by Marty Demarest

At some point in the past few years, film studios realized that they could make a bigger profit on a film's DVD release if they crammed a ton of features onto the disc with the movie. At first there were boring made-for-television specials and "behind the scenes" features. Then things like scripts and storyboards started to appear, actually giving viewers some insight into the film's creative process. By the time studios started taping the comments of directors and actors and including them as a separate audio track, DVDs started to offer something much more than better picture and sound quality. Of course, they also started costing a bit more. This led, unfortunately, to some bloated packages, most notably the DVD of David Fincher's film Fight Club, which seemingly had commentaries from everyone involved in the movie right down to the catering crew.

For the initial release of Fincher's latest film, however, the producers have opted to err in the other direction. Viewers of the Panic Room DVD will find neither commentary nor special feature on the disk -- just a beautifully transferred print of the movie itself.

At first this seems like a game. The movie, after all, is about the main character -- played by Jodie Foster - and her daughter hiding out in a special security room of their new house, while a trio of thieves attempts to rob them. The tension comes from the fact that what the intruders really want is inside the panic room itself. With a plot like this, it makes sense that the producers might try to hide the DVD's special features, requiring some secret combination of remote control button pushing to reveal the cache of commentaries and features the viewer paid $30 for.

But no luck. Like the film, the DVD is all glossy surface and intriguing premise with no great payoff. Fincher tries desperately in Panic Room to achieve a closed-system of tensions worthy of Hitchcock, but unlike that master, Fincher drops the ball -- letting the screen fade to black as the characters relax and showing us what is happening on both sides of the panic room's doors. But while keeping secrets from the viewer would have helped the film itself, the DVD simply becomes a movie ticket at five times the cost, without the fun of anything else to watch.

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