The Chamber Blu-ray Review
One Hundred and Six Feet Under
The Chamber is an acceptable directorial debut but ultimately can't escape its budgetary restrictions and middling ambition.Often shot in a way that makes it feel like an episode of Casualty (the irony being that one of the quartet of cast members is a veteran doctor on that show), The Chamber has a decent enough concept but neither the tools nor the ingredients to quite pull off a polished end product. A civil DSRV in the Yellow Sea is commissioned by a trio of black ops operatives to go to the bottom of the ocean to find an unknown object. The clandestine mission ends up putting all of their lives at risk and as tensions - and the pressure - rises, the small group wonder whether any of them are going to ever get off the bottom of the ocean. The premise is fine, with a relatively slow but decent enough set-up, however the cast are limited.But for Johannes Kuhnke (Forces Majeure), who handles the material far better than the rest of the cast, despite English not being his first language, the other members feel distinctly TV soap standard. Casualty's Charlotte Salt tries her best at a US accent, but isn't a strong enough leader of the ops team, but is leagues ahead of James McArdle, who plays the equivalent to Michael Biehn's pressure-crazy character in The Abyss and is outright terrible. The production benefits from its premise and its claustrophobic setting, but is let down partly by the acting and partly by the contrivances required to carry it across the finish line. The end result may be understandable, given it's a low budget debut, but that makes it no more enjoyable.
Picture QualityThe Chamber hits UK shores on a Region B-locked Blu-ray sporting a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, which is far from attractive, and only speaks more to its limited budget and small-screen stylisation, but does a serviceable enough job with that in mind.
The image is far from attractive
Detail remains evident on close-ups, but the passable digital photography leaves an image peppered with softness, crush and banding. The colour scheme, whilst understandably constrained by the setting, leaves skin tones looking sometimes unconvincingly unnatural. And an almost complete lack of vibrance doesn't help - even beyond the DSRV setting, the topside shots looked just as unpleasant, equal parts jaundiced and anemic. Black levels are surprisingly resilient given the rest of the material, and actually some of the later shots, as things get darker, appear to hold up better. Although certainly acceptable given the budget, and occasionally even getting as far as 'good', this is generally a pretty average, passable video presentation commensurate to the material.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (note: it defaults to the even less impressive LPCM 2.0 counterpart) is also far from good, providing an acceptable delivery of the key elements, but failing to ever really drag you into the claustrophobic setting as you might have hoped for.
The audio is better but still far from good
Dialogue remains clearly promoted across the frontal array - although the lack of subtitles is not great news considering the thick accent of one of the key players - and rises above the rest of the proceedings, with a pretty odd and highly repetitive score attempting to conjure a further sense of unease but often playing at odds with the on-screen events. Effects are sporadically involving - from various burst gaskets and electrical fires to the crunching, creaking and pressure on the tiny metal box - but never really allow for a fully-rounded surround experience. It's a passable, perhaps even above-average audio presentation, but still leaves a lot to be desired.
ExtrasFar from bare bones, at least things are a little better in the extras department, with the Director's Audio Commentary going some way towards explaining how they overcame the extreme limitations of the budget and some of the technical challenges of the feature. There's also an accompanying Making of Featurette.
Blu-ray VerdictThe end result may be understandable, given it's a low budget debut, but that makes it no more enjoyable
Decidedly average video and limited audio, with at least a couple of nice extras, leave this a pretty disappointing package even for fans of the film. Those intrigued may be better off waiting for Netflix to lap it up which, given the film's accelerated release schedule, will probably be in about a week.
You can buy The Chamber on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £13.00
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