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Into the Forest: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Into the Forest (2016) movie poster Into the Forest

Theatrical Release: July 29, 2016 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Patricia Rozema / Writers: Patricia Rozema (screenplay), Jean Hegland (novel)

Cast: Ellen Page (Nell), Evan Rachel Wood (Eva), Max Minghella (Eli), Callum Keith Rennie (Robert), Michael Eklund (Stan), Wendy Crewson (Mom), Ronin & Owen Cara (Baby), Crystal Pite (Ruby), Lorne Cardinal (Jerry), Katherine Cowie (Catherine), Sandy Sidhu (Quiz Woman)

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Into the Forest is an apocalypse movie, but it is nothing like the dystopian YA science fiction that has become a genre onto itself in the wake of The Hunger Games. Adapted and directed by Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park), this genre-bending independent film presents a believable and disturbing apocalypse.

In the near-future, sisters Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) live with their widowed father (Callum Keith Rennie) in semi-seclusion in the Pacific Northwest, miles away from small town civilization.
One night, the power goes out and with it, water and phones too. When Nell accidentally leaves a car door open, the battery in the family's one vehicle dies, letting them go absolutely nowhere anytime soon. The blackout is far-reaching and not easily resolved. In a few days, the family is able to make it to town to find gas a scarce commodity and retail stores having devolved into thinly-supplied sites of chaos.

The power outages continue long after the sisters' father dies in a freak accident. Months pass and even with rationing, their food supplies dwindle. Eva, who lived and breathed dance and dreamt of competing in nationals, has to practice to a metronome. The situation creates stress between the lifelong besties. Nell even considers walking to Boston with her boyfriend (Max Minghella) where rumors have it electricity and order has been restored.

In "Into the Forest", sisters Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) try to endure an apocalypse that begins with a power outage.

Instead, she stays behind and grows resourceful with Eva, as they overcome still more hardship, while trying to resist using their small gas supply to power a generator and give themselves a fleeting taste of the modern conveniences they're used to.

Unusual and sincere, Into the Forest takes a bleak scenario and uses it for life-affirming depictions of sisterhood and perseverance. With minimal action, few clearly-defined thrills, and next to no visual effects,
this was never going to be the commercial play that Hunger Games copycats like Divergent and The Maze Runner were. Adapted from Jean Hegland's 1997 adult novel of the same name, this film is more like Winter's Bone, the rural indie that announced Jennifer Lawrence and helped her land the role of Katniss Everdeen. Only there are some pretty overt lesbian overtones here, which may not surprise you knowing that Rozema is openly lesbian (as is Page, while Wood is openly bisexual).

This Canadian production was never going to set the box office ablaze, but it still performed beneath the expectations of A24, the studio that acquired the picture after its September 2015 Toronto International Film Festival premiere. Nearly a full year later, A24 only released it to 15 theaters, where it stayed for merely a week, falling $5 short of a $10 thousand gross. You read right: $10 thousand. Two months later, Into the Forest hit stores this week in Blu-ray + Digital HD and DVD + Digital editions from A24 home video partner Lionsgate.

Into the Forest Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital ($19.98 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Into the Forest looks great on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 picture is sharp and well-defined without exhibiting any concerns. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack does a fine job of distributing the elements.

Screenwriter-director Patricia Rozema shares her thoughts in this making-of featurette and the full-length audio commentary. Days without power add up though not in the ordinary way in the Into the Forest Blu-ray's animated main menu tally.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's bonuses begin with an audio commentary by director/screenwriter Patricia Rozema. She is articulate and thoughtful,

sharing screen-specific observations with the positivity of someone clearly proud of their work. I don't know that many people will want to rewatch the movie in this way, but it's an above average solo track and refreshing to get a female filmmaker's point of view, given how few there are getting major work.

On the video side, there is "The Making of Into the Forest", a fine 16-minute featurette which unfolds with the usual blend of enthusiastic cast and crew talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips. The piece testifies to Ellen Page's behind-the-camera involvement as a genuine producer who found the novel.

"Trailers" repeats the disc-opening full previews for Equals, The Witch, The Adderall Diaries, The Blackcoat's Daughter, and Swiss Army Man. Into the Forest's own trailer is nowhere to be found here.

The tastefully scored main menu animates powerless day tally lines in front of materializing character stills and a foresty backdrop. The Blu-ray both supports bookmarks and resumes playback.

The code for the Digital HD UltraViolet included with purchase is all that joins the plain gray disc inside the slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

2007 Academy Award nominee Ellen Page produced "Into the Forest" and stars as Nell as well.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Into the Forest grabs and holds your attention with an unusually human apocalypse tale. It will probably lose the support of many viewers at various points, but it's never uninteresting or phony. Lionsgate's Blu-ray complements a fine feature presentation with a solid commentary and making-of featurette. If it sounds up your alley, then do give it a look, as the movie desperately still needs to find an audience.

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Swiss Army Man Complete Unknown Equals Hunt for the Wilderpeople Cell The Adderall Diaries
Directed by Patricia Rozema: Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
Ellen Page: Juno Smart People Whip It | Max Minghella: The Darkest Hour Horns 10 Years
Evan Rachel Wood: Across the Universe The Ides of March Whatever Works Charlie Countryman The Conspirator Running with Scissors
Winter's Bone The Hunger Games: 4-Movie Collection Divergent The Road The 5th Wave Blindness Into the Woods

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Reviewed October 7, 2016.



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