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Stonehenge Apocalypse DVD Review

Stonehenge Apocalypse DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Stonehenge Apocalypse

Original Air Date: June 12, 2010 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Paul Ziller / Writers: Paul Ziller, Brad Abraham

Cast: Misha Collins (Dr. Jacob Glaser), Torri Higginson (Dr. Kaycee Leeds), Peter Wingfield (Dr. John Trousdale), David Lewis (David), Michael Kopsa (General Forshaw), Brent Stait (Major Peatman), Hill Harper (Dr. Joseph Leshem), Tina Milo Milivojevic (Marla), Nimet Kanji (Foreman), David Lovgren (Curator)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
DVD Release Date: December 21, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.97
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Reflective Cardboard Slipcover

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In the history of rebranding, few changes have seemed as pointless as the Sci-Fi Channel becoming SyFy. The revision intended to strengthen the 18-year-old cable network's identity and trademark, while also opening the door to programming beyond the science fiction genre. As far as I can tell, the channel hasn't been made over in the seventeen months since the phonetic respelling. It is still providing the world with "Star Trek" reruns and schlocky original fare. Stonehenge Apocalypse squarely fits the latter class.

The title isn't at all lyrical. Stonehenge Apocalypse presents a doomsday scenario with the prehistoric English monument at its core. On a routine tour of the Stonehenge site, some serious sparks are generated, instantaneously vaporizing a guide and guests. Puzzled authorities are immediately on the case, which may or may not be connected to a volcanic eruption from a Mayan pyramid on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.

A routine Stonehenge tour suddenly turns deadly when electromagnetism flows from the prehistoric English monument at the beginning of "Stonehenge Apocalypse." In addition to being a crackpot, conspiracy theorist, and call-in radio show host, Dr. Jacob Glazer (Misha Collins) is the movie's protagonist.

Our likeliest candidate for heroism is Dr. Jacob Glaser (Misha Collins, "Supernatural"), a fringe scientist, conspiracy theorist, and self-made call-in radio show host. At the drop of a hat, the American loony is covertly on the scene at Stonehenge, taking some readings and speculating. When more deadly sparks fly, Glazer is arrested and brought to the nearby primary school that has become makeshift command center for the high-priority government probe.

Glazer's theories to explain the electromagnetic anomalies link various monuments around the world by a grid, including a Waterside, Maine location where his former colleague ("CSI: NY"'s Hill Harper, claiming an "and" credit) is dubiously conducting some underground exploration with a team of fanatics.
Also in the mix are a skeptical British scientist (Peter Wingfield), his more open-minded assistant (Torri Higginson, "Stargate: Atlantis"), a shorted geophysicist (David Lewis), and an American general (Michael Kopsa) who's just about ready to try nuking Stonehenge, the center of these cataclysmic global disturbances.

Stonehenge Apocalypse makes you appreciate all the different elements that go into filmmaking because it is subpar on every one of these fronts. It glaringly falls short on the three fundamental arts: writing, directing, and acting. Deserving two-thirds of the blame for the first two failures is director/co-writer Paul Ziller, a 20-year veteran of TV movies whose dozens of unknown credits are at least titled clearly enough to recognize that cable genre trash is his specialty. With titles like Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon, Beyond Loch Ness, Solar Attack, Snakehead Terror, Panic in the Skies!, and Ice Quake to his name, Ziller's résumé reads like a no-budget, prestige-free version of Roland Emmerich's. Stonehenge gives me a very clear idea of what to expect from all these movies you and I will never see and it is not very pretty.

British scientist Dr. John Trousdale (Peter Wingfield) and gung-ho American General Forshaw (Michael Kopsa) don't always see eye-to-eye on how to respond to the global disturbances. All electromagnetic roads lead to Stonehenge, as this high-tech map graphic shows.

Presumably, the script attributed to Ziller and the far less seasoned Brad Abraham is the movie's most dire shortcoming. Still, it's tough to imagine the characters being as void of personality and charm without the actors putting their wretched stamp on them. The cast is comprised entirely of ciphers who are present only to utter inane, meaningless dialogue full of multisyllabic terms. With the exception of Glaser's introductory scene, there is nary a trace of humanity to invite our sympathy. If these are the people in whose hands the world's fate rests, then who cares if Stonehenge feels like terraforming and wiping out the population to provide a clean slate? Just don't miss those crazy cultists, Planet Earth!

To someone not accustomed to SyFy programming, the whole thing is shockingly amateurish. I know the very nature of cable television today is that there is something for everyone,
but I find it tough to believe there are enough sci-fi disaster movie fans willing to endure and/or forgive such a poor presentation. There seriously isn't a moment or stretch that eases up on the values that make Stonehenge such a wreck.

A late twist gets botched when the director leans down on the "Subtle Hint" key. (Not that there would be anything else to suggest such an ulterior motive.) A clumsy shootout breaks out in a museum of rare artifacts, including the one deus ex machina that might save the day. Then there are the visual effects, which are often the easiest way to distinguish a made-for-TV production from a theatrical one. Even by the small screen's modest standards, there is some embarrassingly crude work here. To say it pulls you out of this world implies you were ever in it and given the bland characterizations, wooden performances, and ludicrous storyline, that would require a miracle bigger than all the electromagnetic forces in the world.

An air of mystery and menace hangs around Dr. Joseph Leshem (Hill Harper) and his Waterside, Maine team of underground explorers (including Nimet Kanji's forewoman). "British" Major Peatman (Brent Stait) decides a "New York" archaeological museum gallery is as good a place as any to draw his weapon.

In its June 2010 premiere, this movie drew 2.1 million viewers. That would be a respectable turnout for a theatrical debut. On basic cable, it was good enough to earn SyFy third place in the Adults 25-54 demographic during the summer Saturday night primetime.

Bowing to the cries of absolutely no one, Anchor Bay brought this Canadian production to DVD and only DVD this week. So much for a 1080p apocalypse!


Ignoring the occasional laughable visual effect and less than theater-ready production values, Stonehenge looks pretty great in the DVD's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a little bit of grain, but detail, colors, and clarity are generally a lot more satisfactory than anything else about the film. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is more impressive, taking great strides to engulf you in scientific mumbo jumbo and, more excitingly, the phenomena it is supposed to explain. This active, highly directional mix enhances the experience about as much as possible.

Director/co-writer Paul Ziller displays respect Syfy's legacy with the old-school Sci-Fi Channel cap he wears in the behind the scenes featurette. No one knows how the real Stonehenge was constructed, but the Vancouver one used for the movie just needed Styrofoam rocks and a couple of strong men.


The movie is accompanied by just two standard bonus features.

"Stonehenge Apocalypse: Behind the Scenes" runs thirty minutes. It begins with a discussion of Stonehenge and what the unexplained ancient nature of it might say about civilization,
the idea that drove the project. Some cast and crew comments about production follow, before the cast and director have their praises sung. They all mean well and seem proud, but you have to wonder how anybody can make a living or turn a profit from this.

Second is an amusingly wretched trailer for the movie. (1:55)

The DVD opens with trailers for Scary Madison's The Shortcut and Kevin Costner's The New Daughter, which aren't accessible from the menus.

The static main menu plays score over a wider rendering of the cover art. Because a movie like this deserves to stand out, Anchor Bay has included a reflective foil slipcover over the standard Eco-Box keepcase.

Suspect scientific jargon flows as Dr. John Trousdale (Peter Wingfield), David (David Lewis), and Dr. Kaycee Leeds (Torri Higginson) examine and interpret Stonehenge's electromagnetic readings.


Stonehenge Apocalypse was a revelation for me. I had no idea that a movie so unpolished and poorly crafted could exist and see the light of day on both television and DVD. There really isn't a redeeming value to this unless you can appreciate it on a camp level and even that way, Stonehenge won't do a whole lot for you. With a fine feature presentation, a trailer, and a surprisingly substantial making-of piece, Anchor Bay's DVD can't be faulted anywhere near as much as the film it holds, but that isn't saying much.

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Reviewed December 23, 2010.

Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 CineTelFilms, Reel One Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.