Directed by Orson Oblowitz.
Starring Angela Trimbur, Zach Avery, Janel Parrish, Jonathan Howard, Carlo Rota, Fairuza Balk, Sebastian Sozzi, and Joey Abril.
Two dysfunctional couples rent a modern luxury desert home for the weekend hoping to sort out their messed-up lives. Just as they are about to settle in for a fun night, a neighbour turns up at their front door saying she has car trouble. And that’s when the murderous trouble really starts.
Orson Oblowitz’s Trespassers is an enraged home invasion flick bursting with dysfunction and hatred. Honestly, I’m a fan of the film’s original title Hell Is Where The Home Is – how better to sell such a pointed domestic siege? Trespassers is as aggressive as The Strangers is horrific. Sounds like my kind of knife-to-your-throat thriller, eh? Typically, yes. Except feuding characters do little to justify our sympathy or investment, emphasizing selfishness and heartlessness to a degree that’s unsaved by hazy neon visuals.
Sarah (Angela Trimbur) and Joseph (Zach Avery) arrive at their luxurious desert rental for a much-needed weekend getaway. Much to Joseph’s frustration, Sarah invites BFF Estelle (Janel Parrish) who brings her scab-nosed boyfriend Victor (Jonathan Howard). Tensions between Sarah and Joseph spill over unto the entire group, culminating when a broken-down neighbor (Fairuza Balk) invites herself inside for a quick tow-truck call. Sarah grants the woman entry, Victor questions orders, Joseph has no say – then matters go from bad to worse when more visitors arrive.
Noah Rosenthal’s cinematography and Mike Conte’s production design saturate a night of bloodshed, narcotic bliss, and trepidation in chaotic colors. Reddish lumination shines a sleazy hue as backstabbing and general paranoia eviscerates any vacation relaxation. It’s odd to categorize such perverse torture as “beautiful,” but in a seedy, cartel-underbelly kind of way, Trespassers sells its art like something you’d find in a private room. Inviting, worth the cover charge, but filthy in a way not meant for public viewing. Which, in “home invasion” horror terms, is a good thing.
Enter a cast of characters all dealing with trauma or abuse or drug problems, as the pressure cooker scenario becomes a grab bag of malicious motivations. Cheaters are outed, tempers flare, weapons are drawn – that’s before a sketchy houseguest and later invaders present themselves. It’s all such a caricature of irresponsibility broiled by the heat of possible arrest or worse, mutilation by golden-grilled thugs. Corey Deshon’s screenplay throws more and more tragedies and despicable actions into a churning rock tumbler, letting the plot devices bang into each other until only dust is left. It’s chaotic, becomes overwhelming, and leaves an indiscernible pile of rubble that blows away without consequence.
Angela Trimbur’s appearance on-screen is typically enough to warrant any film’s recommendation, but Trespassers bogs emotional range with too many subplots. Her selling of survivalist rage and fear is repeatedly hijacked by Howard’s Silicon Valley snow vacuum, or Avery’s “woe is me” act. There should be redemption for some through violent self-defense, but I found myself exhausted by the time Act III’s home-invading culminates into what we’re expecting much earlier. I can’t stress this enough: I hate Victor. You’re supposed to. Arcs like his exist to be a source of vile masculine outrage, but weigh down better performances stuck interacting with Mr. Hoover Schnoz as he comments on Joseph’s “pussywhipped” status for the hundredth time.
As stated, Trespassers paces itself oddly where gangbanger types withhold until the closing minutes. Motivations are thrown at the camera in a way that skirts priority, equating to “we just love being mean dudes.” Their methods are inspired – why use a gun when bullets can be triggered alternative ways – but brutality necessitates itself only for brutality’s sake. Which, mind you, can work! Foreshadowing does setup a reason as to why masked murderers might ruin Sarah’s already questionably miscalculated escape from reality, only in the most coincidental manner. All roads point to a collision course of chaos that may be deranged enough to work for some. For others? Expect a movie that soaks in meanness just for the hell of it.
Trespassers drags viewers through muck and gunsmoke without just cause. Angela Trimbur can manipulate performative command whether fighting against attackers, chastising her boyfriend, or shedding tears thanks to a crippling memory – and she does, often. Trimbur’s a shining light in this otherwise parade of unforgivable assholes who deserve everything coming their way. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make for a particularly tense or midnight-savvy home invasion offering. A stunning and gorgeously shot, nightmare? You’ve got me. There’s just more to cinema than a pretty “face,” so to speak.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd (@DoNatoBomb).