H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds DVD Review

Written by Steve Pattee

DVD released by The Asylum

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Directed by David Michael Latt
Written by David Michael Latt (based on the book by H.G. Wells)
2005, Region 1 (NTSC), 90 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on June 28th, 2005

Starring:
C. Thomas Howell as George Herbet
Andy Lauer as Lt. Kerry Williams
Rhett Giles as Pastor Victor
Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots as Felicity Herbert
Jake Busey as Maj. Samuelson
Peter Greene as Matt Herbert

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Movie:

Dr. George Herbert (C. Thomas Howell – The Hillside Strangler, TV’s “Kindred – The Embraced”) and his wife, Felicity (Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots – The Company You Keep), are about to leave for Washington, D.C., in celebration of their 10th anniversary. Unbeknownst to his wife, George plans on proposing to her on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the same place he asked for her hand in marriage a decade earlier — and he promised his son, Alex (Dashiell Howell – Dreamland and Thomas’ real-life son), that he can be the best man, if he can keep the second proposal a secret.

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Taking one last look through his telescope before they leave, Alex notices something shooting across the sky. George takes a look for himself and barely has time to verify that it is definitely not a planet before the phone rings.

His wife begs him not to answer — she knows it's the office, and she knows what they want — but George answers anyway.

Felicity and Alex leave for D.C. alone.

On his way to the office, George’s car dies on him. As he gets out of the vehicle to check out the situation, a comet shoots overhead and hits not far away. Like any scientist would, George goes to investigate. It’s not like he’s going anywhere, anyway.

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Arriving at the impact site, George is not the only onlooker gaping into the crater left behind by the strange meteor.

Suddenly, a woman is screaming that her boyfriend is trapped in the hole. As George tries to calm her, the boyfriend calls out and George immediately tries to lead him to the sound of his voice.

But the boyfriend isn’t the only thing in that hole. Because it wasn’t a comet, meteor or asteroid that crashed. It was a spacecraft that landed.

And it wasn’t the only one that landed.

There were landings all over the world

Hell has just broken loose.

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Review:

When I first opened my latest package from The Asylum and saw what it was, I immediately groaned. My first thought was, “Please, no. Please don’t be one of those companies that pumps out a movie as fast possible to cash in on the latest potential blockbuster.” And I fully expected H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds to suck utterly and completely.

I am embarrassed to say I was wrong on all accounts.

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First and foremost, the movie does not suck. Far from it, actually. It is an enjoyable ride from the first landing to the last falling.

The performances in Worlds are not your average B-movie fare. C. Thomas Howell is terrific as Dr. George Herbert, the distraught scientist who is trying desperately to reach his family. Howell is one of those actors that make you wonder why he never made it bigger. He was Ponyboy in The Outsiders for crying out loud! His performance in Worlds is solid and believable and while his wasn’t the only great performance, the film was elevated to another level because of him.

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Rhett Giles as Pastor Victor is quite a change from his role as Jolly Roger in Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove. A complete opposite of a wisecracking, head-collecting pirate, Pastor Victor is a man of the cloth who, at first, accepts the destruction around him as God’s will, but as time goes on, finds his faith is challenged. The scenes with Victor and George are some of the best in the film, because both play their respective roles to a “T.” As Victor tells George about God and His will, Herbert barely pays attention. While there is not an out-and-out theological discussion, it is amusing watching the scientist patiently listening to the pastor about God, feigning concern and offering little.

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Andrew Lauer (Born on the Fourth of July), as Lt. Kerry Williams, is another asset to Worlds. His portrayal as the military man looking for a platoon (since his was killed) is solid. He is convincing as the man who is scared for his life, but still does whatever it takes to get the job done.

And while they aren’t key players, Jake Busey (Enemy of the State, The Frighteners) and Peter Greene (Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects) as Maj. Samuelson and Matt Herbert, respectively, have small, but critical, roles. Both completely nailed their parts and the only downside is they didn’t have more screen time.

The effects in Worlds range from standard to exceptional — on the lower-budget scale. The aliens’ “walk-around” crafts are nothing you’re going to see in a Hollywood blockbuster, but, for this movie, they really, really work. They are good enough to not look completely hokey, but they have enough cheese to give Worlds that popcorn B-movie flavor. In addition, there are some great scenes — like George and Matt’s reunion and the “talking head” — that are done very, very well.

Worlds doesn’t have a lot of blood & gore, but what it does have is a great story and terrific performances.

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Video and Audio:

Worlds's has a good anamorphic widescreen presentation. There is some hint of grain in some of the night scenes, but overall a solid picture.

The 5.1 surround sound mix is as solid as the picture. Voices are crisp and clear throughout and they were never overwhelmed by either the music or the sound effects.

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Special Features:

Worlds has two commentaries, and it all depends on what you are looking for when choosing which one to listen to.

The cast & crew commentary is light-natured, with a few laughs and more than a few back pats, and an enjoyable listen through and through. Sure, there is quite a bit of fluff being spread around, but it’s a great background listen.

The producers’ commentary is much more technical and has a lot of great information on the actual making of the movie. It never gets off topic, and it is a recommended listen if you are interested in the technical side of film-making.

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Visual Effects “How’d They Do That” is a quick segment on some of the computer effects used in the film. It’s unfortunate that it only runs about four minutes, considering the amount of CGI used in the film.

The “Behind the Scenes” featurette is just over 13 minutes and is a straight fluff piece. Worth a watch if you want to see everyone commenting on everyone else’s good job.

Three deleted scenes are offered and the last two of the three can be blown through. However, the first scene is a pretty good conversation between Victor and George on the state of things.

A three-minute outtake reel is offered and is worth watching because of a laugh-out-loud ad-libbed moment regarding where George’s wife is.

Aside from its own, there are three other trailers on the disc. They are: Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove, Alien Abduction and Hide and Creep. It was a pleasant surprise to see the Hide and Creep trailer, as I am looking forward to catching the studio release of this film.

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Grades:

Movie: Threestars
Video: Threestars
Audio: Twoandahalfstars
Features: Fourstars
Overall: Threestars – This is not Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, and it doesn’t try to be. What it is, is a good story coupled with great performances, making it a great buy for fans of the genre.


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Conclusion:

H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds is a perfect example of why you should never judge a book, or DVD, by its cover.

Want to comment on this review? Head over to the Horrortalk Review Forum.

About The Author
AR2
Author: Steve Pattee
Administrator, US Editor
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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