Nesting, The (US - BD)
Gabe hunkers down, draws the shades and locks the doors and writes a review...
An agoraphobic mystery novelist named Lauren Cochran (Robin Groves) finds herself at the mercy of the busy streets of the big city, and with help from her boyfriend Mark (Christopher Loomis) and shrink Dr. Webb (Patrick Farrelly) decides to leave the apartment in order to cure her mental issues, along with a new onset of writer's block. Lauren rents an old Victorian house in the quiet, green countryside, unaware of the building’s shocking history. Soon the people around her begin to suffer increasingly violent deaths, and Lauren begins to unravel the truth: the house was once an infamous brothel that befell a violent tragedy, and is now haunted by the victims.
Despite the rather garish print campaign (which mostly paints the film as a slasher rather than a haunted house flick) and gory trailer, co-writer/director Armand Weston clearly intended The Nesting as a slightly higher class, adult horror film. Not that kind of adult, gutter brain, though Armand is most well known for his erotica. The average age of the characters is closer to 40 than 18, their issues relate to problems college kids don’t normally worry about, and the overall tone verges on the ‘classy’. Of course The Nesting isn’t really a classy production beyond its handsome production designs and cinematography, but this serious mood makes the more trashy aspects all the more enjoyable. At times Weston successfully recalls both the chilly stillness of The Shining (which I’m pretty sure this film is aping on some level), and the grubby exploitation of Umberto Lenzi’s Ghosthouse in the same shot. For every goofy existential discussion about the supernatural vs. science, and every lurid pause for the lead to grope herself, there are at least two gorgeously framed, Gothicized shots of the Victorian house to remind us we’re settling between two contrasting extremes. I find myself most reminded of Michael Winner’s The Sentinel, which is clearly the more endowed and successful production, but similar in terms of class vs. trash (Weston also uses some similar film under-cranking to create supernatural effects). Similar themes also permeate through George Bowers’ The Hearse.
Among the film’s more successful elements is the rather misogynistic manner in which every man in the film seems to pose a treat to Lauren. I’m sure era feminists weren’t exactly happy with the constant threat of rape and mutilation, but the effect is that of palpable danger. I’m actually almost positive Weston intended the film as a sort of pro-feminist film, since the supernatural forces seem to protect her, and, even more obviously, her psychosis seems to have everything to do with her fear of men. Of course this is all oversimplified and filtered though a male mind with a penchant for pornography. Weston’s co-writer, Daria Price, is (as her name suggests) female, so I suppose this isn’t soley a case of a male director misunderstanding of the fairer sex. It’s usually the thought that counts is cases like these anyway (for better or worse), and I’m actually quite taken with the manner in which this somewhat derivative story is told. Weston’s use of nightmare logic and slow motion during the dream/hallucination sequences, and the climatic flashback is another big plus for the production. My biggest criticism pertains to the characters, which are either too melodramatic and humourless, or entirely unfunny despite persistent claims to the contrary. It’s nearly impossible to root in Lauren’s favour, because she’s thinly constructed, and generally without charm. Instead of liking her we just dislike the people around her more, which isn’t the best way to motivate an audience. The acting isn’t great either, but it seems this soap opera comparable cast is less to blame than Weston and Price’s wordy script. Veterans Gloria Grahame and John Carradine do well with such things, but no one else really has the experience necessary.
The Nesting was never made available on digital media (at least not legally), so it’s rather amusing that it shifts its way straight from VHS to remastered from the negative Blu-ray disc. As I stated in the review this is a good looking picture, and in its beauty earns its top tier Blue Underground Blu-ray treatment more than some of the features in the company’s catalogue, like say, 16mm flicks Maniac and The Toolbox Murders (not that those films don’t deserve the treatment). Detail and clarity is occasionally inconsistent, but this almost always appears to be the fault of the source material, as the clarity shifts mostly based on camera angles. The scene where Dr. Webb attempts to rescue Lauren from the top of the house is probably the prime sample of this inconsistency, including one shot that shifts from blurry to clear without a camera move or cut, and what appear to be optical zooms build up the grain elements. Colours are vibrant, though overall skin tones and light elements slant slightly cooler than I’m thinking was intended by the filmmakers. The Nesting isn’t a particular garish film, so colour doesn’t have a gigantic sway on the look, but there are some impressive key hues throughout the transfer. The outdoor, countryside photography is lush and bright green, some of the sets are luridly painted with in red, and Lauren’s tops tend to pop against the otherwise cool palettes. The edges aren’t indelibly crisp, but elements are well separated, and besides a handful of particularly dark shots, contrast levels are fantastic. Occasionally the warmer reds lead to a bit of minor noise, but otherwise I noticed very few signs of digital compression. There appear to be some slightly misaligned colours over the whole print, and there are occasional wobbles somewhere around the splices.
This surprisingly eloquent DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack gets off to a smashing start with rich, multi-channel classical music celebration. The fidelity of the music is consistently solid, and the clarity is undeniable at even higher volume levels. The music, though sparse in terms of variety (there are only a handful of cues mixed over the film as far as I could tell), is actually quite effective, and genuinely memorable. The electronic chase music, which stands in direct contrast to the more tradition classical work that covers most of the film, is good enough I want it for my iPod. The centered dialogue and basic effects channel is definitely less reliable than the music in terms of volume and clarity, but only a few times is it difficult to discern. Surround and stereo effects are inconsistent, but the more realistically rendered effects, don’t usually sound out of step with the more grounded effects found on the dialogue track. There’s very little directional movement, but the city streets that menace Lauren at the beginning of the film, and the house that haunts her both feature plenty of immersive back and front elements. Despite minor quibbles, I’m surprised and impressed that this mix was created using a monoraul source.
The brief extras begin with eight deleted/extended/alternate scenes (12:00, HD). Most of these pertain to character’s endlessly discussing the plot, or Lauren looking at stuff, and also include a longer car chase (minus sound). The trims are all commendable. The disc is finished out with an English trailer, a Spanish trailer, three TV spots, and an image and poster gallery.
This is the first time in a while the good folks at Blue Underground have put out something lost to the digital era, and taken it directly to Blu-ray (though there is a DVD available as well), and I’m happy to have finally caught up on this particular cult release. I’m even happier to report I enjoyed the film, despite its obvious and varied shortcomings. The important things to take away from this review are, I believe, that The Nesting is a surprisingly good-looking film, and generally quite entertaining. Blue Underground’s treatment is patentedly magical, including a gorgeous 1080p transfer and an effective DTS-HD MA remix. I have a few minor quality niggles, and a cast and crew commentary, or perhaps a few interviews would be nice, but overall this is an impressive package.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer. Thanks to Troy at Andersonvision.com for the screen-caps.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 28th June 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital EX English, Dolby Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes, English Trailer, Spanish Trailer, TV Spots, Poster and Still Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Armand Weston
Cast: Robin Groves, Christopher Loomis, Michael David Lally, John Carradine, Gloria Grahame
Genre: Drama, Horror and Thriller
Length: 103 minutes
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