DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily Blu-ray Disc and DVD reviews.
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/22/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/15/2011
We get a fair amount of movies here at DVDSleuth.com/Blu-raySleuth.com world headquarters, most of which we've asked for or arranged to get beforehand. Sometimes, a movie will show up out of the blue, but in most of these cases, I at least recognize the title. However, there are those rare occasions where I'll find a film on the doorstep which I've never heard of. But, being a movie fan, I'll give them a try. That's exactly what happened with the intriguing Devolved.
As Devolved opens, a news report informs us that a group of high school students from San Diego who were on a whale watching cruise in Mexico have gone missing. The scene then shifts to a small island, where a group of survivors from this accident comes ashore. This particular raft held the "unpopular" kids, lead by aspiring writer Flynn (Gary Entin). Amongst the band members, drama students, and school newspaper reporters is Peggy (Lindsey Shaw). Flynn, having once overheard Peggy talk about how much she hates her life, asks her if she got into the "unpopular" raft on purpose, but she won't comment. The group inventories their supplies and makes a camp. The next morning, their camp is invaded by the "popular" kids, made up of football players and cheerleaders, which is lead by The Rog (Robert Adamson). This group acts as if Spring Break is still on and doesn't take the situation seriously. Flynn and The Rog immediately clash, as both have differing views on how the situation should be handled. As the days wear on, the groups form alliances and then splinter off, and the threat of real violence begins to grow.
The central conceit of Devolved is instantly easy to grasp -- it's Lord of the Flies meets The Breakfast Club. The shipwrecked parties consist of two groups which either didn't like one another or had learned to ignore one another before the accident occurred. Once on the island, tensions grow from the outset. In the beginning, the superior intellect of unpopulars allows them to maintain order and create a plan. However, emotions soon boil over and The Rog uses his natural leadership skills (he's the quarterback of the football team) to change everything. The vapid populars never seem to grasp the urgency of the situation, and this only frustrates Flynn. The movie introduces its most clever idea when we learn why The Rog doesn't want to leave the island. It's not exactly John Locke, but it certainly fits the situation.
As noted above, Devolved has some good ideas, and there are a few funny lines here. However, the movie feels like a first draft. Some would point to the low-budget nature of the movie for this, but Writer/Director John Cregan actually gets an amazing amount of mileage out of his limited locations and there are some clever devices used to tell a much larger story without actually showing it. No, it's the film's tone which doesn't feel complete. The movie is clearly riffing on things like Lord of the Flies and Lost, as all of the requisite players and situations are in place, but it never becomes a full-blown satire. The jokes relate to the issues at hand, but never spoof the genre. On the flipside, the movie appears to be heading to a very dark place in the third act, but it never quite gets there. Savagery and suffering are hinted at, but they don't occur. It's almost as if Cregan wanted to make both a comedy and a depressing movie, but wound up skirting both. (And don't be fooled by the "Unrated Edition" stamp on the box. There's nothing in here which goes beyond an R-rating and I think that simply means that the movie wasn't submitted for a rating.)
Despite the fact that it doesn't go as far as it possibly could (in either direction), I was pleasantly surprised by Devolved. It's always nice to see a movie that you know nothing about and be entertained by it. Again, Cregan does wonders with his little movie and the cast is very good, most notably Entin. I laughed a few times and, even though it's exaggerated, the movie does a good job of showing how scary it can be when ignorant people are in charge.
Devolved only further convinced me that Lindsey Shaw looks like Wendie Malick on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Severin Films. The Blu-ray box states that the film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1, but that's not what I'm seeing. On a 16 x 9 TV, a movie framed at 1.78:1 won't show any black bars on the screen. With this movie, there are bars on the screen, measuring out at about 2.00:1. The Disc carries an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing on overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark ro bright. The depth is good and certain scenes show good separation between the foreground and background. The Disc contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As the entire film takes place outside, the track makes good use of stereo and surround effects to illustrate sounds either off-screen or happening around the characters. The effects are never overwhelming and the in-film music sounds good. A couple of explosions bring the subwoofer into the mix.
The Devolved Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Writer/Director John Cregan. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY with actors Gary Entin, Lindsay Shaw, and Robert Adamson. "Devolved: Behind the Scenes" (19 minutes) is an interesting piece which contains a nice amount of comments from the cast and filmmakers. Cregan talks about how the idea evolved and was embraced by the producers. We get on-set footage which shows the work done on location. The cast discuss their characters and what the production was like. The Disc contains eleven DELETED SCENES. Some of these are simply extended versions of scenes already in the film. I did like the alternate opening, and given the film's relatively short running time, I don't know why it wasn't kept in. "Audition Footage" (9 minutes) is unique because it shows actors reading for various roles and not just the part that they eventually got. We get two of John Cregan's SHORT FILMS, "Live Tomorrow Today!" (17 minutes) and "Restive Planet" (14 minutes). The Disc contains three MUSIC VIDEOS, "Center of the Word" by Nik Freitas, "Del Coche Que Tengo" by T. Rey, and "Search for Me" by John Cregan. The final extra is the TRAILER for the movie.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2011.