“Home not-so Alone”
Erin (Vinson) goes with her boyfriend Crispian (Bowen) to meet his parents and the rest of his relatives at the family home, where the parents are celebrating their anniversary. There’s some friction between Crispian and his brother, but proceedings are even more rudely interrupted when a group of three masked psychopaths, who have already killed the two residents at the house next-door, turn their attentions to this residence. Armed with crossbows and machetes, and having blocked cellphone service, there seems little or nothing anyone can do, but wait to get picked off by the assailants. However, it turns out that Erin’s upbringing in Australia was an unusual one: her father was part of a survivalist group. As a result, what she does have, are a very particular set of skills, skills she has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make her a nightmare for people like the home invaders. Hang on: why am I suddenly typing with an Irish accent?
For a cheerfully cheap (the budget was only a million dollars) little feature, disguised behind a generic title – I confused it with No-one Lives, and a hat-tip to Dieter for straightening this out! – what we have here is actually effective and brisk. Though I’m not sure it merits the “black comedy” designation I’ve seen attached to it in various places: it’s straightforward home invasion stuff for the most part, even if we do discover a specific motivation for the attack. I’m not sure if that weakens or strengthens the movie. In terms of generating fear, a more effective approach is probably taken by The Strangers where, when asked why they were doing this, the response is simply, “Because you were home.” What does stand out, and why it qualifies here, is that Erin is, far and away, the only genuinely competent character in the film, and becomes increasingly impressive as the film develops. Initially, she’s as shocked as everyone else; once that has worn off, she first begins to take defensive measures, then gradually moves into offensive mode. By the end, the tables have been turned, and she’s the one doing the hunting.
The main problem is the attackers who, to be honest, are a bit crap, staggering around and falling for every trap like the burglars in Home Alone. Their complete lack of guns is also a bit odd: despite Erin’s background, this is set in America, not Australia, where such weapons would be a lot harder to come by. If you can get past these elements, and it’s not too hard to do so, there is plenty here to appreciate, especially for horror fans: genre icon Barbara Crampton plays the mom, director Ti West has a cameo as a resolutely non-commercial film-maker, and there is also one large tip of the cap to Night of the Living Dead, about which I can’t say any more. While the movie may not aspire to great art, not every work has to. Sometimes, knowing your limitations is the key to working within them, and that’s so here.
Dir: Adam Wingard
Star: Sharni Vinson, Wendy Glenn, Adam Wingard, AJ Bowen