Magnolia Pictures // 2009 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 20th, 2009
Escape from darkness.
Said "darkness" would be the plot, which I'm still trying to untangle.
The film opens with a man (Clovis Cornillac) crawling out of some muck. Who is he? What's he doing in the mud? Why is it so f-ing dark in here? Those are the questions he's determined to answer, as he makes his painstakingly slow trek through the bowels of what appears to a research facility dedicated to the investigation of a mysterious plant.
As he progresses, he realizes he's being pursued by some scary creatures, as well as men in uniforms carrying guns. All of this seems to be linked to the plant and he appears to play a special role in this botany nightmare.
There are some interesting ideas here and it is beyond argument that director Franck Vestiel has crafted a visually arresting world in which to set his scifi epic. But, friend, this is a tough movie to get into. All throughout -- even during the expository sequences -- Eden Log keeps us at arm's length, seemingly toiling in a bog of plot density.
You know how this thing plays out? Like a survival horror video game. That's all I kept thinking about, as I fought through the storyline. You have the mysterious, mute main character (Cornillac utters a paragraph's worth of words during the whole runtime); a nightmarish world; cramped, claustrophobic levels; an impenetrable mystery; a bunch of scary mutants who you can shoot with a gun or something; odd secondary characters that show up in time to offer cryptic clues as to the meaning of the narrative; and an ending that is frustratingly ambiguous.
Unfortunately, this particular experience doesn't let you hack off mutant limbs with your chainsaw gun or skip the cutscenes. Nope, you're trapped, trudging along with this poor guy covered in mud, as he tries to figure out what the @#$% is going on with this damn plant, yearning for the plot to come together in a flash of coherence -- but alas, that moment never comes. For all of its visual flair, imagination, and spots of brilliance (it's weird, but the conversation with the reclusive botanist is very, very cool), Eden Log self-sabotages with its lethargic pacing and unsatisfying completion of the story. I'd be lying if I said my eyelids weren't sagging at some moments, though, in fairness, I did just come off of a hearty lunch.
Magnolia has dished a fine-looking Blu-ray. Though the film retains a monochrome, spinach-like color, it's still a visual treat. The increased clarity provides a striking picture, bringing Vestiel's world to life. The only elements that suffer are the visual effects, which look suspicious in enhanced resolution. Not suspicious: the robust DTS-HD Master Audio mix, an atmospheric, sometimes pounding aural treatment. The total lack of extras is a major downer.
While it fell short of floating my boat, Eden Log is bold in vision and may appeal to scifi followers looking for something new. Not feeling the title, much, either.
Slap on the wrist for you.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R