BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Divide (Unrated)
Xavier Gens' new sci-fi horror drama unflinchingly hits home video...
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If you're a fan of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, it doesn't get much more brutal or engaging than Xavier Gens' latest film The Divide. Featuring an all-star cast, a truly horrific storyline, and a pace that - like those first few days after the end of the world - seems to last forever, The Divide isn't so much watched as experienced.
First, I have to be honest and say I've been wanting to see this film since I first heard it was being released. Due to the film being "unrated," few theaters actually played the film at the box office and thus, home video was the only way for many to see it. Now, thanks to Anchor Bay, The Divide is available in a 1-disc DVD or 2-disc blu-ray/DVD combo pack.
The film's premise is nothing new: in the near future, nuclear bombs have been detonated in a major metropolitan city (New York in this case) and a handful of people find themselves stuck together: isolated, alone, scared, and unprepared. Sound familiar? Of course it does. However, add the twisted, shocking mind of visionary filmmaker Xavier Gens directing from a truly horrifying script by writers Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean, and suddenly The Divide becomes a film unlike anything you've ever encountered.
Characters trapped in the basement include the mother-daughter duo Marilyn and Wendi (Rosanna Arquette and Abbey Thickson), the estranged couple Eva and Sam (Lauren German and Iván González), the faithful half-brothers Adrien and Josh (Ashton Holmes and Milo Ventimiglia), the younger, inexperienced Bobby (Michael Eklund), the older, wiser Delvin (Courtney B. Vance), and the overly prepared Mickey (Michael Biehn). It's thanks to Mickey, the building's superintendent, that the nine people are still breathing as he's turned the apartment building's basement into a makeshift bomb shelter fully stocked with food, water, electric, and supplies. However, as we soon learn, when the food and water begin to run out, trust breaks down between survivors, and people's attitudes change that the film's catch phrase is fact: "the lucky ones died in the blast."
Humans are, after all, animals and, while most of us would hate to admit it, there are few things we wouldn't do to protect ourselves and the ones we love. So imagine once the world ends but life continues, what you'd be willing to do - or have done to you - to ensure your survival? This is, at its basest level, the question director Gens asks the audience. And, as we watch characters perform the worst acts possible - torture, rape, and murder - we also see the budding of new love, friendship, and understanding amongst the clearly present fear, pain, and sorrow. But which emotion, which action, and which character will survive in this struggle for another day? That's really the question needs answering...
The film is so brutal, angry, and savage at times it is hard to endure and, while I'm not a fan of shock horror and gore, The Divide eludes to even worse off-screen, forcing those with enough imagination to endure even more savagery. The sensitive nature of some of the characters as well as the transformation of other characters makes watching The Divide less of an entertainment experience and more of a learning experience. I had to remind myself numerous times it was fiction, though the brutality featured here is no doubt all too real even today, before the world's end.
As for the film's video transfer, The Divide features a gorgeous video on blu-ray hi-def, the 1080p video boldly capturing the dark colors of this basement in which the survivors find themselves. Colors contrast with one another beautifully; the red and yellow flames bright and smooth, the electric blues and whites of florescent bulbs shining, and - during one scene set outside the basement - the white, sterile transport tubes stand in stark contrast to the rest of the film, bringing to life a different, changed, and unfortunate new world.
Likewise, the film's TrueHD 7.1 surround track fills the sound stage with dynamics. The roar of the flames, the echo of gunfire, the cackles and taunts of the perverse and the cries and moans of the suffering all come across as all too real. The original music by Jean-Pierre Taieb (who also scored Gens' 2007 horror film Frontier(s)) is wonderful, haunting, and evokes plenty of emotion throughout as well.
As for special features, the 2-disc DVD/blu-ray combo pack includes few. The film is featured both on blu-ray and DVD, the film's trailer is included, and an audio commentary with director Gens as well as actors Michael Biehn, Michael Eklund, and Milo Ventimiglia is also present. The commentary is engaging at times, with discussion on the story, acting, plot devices, and setting. Personally, I would have enjoyed hearing what actress Lauren German had to add. As the primary protagonist, no doubt German would have added a unique prospective to the mix. That's it. No "making of," no unique featurettes, nada.
The Divide bears witness to a nihilistic, depressing, and overall negative view of humanity. Unfortunately, Gens' film seems to ring with truth regarding the emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being of our society were it to drastically end. Because, when the world ends and there's little to live for, what keeps us sane? Who tells us what's right and wrong? What forces us to follow the rules? And - finally - what do we look like when we face the divide between man and monster, human and animal, alive and dead?
The Divide is unrated and available now on both DVD and blu-ray wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley