Abominable (US - DVD R1)
What do they say about big feet? Big feet, big, face-crushing jaws? Amen...
Matt McCoy is Preston Rogers, a man with a traumatic past who's being forced by his psychiatrist to return to the site of a violent accident that left him crippled and his wife dead. When left alone in his mountain top cabin his imagination begins to run wild, as he frantically eyes the nearby tree line with a set of high-powered binoculars. Preston swears that there’s something out there, something big. Soon a jeep full of curvaceous co-eds pulls up to the cabin next door, and the smorgasbord is set.
It would be all too easy to take the Gene Shalit rout on this flick and simply re-quote the title as my review (as in ‘this film was simply Abominable’). This would be lazy, not only because stupid title-based puns are probably the laziest form of film criticism (seriously, referring to an X-Men film as 'x-citing' in print is pretty embarrassing), but because Abominable actually deserves better than that. This is the story of an invalid watching helplessly from a window as an oversized Bigfoot murders a group of nubile girls, one of which is quite naked a the time of violent death. This is not high art, nor does it ever masquerade as such, and I have to respect it for what it is––B-grade trash.
If we are to look at the film critically we should acknowledge the fact that it is almost entirely referential. The plot is very similar (obviously, and as acknowledge by the director) to Hitchcock's Rear Window, to the point where Rear Window with a Bigfoot may've been an apt title (the film did premiere in a cut version on the Sci-Fi Channel, after all). Lead Matt McCoy also bears a passing resemblance to Anthony Perkins, a man forever associated with Hitchcock, not to mention the Birds style 'Man vs. Marauding Nature' aspects. Hitch was an inspiration to say the least.
The next layer of strict homage is to Spielberg’s monster movies, most specifically Jaws and Jurassic Park, with a splash of Duel. During the film's opening moments writer/director Ryan Schifrin spoons out a nice portion of Spielberg like, less-is-more monster attack, complete with mangled livestock and giant footprints. Screaming victims dragged violently by an unseen force, and camera tilting dolly movements are also regular occurrences. At one point McCoy even searches his kitchen for a weapon, quipping feebly ‘I'm going to need a bigger knife’.
Probably most important, however, is the fact that Schifrin has knowingly taken a step back in genre filmmaking, and has ensured that Abominable looks as it could've very easily been conceived and created in the early 1980s. This proud admiration for gratuitous sex and violence is infectious, as are the non-digital Sasquach make-up effects (though from a character design standpoint, the title Bigfoot bares a striking resemblance to a very angry and hairy Stacy Keach, and I found it impossible not to laugh at him every time its face was on screen). The movie is stupid, stupid, stupid, but how any genre fan couldn't enjoy themselves at least a little is beyond me.
Unfortunately for genre buffs, I have to reveal that fan favourites Jeffery Combs and Lance Henrickson are really only on screen for a disposable subplot, which seems to have been edited in from a different movie, and time-wise their appearances could only be described as cameos (during the commentary track Schifrin mentions the fact that their co-op sequence was an afterthought). Both actors are in fine form, especially Combs who eats just about all the scenery he can fit in his gob. Dee Wallace-Stone is also present for the film's Speilbergian pre-credit sequence. I'd much rather see niche actors like these given leads over cameos, though I'm to understand Henrickson has another Bigfoot movie premiering on Sci-Fi sometime in the near future (I think that makes something like four Bigfoot themed horror films in the man's career).
The only constructive suggestion I have for first time feature filmmaker Schifrin is to keep things moving, and have no fear in slathering even more boobs and blood onto the celluloid. The film could almost be accused of loosing its nerve on a few occasions, and if McCoy's teary-eyed remembrance of his accident wasn't supposed to be funny, I'd say the ball was dropped. Honestly, I already liked my lead characters enough to want them to get away from the monster without them needing a momentum stopping sob story. Otherwise, I say keep up the good work.
For such a recent movie from such a reliable studio, I have to say I'm disappointed in Abominable's video performance. The bulk of the film takes place at night, and the image is rightly dark, but at some points the print is so dark that one will hear a sudden spike in the music (usually the kind of thing that accompanies a visual scare), but be completely in the dark, so to speak, about what the spike has represented. Was I supposed to see the monster, or were you just faking me out?
The transfer suffers greatly from some high contrast problems, which are perhaps the side effect of an effort to overcome the film's darkness. Contrast and sharpness are set too high, and edge enhancement is the result. Edge enhancement everywhere, accompanied by a touch of mosquito noise (look Ma, I learned a new term today!), or Gibb effect. This is most obvious when a light shape intersects with a dark one, like teeth and an open, dark mouth. The film is unmistakably digital quality, but not up to the standards that one has come to accept from Anchor Bay Studios.
Though the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack really kicks the viewer in the teeth at times, it often sounds as if sound elements have layered from too many different sources, and at times is artificially clean, as only library sound effects can be. The music is way over the top, and too loud at times, but entirely appropriate to the production. Bigfoot's feet thumping will probably send the house pets scrambling, as will his inhuman screams. The soundtrack definitely has some issues with balance, but is impressive so far as B-pictures go. One might say the audio is too good for a film pretending to have been born twenty years ago.
Anchor Bay has always been good about listing a whole bunch of extra features on the backs of their DVD releases, but quite often these extras amount to a scant few minutes of fluff. I'll take a stab in the dark here, and say that Abominable’s filmmakers had a DVD edition in mind while filming, and though the nutritional value of the extras is slightly lacking, this still stands as a decent set.
The lead extra is the group commentary featuring Ryan Schifrin and lead actor McCoy, edited together with an obviously separately recorded track with Combs and the film's editor. As low budget film fans may've come to expect, new filmmakers can really make for amazing commentary tracks. Schifrin talks a mile a minute, and probably could've done the track without McCoy. We get the back-story on just about every scene, along with a fair bit of trivia, even an acknowledgement of the use of the Wilhelm scream. The special effects set-ups are explained, as are the tricks of the trade, those valuable tid-bits that new filmmakers need to make a decent looking flick on budget. Combs is only present for his two scenes, but seems very happy with the film and his work.
Following the commentary track is a behind the scenes featurette, complete with cast interviews. As often seems to happen, nothing extraordinary is found, but it's great to see the enthusiasm shared almost universally on set. I would've loved some one on one time with Combs or Henricksen, but considering the fact that they were probably on set for one or two days I can't really blame anyone for their absence, and I suppose Combs is on the commentary.
The deleted scenes are mostly snippets cut for pacing, nothing more than a minute long, and their absence is welcome. The blooper reel isn't as fun as I had hoped, as I had hoped for man-in-suit follies, of which there was only one. We're mostly privy to people getting the giggles.
Schifrin’s USC Student Film, Shadows, is a surprisingly subtle (considering were he went with Abominable) and old fashion character piece. It looks and feels like one of Tim Burton's early, B+W through back shorts. Shadows is much more visually intriguing than narratively engaging, but shows a real sense of filmic control, that I have to say Schifrin doesn't always manage to harness during his feature length debut.
The rest of the disc is all stills, storyboards, and trailers. The storyboards are nice, but stills from a film are never interesting to me, especially when the film itself is less than a year old. The trailers are delightfully crusty and clunky, and Anchor Bay has shockingly decided to not infiltrate the disc's opening with other STV new releases.
Abominable is Rear Window meets Shriek of the Mutilated or Night of the Demon (which I really want someone to release on DVD already). If that synopsis sounds too stupid for words, then do yourself a big favour and stay away from this DVD. On the other hand, if the premise sounds promising, and you've got a craving for showering co-eds and Stacy Keach looking bigfoots eating male nurse's faces, run, don't walk to your nearest retail outlet. It's not everything I wanted it to be, but I had fun knowing I was killing off my more important brain cells.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 3rd October 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentary with Writer/ Director Ryan Schifrin, Actors Matt McCoy and Jeffrey Combs, Back to Genre: Making Abominable, Deleted And Extended Scenes, Outtakes and Bloopers, Poster & Still Gallery, Shadows: Director Ryan Schifrin’s USC Student Film, Storyboard Gallery, Screenplay (DVD-ROM), Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Ryan Schifrin
Cast: Matt McCoy, Haley Joel, Lance Henriksen, Jeffery Combs, Dee Wallace-Stone, Paul Gleason,
Length: 94 minutes
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