Right At Your Door

2 stars


17th September 2006

The low-budget thriller has been making quite a comeback in recent years, from Eli Roth's splatter-fests, to the more naturalistic chillers that take their cue from the last five years' worth of news reports. Writer/director Chris Gorak's debut feature belongs firmly in the latter camp.

The movie begins on a suburban morning like any other, but things are soon shaken up when a series of dirty bombs are detonated above Los Angeles, just as Brad (Rory Cochrane) waves goodbye to his wife Lexi (Mary McCormack) as she drives off to work. In line with the fastest-spreading cliché in cinema, the explosions take place off camera, and the drama unfolds in a series of emergency news broadcasts. Brad then proceeds to spend the next half hour either trying to use his mobile phone, or listening to various radio presenters getting far more excited than the audience. Official advice is for all citizens to seal off their homes and stay indoors, which causes some problems when Lexi arrives, coughing and vomiting, and tries to enter Brad's hermetically sealed playpen.

So far, the film has been an effective thriller, albeit a tiresomely post-9/11 one, and the moral dilemma faced by Brad as his wife shows up is an interesting one. The problem is that there's still another hour of movie to go. Given that the interesting crux of the film arrives so early, it is critical that Gorak keeps the screenplay tight and interesting. Sadly he doesn't, and several threads of the plot turn into complete dead ends, as the neighbours' handyman wanders off into the sunset, and a night-time intruder turns out to be a co-worker who buggers off a few minutes later.

The film also suffers from the fact that Brad comes across as a rather selfish character, as he sticks by his choice to keep his supposedly beloved wife locked outside. His seemingly heartless choice makes it quite difficult to warm to such an unsympathetic character. As the film progresses, the situation begins to resemble post-Katrina New Orleans, as hope of the government coming to the rescue all but disappears. Which, of course, makes Brad's choice to shut Lexi out to save his own skin all the less bearable. Perhaps the film's worst enemy is its own marketing. Advertised with flashy trailers, and promises of chilling scares, the reality is more of a sombre and psychological drama. The sad truth is that nobody involved in this movie is talented enough to make the "guy-shrink-wrapped-in-a-house" conceit interesting.

If the idea of watching a man speaking on the phone whilst listening to the radio for an hour and a half appeals, then go knock yourself out. Everyone else is recommended to find a more dynamic and riveting form of entertainment, such putting a coat of emulsion on your wall and watching it dry.

More:  Drama  Thriller  Terrorism
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