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Powell Robinson, Patrick Robert Young
Joey Millin, Madison West, John Terrell
Writing Credits:
Patrick Robert Young Synopsis:
When a woman claims to suffer from a curse, she forces her brother to accompany her on a road trip to break it.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 78 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/6/2021

• Audio Commentary with Co-Director Powell Robinson, Writer/Co-Director Patrick Robert Young and Editor William Ford-Conway
• Audio Commentary with Co-Director Powell Robinson, Writer/Co-Director Patrick Robert Young, Producer Lauren Bates and Actors Madison West and Joey Millin
• “The Making of Threshold” Featurettes
• Two “Roundtables”
Threshold Full Score
• General Outline Script
• Trailers
• Image Gallery


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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Threshold [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 27, 2021)

Small-scale indie movies don’t come much smaller scale than 2020’s Threshold. Shot on iPhones over 12 days with a crew of only three, this becomes the definition of micro-budget filmmaking.

When a young woman named Virginia (Madison West) begins to behave erratically, her brother Leo (Joey Millin) gets the task to deal with her. Leo assumes Virginia suffers from drug withdrawal issues, but she claims something else impacts her.

Bizarrely, Virginia states that she suffers from a curse and she needs to take a long road trip to deal with it. Against his better judgment, Leo agrees to this, and the siblings set out on a trek that becomes increasingly fraught.

Given that synopsis and the tone of all the movie’s advertising/promotion, one would expect a dark, moody horror experience from Threshold. One would expect incorrectly – most of the time, at least.

While the notion of Virginia’s supposed curse consistently resides in the background of Threshold, the strong majority of the movie feels like a family drama. The film really concentrates on the ways the previously estranged siblings reconnect on their long road trip.

Honestly, the “curse” theme feels like it borders on MacGuffin, as it doesn’t play a substantial role in the final product. While it allows for a few creepy moments to occur – especially during the climax - Threshold devotes most of its attention to the connection between Virginia and Leo.

In theory, that could succeed. No, this kind of “bonding road trip” film doesn’t seem novel, but the genre became well-worn for a reason: it can work.

Unfortunately, Threshold prospers neither as character drama nor as horror, though it does better in the former domain, if just because the latter becomes such a minor component. I suspect the film will inspire a good deal of negativity from genre fans because Threshold promises a journey it doesn’t deliver.

If it pulled off the character domains better, I’d not object to this semi-bait and switch, but neither Leo nor Virginia ever turn into compelling roles. Though the film gives them personality-like traits and we get discussions of their pasts and presents, they fail to come across as full-blooded people and seem pretty dull, honestly.

Threshold came from a script outline, not a full screenplay, and this required the actors to improvise their roles. As such, the movie seems made up on the spot, and not in a good way.

Rather than impart a sense of looseness or spontaneity, Threshold instead becomes bogged down in lackluster minutiae. As mentioned, we don’t get an especially intriguing view of the leads, so we find ourselves stuck with two dull people on a journey to nowhere.

Threshold does feel much more professional than I’d expect from a micro-budget indie, and you can sense the bones of a real film here. Even as they struggle to find interesting ways to create their improvised characters, West and Millin show fairly good acting chops, and the production offers solid enough photography to resemble a bigger movie.

Nonetheless, all of this doesn’t add up to much because Threshold falters where it needs the most help: story and character. While I respect the ambition of this project given its non-existent budget, the end result never connects.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus A

Threshold appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.00:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though shot only on iPhones, the image looked pretty good.

Overall sharpness seemed positive. Occasional instances of softness occurred – especially during some interiors – but most of the movie felt fairly tight and well-defined.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. In terms of source flaws, I saw some artifacts in darker shots, but those remained minor.

Colors went with a lean toward teal and amber. These trends didn’t seem overwhelming, and the hues generally appeared reasonably full.

Blacks could feel a bit crushed, but they usually came across with appealing depth, and most low-light scenes offered acceptable delineation. These could seem a little murky and suffered from the artifacts mentioned above, but they still worked fine most of the time. Really, this was a surprisingly attractive image given its origins, even if it didn’t match up with the standards set by films shot on “real” movie cameras.

Threshold didn’t rely on cell phone audio recordings for its DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, so the mix worked fairly well – within its restrained ambitions, at least. The soundscape stayed low-key most of the time, as it only popped open on a couple of occasions.

Music offered good presence, though, and used the speakers in an effective manner. Occasional instances of directional dialogue occurred as well.

Audio quality seemed adequate, with effects that appeared acceptably accurate and full. Music worked best, as the snatches of score seemed lively and rich.

Speech seemed distinctive and easily understood, but the lines could feel a bit “off” because the movie required so much looping. The nature of the production forced the actors to re-record a lot – all? – of their dialogue, and these dubs don’t seem especially natural.

Still, the lines come across as concise at least, so even though they don’t always blend with the visuals, they sounded fine. This turned into a competent track for a moody indie flick.

We find a mix of extras here, and the disc includes two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from co-director Powell Robinson, writer/co-director Patrick Robert Young and editor William Ford-Conway, all of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters, sets and locations, cast and performances, music, editing and connected domains.

One might expect the directors to dominate this track, but instead, Ford-Conway plays the most important role. He leads the discussion and gives us the strongest layer of concrete information.

This means we get a good look at the movie’s editing challenges but it seems less substantial in other ways, as we don’t get a ton of insights related to the rest of the production. Though this still becomes a fairly informative piece, I wish the participants covered a broader array of topics.

For the second commentary, we hear from co-director Powell Robinson, writer/co-director Patrick Robert Young, producer Lauren Bates and actors Madison West and Joey Millin. All of them sit together for their running, screen-specific view of cast and performances, sets and locations, music, story/characters, and various production challenges.

While the commentary brings a decent array of insights, it tends to feel awfully loose and jokey. I like a light/lively discussion, but this one can come across as too oriented toward “buddies chatting” than actual movie-related information. Though a perfectly listenable track, the commentary seems inconsistent.

Under The Making of Threshold, two segments appear: “Crossing the Threshold” (1:28:25) and “Elevating iPhone Footage” (2:57). Obviously “Crossing” becomes the more substantial of the pair, as it brings notes from Young, Robinson, Ford-Conway, Bates, West, Millin, sound designer Charles Moody, dialogue editor Jerry Robinson, composer Nick Chuba and actors John Terrel and Dan Stevens.

“Crossing” covers the filmmakers’ prior project and the development of the movie, the choice to shoot on iPhones and photographic issues, cast, characters and performances, the story outline and improvised nature of the project, audio, vehicles, locations, editing, music, and valedictory thoughts.

Given that it enjoys nearly an hour and a half, “Crossing” gets plenty of room to breathe, and it uses the space well. Inevitably some material repeats from the commentaries, but we find plenty of new information, and the availability of behind the scenes footage helps make this an effective documentary.

With “Elevating”, we get a quick examination of the color correction process used for the film. This comes with no narration but on-screen text explains the work, so it becomes reasonably illuminating.

Two Roundtables follow. Moderated by Scott Weinberg, “Something from Nothing” goes for one hour, one minute, 50 seconds and brings a panel with Robinson, Young, and fellow filmmakers Brandon Espy, James Byrkit, Zach Donahur and Elle Callahan.

They discuss topics related to the creation of micro-budget films. Only some of this addresses Threshold, of course, but we still find a pretty useful view of this particular kind of indie filmmaking.

For the second “Roundtable”, we get “The Power of Indie Horror”. Moderated by Zena Dixon, this one fills 44 minutes and offers comments from West, Millin, and fellow actors Kelsey Griswold, Gabrielle Walsh and Ryan Shoos.

Here we learn about the actors’ careers, with the expected emphasis on their work in loosely-made indie horror. This becomes an engaging take on the topics.

With The Sounds of Threshold, we find the film’s full score. Presented PCM stereo, this takes up 24 minutes, 14 seconds and will be appreciated by fans of isolated movie music.

A text feature, we find the film’s General Outline Script. This 24-page document offers a mix of actual screenplay – with specific lines – and general notions of what to shoot. It becomes a cool addition to the disc.

In addition to two trailers, the disc ends with an Image Gallery. It shows 27 shots from the movie and feels utterly forgettable.

Shot for the Hollywood equivalent of pocket change, Threshold seems much more professional than one might expect. Unfortunately, even with better than expected production values, the movie’s lack of compelling story and characters makes it a dull viewing experience. The Blu-ray comes with generally positive picture and audio as well as a strong roster of bonus features. I appreciate the ways the filmmakers stretched to accomplish a feature film with so little money, but I can’t find an interesting movie here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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