Make no mistake, Raw Feed jumped off to a forgettable start with Rest Stop. That flick did practically nothing right (except remind that Joey Laurence was still alive) and if popular opinion is to be believed – here’s looking at you IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes – the production house’s sophomore delivery, Sublime, is just as poor.
It isn’t. Popular opinion be damned, Sublime is a heady piece of work that not only provides nearly two hours of solid eye time, but enough latent conversation starters that the idea of the film could be talked about at length well after the credits role: An aging father (Tom Cavanagh) checks himself into the hospital for a routine procedure, once knocked out George revisits many of his family memories before waking up worse than when first admitted.
Confused and uninformed as to his newly received accidental surgery, George drops back out of our world and into his own nightmarish reality, only to wake again and again into progressively more horrific states of bodily disrepair.
For the purposes of categorization, Sublime isn’t the body/shock horror it may sound like, but closer to the amorphous label that is the ‘psychological thriller.’ I’m hesitant to call it as such, because it doesn’t have the procedural mystery most thrillers do and it is not as psychologically ambiguous as one may think. I use the label solely because the script explores both the extreme fears and joys that pulse through the human psyche in an oft thrilling way.
I am a passive fan of Tom Cavanagh; normally thinking his acting style is one note, but his work here is far from his "Ed" and "Scrubs" characters. He is the star of the show, clearly, but his dreams and waking nightmares provide enough side characters to give the viewer a variety: a seductive (but not slutty) nurse, Zoe, helps guide George through his hospital terror, while Mandingo (yes, that is the character’s name) fills the eerie Angel of Death type.
Tony Krantz, a long time producer of "24", "Felicity", and "Sports Night", makes this his directorial debut, a fact worth mentioning for it adds a whole new level of respect for the film. He works in a field where most straight-to-DVD fare exert zero effort in the areas of style, narrative or originality. Now, Sublime is hardly a flawless monument to all these things, but at least Krantz actively tries to rise above standards set by the high school of STD gore/gag fests.
The ending is predictable, as I’ve mentioned is typically the case with anything that gets sold as a "psychological thriller", but it isn’t redundant. Regardless of the truth of what happens to George, this is still an elaborate tale of just how out of hand shit can really get in a hospital. To go in for something like a colonoscopy and wake up with a leg chopped off is far scarier to me than the myth of a Leatherface or any of the other boogeymen. Accidental surgeries happen and that…that is fucked up.
It is a bit longer than it needs to be, but Sublime is still worth it. Sexy without being trashy, trippy without being absurd, serious and surreal without being silly. For something that was only ever intended to end up on a Best Buy shelf or a midnight run on cable, it says a lot about the film and filmmakers that they would go out of their way to avoid all those things when few others in the game do.
Mark me down as impressed.