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Dustin Putman

Estranged  (2016)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: February 16, 2016) – When a terrible motorcycle accident leaves January (Amy Manson) temporarily wheelchair-bound and suffering from amnesia, she and boyfriend Callum (Simon Quarterman) decide to visit her parents' secluded English estate while she convalesces. January hasn't seen dad Albert (James Cosmo) and mom Marilyn (Eileen Nicholas) or siblings Laurence (James Lance) and Kathrine (Nora-Jane Noone) in six years, but has no recollection of why she pulled away from them. She hopes that seeing them again will rustle up memories, but it doesn't. Once on the grounds of her family's mansion, January begins to suspect secrets are being kept from her. Something isn't quite right with these people and—more worrisome still—they may never let her leave.

The transfixing directorial debut of Adam Levins, "Estranged" creates an encroaching sense of imbalance and peril very early on, and doesn't let up until the end credits. Taking a subtle, possibly unintentional, page from 1978's "The Legacy," the film traps a couple at a stately gated manor and pushes them to the brink as the threat of entrapment (and worse) builds. Amy Manson carries the picture as January, gaining strength she didn't know she had in the face of the unimaginable, while the actors making up the rest of the family are exceptional at being oddly sympathetic (at least at the onset) and supremely creepy without turning into one-note villains. The secret at the story's core is a bit convoluted and doesn't entirely hold up to scrutiny, but by the jolting finale it scarcely matters. "Estranged" backs January into a corner dripping with dread, and watches through nervous fingers as she works her way out of it.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Estranged" opens with a hyper-clear, overly synthetic look which settles down immediately afterwards to offer a more naturally filmlike 1080p transfer. While the film was lensed digitally, there is a heartiness to the photography that often reminds of 35mm. The image's fine detail is exquisite, while depth holds a pleasing dimensionality, particularly in daytime exterior sequences. Colors are realistic and stable, while the only noticeable instance of banding pops up during the Well Go USA logo right at the start. This is an exceedingly fine transfer. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio brings breadth and potency to its soundtrack and immersion to sound effects as varied as footsteps, creaks, slaps and shotgun blasts. Dialogue comes through evenly and clearly within the mix.

Blu-ray Features
  • Making-Of Featurette (31:22, HD)
  • Trailer (2:09, HD)
Bottom Line
"Estranged" played at film festivals, but hasn't gotten a proper release until now. This is a tensely enveloping horror-thriller, one which pulls its audience along for an unnerving 92-minute ride. Well Go USA's Blu-ray release looks and sounds great, and comes with a 31-minute making-of featurette delving much deeper into its creation than a typical, flowery EPK. "Estranged" comes highly recommended on Blu-ray.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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