Fragile (UK - DVD R2)
Reviewer Scott McKenzie finds out if Ally McBeal can cut it as a scream queen...
Calista Flockhart plays Amy Nicholls, a nurse who is called in to cover the night shift at a hospital on the Isle of Wight that is closing down. The only patients are a handful of children, including a young girl called Maggie, who forms a bond with Amy and tells her of a ‘mechanical girl’ who lives on the derelict second floor. Is she saying that the hospital is haunted, and what happened to the nurse who worked the night shift before Amy?
Recognise the setup? That’s right—a spooky girl haunts a bunch of people who the powers-that-be don’t believe. What’s surprising is that Fragile wasn’t made in Korea or Japan and isn’t being released by Tartan like the mountain of spooky girl movies we’ve checked out recently. In actual fact, it was filmed in Spain and the UK by Spanish filmmakers and while their nationality is irrelevant to whether they can deliver a decent movie, I found myself enjoying Fragile more than I thought I would.
Fragile feels a little different when compared with recent horror movies because there’s no big twist. Rather than turning the whole film on its head at the climax and forcing the viewer to question what they’ve seen all the way through, we get a run-of-the-mill plot with a twist that won’t make you jump out of your seat in shock. This lack of flair permeates throughout the whole production with production design, sound and camera work that you would expect from a haunted hospital movie. About half way through I began to realise that I could appreciate the film more if I thought of it as a TV movie rather than a production that I might want to watch on the big screen.
So can Ally McBeal cut it as a scream queen? Well, she’s not bad here. She has to carry a lot of the early scenes on her own as she walks around the hospital, checking for the sources of the creaks and moans. Her character has a past that means she’s tightly coiled and ready to snap at any time and she carries it off pretty well. Her performance is as convincing as any I would expect from a highly-paid TV actor, but I can’t imagine it will set her on her way to headlining big budget horror movies.
There appears to be a common theme here—that there’s not a great deal in Fragile that sets it apart from any other scary movie out there, but there’s also nothing that would force me to warn you against watching it. However, there is one scene that is definitely worthy of your time. When Amy finds out the fate of the nurse whose job she has taken over, she delivers the news to one of her colleagues at the same time as the children in the hospital are watching an animated movie. The scene is well-written, comparing the film the children are watching with the feelings of the characters in the background whose lines are delivered in silence.
I wasn’t expecting big things from Fragile but I hoped it might offer something where the other spooky young girl movies I’ve reviewed over recent months have failed. Fragile succeeds in not having ideas above its station. This is a straight-to-DVD movie, and has even premiered on TV in some countries, which delivers on the expectations set by the DVD cover. It’s a fairly spooky movie with a bit of a twist that is worth a look if you’re stuck for a movie to pass the time.
Fragile is presented with a 2.35:1 anamorphic picture. This surprised me because I expected a movie that has been sold for TV and directly to DVD to be cropped to 16:9. While the visuals are not exactly epic in scope, the wider picture is welcome. Having a damsel in distress sneaking around a haunted hospital means low lighting and large areas of black and dark colours, with some scenes having a Matrix-esque green tint. The picture doesn’t show excessive signs of compression or any other artefacts that may get in the way of an enjoyable viewing experience.
The disc comes with just one audio track, Dolby Digital 5.1. A movie that depends on spooky noises to move the story along needs a decent soundtrack and here it does its job. Footsteps and voices echo through the surround speakers to set the tone and the only complaint I have is that I thought the music was a little too loud compared with the dialogue. As with the video quality, there’s nothing here that will make you want to show off your entertainment system with this disc but there are no obvious problems either.
The disc prompts you to watch trailers for The Lives of Others, See No Evil, Right At Your Door and 11:14, but it is possible to skip past them. The only other extra is a ‘Making of’ featurette that clocks in at a woefully short seven minutes and devotes more screen time to clips of the movie itself rather than interviews with the cast and crew and behind-the-scenes footage.
Slightly above average is the best way I can describe Fragile. When viewed as a TV movie with decent production values, it offers a less squirm-inducing alternative to the ‘torture porn’ being peddled by Hollywood at the moment. I can’t imagine many people would want to watch it more than once and the DVD extras don’t offer anything to come back to so my recommendation is to give it a rent. With your expectations set at the appropriate level, it’s worth a go.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 2nd July 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Making of Featurette, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jaume Balagueró
Cast: Calista Flockhart, Richard Roxburgh, Elena Anaya, Gemma Jones, Colin McFarlane
Genre: Drama and Horror
Length: 93 minutes
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