Suspect Zero appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like the movie itself, this transfer was a disappointment.
Sharpness lacked consistency. While many shots demonstrated good definition, quite a few others came across as soft and fuzzy. The majority of the movie was acceptably distinctive and concise, but too many exceptions occurred. No issues with jagged edges occurred, but I saw a little shimmering, and some mild to moderate edge enhancement also popped up through the film.
Source flaws were surprisingly heavy for a brand-new movie. Many of the concerns came from grain, some of which was clearly intentional. Flashbacks and “remote viewing” scenes used heavy grain for stylistic purposes. However, plenty of other scenes were grainy in a sloppy way, and other defects occurred as well. I saw periodic examples of specks, marks, streaks and grit. These weren’t overwhelming, but they seemed too extensive for a modern flick.
For the most part, Zero went with a subdued but natural palette. It tended toward sepia in flashbacks and a red tint for “remote viewing”, but otherwise the colors stayed within the realm of reality. They seemed decent, though the production design made them subdued. Blacks tended to be somewhat flat and inky, and shadows were somewhat thick and tough to discern. Enough good shots occurred to make this flick watchable, but it didn’t merit anything above a decidedly mediocre “C” for picture.
“Creepy ambience” best describes the goals of the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Suspect Zero didn’t involve a power-packed soundfield, but it worked for the flick’s intentions. “Remote viewing” and similar sequences brought out good use of all five speakers to create an involving atmosphere. Other scenes featured nice movement and panning of environmental elements, and a few louder bits kicked things into gear fairly well.
Music also showed strong stereo imaging that blended neatly with the surrounds. Actually, Zero used those elements in an unusually active manner. The score swooped all around to accentuate the spookiness. This wasn’t a killer soundfield, but it added life to the proceedings.
Audio quality was positive. Except for a little edginess to a few louder lines, speech remained natural and concise. Music demonstrated fine dynamics and definition, as the eerie and occasionally percussive score presented a positive impact. Effects were tight and accurate, and they packed a decent punch when useful. Bass response consistently was firm and warm. Overall, this came across as a good little soundtrack.
When we head to the DVD’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director E. Elias Merhige. He offers a running, screen-specific track. I knew I was in for a long listen at the start when Merhige solemnly declared that this wasn’t just another serial killer genre flick! (Actually, E., that’s exactly what it is.)
Matters rarely improve from there. Merhige talks about his movie as though he came up with a cure for cancer. I can’t recall another commentary in which a participant chats about his work in such hushed, portentous tones. And that’s basic all that Merhige does: he mostly just describes what we see. Occasionally Mehige talks about thematic issues, camerawork, the movie’s visuals, and the “reality” of remote viewing. However, those moments appear infrequently, and the commentary usually comes across as a narrated version of the flick. Add to that a lot of dead air and this commentary turns into a real waste of time.
Next comes a four-part featurette called What We See When We Close Our Eyes. Viewed via the “Play All” option, this program lasts a total of 30 minutes and 56 seconds. It mixes movie clips, archival elements, and interviews with Merhige, Institute of Noetic Sciences senior scientist Dr. Dean Radin, US Army Major (Ret.) Paul H. Smith, Taoist master and physician Dr. Baolin Wu, Stanford Research Institute Cognitive Sciences Program co-founder Russell Targ, SRI Cognitive Sciences Program visiting scientist (1988-89) Dr. Jessica Utts, and actors Aaron Eckhart, Ben Kingsley, and Carrie-Anne Moss.
This program discusses psychic phenomena, the concept of remote viewing and connected activities, use of those techniques, and the idea of non-locality and what it means to remote viewing and other psychic topics. Obviously, the focus of the piece means we don’t learn anything about the making of Zero itself. I can’t say I buy its validity, and it’d be nice to hear from someone on the skeptical side of the fence, as everyone here clearly drinks the Kool-Aid. Nonetheless, it gives us an intriguing glimpse of remote viewing and related subjects.
In the 10-minute and 39-second Remote Viewing Demonstration, we see Paul Smith as he tries to teach Merhige how to remote view. Merhige narrates the piece as we watch him go through a session. Again, I don’t know how much of this I believe, but it’s kind of creepy and stimulating.
Although we don’t get a collection of deleted scenes, we do find an Alternate Ending. I n this 59-second clip, we see the movie come fill circle in a way, as it consciously echoes the flick’s opening scene. This would have been an intriguing way to end the story, though it’d obviously leave things open for a sequel. We can watch this with or without commentary from director Merhige. He discusses the segment and why he gave it the boot.
An Internet Trailer for Zero appears, and also the DVD opens with some ads. We get clips for Alfie, Coach Carter, Enduring Love and The Machinist.
At least one Easter egg pops up here. Go to the “Special Features” page and highlight “Main Menu”. Click to the left to activate an icon and press “enter”. This lets you see a four-minute and 59-second featurette with Dr. Baolin Wu and Merhige. They discuss Taoist methods and tell you how to open your “third eye”.
As usual for Paramount DVDs, most of the extras come with subtitles. We can follow the supplements in English, French and Spanish.
Despite a potentially fascinating topic, Suspect Zero does little to create an entertaining movie. Poorly told and generally moronic, the movie suffers from a surfeit of flaws and rarely brushes against its myriad of intriguing possibilities. The DVD presents surprisingly mediocre picture quality, but the audio sounds quite good, and we get a generally decent set of extras, though the commentary is truly terrible. Mostly due to the poor quality of the flick, I can’t recommend Suspect Zero.