An Intrusion


Scout Taylor-Compton refuses to touch the rest of the script.

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(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

The Joneses


The Joneses

David Duchovney is justs a material girl trying to live in a material world.

(2009) Dramedy (Roadside Attractions) David Duchovney, Demi Moore, Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth, Gary Cole, Chris Williams, Lauren Hutton, Glenne Headly, Christine Evangelista, Rob Pralgo, Tiffany Morgan, Joe Narciso. Directed by Derrick Borte

Our society has devolved into one in which the old truism “whoever dies with the most toys wins” has taken on a new meaning. The crucial signposts of life have become the things we acquire – the shiny new sports car, the state of the art electronics, the high end golf clubs, the designer clothes. Our pursuit of the trappings of success has overcome our pursuit of excellence, making keeping up with the Joneses more than just a spectator sport.

Into a wealthy suburban enclave move in Steve Jones (Duchovney), his impossibly gorgeous wife Kate (Moore), his gorgeous daughter Jenn (Heard) and his handsome son Mick (Hollingsworth). They don’t just have the outer trappings of success – they embody it.

However, what you see on the surface – behind the beautiful home, the flashy car, the nice clothes – is something completely different than what is underneath. There are problems in the perfect family. In fact, they aren’t really a family of all.

What they are is revealed in the trailer, which is another case (see Dream House) of a marketing department robbing a film of its maximum impact. For that reason, I’m leaving the plot description a little thin, other than to say that what the movie is really about is America’s obsession with consumerism and how it robs us of our soul.

Duchovney is perfect for the role of Steve. He has a dry delivery that just hints of the smarmy while remaining acerbic and eventually, empathetic. For a role that could easily descend into self-parody and completely turn off audiences, the very likable Duchovney turns it into a role that audiences will identify with as his character is forced to confront the fall-out of his actions and put his familial loyalty to the test.

Moore has never been one of my favorite actresses, but it has to be said that she can play the driven executive-sort better than nearly anybody and that’s the place she goes for this part. She makes a good foil for Duchovney and I must say the 40-something Moore looks amazing.

That’s neither here nor there though. What I liked is that first-time writer/director Borte takes a terrific concept and uses it to look at an issue that is subtle and seldom explored onscreen, with surprising insight and humor. There is an element of parody to it, but it also hits somewhat uncomfortably close to home.

When it comes right down to it, we tend to be sheep moving from one trend to the other, fickle consumers with an eye to what’s the latest and greatest, not realizing that these things are going to be obsolete in less time than it takes to bring it home from the store. Still, keeping up with the Joneses is as American as apple pie. We just should take a good look at the Joneses and ask why we should aspire to keep up with them.

WHY RENT THIS: A witty, smart commentary on materialism. Duchovney’s dry delivery serves him well here. 

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The movie’s plot twist is given away in the trailer. The final reel is a bit predictable.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some drinking and teenage drug use, a bit of sexuality and a fair amount of foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Borte is the brother of professional surfer Jason Borte; both were born in Germany but raised in Virginia.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $7M on a $10M production budget; the movie was unprofitable.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: The Three Musketeers (2011)