Doomsday (Blu-ray / DVD)
Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Alexander Siddig, Caryn Peterson, Malcolm McDowell
Directed by Neil Marshall
Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
I've been a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies ever since I can remember, and wow, have there been some good ones! Escape from New York (we'll just pretend Escape from L.A. never happened, mmmkay?), The Road Warrior, hell, even the cheese-ball ones like Stryker, and 1990: The Bronx Warriors were good for some nice violent laughs and entertainment. Sadly, their day has come to pass, and they just don't make them as frequently, or as fun, as they used to. Until now. Neil Marshall's Doomsday is nothing short of a love letter to those films. There's a fine line between inspiration and imitation, and with this latest foray into the bleak future, Marshall walks it with barely a single misstep. Let's start from the beginning ...
The shit hits the fan in Scotland when a contagion known as The Reaper Virus begins ravaging the population. Its victims are covered in open sores and oozing pustules. To make matters worse, a single drop of infected blood from a victim can infect someone else instantly. With no other alternatives the government decides to aggressively quarantine the area before this deadly disease spreads any farther. Walls are erected, some innocents are locked in with the infected, and twenty-seven years pass without escape, incident, or sign of the virus. However, things never stay good for long.
No matter what we do, life will always present us with pitfalls. Just like that, the virus reappears in London, but with this horrible news comes a glimmer of hope. Apparently there are survivors behind the walls. This leads the powers-that-be to believe that somewhere in the wasteland a cure is waiting to be found. To find it, an elite group of agents are sent in to retrieve a survivor so that the proper testing can be done and London can be saved. Without giving away anything, that's your set-up, and while it is derivative of a lot of movies we've seen before, it's still a winning formula for a high octane, gore fueled, action packed extravaganza of apocalyptic proportions.
As you may have noticed, this review is of the unrated cut of the film, which runs a full four minutes longer than its theatrical cousin. Both versions are included on the DVD release, but only the unrated version appears on the Blu-ray. The extra footage is mainly (and thankfully) comprised of extended action sequences and, better yet, longer and better looks at the film's gore. The one thing no one can deny about Doomsday is how unabashedly violent it is. Limbs are severed, heads explode, bodies are run over, and the red stuff is splashed about with reckless abandon and maniacal glee.
What's not to like? Well, there is one small thing -- some of the action sequences, which are breathtaking in their own right, at times feel a little too déjà vu. Though these scenes never prove to be too distracting, they do often have a tendency to make the viewer recall other films instead of just enjoying this one. Marshall's only fault here is that at times it feels as if he's crafted what may be too much of an homage. Still, despite its few shortcomings, Doomsday is a fast-paced, in-your-face, adrenaline rush of punk-rock and horror-shock! In this world of cookie-cutter PG-13, teeny-bopper aimed bullshit, it's a breath of fresh air.
In terms of extras the DVD and Blu-ray versions each have their pluses and minuses. First up, both releases feature an audio commentary by director Neil Marshall and actors Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Rick Warden, and Les Simpson. You would think a track with that many people on it would be non-stop chatter, but that's not the case. There are many stretches of silence to be found as the participants spend more time watching the movie than they do talking about it. Still, we get just enough out of this for it to be considered a good time. Just barely though. From there each edition of Doomsday sets things up a bit differently. Let's talk about what the Blu-ray exclusive features are first, shall we?
U-Control. What is that, you may ask? That's Universal's way of delivering supplemental material on the fly to make for a truly unique experience. U-Control features, of which there are three included here, can be accessed pop-up video style at any time while the film is in progress. Once it's activated, a small picture-in-picture graphic appears, and the viewer is treated to various enhancements or behind-the-scenes footage that is available. And what might these tidbits be? First up there's the Reaper Virus Files, which consists of text based insight about the film's players, locations, and events. Next there's the Tech Specs, which offers technical insights on the many vehicles, guns, and gadgets used in the movie. Finally we get Picture-in-Picture Cast and Crew Interviews. Here's where you will find the meat of the supplemental materials. Having access to this kind of information when we want it while the movie plays is a new medium of interactive coolness. No longer do we have to wait through an entire featurette just to learn about the stuff we're really interested in. Don't care about the film's cars? Ignore the clickable onscreen prompt. Want to know about how that head exploded? Click away and dig as a video window opens and all those concerned get to speak. Like I said, totally cool.
The DVD version does contain a lot of the abovementioned stuff, but it's arranged in a standard DVD featurette format. First out of the gate is the seventeen-minute Anatomy of Catastrophe: Civilization on the Brink featurette, which is basically a making-of that's filled with your standard cast and crew interviews. From there we get the much cooler The Visual Effects and Wizardry of Doomsday featurette that clocks in at a brisk eight minutes. No matter how much I know or how many times I watch stuff like this, it never ceases to fascinate me when the curtain is pulled back on how effects shots are created. Being that Doomsday has an abundance of them, this was a most interesting watch. Finally things are wrapped up with a twenty-minute look at the film's vehicles and weaponry called Devices of Death: The Guns, Gadgets, and Vehicles of Destruction.
All in all, both the DVD release and the Blu-ray release offer fans a fairly unique experience. If you have access to a Blu-ray player, then that is without question the version to drop your cash on, if only for the crystal clear 1080p video playback coupled with the amazing DTS 5.1 mix.
While mankind may indeed have an expiration date, films like this, or should I say experiences like this, do not. From start to finish Doomsday rides the fast track, giving you barely a moment to catch your breath. Sure there's nothing exceptionally new to be found here except for the stellar effects, but everything fits just like your favorite sweater, and I don't hear many people complaining about that. Buy it. Take the ride. And then take it again. Simply put, Doomsday rocks.
4 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5 each
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