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Blu-ray Review The Hole / Venom Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Todd Erwin

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Echo Bridge continues to release budget-priced double-feature discs of licensed Miramax titles. British import The Hole (not to be confused with the newer Joe Dante movie of the same name) makes its Blu-ray debut, included with the Kevin Williamson-produced voodoo snake thriller Venom. Unfortunately, Echo Bridge takes a huge step backward with this release by presenting the films in 1.78:1 full screen rather than their intended 2.35:1 aspect ratios.




The Hole / Venom Double Feature


Studio: Echo Bridge (under license from Miramax)
US BD Release Date: September 11, 2012
Original Release Year: 2001/2005
Rated: R (The Hole: for pervasive language, some violence, sexuality/nudity and drug use. Venom for strong horror violence/gore, and language)
Running Time: The Hole: 102 minutes, Venom: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: The Hole: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo), Venom: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo), French (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: None

Movie:
The Hole: 2.5 out of 5
A young woman staggers down the road, covered in filth, making her way to a prep school campus and calls the police. Liz (Thora Birch) is one of four teenagers presumed missing, possibly kidnapped, and the only survivor after hiding out with her three friends in an abandoned war bunker trying to ditch the school field trip to Wales. Liz receives counseling from a police psychiatrist, Dr. Phillipa Horwood (Embeth Davidtz), and at first, all Liz can remember is her friend Martyn leading them to the bunker and shutting the door behind them, promising to return in three days. When Martyn doesn’t return, Frankie (Keira Knightly) freaks out, but a few days later the door is mysteriously opened and the four friends climb out and say their goodbyes. Dr. Horwood knows Liz is suppressing something, but is afraid to push any further, since it took nearly a month to get Liz to even speak again.

Martyn is then questioned by the police, relating an entirely different story, one where Liz is obsessed with rock star son Mike (Desmond Harrington) and how Liz sees this as a chance to bond and make Mike fall in love with her, while Frankie sees this as a chance to spend some time with boyfriend Geoff (Laurence Fox). Lacking any physical evidence, Martyn is released while Liz begins to have apparent flashbacks to the actual events that took place during the 18 days they were trapped in the bunker. But who is telling the truth?

More psychological thriller than horror film, The Hole tries to build suspense but, unfortunately, reveals its hand well-before the would-be startling conclusion. The door to the bunker from ground level appears much like a Hobbit dwelling (albeit in metal rather than wood), yet from inside the bunker looks more like a manhole with a small window, parallel with the ground above. The other real problem is the overall logistics of the four teenagers living in this enclosed, abandoned bunker for several days yet there was running water, electricity, plenty of air, and the sterno stoves never seemed to give off any carbon monoxide. The real standouts are the two female leads. Thora Birch was handed the lead role (as well as a hefty paycheck for a film of this size) after her starring turn in American Beauty two years earlier, and Keira Knightly (who is now seen front and center on the disc’s cover) was yet to be discovered by American audiences until Bend It Like Beckham the following year.

Venom: 3 out of 5
With the construction of a new mill near an old Creole cemetery, an old mambo priestess (Deborah Duke) digs up an old suitcase, throwing it onto the backseat of her car. Meanwhile, at the local greasy spoon, we meet the teenagers of the town: Eden (Agnes Bruckner), the smart beauty who dreams of going to medical school while working as a waitress; her friends and fellow waitresses, Rachel (Laura Ramsey) and CeCe (Meagan Good); Eric (Jonathan Jackson), Eden’s on-again, off-again boyfriend; Ricky (Pawel Szajda), Patty (Davetta Sherwood), Tammy (Bijou Phillips), and Sean (D.J. Cotrona), all who have nothing better to do than hangout outside the diner and drink smuggled alcohol. The town’s misunderstood loner and tow-truck driver, Ray (Rick Cramer), who is also Sean’s biological father, stops by to pick up his dinner, not knowing that he is on a collision course (quite literally) with the mambo priestess, crashing into her car and into the river, where he is attacked by the contents of the suitcase, snakes the mambo priestess used to milk evil from her clients. The snakes, having taken possession of his body and soul, turn Ray into an instrument of pure evil, and begin a killing spree throughout the town.

There is nothing overly original in Venom, a re-teaming of Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries, Scream) and director Jim Gillespie, who had found success earlier with I Know What You Did Last Summer. Once Ray is possessed by the snakes, he could very easily be Jason from Friday the 13th, Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street, or Michael Myers in Halloween, but without any motive. The teenagers are essentially cardboard stereotypes, and the story itself is full of holes and implausibilities, even for a B-level horror film. Don’t get me wrong, the film is well-made, and makes good use of the local Louisiana bayou scenery, we’ve just seen it all before, and done better.

Video:
The Hole: 3 out of 5
There is some controversy as to what the intended theatrical aspect ratio is supposed to be for The Hole. IMDB.com lists that the film was shot in Super 35, but released in anamorphic 2.35.1. Amazon also shows that the previous Buena Vista DVD release (prior to the Miramax fire sale) was also 2.35:1. But those sites have been known to be incorrect when it comes to aspect ratios and audio formats. Echo Bridge has provided, for the most part, a serviceable 1080p transfer using the AVC codec, presenting the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Colors and hues are consistent, and detail is often very good, but blacks can be troublesome, with shadows often disappearing into the black backgrounds. There was also a very noticeable, but brief, pixelation artifact at the 0:02:20 mark. I can’t tell if this is an anomaly on just my disc or the master that Echo Bridge received from Miramax, but it does not appear on the version streaming on Netflix.

Venom: 2.5 out of 5
Let’s get this out of the way first and foremost - Venom’s intended theatrical aspect ratio was 2.35:1, and was even previously released on DVD by Buena Vista Home Video with an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. The transfer used on this Echo Bridge Blu-ray double-feature disc has been cropped to a full-screen 1.78:1, using the AVC codec. The result is an image with a bit more grain that expected from the zooming in to fill the 1.78:1 frame. The good news, though, is that colors are consistent, black levels are pretty decent, and compression artifacts are minimal.

Audio:
The Hole: 2.5 out of 5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo soundtrack, at first, appeared to have very good dynamic range and bass response, until scenes with dialogue appeared, which were mixed at a much lower volume. The result was a typical horror film mix with overly loud music and effects for shear shock value, causing me to keep by thumb on the volume button.

Venom: 3.5 out of 5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is quite good, with very active stereo, surrounds and low frequency effects. Dialogue is clear and consistent, and for the most part mixed at a level that does not get drowned out by music and effects. A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track has also been included.

Special Features:
The Hole: 0 out of 5
There are no bonus features on The Hole, even though the Buena Vista DVD release included a director’s commentary, deleted scenes, and an alternate ending.

Venom: 3 out of 5
Nearly all of the special features from the previous Buena Vista DVD release have been ported over.

Voodoo Nightmare: The Making of Venom (8:43): Kevin Williamson, along with members of the cast, discuss a few aspects of the film, including that it was developed as a backstory to the video game Backwater (although the film makes no mention of it whatsoever). Ironically, clips from the film are in a letterboxed 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

Storyboard To Film Comparison (7:24): Several action sequences are featured in split screen, showing how closely the shots matched the storyboards.

Cast Auditions (6:44): Audition tapes for Rick Cramer, D.J. Cotrona, Laura Ramsey, Pawel Szajda, Davette Sherwood, and Bijou Phillips.

Overall: 2.5 out of 5
As an ardent supporter that movies should always be presented in their intended theatrical aspect ratio, I cannot recommend this double-feature disc from Echo Bridge. The Hole carries over none of the special features from its prior Buena Vista DVD release, has a pixelation issue in one shot, and may or may not be in its intended aspect ratio. Venom is a mess of a movie, and although it ports over the special features from its older Buena Vista DVD release, the image has been cropped for 16:9 full screen.

 

JohnS

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Hole isn't that bad of a movie.It's too bad that they don't have the proper aspect ratio.
The other positive side some guys might find interesting is that a very young Keira Kinighty is topless in the movie.
about the end
I know Thora Birch was in love with the guy and wanted to risk everything. But seriously, why not say, "look at the key I found hidden in the bunker", instead of saying I had it the whole time.
Venom is just a horrible movie.
I'm really hoping they don't screw up Deep Rising/Puppet Masters
 

michael deakin

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I seriously hope too that they don't screw up "Deep rising" one of my favourite films , Which really deserves a special edition.
 

Well since Deep Rising is from Mill Creek and not Echo Bridge there is a good chance they wont screw it up, however it makes me concerned about Godzilla vs. Biollante which is from EB
 

JohnS

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david steigman said:
Well since Deep Rising is from Mill Creek and not Echo Bridge there is a good chance they wont screw it up, however it makes me concerned about Godzilla vs. Biollante which is from EB
Completely forgot. Thanks.
 

cineMANIAC

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VENOM has had at least 2 previous releases through Echo Bridge. Even though I'm a fan of THE HOLE I will not purchase this very mediocre disc, especially since it is paired with a lousy film that has had multiple releases, all of which have had some defect in presentation. This will suit people who are only looking for bargain-priced throwaways. Those of us who are more discerning will likely stay far way from it.
 

AnthonyP

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The Hole' intended aspect ratio is 2.39:1 based on things like all previous worldwide DVD releases listed on DVDCompare. This release apparently doesn't retain its native 5.1 audio track either (2.0 down mix).
Unfortunately, given it has been a year and a half of EB releasing their Miramax titles, it is sadly clear they couldn't care less how they treat them. It is one thing if they only have access to shoddy elements but it is apparent based on them re-releasing the same titles multiple times featuring different tech specs and encodes that all of these poor releases can not be attributed to just that.
There has to be some reason they spend the time and money on multiple encodes for the same film when it would seem more cost effective and less time consuming to just do it well or even decently once. But, they apparently sell well so I am sadly in the minority holding out hope for better releases.
I've passed on dozens of titles just waiting for the simplest standards of being in the intended aspect ratio, 5.1 when it is supposed to be and don't put more too much per layer. Echo Bridge, like Lionsgate, seems to at least have the ability to retain a lot of the previous extras so that would be nice also (on the stand alone releases at least). The Hole is another going on my wait for possible future release list.
 

Radioman970

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david steigman said:
Well since Deep Rising is from Mill Creek and not Echo Bridge there is a good chance they wont screw it up, however it makes me concerned about Godzilla vs. Biollante which is from EB
Cool! One I don't have.
 

Malcolm R

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No real interest in these films, but glad to hear about an upcoming release for "Deep Rising." I'll be glad to retire the very old, non-anamorphic DVD, provided the new release is not screwed up in any major way. I think the DVD was one of Buena Vista's first releases in the format.
 

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