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Panic Room (2002) – DVD Review

The first time I saw this movie, I thought of it simply as another sub-par Jodie Foster flick. Of course, I didn’t know that much about film back then, so it’s difficult to take my first impressions seriously in this case. I never really thought it was a bad movie, but I wasn’t really too …

Review Overview

Film Quality - 7
Audio Quality - 5
Picture Quality - 3
Transfer Quality - 2


Summary : Although the movie itself is pretty good, the transfer on this DVD is not.

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The first time I saw this movie, I thought of it simply as another sub-par Jodie Foster flick. Of course, I didn’t know that much about film back then, so it’s difficult to take my first impressions seriously in this case. I never really thought it was a bad movie, but I wasn’t really too fond of it, either. Recently, a friend of mine informed me of something I hadn’t known before: Panic Room was directed by David Fincher. Yes, this is the same David Fincher who put his name on the map with the abysmal Alien 3 and eventually moved on to create much more memorable fare in Seven and Fight Club. If you can believe it, this is the movie he directed shortly after Fight Club, which was arguably one of his most successful films and gave him some serious street cred in Hollywood.

After learning that this movie was actually directed by a competent director, I was curious to take another look at it and find out whether or not it was actually of any note. Sadly, aside from a few really interesting scenes (which utilize decent CGI that still holds up to this day), what I found was roughly the same experience that I had encountered before. Even with much more “film school student” knowledge under my belt, it still didn’t feel like much of anything special. I definitely liked the movie a lot more this time around, because I have come to appreciate a lot more about movies in the last decade or so than I originally did as a teenager, but it still wasn’t exactly an experience that I would call “excellent.”

Panic Room is a decent movie, but there’s nothing subversive here and the only hint of Fincher’s style that is in any way present comes through in the cinematography. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure that’s why I didn’t like The Social Network – it lacked even that aspect of Fincher’s directorial style, instead coming across as a project that he put a bare minimum of effort into. As I sat there in the theater waiting for some flourish of style to hit the screen a la Fight Club, I was disappointed to find that there was nothing there. If you’re not a fan of the work that Fincher does in between his moments of brilliance, you can probably see where I’m going with this. Although Panic Room isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, there really wasn’t a whole lot there to indicate anything more than “it’s a movie.”


Regardless, when Mill Creek gave me the opportunity to review this title, I jumped at the chance. After all, it’s not every day that you get to go on a tirade about David Fincher and make it topical. Sadly, they only released this title on DVD, but I figured that it would still be a decent quality transfer. MCE is typically quite good in the QA department, and when they can’t afford to be, they usually throw the movie in with a bunch of other titles on a multi-movie set. Unfortunately, they probably should have done that with this release of Panic Room, because the transfer quality is downright horrible and there isn’t anything special about this release.

Presented at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the film is at least somewhat accurately represented, as the original AR was apparently 2.35:1. However, this is pretty much the only thing that this release has going for it, as the picture quality itself is bad even for a DVD. There is plenty of macro blocking, DNR and ghosting abound throughout the film, and it’s pretty much impossible to make out any fine details. How bad is it? Even the sign in Times Square has ghosting. In fact, the entirety of the image of the film itself features ghosting across the top few pixels of the movie. I’m pretty sure a VHS copy of this would look a little better. Although they’re probably only trying to sell this for about five bucks, I’m not even sure if it’s worth that price.

panic room screen 2

The audio quality was alright, but it wasn’t much to write home about. To be honest, I found that the audio was perpetually low throughout the feature and I had to boost my volume beyond the norm in order to hear the film. With no special features to speak of, I honestly don’t know if I can recommend picking up Mill Creek’s release of Panic Room. I might suggest waiting until they put it on a set with a bunch of other titles or possibly even waiting for a blu-ray release or better. Whatever you decide to do, one thing is clear here: They put almost no effort into this DVD and it shows. Although the movie itself isn’t that great, it is still sad to see that a decent movie like this has been given an otherwise forgettable treatment in this case.

Even if you like Panic Room, you’ll probably want to avoid picking this up. I hate to say this, because Mill Creek usually puts out great stuff, but they really dropped the ball in this case. Instead of getting Panic Room on DVD, check out some of their blu-ray titles, as they have actually done a really good job at bringing forgotten classics to high definition in recent memory. Who knows? Maybe this will be the next movie to get the special treatment. Either way, avoid this release of Panic Room like the plague.

About Stoudman

Who is Stoudman? Well, his real name is Justin Wren. Justin has been writing reviews and articles about film, television and video games for several years. While majoring in English at Portland State University, he minored in film studies. With an extensive understanding of film history and production, Justin often includes at least a bit of film theory in his reviews. Justin got his start writing for MovieCynics.com, but has since gone on to produce articles for TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles.com and TVStoreOnline.com. He is the owner of G33k-e.com and presides over the editing of all content produced for the site in addition to producing his own content.

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