Magnolia Pictures // 2007 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // May 27th, 2009
Escape the darkness.
Several years ago, I watched an interesting, low-budget Canadian creation called Cube. Its setting only consisted of intersecting corridors in a giant cube and its characters were normal human beings who were just looking for a way to get the hell out. Predictably, their impatience and exasperation overcame their logic in this claustrophobic environment. In the end, they simply became victims of the Cube's deadly traps. The 2007 French production Eden Log reminded me a lot of Cube right down to its video game-like path, creepy atmosphere, and a story which consisted only a series of clues resulting in a tenebrous narrative.
The major difference between the two films is that Eden Log focuses on only one nameless man (Clovis Cornillac, Go West: A Lucky Luke Adventure). He wakes up deep underground, covered in mud, and with absolutely no recollection of who he is or how he ended up there. Cautiously, he obtains a light source off a nearby corpse and eventually finds himself in a facility of some sort. The area seems to be powered by some kind of unknown energy, possibly from the sap of some sort of tree which is growing above ground. The man only learns about unidentified workers on the surface and a group of scientists underground (most of whom are apparently dead) experimenting with the tree and its sap. Oh, and there also happens to be a race of humanoid creatures lurking in the shadows waiting to munch on him.
Aside from the aforementioned Cube, it's also obvious that Eden Log borrows a lot of ideas from other films. This lost spelunker has a Neo-like power to defend himself, which is never really explained. The production and set design (both impressive considering the budget) immediately call to mind the Alien series. The creatures seem to be altered versions of the ones featured in The Descent. The mentioning of a virus/contamination is another ingredient found in countless other movies in the genre. Finally, the ending (and buildup to it) is in many ways reminiscent of the conclusion of Alex Proyas' Dark City. There a lot of connections to digest here, but does Eden Log still succeed on its own terms? At times, it does, but otherwise this is another promising sci-fi effort which is defeated by its own ambitions.
Even at a running time of 98 minutes, Eden Log is a frustrating watch. In the end, it sorta made sense in its own enigmatically clever way. Truth is, it was bogged down by its slow pace, lifeless characters, and an almost total lack of suspense. I certainly agree with my colleague Judge David Johnson that co-writer/director Franck Vestiel scores points for his visual strokes. However, there is no momentum, energy, or stamina instilled in this puzzling tale. The sound design and set pieces boast imagination but little else; it's almost like you are walking around an elaborate laboratory with almost all the lights out and with no clue what its purpose is. The once-in-a-while battles between the man and the creatures are so out in left field and poorly staged they simply drown the potential excitement.
The worst part about the script is a serious lack of dialogue. I'm not saying a movie has to verbally explain everything Barney-style or include a character which feeds everything to the viewer as a go-between. Our lead excessively grunts and possibly spouts a total of 40 words throughout the entire time; this results in our protagonist being stripped of all personality and dimension. It's clear he's trying to learn everything about Eden Log and uncover information about himself, but why doesn't he ask more questions to other humans inside the facility? His interactions with a female botanist (who he decides to have sex with for some reason) are brief and confusing. We can't even see his face half the time so it's difficult to ascertain what he may be thinking or contemplating. The script and its lead are two key elements which nearly ruin the sheer audaciousness of Eden Log. The film may look great, but it suffers significantly in practically all other avenues, thus blocking the viewer from being fully engaged in the central character's dilemma.
At least Magnolia Home Entertainment offers a decent DVD presentation. The 1.85:1 anamorphic image is sharp if rather murky. This was no doubt intentional on the part of the filmmakers, considering the limited financial resources. There's so little color in this production that it might as well been filmed in B&W. The film shines in the English and French surround tracks, with its chilling score chiming in when you least expect it. Dialogue is distinguishable, although there are several other languages utilized. Closed captioning is also provided in addition to the English and Spanish subtitles. The only extra is the original French-language version, which offers no additional scenes, but it's still a nice option for purists.
Guilty of being a stale imitation of other, better movies. However, Viertel
is free to go to use his inventive style in another project.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Original French Version