Plot: What’s it about?
Bart Hughes (Peter Weller) is on the rise, as his lifestyle has improved a lot of late and the future only looks even brighter. He is married to a beautiful woman, Meg (Shannon Tweed), has a young son, and lives in a renovated, well to do brownstone. Not a lap of luxury lifestyle, but a more than comfortable one and in time, Hughes will have the chance to provide an even nicer life for himself and his loved ones. Bart works an executive on Wall Street, an often tense and stressful environment, but one that allows for great rewards with success. And Bart has shown serious potential in his field, which has given him the chance to have his current lifestyle and look toward an even better future. In fact, a window has opened for him to nab a large promotion, but a single project could be the difference between his rise and potential fall back down the ladder. His family is poised to leave on vacation, but Bart has chosen to remain at home for the weekend, in order to focus on this most important project. But when an unwanted guest shows up at his brownstone, Bart finds himself spending too much time away from his work. Can a single rat manage to overturn Bart’s weekend and cost him this valuable promotion? Will some simple traps suffice, or will this rodent cause him more trouble than he could imagine?
Ever have a pest you just couldn’t seem to get rid of? Maybe some ants in your kitchen, a neighbor that won’t leave you alone, or perhaps a mouse that just refused to be trapped or evicted from your home? If so, then you can relate somewhat to Bart Hughes, the main character in Of Human Origin. Of course, you probably haven’t gone as far as Bart has, but then again, that’s what makes this movie so insane. This movie isn’t a high profile release, nor was it given much promotion when issued on DVD, but it would be a shame if it doesn’t find a wider audience now, as it is quite a solid picture. The concept of one man versus one rodent might not seem like it has much potential, but director George P. Cosmatos (Tombstone, Leviathan) and star Peter Weller ensure it comes off as a thriller with ample bite. Plus it never hurts to have some hot babe around, so the screen debut of softcore porn icon Shannon Tweed is most welcome. Weller’s character endures a downward spiral of immense proportions, but it plays out in a believable manner. Not too fast of a turn and not too slow, his descent into madness is smooth and natural. We have all been frustrated like Bart before, so we can relate to his worries, though I doubt many of us could relate to some of his methods. Of Unknown Origin isn’t going to light up the sales charts, but if you’re a fan of thrillers or horror cinema, then give it a chance.
As one of the film’s two main stars and the only human of the pair, Peter Weller bears much of the burden of carrying this picture. This role seems to invite overacting and ham handed stylings, but to do so would have diminished the entire production. The fine line between intense and ludicrous is especially small in the case of this role, so Weller needed to walk that line and all times, maintain his balance. And as it turns out, Weller is able to keep the balance intact and as a result, Of Unknown Origin is a terrific motion picture. If he had gone too far into madness, then the movie would have been too comical, while added restraint would have dulled the intense edge and by turn, created a slower experience. Weller’s excellent performance drives this movie, as his spiral into chaos unfolds in a manic, but natural chain of events. As I mentioned before, we can all relate to his situation and frustrations, which makes his character’s descent into darkness that much more effective. After all, perhaps we all could slip off the deep end in such a manner. Other films with Weller include Screamers, RoboCop, Naked Lunch, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, and The Contaminated Man. The cast also includes Shannon Tweed (The Rowdy Girls, Hard Vice), Jennifer Dale (Something About Love, The Photographer’s Wife), and of course, Lawrence Dane (Waking the Dead, Happy Birthday to Me).
Video: How does it look?
Of Unknown Origin is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. As this is a somewhat obscure movie, I was worried the visual treatment would be a rushed one, but thankfully, that isn’t the case here. Now it doesn’t look like a brand new movie, but it looks much cleaner and more refined than I expected. The print has some grain toward the film’s start, but that soon vanishes and I saw minimal defects for the duration of the picture. Even minor flaws like nicks and scuffs were hardly ever seen, while grain never becomes a problem in the least. A lot of this film takes place in the dark, so it was important that the contrast be excellent. As it turns out, the black levels have a sharp and stark presence, which provides ample detail and shadow depth. So even in the darkest of scenes, you won’t miss a single visual touch. I am impressed by this visual presentation in all respects, so I want to commend Warner for their work on this one.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original mono soundtrack is found here, which is a decent treatment, but it fails to make good use of the film’s audio potential. This movie has numerous cheap scares, moments of high impact audio, and need for atmospheric presence, which means the included mono option is outmatched at every turn. The audio is passable, with no real defects to mention, but it lacks the kind of range needed to enhance the experience. A new surround remix could have opened up the soundscape a lot, but no such luck with this release. The music and dialogue are well handled however, with no volume errors or such to report. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes an audio commentary with director George P. Cosmatos and star Peter Weller, which proves to be a disappointment. The session is loaded with silent stretches, though some decent comments can be found, if you can stay awake to catch them. This disc also includes the film’s theatrical trailer.