Perfect Strangers (2003)

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Released 7-Sep-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Gaylene Preston (Director)
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots-2
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-The Location
Featurette-The Making Of The Storm At Sea
Deleted Scenes-4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 95:06
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (86:56) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gaylene Preston

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Sam Neill
Rachael Blake
Joel Tobeck
Robyn Malcolm
Madeleine Sami
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Plan 9

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Gayleen Preston, writer/director of Perfect Strangers step forward and take a bow. You have managed to take what seems at first glance a very simple set-up and turn it into one of the most original thrillers I have seen. There is some doubt in my mind as to whether it can truly be classified as a thriller as such but it is the closest genre I have to offer. I defy anyone to work out where this film is heading in advance.

    Perfect Strangers was made on the ruggedly beautiful north-west coast of New Zealand's south island and features one of New Zealand's best acting exports, Sam Neill, and Rachael Blake, the Australian actress best known for her AFI-award winning turns in the TV dramas Wildside and Lantana. This film is basically a two-hander and they are both excellent throughout. It is a testament to the quality of the screenplay that despite its obviously small budget it has managed to attract actors of such note.

    I can only tell you a small part of the plot without spoiling it for you, so let me just say that a woman (Rachael Blake), living in a small town and working in a dead-end job, is lonely and in need of male company. She meets a man (Sam Neill) at the local pub and agrees to go back to his boat, where she passes out (probably from drinking too much). When she awakens she finds that the boat has headed out to sea. Where the movie goes from there is anywhere but where you would expect.

    The tone of the film is tense and claustrophobic with a slow build up of tension greatly aided by the excellent soundtrack and rugged land and seascapes.

    If you want to see a really interesting, intelligent, thought-provoking thriller, see this movie. It is highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is very good.

    The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was quite clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was very good with night scenes showing most required details.

    The colour was very good throughout with all colours being well saturated and free from colour bleeding. The skin colouring was very natural. Having said that, this film has a dark colour scheme due to the mostly stormy weather and the bleak nature of the area used for most of the filming.

    There were no noticeable artefacts of any kind.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired. I sampled them and found they were virtually exact to the spoken word and helpfully showed on the side of the screen for the character who was talking.

    The layer change occurs at 86:56 and is well done.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is very good, bordering on excellent.

    This DVD contains only one audio option: a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand once leaving the town, however the early scenes included some muffled dialogue which made it difficult to understand what was being said.    

    There were no problems with audio sync.    

    The score of this film by Plan 9 was excellent, very eerie, and well suited to the material. The music included many directional effects which added to the tension.

    The surround speakers were constantly for directional effects and music and greatly added to the claustrophobic nature of the film. Sea, rain and wind sounds were also excellent.

    The subwoofer was used constantly to add to the suspense.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is very well designed including atmospheric music, scenes from the film and a scene selection function.


    A sub-menu includes the Theatrical Trailer (1:43), and two TV spots (0:31 and 0:16). I would guess they were for the US release as the voiceovers have a distinct twang. They are pretty good advertisements for the movie despite this.

Commentary - Writer / Director - Gaylene Preston

    A very good commentary track in which she discusses her take on the film, muses about the characters and talks about a number of more technical subjects such as the camera work, how the dialogue was improvised, special effects, music and how she used time shift, water imagery and other techniques. She also adds some trivia such as which rocks are real and which are not. Well worth a listen.

Making Of (22:18)

    An interesting making of which includes on set footage and interviews. Discussion includes the characters and what makes them tick, how the project came about, casting and difficulties caused by the remote location. Interviews include Gaylene Preston, Sam Neill, Rachael Blake, the producer, Robyn Laing, cinematographer Alun Bollinger and other members of the cast & crew. Also includes an interview with the technician at Weta Digital who did the CGI work. Presented in 4x3.

Photo Gallery

    27 excellent quality photos from the film presented widescreen enhanced.

Featurettes - The Location (4:41) & The Making of the Storm at Sea (4:08)

    These are disappointing in that they are basically cut-down versions of the making-of with no or very little extra footage.

Deleted Scenes

    Includes four deleted and extended scenes all of which are interesting and would have added something to the film. I would assume they were cut for pacing reasons as none of them are essential, however, they are of interest. They include (descriptions are abbreviated to avoid spoilers):

R4 vs R1

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

    This movie is available in Region 1 in exactly the same format except for PAL/NTSC differences. Let's call it a draw.


    This disc contains an extremely original and well-made thriller from New Zealand.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is nearly excellent.

    The disc has a good selection of well made extras but nothing particularly outstanding.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Monday, September 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
R1 vs R4 - Charles Eggen REPLY POSTED