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Of Unknown Origin (Blu-ray Review)

When collecting and following the releases of Shout! Factory (And the subsequent Shout Select and Scream Factory), its not hard to take notice of some of their favorite filmmakers that they gun to have as many releases as they can for. But, when it comes to actors, it seems they are big fans of Peter Weller. And with good reason, he’s a top notch performer who seems to have always flown just under the radar. Previously they’ve done Robocop 2, Leviathan, Buckaroo Banzai and recently Shakedown to name some. Now comes the George P. Cosmatos film Of Unknown Origin that stars Weller. While not a Collector’s Edition, this one will feature a new transfer and three new interviews. You can add to your own Peter Weller collection by pre-ordering a copy below in time for its release on May 22nd.

Film 

When not mired in the corporate rat race, Wall Street executive Bart Hughes is king of his sleek Manhattan brownstone … until he finds his castle under siege by the most determined of home intruders. Forced to enter a rat race of an entirely different sort, Bart takes a stand, with his survival and sanity at stake. Cleverly and compellingly, the film draws you into a battle of wits, namely one with an intruder that’s formidable, persistent and clever enough to lure Bart along on an unwitting path to self-destruction. In the battle of man versus beast, push has come to scream.

If you enter Of Unknown Origin as a straight horror movie or thriller, you’re setting the wrong expectations for yourself. While it can fall under the category of both of them, there is far more in addition to those to just paint it into one character. What it is more of is a character study that trapes into a man’s descent into paranoia and madness. Our character Bart’s turmoils and resulting actions are also very darkly comedic a lot of the time, too. On top of it all, the movie is a creature feature. It sounds like an exhausting mish mash, but those things weave and wind themselves nicely into a chaotic bow.

To describe the film easily, you can just call Of Unknown Origin “Peter Weller vs Mutant Rat”. His character of Bart has a real shot at a huge career boost, but this film shows his fear and uncertainty of achieving such a huge goal by enacting self sabotage as his mind keeps focused on a rat tearing up his home. Without someone of Weller’s caliber, who knows if this is even a watchable movie. He fully understands and commits to the material. Its real, grounded performance with depth and integrity and he’s even able to pull in the comedic chops and reel it in just enough to keep his character consistent. Its quite a spectacle and worth seeing the film just for him.

I say just for him because the rats don’t get a lot of camera time. Plus, I’m not so much interested in them and they don’t have massive kills or look crazy. But what Weller does in response to them, and watching him act out in response to every scenario as he continues to tear apart his home makes this all worth the while. My only beef is that it does become trying to sympathize with his character when he starts kinda seeing another woman while his wife and child are away on vacation. Said wife, by the way, is played by Shannon Tweed. One of the more interesting and secular roles in her film career.

When Of Unknown Origin came out, I’m not sure how well received it was overall, but all I could find was some pissy reviews from back then (All of RT reviews were posted in 2017, so that’s not counting). Maybe this was more in my wheelhouse or it aged well, but its quite an enjoyable urban tale of a man descending into madness while trying to kill a rat in his home. Its a one-man show for Weller and he absolutely kills it. Scream Factory has put out both Willard movies and I suppose this will go nicely with them, even though I think its quite a bit better than both of them.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Of Unknown Origin ew 2K transfer of the interpositive. I can’t find where this has been released on Blu-ray before, so they are definitely letting us know this isn’t some upscale from a master used for DVD. There are some really good instances of awesome detail in this image, like every bit of scratch and wear on a wood floor. Check out the cracks on the red rubber kitchen gloves Weller is wearing during one sequence. Close ups of the rats foot show some little white hairs. The image is a little on the naturally softer end, but I enjoy the overall darkness to it as well.

Depth:  Movements are cinematic and smooth. Depth of field is a little above average and have some really fluid camera movements that come naturally in this image.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty rich and the scenes in the basement have a nice level of spookiness to them. Details are maintained on dark surfaces/clothes and the like pretty well for the most part.

Color Reproduction: Colors are mostly natural and nothing is really a standout. However, there are times, like on a green J&B bottle that something looks rather rich or striking. Overall, the colors are well saturated.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features come through decently in medium shots and very good in close ups.

Noise/Artifacts: Some decent grain during the movie, nondistracting.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Of Unknown Origin makes its way through two of your speakers in this solid stereo track. The audio here, between the effects, score and vocals feels like its given room to breathe. Its rather light on the low frequency side of things (Some moments late in the film get a boom from the score), but its still effective enough.  The stereo mix isn’t balls out engaging, but works effectively enough to supplant a good viewing of the film.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clean and clear with a little bit of analog sourced sounding effect to it.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Director George P. Cosmatos and Actor Peter Weller

Interview With Writer Brian Taggert (HD, 17:56) – He talks about being stuck with the moniker of the guy who wrote “the rat movie” as he adapted a book called The Visitor. Taggert discusses some of the changes that Weller and Cosmatos made on set to the story. He also goes through and talks about his experience with all the actors that he crossed paths with during the movie.

Interview With Producer Pierre David (HD, 14:10) – Following producing Scanners, David was in an airport and found the novel The Visitor and knew he’d want to make an adaptation. He talks that he used Brian Taggert for Visiting Hours already and knew he’d be a good fit for this. He talks in detail about pitching the film and the production in Canada and how the film came along.

Interview With Actor Louis Del Grande (HD, 14:07) – Del Grande is very chatty and tends to wander with the conversation, though it does have some edits to keep the meandering reigned in. He speaks a lot of Canada and stories of his earlier work before getting into Of Unknown Origin’s production. And yes, he spends time talking about Scanners and being the man with the famed exploding head.

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 2:56)

Still Gallery (HD, 2:54)

Summary 

Of Unknown Origin is a terrific bit of fun watching Peter Weller descend into madness while trying to kill a rat in his home.  Scream Factory releases another Warner Bros title (YAY!) with a very good picture and audio presentation. The interviews provided with this release are solid and complimentary. For not being a Collector’s Edition, this packs plenty and is a nice pick up.

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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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