: $14.99
Region 0, NTSC
Interlaced
Full-Frame 1.33:1
2009


“People v. Mason. Case #41103. NBSO. Capital case prosecuted by the district attorney Randall Fontaine, current representing congressman. Very notorious case, high profile, media present through both trials. Due to an incestuous sexual relationship with his mother, which manifested itself into a deep and disturbing hatred towards women. Uncooperative client, multiple evaluations required over the course of twenty years, recommended by myself, Dr. Ian Keller. I concluded through the coordination of psychiatric and neurological investigations the following: insanity, psychofrenetic and cultural issues. Outcome: C. Mason is on death row awaiting transfer to carry out punishment of lethal injection.”

WARNING: Contains spoilers

The Story

inline ImageYoung, pretty and blonde, Ashlee Fontaine (Melissa Deverian) is a smart and sexy woman in her early twenties. An apparently successful real estate agent, she still – for reasons that are never explained – lives at home with her parents in her hometown of Quartz Hill, California. Her father is a prominent congressman and pillar of the community, and has two more children, a moody, sort of gothish son named Alex (Alex Aldridge) and a fugly daughter named Peyten (Peyten Aldridge), both of whom go to the local high school. The fact that Ashlee still lives at home is very convenient for her parents, because they’re out of town this weekend and with her around they don’t need to get a babysitter. Unfortunately for Ashlee, events are in motion that will make her quarrels with her younger siblings look like a cakewalk.

inline ImageThe problems begin on Friday afternoon, when a snooty girl named Barbie (Veronica Wilber) – whose family happens to live in a house formerly occupied by Ashlee’s family – comes home to find a demonic serial killer named Mason (Randy Aldridge) waiting for her. Mason, who is freshly escaped from death row and looking for the Fontaines, has already killed Barbie’s mother and now he kills her too. But wait, there’s more! Barbie’s boyfriend arrives at her house to pick her up and finds the place crawling with reporters and police officers. Realizing that his girlfriend is dead, he drives away distraught. On a lonely road out in the desert Mason suddenly pops out of the backseat and slits the boy’s throat, then steals the car. His ultimate destination: Ashlee’s new house, where her, Peyten, Alex and Alex’s girlfriend Nikki (Alisa Caldwell) are all staying. There he intends to unleash his psychotic fury, and before the weekend is out Ashlee and her siblings will have good reason to regret that their father ever heard of this crazy pervert...

inline ImageDisturbed was directed by California filmmakers Randy Aldridge and Bryan McLaughlin, and a quick look at the full cast and crew list reveals a degree of apparent nepotism, as two of the main roles are played by a Peyten and an Alex Aldridge, and a Cindy Aldridge plays a small role as Mason's mother (in flashbacks) and is also listed as a producer, casting director and head of the make-up department. I assume that Cindy is Randy Aldridge's wife, and Alex and Peyten are his children. If that is the case, then the amateurishness of the film takes on a new dimension; it is a family endeavor that, in terms of technical quality and entertainment value, is much closer to a home movie than a professional film (of course, most home movies don’t feature anal rape like this one does). The fact that this was a family project for the Aldridges might explain the defensiveness in the writings of a certain Internet Movie Database user with the posting handle "randya-6". Writing on the message board for the film, he authored a post titled "Good B movie” in which he wrote the following:

I love the way the small town of Qartz Hill look in the movie. Alex Aldridge was very good and a good fighter against the killer...

inline ImageIn another post, a different IMDb user who had seen the movie inquired about whether Disturbed was a film school project because of its generally shoddy quality. This prompted "randya-6" to respond by writing:

What the name of the movie that you have done? That's what I thought...

Folks, I don't know if "randya-6" is Randy Aldridge or not, but I suspect it is. The smarmy, "you've never made a movie before so you don't know what it's like" tone inherent to the post is indicative of a jilted indie filmmaker. While I personally have never directed a feature film, I have directed enough shorts and documentaries, and been involved with enough film projects in general, to know that even a film as amateurish as this must still have required a tremendous amount of energy and hard work to see it through. That's a complement to the perseverance of Mr. Aldridge and his family; but it doesn't make their movie any better.

inline ImageAs a film, Disturbed is full of strangely effective moments between characters, moments that have a believable realism between them. In one early scene, as Alex and his girlfriend are parked at a reservoir while playing hookie from school, drinking Jägermeister and contemplating sex, a patrol car pulls up and a sheriff's deputy named Slayton gets out and approaches them. The deputy knows who both Alex and Nikki are, and knows that Alex's dad is a pillar of the community. He smells the alcohol on them, but rather than acting like a complete tool he finds a little amusement in the encounter. Alex nervously jokes back and forth with Slayton and is ultimately only saved when a dispatcher calls the deputy with news of one of Mason’s murders, prompting him to let them go. Most movies of this caliber would imbue their token law enforcement character with one or two highly clichéd traits, making him a complete jerk, a complete buffoon, and/or possibly a dirty redneck. Slayton, who appears periodically throughout the movie, is not quite any of those things. He’s slightly overweight and never quite there when you need him, but he is at least more professional and competent than some of the outlandish low budget horror movie cops I’ve seen.

inline ImageOther parts of the film also have that same believable realism. The scenes of family life in the Fontaine household show this in particular, and I get a feeling that Randy Aldridge based them closely on the way his children really interacted in their home. Though she may not have any familial relationship with the Aldridges, Melissa Deverian is a convincing big sister, particularly in scenes she shares with Peyten Aldridge. She’s not a convincing actress as a whole, but she fits the part. The only moment where her acting truly shines comes after Mason has violated her through a most uncomfortable bodily orifice. She wakes up after having passed out from shock and, crying, realizes what happened to her. It is a completely authentic moment, touching in its sadness and despair.

inline ImageAll these effective and unusual moments are wrapped around a plot that is so paint-by-the-numbers that you already know all you need to know about the film from the first three minutes. The clichés come fast and furious, and almost every moment of horror is predictable. That is true especially of the ending, which audience members can see coming from the earliest scenes. Mason’s face is never really shown, but his height and hairstyle are very similar to that of another character, also played by director Randy Aldridge. This particular character is introduced early in the film, seems nice enough in the first scene but then starts to act increasingly shady as the movie progresses. Though clearly a distinct character from that of Mason, it is little surprise when, at the end, the ambulance taking away Mason’s supposedly dead body stops by the side of the road and the unseen EMT driving it opens up Mason’s body bag. Mason opens his eyes and Aldridge’s voice says, “Hello brother,” and the credits roll.

inline ImageThis type of ending has become a major pet peeve of mine with regards to modern horror, particularly modern slashers, which seem to almost always feature a “twist” ending where the killer comes back to life after having apparently been killed. It has gotten so bad that seeing a slasher film where the killer is killed for good seems like a twist ending now. The idea of the murderer being indestructible, so eerily forceful in the original Halloween, has been rendered practically worthless by thirty years of copying and imitating by slasher films big and small. All the horror and suspense has been wrung out of it. A twist ending is no longer a twist ending when it is done completely by rote. This type of ending is no longer done because it is scary, or even to set up for a sequel. It is done because it is irrevocably part of the formula that all formulaic slasher films adhere to. And even though it has some occasional nice touches, Disturbed is unfortunately and unmistakably a formulaic slasher film.

Image Quality

inline ImageThe back of the box promises widescreen and full screen versions of the movie, but ultimately what’s on the disc is just a single interlaced 1.33:1 presentation. The overall quality is watchable, but still displays all the limitations of the ultra low budget production. With its short, eighty-five minute running time and lack of supplements, the film itself is given a generous bit rate, but still suffers from all kinds of artifacting. Colors mostly look decent, with fully saturated hues and accurate flesh tones, but clarity and sharpness are limited by the low grade video cameras used in the shoot. Black levels are deep, but most shots tend to be riddled with ugly video noise. Shadow detail ranges from decent to poor, depending on the shot.

Sound

Disturbed is presented in a Dolby 2.0 Stereo soundtrack, and I was pleasantly surprised by how decent the sound on this film turned out to be. Live dialogue recording is usually the bane of low budget movies like this, but aside from one or two early scenes the dialogue is wholly understandable and I was not forced to constantly adjust the volume on my remote control. Music and sound effects were reproduced with acceptable clarity. All in all not bad.

Supplemental Material

No extras, not even a trailer.

Final Thoughts

inline ImageThe home video market is crowded with slasher films, whose budgets range from the millions of dollars to a puny $10,000 or even less. Yet almost all of these productions are still beholden to the long established slasher formula. This movie is no different. Despite a number of surprisingly effective or touching moments it is irrevocably part of this cycle, and thus there are no shocks, surprises or scares to be found. The film sounds decent but looks terrible on this DVD (although given its ultra low budget nature I suspect that it didn’t look much better when the master went in for digital authoring) and it’s hard to recommend Disturbed in any form, even as a rental.

Rating


.
Movie – D+

Image Quality – D

Sound – B-

Supplements – N/A




Technical Info.
  • Running Time – 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • Dolby 2.0 Stereo

Supplements
  • None

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