Thirty minutes in, The Divide sends one of its characters, all of them survivals of a nuclear blast, outdoors. Harnessing the safety of a biosuit gained from a killed intruder into their underground dwelling, the mystery begins. Outside their metal door is a laboratory, housing children strapped to machines, their eyes sealed shut.
Oh, and none of this matters.
Instead, The Divide takes a hard right back into clichéville, wherein the breakdown of humanity takes over. Sexual deviance leads to crude displays of rape, and violence leads the piece into torture porn. Grisly or not, it’s material that is inherently familiar to this sub-genre, replete with the generalized cast of characters audiences would hope to deviate from.
To be fair, an explanation isn’t necessary. Piecing together the mystery of the children with the slight information given is discussion worthy, but it’s lost to the sea of depravity. Confined to this apartment bunker, Divide is working within a budget, not within any revelatory ideas. The melancholy photography drains the emotional energy, propping its vision of societal degradation up with disturbing, harsh images.
One shot repeats, that of Lauren German seated on some steps with increasingly failed lighting. There’s more power in that still shot than there is in the repetitious rape scenes, which exist because the team behind-the-scenes didn’t find starvation, infection, and squallier enough. Divide inserts a tenuous connection to 9/11 too, loosely forcing the emotions and a connection to our own reality.
Maybe the inherent frustration comes from Divide’s blitz of an opening, eschewing the trend of dozens of warping studio logos to drop a bomb on a city that hasn’t even been introduced. Potential is wrapped up in flames, panic, and shattering debris. Aside from a glimmer of hope within the taped eyes of children, it seems most of the grand ideas died in that blast. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Bathed in darkness, the interior of the solidified bunker does little to help the visual presentation. Without light, the fate of the black levels lies in the hands of a digital cam (the Genesis), and it cannot compensate. Divide flatlines into murky grays and ill-advised blues, robbing the piece of intensity where it needs it the most.
An unexpected benefit comes in the form of noise, which usually dampens the material with artifacts. Oddly, it adds to Divide’s texture, a glaze of chaos over already distressed images. It weighs on the picture, holding it down below a line of possible perfection for something dingier than a clearly resolved digital source.
The Genesis can work its magic elsewhere, certainly giving the piece a push in terms of texture. High fidelity detail pours from the frame, resolving the minute facial detail even where distance is involved. Medium shots are surprisingly refined, bucking the trend of unnatural smoothness with regards to lower ranking digital productions. Even if it’s confined to a singular location, Divide looks more expensive than it was.
Light that does escape casts a dimly orange coating over the characters, and with the exception of the handful of scenes outside the dungeon-esque rooms (which are dominated by blue), nothing alters that look. Flesh tones are only as solid as the bulbs allow, and unless Divide is exaggerating the gore with brightened reds, primaries are lost. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
A 7.1 TrueHD mix is a surprise considering the meager budget, and most of the oomph comes in the first 10-minutes. The initial blast sends out a shockwave that begins rocking the apartment complex, effective in creating some dense LFE action, while the surrounds handle the falling pieces of concrete. Panicked residents take up screaming as a brief hobby, also well stretched into the positionals. The two added surrounds are hardly for naught.
Minutes later, safe in the shelter, the building collapses above. Along with a throbbing pulse to the score, the collapse is handled beautifully, muffled yet still at the forefront. A mild echo will survive throughout the movie as things get loud, dialogue winding around to fill in the environment.
Where things become odd is during the raid. Unidentified intruders burst into the complex, firing off guns that are practically muted. It’s as if the elements were mixed incorrectly, or it’s an attempt to elevate the screams. Those are hard to miss. Whatever the case, there’s more to that sequence that ends up distracting rather than pulling in the listener. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Divide carries no bonus features aside from a trailer. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extras]