Color, 2011, 85m.
Directed by John Cregan
Starring Gary Entin, Lindsey Shaw, Robert Adamson, Chris Kattan, Blake Baskin, Christina Corigliano, Justin Deeley, Josslyn DeCrosta
Severin (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9) / DD5.1

The idea of turning classic works of literature into teen movies has been around for quite a while now, with experiments ranging from smart rom-coms like Clueless and Easy A to flat-out bizarre concepts like O. Of course, it was only a matter of time before someone tried an updated teen comedy version of... uh, Lord of the Flies? Sure, why not. Given the popularity of shows like Lost and the quickly irrelevant Survivor, it seems like a no brainer to dump a bunch of high schoolers on an island and watch the fur fly... which is exactly what happens in Devolved, the directorial feature debut of Severin Films' John Cregan.

An opening newscast sets up the basic premise: a boatload of SoCal kids is missing out in the middle of nowhere, and quickly we see the surviving unpopular students forming together on the beach to figure out what happened. Unfortunately for them, the obnoxious cool kids also made it to shore and, under the command of their idiotic leader "the Rog" (Adamson, who easily walks off with the entire film), they quickly assert control. However, the Rog's girlfriend, Peggy (Pretty Little Liars' Shaw), is tired of putting up with the conformist high school scene and might be nursing some feelings for one of her unpopular admirers, Flynn (Rest Stop's Entin). Despite the fact that the Rog caused the explosive incident that sent their boat underwater, he maintains his hold as leader for a while... but while their only living adult chaperone, Coach Papillion (Kattan), spends most of the film making like Eric Stoltz in Anaconda, the two groups begin to switch allegiances back and forth until the island erupts into pandemonium.

Though it sounds in print like a three-character power struggle, Devolved actually features a hefty cast of characters who are all introduced in a flurry of activity at the beginning of the film. This ensures that things never get dull for a second, and most of the cast is up to the task of making an impression with their limited screen time. Some oddball touches like a hilarious Pretty in Pink-inspired flashback and a couple of detours involving a Mexican T-Rex imitator keep the film from ever settling into predictability, and despite the extremely low budget, the island setting is nicely simulated through clever shooting angles along a beach. On the other hand, the large number of speaking parts means there's not much time to identify with anyone, and unlike Lord of the Flies, the story isn't told through the eyes of a central character; as a result, the presumed main characters of Peggy and Flynn never get a chance to fully lock into the story, especially when the latter starts to go a little drunk on power after a taste of popularity. As far as first features go, it's certainly commendable and a solid addition to the diverse teen comedy slate on home video. It's also worth noting that, despite the prominent "unrated" tag all over this baby, it's barely above a PG-13; you get a little bit of topless, nonsexual nudity and some mildly rude humor, but there isn't anything here you couldn't see on cable in the middle of the afternoon.

Available on both Blu-Ray and DVD, Devolved is nicely shot but sports a surprisingly restrained color palette that often drifts into shades of gray for long stretches at a time. You won't see any vivid aquamarine ocean shots here. However, the Blu-Ray looks sharp as a tack and appears to faithfully represent the original RED camera lensing. The Blu-Ray's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also sounds very healthy, especially when the well-chosen music tracks kick in. In the extras department, Severin loads the disc with as much as the available storage space will allow. Cregan contributes two commentary tracks, a solo one (the more organized and informative of the two as he covers the inspiration for the story and nabbing the shooting locales) and one joined by Entin, Shaw, and Anderson, which is about as congratulatory as most thespian tracks tend to be but loaded with a few funny, self-deprecating moments. The 19-minute "Devolved: Behind the Scenes" mostly features Cregan on the shoot talking about how it came about (with an open nod to Lost interspersed with shooting footage, 12 minutes of deleted footage (apparently a small segment of what was available given how much was shot and the milder alternate takes done for some of the randier moments), and nine minutes of pretty redundant audition footage. The most interesting of the extras is a pair of earlier Cregan short films: "Live Tomorrow Today!," a funny little sketch with Ted Lange(!) about a kid roped into doing the heavy lifting for his dad's upcoming nuptials in the style of a self-help commerical, and "Restive Planet," with Alex Rocco(!!) as a particularly aggressive retirement home denizen tangling with a young man visiting family for the day. Cregan also provides intros for both shorts. Finally you get a trio of music videos (one of which should be pretty obvious to anyone watching the film, though the identity of the performer is a fun surprise), the trailer, and bonus promos for Gwendoline, Birdemic, and BMX Bandits, all of which reinforce Severin's commitment to elevating the Blu-Ray format to the loftiest standards possible. God bless 'em.