Taboo (2002)

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Released 10-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Trailer-Disturbing Behavior, Flatliners, Hush
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 76:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Max Makowski
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Nick Stahl
January Jones
Eddie Kaye Thomas
Amber Benson
Lori Heuring
Derek Hamilton
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Ryan Beveridge


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Ahh...the bad horror film. An enjoyable genre in its own right, if often for the wrong reasons. It can be good fun to sit down and watch a movie that intended to be cheesy and silly, and sometimes even more fun to watch one that is those two things, but was trying for so much more. Unfortunately there are times when some movies are so bad that there is nothing to enjoy about them, no matter how ridiculous or bad they are. Taboo is one such film. Trust me when I tell you that you want to stay well away from this one, regardless of the actors involved (more on that in a bit).

    Taboo is the story of a group of six bratty rich kids on the brink of graduating college and heading out into the real world. On a New Year's eve they all sit around and decide to play a game of Taboo. No - not the word game where you have to get your team-mates to say the selected word without mentioning any of the taboo words on the card. This version of Taboo is the one played by characters in bad movies. You get a card with a question on it asking if you'd undertake a sexually-depraved act (e.g. "Would you sleep with a minor", "Would you sleep with a relative", and so forth - you get the idea) and you write down yes or no. The cards are then randomly shuffled, and read out anonymously so no-one knows exactly which sick fantasy belongs to which brat. Doesn't really seem like much of a "game" to me - there are no winners, and only one round lasting all of sixty seconds, but hey this is a movie so we'll let them get away with it for now. Anyway, moving on a year, and the same six "friends" have met up again for New Year's eve. This time there have been a few changes - the relationships have swirled around a bit, and everyone is just that little bit more bitter and twisted. Moving right along, and as the storm closes in (what else did you expect), the rich-kids start dying one-by-one. Who is killing the bitter and twisted little snots off (as a fun exercise, each time you see a corpse, you can imagine the director and producers of this trainwreck of a movie in their place)? Why are they doing it? What is really going on? How many utterly ridiculous twists can they fit into 75 minutes? Will anyone care?

    To find out the answer to all those questions, and many more (trust me, this thing has more twists than your average series of The X-Files all rolled into 75 minutes), you'll just have to watch the movie. Although I recommend that you don't - you're better off not knowing. I am reminded of something my mother used to say to me - "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all", so I suppose I better find some positives to justify the rest of this ranting. Let me see - the concept. There is actually not a bad idea behind this film. There are a number of Machiavellian twists, and with an ending out of a Greek tragedy, it could have been turned into something that was at least halfway decent. The screenplay itself seems to be quite close to being workable - probably only one or two tweaks away really. This good concept and at least manageable screen play were then backed up by extremely good casting - the bill here includes the new John Connor Nick Stahl, Hollywood's favourite up-and-coming blonde bombshell January Jones, American Pie's Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Buffy's other lesbian Amber Benson (proving here that she can actually look half-way decent). Unfortunately all of that potential adds up to the sum-total of absolutely nothing when placed in the hands of director Max Makowski. This was his second film, following on from his 1998 effort The Pigeon Egg Strategy (okay, so I haven't heard of that either - although it's supposedly quite good).

    Between the script that shows promise and the actors who we know can deliver (because they have elsewhere) the only place to lay the blame for the disaster this film turned into is the director. Maybe there is a story behind it. Maybe Max Makowski spent the entire month of production undergoing a series of root-canal and hemorrhoid operations, leaving him precious little time not under the influence of powerful pain killers. Maybe it was actually a stuffed replica of Max Makowski set up to see how important a director really is. Whatever the reason - this is the single worst effort at directing a film ever. This man beets Ed Wood hands down. Nothing looks professional. Every shot seems to come out of a student film. The performances are obviously terrible - that, Max, is where you call for another take...just so you know for next time. I hope for poor old Max's sake that the problems with this film are entirely due to studio interference. You can just imagine the phone call. "Max, I say just make it cheap and dirty. The kiddies won't notice. We'll give you three weeks to film the lot." Ahem.

    Oh enough ranting. This movie is bad. If the previous page or so hasn't convinced you of that, then nothing I say will. Consume at own risk, and remember - if you pull the disc out and snap it in anger, the nice man at the video rental place will make you pay for it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer presented for Taboo is only just above average - it is more than watchable, but is not going to blow your socks off, by a long shot. Still, it's far better than the movie deserves.

    Presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is not 16x9 enhanced. Normally, that would cause a tirade, but with a movie like this, I don't really care. At least it's in the correct ratio.

    Sharpness and shadow detail are the best aspects of this transfer. It is nicely sharp and carries quite a bit of fine detail, despite the lack of 16x9 enhancement (another reason not to care too much), and there is virtually no grain to speak of. Shadow detail is excellent with the darker scenes carrying a good amount of depth. There does not appear to be any low-level noise.

    Colours are not all that bad, but do have a bit of a "movie" feel to them. They are vibrant enough where necessary, while the darker reds and blues contain plenty of depth. The only downside is that the lighting combines with the sets to make them look like, well, sets. Not that the acting was likely to entrance anyone, but if it had, this could well pull them out of it. Not really the fault of the transfer per se, but it is still a problem.

    There are no compression artefacts to be seen, but the same cannot be said for film and film-to-video artefacts. There are numerous flecks and other scratches on the image, but by far the worst is the vertical line that runs down the screen for every shot from the camera angle used at 19:00. While the artefacts are generally not too distracting, it is disappointing to see them on what is a direct-to-video release. There is also quite a bit of aliasing, such as on the opening credits, the towel rail at 26:09 and any shot including the bed-head between 59:04 and 60:20. As with the film artefacts, it is generally not too distracting, and is probably caused by the lack of 16x9 enhancement.

    Apparently Columbia-Tristar wanted to ensure that as many people as possible could understand this film, providing no less than 18 different subtitle languages - maybe they wanted to share the pain (or maybe it is actually better when you don't understand English and can't tell exactly how wooden the actors are). The English subtitles generally accurate and for the most part do not skip words. They do intrude above the black bars into the image more than would seem necessary, but it would be hard to hide all the dialogue in the smaller black bars afforded by 1.85:1.

    This is a single-layer disc, and therefore does not contain a layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is the opposite of the video - a little below average, and can be difficult to listen to at times.

    As with the sub-titles, Columbia-Tristar seems to want to spread the pain with the audio too, and this disc delivers no less than five audio languages, just so those who don't understand English can wallow in the pain with the rest of us. Who knows - maybe the dubbed performances are better than the original. It wouldn't be surprising. The languages provided are the original English dialogue, and dubs in French, German, Italian, and Spanish all in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (and all at 192 Kbps).

    Dialogue quality is, in a word, poor. There are numerous examples of the dialogue being sufficiently mumbled as to make understanding it difficult. At both 30:52 and 71:25 I had to resort to the subtitles to understand what was being said, and came close on a few other occasions - and this for dialogue that is taking place with little-to-no background foley effects. A very poor effort.

    Audio sync seems to be spot on throughout the transfer, but frankly out-of-sync dialogue would be far preferable to unintelligible dialogue.

    The score is credited to Ryan Beveridge. Heard of him? Nope, neither have I. And from what is on display here, it's not likely that we'll be hearing from Mr Beveridge any time soon either - a more formulaic soundtrack you are not likely to hear. Although at least it delivers on what it promised - which is more than I can say for the actors and director.

    Officially, all these soundtracks are surround encoded, but you're not really going to get much out of the surrounds even with decoding enabled. It does give you the benefit of a centre channel - when the dialogue is not mumbled anyway - but the surrounds only carry the occasional music cue, and the sounds of the storm at its highest.

    As with the surrounds, the subwoofer barely gets out of first gear. A few peals of thunder get a nice rumble, but that is about it.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Three trailers - and none for this movie. Maybe they figure that you'll need to come up with a film to watch just to get over this one?

Menu

    The menu is static, 16x9 enhanced (yes, you read that right - the menu is 16x9 enhanced, the movie is not), themed around the movie, and is silent.

Trailers

    There are three trailers as follows:     Okay, I admit it, I actually like Disturbing Behaviour, but then again, it has so much more going for it than this film. As for the other two - I haven't seen them, but they both look far more interesting than Taboo. Pity that this five minutes worth of trailers is the most interesting thing on this disc. All three trailers are presented at 1.33:1 and are not 16x9 enhanced. The first two feature Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, while the third has the surround flag set.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:     The inclusion of 16x9 enhancement on the Region 1 version of this disc leads me to award the grand booby-prize to that region. By all accounts, the transfer is not any better than ours however, so we're probably not missing out on all that much.

Summary

    Taboo is a really bad movie. And when I say bad, I mean bad. Trust me - this is coming from the guy who likes Disturbing Behaviour and Dungeons and Dragons. I have a talent for liking bad movies, but this one is beyond even me. There is absolutely nothing to like here - the story is boring, the acting more wooden than a forest, and the direction more ham-fisted than a piggery. All up it is a spectacular mess, and it is no surprise that Columbia-Tristar have snuck the disc onto the market over two years after the movie was completed.

    The video quality is average - the image is watchable enough, but contains plenty of film artefacts and aliasing, and misses out on 16x9 enhancement.

    The audio is worse than the video. There are many almost unintelligible lines, and a couple that most certainly are. There is little surround use, and the subwoofer only rumbles occasionally.

    There are three trailers. The sad part is, they are the most interesting things on the disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
R1 isn't anamorphic either - ajm REPLY POSTED