(2021) Thriller (Gravitas) Dustin Prince, Erika Hovland, Angelina Danielle Cama, Scout Taylor-Compton, Keir Gilchrist, Billy Boyd, Sam Logan Kaleghi, Michael Emery, Kayla Kelly, Jaime Zevallos, Allison Megroet, Madison Merlanti, Jerry Narsh, Kayden Bryce, Dan Stolarski, Jordan Kantola, Rose Anne Nepa, Alexandra Benoit, Bill Holcomb, Marleen Holcomb, Karen McCants. Directed by Nicholas Holland
\My mother-in-law used to tell her children (including my wife) that “your sins will find you out.” In other words, sooner or later your misdeeds will catch up with you and you’ll pay for them in one way or another.
For Sam Hodges (Prince), that is exactly what’s happening. He works in a corporate law firm and is reasonably successful. One night, his house is broken into and vandalized, as is his car. His daughter Rebecca (Cama), gone down to the kitchen for a glass of water, interrupts the intruder and her screams brings her father running.
But the more we find out about Sam, the worse he gets. For one thing, he has been cheating on his wife Joyce (Hovland) with a co-worker and even though the affair has ended, the rift between Joyce – who is unaware of Sam’s infidelity – and her husband is growing exponentially. We find that Sam is pretty practiced at lying to his family and to the cops, and we begin to suspect that there are darker secrets lurking in Sam’s past. Sam suspects that it is Layne (Gilchrist), Rebecca’s goth boyfriend, who might be behind the threatening e-mails and phone calls, mainly because Sam clearly dislikes the boy and has been doing his best to break the couple up. But when Layne disappears, it is obvious that someone else is behind the threats.
I’ve seen this film compared to a Lifetime thriller, which is not a compliment. This is very much a by-the-numbers suspense film with red herrings a-plenty, and a few twists and turns, none that aren’t fairly predictable. What really makes this hard to watch is the character of Sam himself. We find out early on that Sam has very little to recommend about him as a person; he’s the kind of guy that you would avoid if you worked with him, and the sort of guy that you would wind up punching him in the face if you had to spend time with him. He treats nearly everyone with disdain and hostility, and he has a serious temper control issue. I have seen this kind of thing more frequently lately; it is as if indie directors are trying to test just how unlikable a character we can stand to watch for more than an hour and a half, and the answer here is probably not going to be what the director is hoping for.
That isn’t to say there aren’t moments here. Scout Taylor-Compton tries her best as the police detective who is investigating the home invasion of the Hodge residence and begins to suspect (rightly as it turns out) that Sam isn’t telling her the whole truth. She isn’t given a whole lot to work with, but she makes the most of it anyway. Lord of the Rings fans will find ex-hobbit Billy Boyd among the cast, nearly unrecognizable as a suburban pastor.
\By the time you find out what’s all behind the chaos, you’re likely to exclaim, as I did (and to be fair, as Sam does) “Is THAT what this is all about?” It comes out of left field and is a bit of a cheat, leaving the viewer feeling less-than-satisfied and maybe, even a little pissed off. I should mention that the score is invasive and overbearing; while I realize that musical scores are often meant to steer the viewer in a specific emotional direction, it is so obviously manipulative that it ends up only irritating the listener.
Truth be told, this isn’t a very good movie; the twists are easy to spot and the big reveal is anti-climactic, both film-killers. Comparing this to a Lifetime thriller is a bit unkind; there are a lot of movies of that ilk that are a whole lot better than this one is.
REASONS TO SEE: Taylor-Compton makes a noble effort.
REASONS TO AVOID: Sam is too unpleasant a character to care about. A truly overbearing score.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, violence, sexuality and some suggestive content.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was filmed in Detroit and in nearby suburbs.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, DirecTV, Google Play, Microsoft, Spectrum, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/1/21: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Fatal Attraction
FINAL RATING: 4/10
NEXT: Citizen Ashe