Crash Test (2003)
By: Devon B. on January 11, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
SRS Cinema (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.78:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 2.0. 81 minutes
The Movie
Director: Sam Voutas
Starring: Sam Voutas, Melanie Ansley, Bruce Solibakke, Steve Van Spall, Katrina J. Kiely
Screenplay: Sam Voutas
Tagline: One crash test dummy will fight back.
Country: Australia
I have to admit I was a little disappointed with Crash Test at first. When I heard it was about an angry crash test dummy seeking vengeance against the company that "employed" him, I thought it would be a plastic crash test dummy, angry at the industry that made him. I used to have crash test dummies (well, people in costumes, really) that promoted vehicle safety come visit my school, and I thought the idea of one of them kicking ass and taking names would make for a great movie. What I got was a far more serious movie than what I wanted, but it's not a bad film by any means. Similar to my experience with Larry Fessenden's Wendigo, Crash Test was an engaging movie that won me over as it progressed.

A writer is kidnapped by Motorkore because he's written a tell all book about the sordid past of crash test dummies, including those used by Motorkore. They give him a number, and take away his name, turning him into a living crash test dummy. Motorkore use him in their quest to create the perfect car, and it seems he may develop into an exceptional dummy. Too bad for Motorkore, he also retains a fighting spirit, which leads to the whole vengeance seeking thing I mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

Writer/director/star Sam Voutas does a good job with this sometimes surreal, visually interesting film, also adding some nice, quirky touches of humour. The film's obvious low budget really only gets in the way in terms of creating car crashes, which are never fully seen as they happen. Performances vary somewhat, but are often solid, though some are intentionally over the top. Voutas only has a few faltering moments as our hero, and Bruce Solibakke (a fellow Seattleite also now living in Melbourne. He and I could talk about…something) makes a good impression as Voutas' hulking cellmate. It was a bit odd hearing Solibakke use Australian phrases, but maybe that's just me.

Kudos also go to Voutas for giving his film a good, diverse soundtrack. With so many quality bands around who will license the use of their music very reasonably, I always get annoyed when crap music fucks up an independent film. While the actual score can get melodramatic at times, the inclusion of one of Melbourne's best bands, Mach Pelican, made me extremely happy. On the negative side of the soundscape, a peaceful dove can clearly be heard cuckooing in one scene. Maybe it's because I used to have 30-40 of those goddamn things outside my window every morning, but that sound just drives me insane!

The liner notes in the DVD mention Australian cinema's history of car related features. While I wouldn't say the film is as good as Mad Max, I can certainly see that film's inspirations at play in Crash Test.
Crash Test is letterboxed, but in a 4:3 transfer. I don't understand why DVD companies keep letterboxing shot on video movies, but not going 16x9. Once again, this really annoyed me and hurt the disc's overall score. The film was fortunately shot on high quality video, but there is still some video grain. At a few points, the black and white image faded almost entirely to white, but I assume that was intentional.
Audio is a two-channel track. There're some "s" hisses and some background noise in a few scenes, but otherwise the mix is fine. Except for that peaceful dove, anyway!
Extra Features
The film's trailer, as well as those for 7 other Sub Rosa titles, is included. The original short film that inspired Crash Test is also here, and runs just under five minutes. Another, unrelated short called How Was Your Day? is also included, but it seems to have just been tacked on. It runs a little over 30 minutes, and is a bit padded, but has a few amusing moments.
The Verdict
Crash Test is certainly worth taking a look at, especially if you're a fan of independent cinema. It's well made and has some intriguing ideas, and it's also got Mach Pelican. However, the lack of a 16x9 transfer is just silly.
Movie Score
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