Incident at Raven's Gate (1988)

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Released 12-Jan-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 89:11
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Rolf de Heer
Studio
Distributor
Hemdale Film Corp
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Steven Vidler
Celine Griffin
Ritchie Singer
Vincent Gil
Saturday Rosenberg
Terry Camilleri
Max Cullen
Peter Douglas
Ernie Ellison
Brian O'Connor
Ruth Goble
Paul Philpot
Case Custom Packaging
RPI ? Music Roman Kronen
Graham Tardif


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.20:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

    Australian filmmaker, Rolf de Heer's second feature is a stark departure from his sedate family adventure, Tail of a Tiger. Incident at Raven's Gate (Encounter at Raven's Gate - US title) is a bizarre, yet mostly effective sci-fi horror story set in the remote Australian outback.

    The screenplay was written by Rolf de Heer and Marc Rosenberg, based on an original story by James Michael Vernon. Richard Michalak's superb use of the cinemascope ratio intensifies the sense of isolation and foreboding. Performances are all fine, especially Vincent Gil in the role of the creepy cop, Felix Skinner.

    At a remote farmhouse a lone policeman arrives to investigate the theft of a football trophy. Instead he witnesses the aftermath of a strange cosmic event. Sgt. Taylor (Max Cullen) finds the entire area deserted and heavily scorched. He is soon surprised by the arrival of a sinister looking man. Dr Hemmings (Terry Camilleri) is a government agent with the mission of covering up the situation.

    Five days earlier...

    The farm is owned by Richard and Rachel Cleary (Ritchie Singer and Celine Griffin). Richard's younger brother, Eddie (Steven Vidler) has recently come out of jail and is spending time on the farm to re-evaluate his life.

    Eddie is having a casual affair with local barmaid, Annie (Saturday Rosenberg), which puts him at odds with the local policeman, Felix Skinner. Felix has a creepy obsession with Annie and the Verdi opera, La Traviata. Although Annie is not interested in his advances, Felix is determined to win her over with an expensive new dress and tickets to the opera in the city.

    Meanwhile, strange things are happening on the farm. Cattle are dying, water storage is evaporating overnight and essential equipment is failing. When Eddie drives down to check on the old folks at Raven's Gate, he discovers a terrible tragedy. This incident is only the beginning of the malevolence - alien forces are at work distorting psychological behaviour with deadly resolve.

    For the most part, Incident at Raven's Gate sustains an eerie presence and is tantalisingly mysterious. Despite falling away slightly in the final act, the film is redeemed with a suitably ironic conclusion.

    I first saw Incident at Raven's Gate at AFI screenings in 1988 and until reviewing this DVD, I hadn't seen it since. I must admit, I didn't particularly like the film much after that first screening. However, viewing the film in retrospect has changed my opinion. I have a whole new appreciation for the film and hope others with similar thoughts might give it another viewing.

    At the time of writing this review, Incident at Raven's Gate is only available as part of Umbrella's, Rolf de Heer Collection. It is currently not available for separate purchase.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Incident at Raven's Gate is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.23:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. The films correct aspect ratio is 2.35:1.

    This film is screaming out for restoration, but I doubt it will happen in the foreseeable future. Although the print comes courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, it is not in great shape. The sharpness of the image varies, but was generally satisfactory. Blacks were generally clean and shadow detail was acceptable. This film has many dark scenes, so this aspect was important.

    Colours quality also varied, but overall there were no significant issues. Outdoor scenes in particular, looked fine.

    There were no MPEG artefacts evident. Film-to-video artefacts were not a significant problem. Reel change markings were evident at approximate twenty-minute intervals - beginning at 17:36. Film artefacts were very prominent a few times during the film. Just before each reel change there was a shower of fine emulsion scratches, which lasted for a few seconds on each occasion. Apart from these instances, these artefacts weren't overly problematic.

    There are no subtitles available on this DVD.

    This is a DVD 5, single layer disc, so there is no layer change.

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

Audio

     There is only one audio track available on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kb/s), which is surround encoded.

    There were no obvious problems with dialogue quality and audio sync. The occasional minor audio pop or click was heard at reel changes.

    The original music score is credited to Graham Tardif and Roman Kronen. Music from other sources has also been used in the film. These pieces include passages from La Traviata, Six Months in a Leaky Boat by Split Enz and Friday on my Mind by The Easybeats.

    With no direct sound separation, the surrounds carried music and ambient sound.

    The subwoofer was quite active, enhancing bass elements in the music and sound design.

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

Extras

    Like two other films in Umbrella's Rolf de Heer Collection, this edition of Incident at Raven's Gate is completely void of anything but the film - even menus.

    There is no main menu or scene selection menu. After the Umbrella logo has played and the National Film & Sound Archive notice has appeared on screen, the disc goes straight into the film. At the conclusion of the film, the screen stays black until you press the enter or play button on your remote - this will simply restart the film.

R4 vs R1

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

    At the time of this review there is no R1edition of Incident at Raven's Gate available.

Summary

    Despite the restrictions of a small budget, Incident at Raven's Gate is quite an effective sci-fi horror film. It sustains an eerie presence and an air of mystery throughout, which encourages repeated viewings.

    The video and audio transfers are acceptable.

    There is absolutely nothing but the film on this edition.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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