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Nerve (Blu-ray Review)

NerveNerve was a film I kinda wrote off last summer.  The trailer played with a quite a few films I went to see, but it looked like one that gave away everything and it seemed to skew younger than I’d be interested in.  Not that an aspect like that would keep me from seeing something, just in terms of my immediate need to catch it.  It did slightly catch my eye.  However, upon release, the film actually managed to garner some surprisingly positive reviews, even managing to score fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.  A budget doesn’t seem to be available, but Nerve couldn’t have cost too much money and looks to have made some decent bank if it indeed had a really low budget.  I didn’t quite get out of the house to see it in the theater, but here it is on Blu-ray and I’m more than willing to check it out.  Lionsgate has this one dropping on October 25th.

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Film 

Industrious high school senior Vee is tired of living life on the sidelines. Pressured by friends to join the popular online game Nerve, Vee teams up with a sly and charming competitor for just one dare in what seems like harmless fun. But as Vee is caught up in the thrill of the adrenaline-fueled competition, the game takes a sinister turn with increasingly dangerous acts, leading Vee into a high-stakes finale that will determine her entire future.

Nerve is a rock solid, youthful technology thriller with strong performances and chemistry by its two lead actors.  I wasn’t expecting to find the film to be as awesome as I did, but its really a blast to watch.  The film has some good suspense and character drama to go along with some goofiness and being able to play it straight while at the same time being somewhat self aware without sitting and winking to let you know.  That’s the best way to take this sort of thing.  It makes for quite an enjoyable thrill ride.

This comes from the guys who did Catfish and Paranormal Activity 3 & 4 (The third film is probably the best in the entire series).  They pretty much have just done found footage, so this is their traditional narrative aesthetic debut.  But, they bring those sensibilities and style to the film, while also throwing shot homages to other directors and films (I caught some nods to Brian DePalma in here).  It helps to carve its own unique touch and flavor to keep this movie as a standout.  These guys really have shown us they have a talent with such bare minimum resources and budgets.  Excited to see what they are able to come up with and pull off next.

I was a decent fan of Emma Roberts coming into the film.  She’s someone who has continued to grow on me with every year and project she does.  I couldn’t stand and gave up on Scream Queens last year, but thought she was quite good on it and one of the better aspects of the show.  Here, in Nerve, she’s completely won me over and is definitely one of my favorite actresses working today.  She gives a performance that is better than this movie deserves.  It elevates it to another level.  She’s playing a person who you can really get behind, but she also is able to display a flawed person without them coming off as a jerk, too.  Helping matters is that her and Dave Franco have some outstanding chemistry with one another.  I’d love to see the two do another film together in the near future (Something different, not Nerve 2, please).

Nerve could quite possibly be the biggest surprise of the year for me so far (As the year is coming to a close in a couple months, there’s a good chance it will be).  While yeah, you got a lot of this from the trailer, said trailer was actually structured in a bit of a false way to tell its own story.  Things are different here, and the ride and details you aren’t aware of make it fun and add a layer of conflict/difficultly to something you sorta figured you knew how it would play out.  There are great scenarios here to go along with some innovative cinematography and a good pair of leads.  This is definitely a movie people should be renting/blind buying.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Nerve comes to Blu-ray with a crystal clear, razor sharp image.  With new movies, I usually expect them to appear very good when they show up on Blu-ray.  However, once in a while, like when Pacific Rim came out, one will really impress beyond already (pedestrian) high expectations.  Nerve is one of those.  The amount of detail on surfaces, clothing, the motorcycle helmet (folds/creases on the blindfold sticker) is clear as day and impressive to sit and look at.  Its a vibrant and punchy image that pops right off the screen.  Colors are strong, facial details are pretty incredible.  Overall this is a damn fine presentation.

Depth:  I can’t remember if this film played in 3D theatrically or not.  No matter, even in 2D it lends itself to some three dimensional wonder.  There are great foreground background tracking or POV shots in the film, displaying a great separation of character and environment.  A lot of floating graphics also give off a 3D like appearance.  Movements are smooth, natural and loose.  Background detail is impressive.

Black Levels: Blacks are rich and very dark.  Its a bit natural in that regard, but provides very good shading and gives life to certain scenes in the film.  Details can get hidden at times that look to be carrying a natural light sort of looking.  Hair follicles, clothing articles and surface textures color very dark still give off plenty of detail when properly or just even decently lit.  Blacks are overall just very finely done. No crushing witnessed during this viewing for the review.

Color Reproduction:  This may not be 4K UHD, but that doesn’t stop these colors from blasting their full vibrancy onto your screen.  There are a lot of neon-like colors here in the mix whether it be on actual light bulbs, onscreen graphics/text displays or the lighting of a given scene.  Aside from the lights, reds and blue give a nice pop, while green prove bold and rich.  Gold/yellow is a little understated of a player that helps compliment many scenes in different shades and tints.  Color is a strong suit and it’ll intoxicate your eyes with how gorgeous it looks in this picture.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and easily maintain that appearance from scene to scene, beginning to end.  Facial details are window-like from any distance with great clarity.  Moles, light hairs, make-up, lip texture, gashes, stubble, dimples, acne scars all show up clear as day in this transfer.  I’d even go on to say its so impressive, its the highlight of the image.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English DTS:X (English 7.1 DTS-HD MA default), Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA, English Descriptive Audio, DTS Headphone X,

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Nerve’s DTS:X mix is a lively and full one to bring this game to life in your viewing area.  Its a loud film, but not one that’s a monotonous mess or unwieldy in any one misturn in the mix.  Vocals, music and effects all are free of one another in the mix, and also get a chance to take center stage and know how to step back and work best for accompaniment as well.  This isn’t reference quality, but its close and very very strong track to give this movie an awesome performance when paired with how great the video is.

Height:  Not a whole lot going on to fly by on the ceiling.  It primarily assists in some more ambient ways.  I couldn’t really pinpoint any one moment that it really was given purely its own thing to do (A little bit during the hanging dare).  But, then again, the film never calls for it.

Low Frequency Extension:  Your subwoofer primarily gets put to work with the music in the film’s score.  It bumps.  Vehicle engines, gunshots and a train are some other highlights that give the low frequency extension some good work to do.

Surround Sound Presentation:  All 7 channels get some good utilization at some point here in the film.  Side and rear speakers work well with party scenes and in crowds where they can get their own distinct sounds to add to an environment.  The blind motorcycle ride is a highlight as the motion of front to back is really fun with the side speakers getting involved then passing some back to the rear.  Front speakers get a lot to do and perform excellent when it comes to getting the onscreen action and placement pinpointed with great accuracy.  Its a fun, full and well documented experience through 7 channels.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp, with great clarity and good attention to breaths and diction.  The computer voice is also well done in this mix and sounds full, robotic and with good detail in its sound.  Characters distances and position on screen are accurately set in the mix.

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Extras 

Nerve is a combo pack that comes with a DVD edition of the film and an UltraViolet digital copy.

Upon entering the Main Menu, you are asked if you are a Watcher or a Player.

Watcher – This brings up a shot of the city with screennames like they show of Players in the film.  Selecting them brings up a short 2 minute-ish “Making Of/Behind-The-Scenes” type clip with the directors and cast going over moments in the film, stunts, locations, casting and characters.

  • The Daredevil (HD, 2:10)
  • The Blind Ride (HD, 1:48)
  • The Bestie (HD, 1:40)
  • Hang Tight (HD, 1:40)
  • A New Approach (HD, 2:39)
  • Only In New York (HD, 1:19)
  • Vee Is For Venus (HD, 2:09)
  • So Good At Being Bad (HD, 1:54)
  • Step Up (HD, 1:58)
  • The Dark Web Hero (HD, 1:48)
  • Belt It Out (HD, 1:47)
  • The Art Of The Prank (HD, 1:20)
  • Internet Squad (HD, 1:49)
  • Shop ‘N Streak (HD, 1:21)
  • A Rad Soundtrack (HD, 1:17)
  • Nerve (HD, 2:45) – This one isn’t like the rest. It follows people playing Nerve at a music festival.
  • Outtakes (HD, 2:48)

Player

  • The Players – This gives a profile/bio on the characters in the film.
  • Do You Have The Nerve? – An at home version of the Nerve game.  Basically a bunch of dares and you tell whether you did them or not. This Nerve bases things on the honor system.
  • Are You A Watcher Or A Player? – A quiz that’s outcome determines whether you are a Watcher or a Player.  I was a Player, you!

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Summary 

Nerve is a rock solid, youthful and tech savvy/topical film that I didn’t expect was going to be as awesome as it was.  Helping matters is fantastic Blu-ray presentation.  Packing an amazingly clean, rich and colorful image to go with a great audio mix, this adds a layer of treating when viewing the film.  The extras are little short bits, but really do add up to be something pretty substantial in terms of getting a “Making Of”.  This is a fun little thriller that I definitely look forward to revisiting in the future.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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