Disturbance (2006)
MTI Home Video
Cast: Paul Sloan, Colleen Porch, Hayley DuMond, Nick Vallelonga
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Trailers, Biographies, Filmographies

When it comes to independent features and the sci-fi/horror genres, it's always interesting to see what direction the filmmakers will take. Will it be a small gem that stirs up a respectable cult following? Or will it be just another schlocky retread of familiar territory that will be forgotten as quickly as it comes out? Nick Vallelonga's "Disturbance" (aka "Choker" and "B.E.I.N.G.") has the potential to be both. Arresting visuals and a better-than-average cast help raise this above most of the trash that sits at the bottom of the bargain bin at the local video store, but it too often becomes immersed in triteness to stand its own ground. Its fate will ultimately be determined through MTI Home Video's DVD release.

The movie opens with a convicted serial killer named Hud Masters (Paul Sloan) about to be executed. As he is interviewed, the scene cuts to a brutal fight between Hud and a beautiful woman that ends with Hud forcing a capsule into her mouth that causes her to regurgitate what appears to be neon mucus and die. For the next 20 minutes, we will be treated to a number of people either vomiting similar mucus into each other's mouths or being fed capsules by Hud and having the same reactions. That's because an alien race has made its way to Earth for fear of extinction on their own planet. In order to survive, they inhabit the bodies of human beings, but they cannot remain in the same body for very long. When they feel the need to "change skin," they simply find another person and vomit themselves into that person's mouth. Tasty.

Hud, we come to find out, is working for a government agency that is trying to track down and stop the aliens. Hud himself is no longer alive, having been taken by the agency just before his execution and injected with one of the aliens who agreed to help them. Once inside a body, the alien effectively destroys the person, using the body as a puppet through which to move. For some reason, however, Hud's psyche seems to be forcing its way through, bringing back his old desire to commit murder. This naturally impedes his objective of finding the alien leader (Hayley DuMond) before she (or he, actually), spreads its seed.

I have to say, the movies have given us many forms of alien infiltration into the human race, from pod people to cloning to brain transfusions. But I don't believe I have ever seen aliens vomiting themselves from person to person. It is certainly original. Gross, but original. Unfortunately, the originality pretty much ends there, and the rest of the film is pretty standard stuff. There are the requisite redneck cops who manage to buck the procedure when they mistake Hud for the killer that he once was. Their method of interrogation has a surprisingly overt tinge of homoeroticism, as they handcuff him to a pipe in a dimly lit parking garage, stripped to his tighty whities, and beat the living crap out of him. Further unloading the clichés, the alien leader targets the wife of Chief Agent Frank Russo (Nick Vallelonga) as the future mother of the alien offspring.

The action in this movie is also substandard. After a genuinely exciting opening, none of the fight scenes ever match it in pacing or suspense. The climactic fight is foiled by weak choreography and bad editing. Even a grapple in a swimming pool is ruined by pretentious visual manipulation that makes it unclear and blurry.

On the brighter side, "Disturbance" is a good-looking movie, to be sure. Its slick photography cannot hide the overall cheapness (the movie was filmed for a mere $35,000), but colors and shadows are utilized strikingly. The ridiculously attractive leads make for good eye candy, even if they are not overly endowed with thespian qualities. If there was an award for Best Gratuitous Display of Pecs, Paul Sloan would win hands down, as he seems to lose his shirt at the drop of a hat. He does, actually, have a magnetic presence onscreen. The same can be said for Hayley DuMond, who sports a sexy, goth appearance and delivers an impressive emotional scene toward the end.

As far as low-budget indies go, this could have been far worse. Director and co-star Vallelonga said that he was aiming for the spirit of old Roger Corman films. If that's the case, then he succeeded in delivering a grisly story that should not be taken too seriously. A vital factor that he missed, however, was Corman's witty sense of dark humor. "Disturbance" is incessantly bleak with almost no comic relief whatsoever. The only thing that comes close to providing a humorous wink-wink is the final moment, which is so utterly conventional and expected that I just rolled my eyes. Surely Vallelonga could have done better than that!

MTI's DVD release is a disappointing presentation. The film is rendered in a letterboxed widescreen image that looks close to a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. For a movie that was filmed entirely in HD, the print looks rather soft and low on detail. Some shots are heavily coated with grain. I have not figured out if this was deliberate, and if it is, I'm not sure why. Colors are bold, if a bit overly saturated, with skin tones appearing very orangy at times. Black levels are deep, and there appear to be no visible signs of edge enhancement. Still, this transfer fails to do the film justice.

English 5.1 Dolby Digital surround and 2.0 stereo tracks are provided. Dialogue is smooth and clear, coming through the front speakers with equally clear sound effects. The music is slightly harsh in the background. The surround is not used as effectively as it could have been, but in general the audio sounds pleasing.

The film is accompanied by an optional commentary track featuring Nick Vallelonga and actors Paul Sloan, Colleen Porch, and Hayley DuMond. This is an enjoyable track, with the four having a lively and funny discussion about the film. I've said this before about other commentaries, but this one too manages to be more entertaining than the actual movie.

A 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette is also included, chronicling the 12 days it took to shoot the movie. There is no apparent structure to this featurette, and we are simply shown video footage of the cast and crew interacting, shooting, arguing, eating, and whatnot.

Filmographies and/or biographies are provided for several members of the cast and crew. A gallery of trailers brings a close to the DVD.

For the curious, "Disturbance" is not the worst you could do for a video rental. It doesn't rise above its direct-to-video status, but it has its moments. I don't recall being frightened by this movie once, and in fact I did doze off on a few occasions. What is ultimately most disturbing about this film is how bland it turns out to be in spite of its visual splendor and appealing performers. Given the right state of mind, this could be an entertaining diversion. This is probably the kind of film best seen in a group atmosphere, and preferably a group that doesn't demand much from their entertainment.