Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Thomas Cavanagh, Katherine Cunningham-Eves, Kathleen York, Cas Anvar
Directed by Tony Krantz
Released by Warner Home Video
If there’s one thing you should take away from a viewing of Sublime, it’s that you should never trust the medical care from a hospital called Mount Abbaddon. If you’re familiar with the Bible, you’ll get that. If you’re not, well, look it up. That’s what the Internet’s for, right?
The second direct-to-DVD thriller (calling it horror is a bit of stretch) from Warner’s Raw Feed line is an incredibly layered movie, packed with seemingly endless amounts of symbolism that you may begin to wonder how they managed to tell any kind of straightforward story at all. Though to be fair, the story is a bit of a mess because, well, that’s what the filmmakers wanted.
Our narrative begins when we meet George Grieves (Cavanagh), just turning 40 and preparing for his first colonoscopy the following day. Of course it’s also his birthday so we can see just what kind of opulent life he leads despite only being an IT consultant. I know they do make a lot of money, but this guy is loaded. His world-traveling brother (played by George Newborn, who looks creepily like Henry Thomas does now with a beard) shows up for the party and asks George some hard questions about his life and his success, always a great thing to hear right before you go into the hospital.
The next day he goes under for his procedure, and when he awakens, he’s in a new room with some new scars and everyone’s treating him very strangely. Turns out he accidentally got the wrong patient’s procedure (something you’ll see coming the instant his doctor mispronounces his name when he first enters the room), and now he’s having complications from it, complications that include a flesh-eating bacteria on his leg and a tendency to pass out when his heart rate gets too high.
Helping matters a bit is the presence of an incredibly hot nurse named Zoe (Cunningham-Eves) who is very willing to make George very comfortable, which she takes even further when she finds out that she’s the one responsible for the flesh-eating bacteria. Not helping matters is a mysterious male nurse ("Welcome Back Kotter" star Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) who changes George’s IV and may or may not have killed the man in the bed next to him, along with the badly discovered knowledge that his wife has a thing for his doctor.
That’s what happens in Sublime, but that’s really not what the film is about. As I said, there are many levels, even more of which get peeled back if you can make it through the commentary, but at its heart the film is about fear. Fear of getting older, fear of hospitals, fear of losing control, fear of the underprivileged enacting some overdue revenge on the affluent; basically all the fears that plague the successful white male in today’s society.
You might try and spend the bulk of the running time trying to figure out what the hell is going on, especially when you see the part of the hospital that’s "under construction", but you don’t need to worry. The last 20 or so minutes lay it all out in a nice, coherent fashion that’s actually not nearly as annoying as it usually is, mainly due to the fact that it’s intercut with Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington (well, the guy who played him on "Welcome Back, Kotter") laying down some wisdom mixed with pain. I have to admit I really thought he’d been underused, but his screen time at the end is entertaining as hell.
All in all Sublime is worth checking out if those previously mentioned fears either speak to or amuse you. Don’t see it for medical horrors, which is what I was hoping for, or for anything like the last Raw Feed entry, Rest Stop. There’s a quote about the movie on the back of the box that compares it to a "Twilight Zone" episode, which is terribly accurate, especially when you get to the ending. It’s also filmed very well thanks to cinematographer Dermott Downs, a TV veteran who gets props for making Sublime look a lot better than its modest budget would imply.
For a film made specifically for DVD, you’d think they’d have a bit more meat on the disc, but alas, such is not the case.
Of course there’s the obligatory commentary track done by Krantz and writer Erik Jendresen (both white Anglo-Saxon males, if you can believe it), which is a bit on the dull side but does get into more of that aforementioned symbolism. I doubt you’ll be able to make it through the whole thing. I sure didn’t, but there’s some good info to be had if you like the movie enough to give it a shot.
There’s also a featurette called "Surgical Exorcism: Dr. Falk’s Webcast" that isn’t nearly as cool as it might sound. You see at one point in the film, George comes upon his son watching a webcast (on a HUGE monitor, no less) of a doctor who studies tribes that still remove organs to supposedly cure people of being crazy. The featurette is just the entire webcast without the cuts that were in the film and it gets a bit hokey.
Then things get embarrassing. The final two features (aside from a trailer of course) are interviews with director Krantz and writer Jendresen, neither of which they gave any editing attention to whatsoever. You can hear the interviewers asking the questions off-camera (which would be fine if they were miced), answers are repeated in full, which is done for the sole purpose of editing for God’s sake, and at one point during Jendresen’s talk a guy comes from off camera to fix the man’s mic. I guess that’s what the label means by "Raw Feed"?
Like I said, you would think a bit more attention would be given to the supplements when you’re making a film that will only ever be seen on DVD, but at least the feature itself is worth a look. Just keep in mind it’s barely a horror film, more like a long "Twilight Zone" episode with a bigger budget, and it’s layered as hell. Hopefully the next Raw Feed movie, Dan Myrick’s Believers, will at least have a better choice of features and be more true to our genre.
3 1/2 out of 5
2 out of 5
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