A barely watchable attempt at upping the ante on the home invasion trope.
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We’ve all had our moments, a point in our lives where we envy someone so much we wish we could be them. (This might still be true now, depending on how crappy your life is at the moment.) This film examines that idea fairly well, actually. But the issue here all falls on the execution of said idea.
Mark (Joshua Close) and Mary (Selma Blair) are going through an Antichrist sort of moment. They retreat to their cottage in the woods to try and heal their family after the tragic loss of their daughter. They drag their poor son Brendon (Quinn Lord) along for the ride, because children in peril always make for a tense film. Right? Their neighbors Bob (James D’Arcy) and Jane (Rachel Miner) are already annoying as it is, but then it escalates to a home invasion story the likes of which you’ve never seen. (Except in Funny Games. And also Ils.)
It sounds like I hated this movie, and in a way it does make me mad. Not because we’re going to harp on the idea that it isn’t original enough. There is really only so much you can do with the home invasion trope, and really this was a really great take on that. The biggest problem happening is that director Jeremy Power Regimbal takes too much time trying to squeeze out every ounce of character development by boring us to death with extended scenes of nothing. The amount of time it takes to establish the family dynamic is painful, especially considering there isn’t much to say. Combine that with certain scenes that feel ripped directly from Funny Games and Ils, and it seems Regimbal isn’t quite as confident in his own skills. Considering this is his first feature film, I get the desire to be viewed as artistic. But he’ll need to work a bit harder developing his own style, rather than relying on his need to be taken seriously. The movie is shot quite beautifully, if not a bit darker than I prefer. (Dammit all to hell with these blue/gray filters! Can we just agree to drop that shit?)
The story itself, which was co-written by Regimbal and Close is actually a fantastic examination of people’s need to be someone else. Bob and his family are not your typical crazy criminals. In a way, one can almost relate and sympathize with their plight. They’re so sick of being their low-class selves that they’ve resorted to identity theft of epic proportions. They’re going to be the victims. Miner does a phenomenal job as meek (but insane) Jane – the way she tries to copy Mary’s every mannerism. She isn’t blameless, by any stretch of the imagination, but she is certainly the only sympathetic character around. D’Arcy’s Bob brings such an energy to the film that he saves the entire endeavor. He’s the epitome of a loose cannon, tightly wound and liable to go off at any given moment. He isn’t quite as desperate as Jane, he’s worse. He demands what he feels is owed to him. Close’s Mark is passable – I get that emotional trauma affects us all in different ways. He spend the movie limp, blank, and clearly lost. The lack of charisma works for his character though. Blair on the other hand gets to be confusingly irritating. There far too many moments where she does this weird twitchy/talky thing and for the life of me I can’t figure out if she’s meant to be drunk or high.
It’s a good thing that Bob’s family steals the show, because Mark’s family is so unlikeable I don’t even care that they’re going through such trauma. The portrayal of snippets of their strained life doesn’t clarify anything. It makes them even more abhorrent. There are hints that perhaps Mary might be cheating on Mark. We’re not quite sure if Mark even wants to fix their family. He begs his brother to come to the cottage, because bitchy Mary is bitchy and Mark is uncomfortable. When the Bob family show begins, there is no connection at all with Mark and Mary (or Brendon for that matter). They are merely there to bring tension, but the true story lies in the invaders’ sad, desperate attempt at improving themselves in the only way they’ve figured out. Close and Blair act alongside each other, as disconnected from each other as their characters seem to be. But that’s the problem. When it comes time for them to circle the wagons, it all seems a desperate act of self preservation rather than a true wake up call about how they feel about each other.
And don’t get me started on the pat, trite ending. Please, we watch scary movies for the adrenaline rush. I’m not a child, you don’t have to assure me that everything is all happy dandy, rainbows and unicorns. That was the most pointless, hollow wrap-up I’ve seen in a while! It is such a shame, because I truly love the examination of how some people will go to great lengths to be someone else. The desperation of wanting to be anyone but you. This is frustrating in that it could have been such an outstanding film. Instead I feel like it was hampered by insecurities. Regimbal has something, he just needs to relax and bring a little bit more of himself to his future films.Have You Read...?