• Thriller Triple Feature: Wind Chill, Closure, Perfect Stranger

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: April 4, 2017
    Directed by: Gregory Jacobs, Dan Reed, James Foley
    Cast: Emily Blunt, Ashton Holmes, Martin Donovan, Chelan Simmons, Ned Bellamy/Danny Dyer, Gillian Anderson, Adam Rayner, Antony Byrne, Anthony Calf, Francesca Fowler, Ralph Brown, Gugu Mbatha-Raw/Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, Gionvanni Ribisi, Florencia Lozano, Jason Antoon
    Year: 2007
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    Wind Chill: A young college student (Emily Blunt; the character is known only as “girl” in the film’s closing credits) needs a ride home to Delaware for Christmas. She answers an ad on the student center’s bulletin board and accepts a ride-share from a “guy” (Ashton Holmes) who also happens to be from the same town. The two don’t mix: she’s what you might call a “stuck-up prima donna” while he’s weird and a little on the fixated side. He knows more about her than he should, which he chalks up to sharing a class with her (in fact, he sits right behind her, though she has never noticed him). After an incident in a gas station, the girl realizes that the guy is not, in fact, from her hometown and comes to suspect that he may be a stalker, a fact seemingly confirmed when, while on the way, he chooses to turn down a deserted country road during an apparent snowstorm. The road has recently been plowed, but there’s little room for cars to pass, so when headlights approach them, they are forced off the road into a snowbank. Soon, the guy and girl realize that the other car has left no tracks, though this isn’t enough to sit off serious alarm bells. Cell phones don’t work in the secluded, wooded area, so the guy decides to walk back to the gas station to call for help; meanwhile, the girl spots a mysterious figure walking past the car. When she calls out, the person doesn’t answer and disappears into the woods. The guy returns, unable to rouse anyone at the gas station, which has since closed, and the two snuggle into the car for the night, only to witness a series of shocking supernatural horrors as the night progresses.

    Wind Chill is a bizarre film. On its surface and for much of its duration, it appears to be a psychological thriller about two people at odds in the tight confines of an old car. (Think Mario Bava, but not nearly as exploitational—or as good!) But somewhere along the lines, it turns into a strange supernatural chiller (excuse the pun) involving dark people in robes, dead bodies in a shed, a serial-killer police officer, and ghosts. It doesn’t work, despite reviews that suggest otherwise. Performances certainly aren’t to blame: The leads (Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes) are both excellent, as is Martin Donovan as the highway patrolman. And the secluded woods on a dark, cold, snowy night provide the perfect backdrop for a claustrophobic setting. The issue is that none of it quite gels. When it’s being a psychological thriller, it works well, if a bit pat and predictable; when it’s being a supernatural horror story, it doesn’t. And that latter fact isn’t helped by occasional injudiciously placed and poorly conceived CGI shots. The result of all this devilish chicanery is that Wind Chill is the worst film in set.

    Closure: An attractive older woman, Alice Comfort (Gillian Anderson), hires an attractive younger man, Adam (Danny Dyer), to install a new home security system in her lavish apartment. Adam isn’t above using said equipment to spy on Alice as she strips down to shower, but the sexual attraction is mutual. Alice invites Adam to a party, but on the way home, they pass a slow-moving truck occupied by three men. As they make their way home, however, they hit a deer and, while trying to move it out of the road, are accosted by the three truckers, who mercilessly beat Adam and rape Alice. Not long after, Alice learns the name of one of the men (Anthony Calf). She and Adam plot their revenge, but before they can carry it out, they learn he has a daughter, Sophie (Francesca Fowler). They change plans, instead planting video devices in his home in an effort to learn who his fellow rapists are, but new complications arise when the man attempts to kill himself.

    Closure is, without a doubt, the best film in the collection, thanks to Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, House of Mirth) and Danny Dyer (Doghouse, EastEnders), both of whom give emotionally wrought and exceptional performances as a couple victimized by a violent physical and sexual assault. The film, originally titled Straightheads, was given a scant release in Great Britain in April 2007 before hitting home video a couple of months later. It followed in the United States with a name change to Closure and a straight-to-video release from Sony. Clearly a modernized take on such ‘70s grindhouse features as The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and I Spit on Your Grave (1978), it even has a similar look, thanks to the fact that it was shot on an Arriflex digital camera but formatted in negative on 16mm and then blown up to 35mm. That photographic choice couldn’t have been more appropriate for the story the director (Dan Reed, who also wrote the script) was trying to tell. It’s a ‘classic’—to use that term loosely—rape/revenge fantasy that is nasty and raw, a shockingly violent masterwork from a British director mostly known for television productions; that he cut his teeth on small-screen documentaries may explain the gritty look and style of Closure. Unfortunately, mainstream critics didn’t get the references to the exploitation cinema of yore and slammed it.

    Perfect Stranger: Rowena Price (Halle Berry) believes that conservative senator Stephen Sachs (Gordon MacDonald) is unfaithful to his wife with members of the same sex. Unfortunately, her editor kills the story. Angry, Rowena quits; on her way home, she hooks up with an old friend, Grace Clayton (Nicki Aycox), who gives her a scoop on a wealthy businessman, Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), whom, she alleges, is also stepping out on his wife—with her! But before Rowena can learn more, her friend is murdered. Naturally, Rowena believes that Hill has had something to do with Grace’s death and goes in search of an answer, enlisting her coworker and friend, Miles Haley (Giovanni Ribisi), to help. Miles is a computer expert and hacker who works for the same newspaper as Rowena; he also has an unhealthy sexual obsession with her. Rowena goes undercover at Hill’s place of business and gets the evidence she needs to convict him of murder, but things are not what they seem, and everyone becomes a suspect in a sordid game of cat and mouse.

    Halle Barry began her acting career on television in mostly minor or secondary repeating roles. Her first film role was a small part in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever (1991), which she quickly followed up with leading roles in such comedies as Strictly Business (1991) and Boomerang (1992). But it was the television miniseries Queen: The Story of an American Family (1993) that brought her nationwide fame. The series was viewed by approximately 37 million people in its original run, and her performance was critically acclaimed. Her acclaim grew thanks to roles in such films as Losing Isaiah (1995) and Executive Decision (1996), but it was her casting as Storm in the first X-Men movie (2000) that really elevated her star power. Monster’s Ball (2001), Swordfish (also 2001), Die Another Day (2002), and a host of X-Men sequels kept her in the spotlight.

    Among her starring roles were leads in the films Gothika (2003), Catwoman (2004), and Perfect Stranger (2007). What set the latter film apart is that it was also co-produced by Berry, whose clout had grown so much that she was one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses in the decade. Unfortunately, Perfect Stranger is also a terrible film; not as terrible as Catwoman, mind you, but terrible nonetheless. For some unknown reason (the two leads’ salaries, perhaps?), it cost $60 million to make but only grossed $73 million at the worldwide box office. Factoring in the cost of advertising, the film likely didn’t make its money back, and for good reason. The biggest problem is the script, which lays the mystery on a little too thickly and leaves the audience scratching its collective head at the solution. Regardless, it’s not boring, despite a nearly two-hour running time.


    Mill Creek’s Thriller Triple Feature featured three films placed on a single BD50 disc with an MPEG-2 encode; the films looked generally good though not great, with varying degrees of detail between titles. Here, Mill Creek has again opted to place three films on a single BD50, but this time out they’ve utilized MPEG-4 AVC encodes for each film. One might complain, perhaps legitimately, that three films on a single disc are just too much regardless of the amount of information a disc might hold, but this isn’t necessarily true, and fans rarely complain when a disc contains two versions of a film as well as innumerable extras, all of which take up space. (Consider the degree of information packed onto Lionsgate’s British Blu-ray release of Hammer’s Dracula, 1958.) Here, the three films are Wind Chill, Closure, and Perfect Stranger. Both Wind Chill and Perfect Stranger are placed in their original theatrical aspect ratios of 2.40:1, and both feature similar levels of detail. Given that Wind Chill mostly takes place in the evening or at night, it’s a very dark film, while Perfect Stranger, also somewhat dark, has many more bright spots. The result is that the latter is the more detailed of the two, with facial textures, clothing fibers, city buildings, and flora all being fairly revelatory, though not quite as much so as the 2007 BD release from Sony, which featured only one film on a BD50. Compression and a lower bit rate here naturally lessen some of that detail, though the image is still generally pleasing. Shadow detail is relatively strong, and there’s little crush. People who picked up the original Sony release may want to keep it, especially if they’re big fans of the film. Otherwise, purchasers new to the film via this release will have little to complain about. Wind Chill looks fine, and when there’s ample lighting, the detail is good, certainly better than the standard definition release. Unfortunately, much of the film takes place in the dark of night, and detail is lost in the shadows. That the film is practically black and white (it does, after all, take place during a snow storm), contrast is fairly good. However, even in the brighter daytime sequences, the winter setting works against a high level of detail, thanks to low lighting and lack of sunlight. In areas of the frame where there is ample light, detail can be quite high. To see it, one must look at the actors’ faces, where it’s most prevalent. Thanks to an adequate amount of grain, both movies appear filmic. On the other hand, Closure—presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1—is the least detailed of the trio, but it’s also the most filmlike, thanks to the way the director chose to shoot it. While it was initially shot on video, it was transferred to 16mm and then blown up to 35mm. As a result, detail is nice if not overwhelming, but the film manages a striking replication of ‘70s exploitation fare that should blunt most viewers’ (at least most knowing viewers’) criticisms. Naturally, because of the process, the film also features the most natural grain, yet, again, it’s never too much and shouldn’t turn off those who are grain-phobic.

    The sound is not quite as solid as the visuals. All three films feature only one track each. Wind Chill contains a lossy English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as does Perfect Stranger. Neither tracks are terrible by any means; they just don’t pop as well as they should. Sound levels are well modulated, and there are no issues of dropout or hiss or other problems. Syncing is “in tune.” Why the PCM track from the original Perfect Stranger Blu wasn’t ported over is a mystery, especially considering that Mill Creek opted for a lossless English LPCM 2.0 track for Closure. For the record, that track is the best of the three. Unfortunately, there are no English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired, which would have come in handy for some of the thick accents on display in Closure. Subtitles were created for previous DVD and BD releases of all the films and could have easily been ported over at low cost.

    There is one menu screen, which features the title of and an image from each film. When a film is selected, it immediately begins to play. There are no extras. While Wind Chill is new to Blu-ray, Closure was previously released on Blu-ray in its native Great Britain. Perfect Stranger had a Blu-ray release by Sony in the United States in 2007. All of these releases featured one extra or another, whether audio commentary or a making of featurette or something else. None of these extras have been carried over, no doubt due to the additional compression that would have resulted.

    Regardless of length, all three films are divided into 11 chapters, with the 12th chapter taking the viewer back to the menu screen.

    The Final Word:

    Mill Creek’s Thriller Triple Feature is a budget release, one well worth the price for anyone who doesn’t already own all three films. True, there are no extras, the sound is mostly lossy, and three films are packed onto one BD50, but none of the films are boring, one of them is actually excellent, and the transfers are good, with moderate to good detail levels.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out later this year.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Those screen caps really do reveal how dark these movies are.