THE 4TH FLOOR (DVD) Image

THE 4TH FLOOR (DVD)

By admin | July 9, 1999

It hasn’t been too long (1986) since William Hurt won his Best Actor Academy Award, yet here he is playing the “boyfriend” to another recent Oscar nominee (1992), Juliette Lewis, in a schlocky direct-to-video thriller. In a bit of a casting stretch, Lewis plays Jane, a normal woman (!) who moves into her late aunt’s apartment on the fifth floor. Before long, the noise of Jane’s furniture moving runs her afoul of the neighbor living right below. Soon, maggots are coming up the bathtub drain and all sorts of other unneighborly things happen to poor Jane, who naturally becomes slightly unhinged herself under the pressure.
Only when Jane starts to lose her grip does Lewis start to come alive; apparently, her idea of playing a “normal woman” is to act as boring as possible. Then again, who can blame her, given the formulaic material from writer-director Josh Klausner. “Jumpy” moments occur at all the proper junctures; obvious red herrings are dropped here and there. The predictable nature of the script would be easier to forgive if the story at least tied up in an interesting in satisfying manner, but Klausner falls into the all-too-alluring trap of the “twist ending”–which, as in this case, just leaves too many dangling questions to be a satisfying shock.
Despite never seeing a theatrical run in this country, A-Pix put a good deal of effort into the DVD presentation. The main menu is nicely animated and is effectively accompanied by sound effects; the scene selection menus, made to look like the windows of an apartment building, nicely evoke a Rear Window -ish subplot. Two different trailers are included, as is an alternate ending whose only distinction is being a few minutes longer in the middle. One of the big failings of the disc, however, is the absence of what should be a no-brainer feature: English subtitles or captions. (Only Spanish subtitles are offered.)
More entertaining than the film itself is the running commentary by Klausner, editor Tricia Cooke, and production designer Timothy Galvin. While there are some interesting tidbits about the cast (for instance, co-star Shelley Duvall gets into character by tape recording herself using different voices and selecting the best from those), what gives their observations a refreshing frankness is the fact that Klausner did not have final cut of the film; the producers/financiers did. So the three don’t feel that the film is an especially good one–or, at least, not as good as they had hoped, and they’re brutally honest about what forced additions they aren’t happy with (and a few of their own questionable choices).
Specifications: Full frame and 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen; English 5.0 Surround; Spanish subtitles.

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