There a lot of ways to scare people: play on their fears [psychological thriller] as they do in Sublime; shock them with unexpected gore [splatter] as with Death Row, and pit them against ancient evils [demons, shaman, and the like] like the entity in The Manitou…
What is the nature of fear? If we live our lives in fear, will our lives only matter if those fears become manifest? These are only two of the questions raised by the diabolically sneaky new Raw Feed straight-to-DVD movie, Sublime.
As George Grieves [Tom Cavanaugh] prepares for his first colonoscopy, the day after his fortieth birthday, his family throws him a fortieth birthday party – complete with Jell-o in place of cake. During the course of the evening, George is forced to look at his live when his brother raises the question of whether he's living a life, or making a living.
The next day, when he goes into the Mt. Abaddon Hospital, things begin to go horribly wrong. First, he wakes up with stitches in his side – in a scheduling mix-up, he's received an operation to stop sweaty palms, while the patient who was to receive that operation has had the colonoscopy. Then, when he nurse helps him into a wheelchair so she can his sheets, he gets a scratch that gets way out of hand – leading to a parade of things going wrong…
When Zoe [Katherine Cunningham-Eves] isn't around to help George, a tall, menacing black male nurse [Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs] changes his IV. George finds himself curiously sluggish and may be seeing things – but is it related to the IV? And is it a malicious thing?
Between each discovery of something going wrong – either with his health, or with the hospital – George remembers bits of his birthday party and is forced to consider his fears. Is his wife, Jenny [Kathleen York] happy? Is his daughter, Chloe [Shanna Collins] turning out as he'd hoped? Is his prodigy son, Ned [Kyle Gallner] ready to live in the real world? And why does his brother, Billy [David Clayton Rogers] keep putting him on the spot?
Sublime is a bit old-fashioned in the way that what little gore it contains is used to make a surprising point and lead to a revelation. It's also notable for using old-fashioned devices like contrast and timing to build suspense. Unlike most splatter flicks, the characters of this film are given some development – the scares work better because we get to know who these people are. The key is Cavanaugh's Everyman quality – and his ability to project so much with so little certainly doesn't hurt.
But Sublime isn't just there to provide a few thrills and chills and entertain – for anyone who wants to delve more deeply, there's also a metaphor going on that relates to the geo-political state of the world. It's subtler, but it's there – and is explored more openly in the features. Sublime can also be taken as a stinging indictment of the American healthcare system – the statistics quoted are real, and if they don't make you blanch at the prospect of going to the hospital, you're most likely dead already…
The DVD's features include: a detailed commentary from Director Tony Krantz and writer Eric Jendresen [best known for writing the first script for Star Trek XI that was dropped when JJ Abrams became attached]; interviews with Krantz and Jendresen; Surgical Exorcism: Sociocultural Anthologist Dr. Falk's Webcast of a Live Social Exorcism in the Mountains of Peru [starring Jendresen as Dr. Falk], and the trailer.
Sublime – Grade: A-
Features – Grade: A
Final Grade: A
As the liner notes say, "Several years ago, a bloody riot of epic proportion ravaged the corridors of the Isla del Roca penitentiary, resulting in the deaths of both inmates and guards… Seeking to explore the history of the violent uprising, a na