Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Eve Plumb, Amy Hargreaves
Length: 90 min
Label: Anchor Bay
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English, Spanish
- Feature Commentary With Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier And Macon Blair
- Behind The Scenes Of Blue Ruin
- Camera Test
- Deleted Scenes
There’s revenge cinema, and then there’s Blue Ruin. In the past, classic horror vendetta flicks like Last House on the Left, Straw Dogs, and I Spit on Your Grave have taken the shock route to convey, however bluntly, the hollow, destructive satisfaction that comes from righting violent wrongs. This isn’t to demean their significance in horror history, but upon repeat viewings, these films can often devolve into endurance tests, rather than truly frightening and engaging stories. Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin, while not revenge exploitation in the traditional sense, is genre-fare of the best kind spun into something far more nuanced and upsetting than the many of the foundational films it is built upon. Anchor Bay’s new Blu-Ray release does a fine job of highlighting relative newcomer Saulnier’s bleak, airtight, and beautifully-shot neo-noir thriller.
“I’m not helping out ‘cause this is right. This is ugly, man,” Dwight’s friend, Ben, explains to him near the end of Blue Ruin’s second act, and with good reason. For the past hour or so, Dwight (played by the ridiculously-good breakout star of the film, Macon Blair) has dealt with fallout from his ill-conceived, eye-for-an-eye retribution killing that, of course, did not go as planned. It’s hard to detail Blue Ruin without giving too much away, it’s definitely a case of “the less you know, the better,” but the broad strokes are, initially, relatively similar to past entries into the genre—mild-mannered main character thrust into a violent world he cannot comprehend, with few avenues of escape.But unlike many other cautionary vengeance tales, Blue Ruin’s Dwight is not an everyman. He’s less than that. The film opens with shots of the protagonist as a drifter, aimlessly wandering beach boardwalks, living of off carnival scraps, and sleeping in rust-bucket cars. Saulnier, who also wrote the film, does a smart job of initially concealing the specifics, but it becomes evident that Dwight has been broken by traumatic murders from his past. Now that the man convicted of these killings has been released, Dwight blindly sets out to exact his own justice.
Blue Ruin is relatively episodic, and “part one” expertly sets a tone for the rest of the film, so that when the conventions are eventually broken, they are that much more powerful. As mentioned earlier, Blair’s performance is killer, so to speak, and he says more with his physicality than his dialogue. There is something deeply troubling about his wide-eyed haze in the opening scenes of the film, so that you know something is wrong before the plot even gets going.
When the story does get rolling, however, it becomes even more unsettling. Blue Ruin is a film that is more concerned with the aftermath of violence than the violence itself, so much so that Saulnier very wisely obscures the face of Dwight’s target so that the viewer never fully sees his face. The bloodshed in the film is relatively sparse, but when it hits, it hits hard. In this regard, the movie is really more akin to recent, methodical neo-noirs like A History of Violence, Shotgun Stories, and No Country for Old Men. Echoes of regional fare like Winter’s Bone also reverberate through the film’s landscape, adding a bit of class commentary on top of the examination of vengeance.
Blue Ruin is not so much a horror film as it is a horrific film, which, when done correctly, can be just as effective as any classic spook story. For the most part, this is the case for the movie, and it’s exciting to see what’s in store not just for the director, but for the cast, as well. It’s tough to say whether or not Blue Ruin will be remembered as necessary thriller-fare viewing, but it would be surprising if Saulnier and company don’t make a classic in the near-future.
Anchor Bay’s 1080p transfer of the digital shoot looks pretty great, albeit nothing out of the ordinary for recent releases. The film relies heavily on its color scheme (sometimes a little too heavily—lots of blue hues, Blue Ruin, we get it), and the Blu-Ray version does nice work highlighting this for the movie. Like many digitally-shot pictures, the contrasts and sharpness can become a little distracting, but that’s more aesthetic nitpicking than anything else.
Blue Ruin’s Blu-Ray release features a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack, making this low-budget film appear that much more like a big studio production. Again, while the sound is high-quality, the emphasis on the film comes from the visuals and the story, so the audio seems more like an accessory to the movie rather than a front-and-center factor. Ominous soundtracks, violent outbursts, and people trapped in car trunks do sound pretty effective, though.
Anchor Bay delivers light on the extras for this film, including the standard audio commentary, deleted scenes, and not much else. A twenty-minute “making-of” documentary and the film’s camera test for potential investors are nice additions, but nothing particularly memorable.
Blue Ruin, simply put, is one of the better revenge-crime films in recent years. While not perfect by any means, the direction, acting, and story make for an exceptionally compelling movie, and hint at hopefully greater things to come from all those involved. For viewers who are deeply invested, Anchor Bay throws them a meager bone with run-of-the-mill special features, but that shouldn’t discourage those who are interested in a high-quality transfer of an effectively exhausting, low-budget thriller.