Directed by Zach Gayne.
Starring Precious Chong, Alex Essoe, Tony Matthews, and Kris Siddiqi.
Two women befriend each other, but one becomes obsessed with the other.
Negative criticism is an art form. Schoolyard takedowns and personal attacks are useless. By expressing frustrations while dissecting a film’s shortcomings via thoughtful analysis, critics should still be, in a way, recommending the title in question to an audience who might enjoy what they, the critical party, do not. Then something like Homewrecker comes along and makes that professional challenge damn-near unconquerable since there is no redeeming value to even a millisecond of Zach Gayne’s footage. Every movie has its audience, I guess, no matter how infuriatingly plotted or lethargically uncompelling in practice.
Michelle (Alex Essoe) is having trouble deciphering her boyfriend’s current attitude. While at an exercise class, she runs into the older-aged but youthfully chipper Linda (Precious Chong). Afterward, Linda convinces Michelle to accompany her home with the prospect of a lucrative interior decoration opportunity. When they get to Michelle’s house, it turns out that Linda has other motivations. She wants to share a cocktail, gossip about boys, and then lock Michelle inside.
For the record, I’m on board with Homewrecker’s storytelling ambitions. Alex Essoe and Precious Chong pen a screenplay that upends “homewrecker” stereotypes by turning the focus towards a w0manly war between young and old. The film’s title is a dead giveaway that negates any twist appeal, even with Michelle and Linda’s early struggles as generational foils. Michelle won’t stop glancing at her text messages, which enrages Linda to the point of smartphone destruction. She’s had enough. Men aren’t as chivalrous, relationships have become impossible to navigate, and face-to-face communication is now considered obsolete. I just wish the film wasn’t a parody of techno-takeover tantrums or so dynamically confused as Michelle’s imprisonment is portrayed with non-existent enthusiasm.
Homewrecker feels like it was shot over a weekend, one take per scene, with post-production that couldn’t have lasted a few days longer (someone has to split all those frames, ugh). There’s “rough around the edges,” then there’s borderline unwatchable. Cinematography is worse than your drunk uncle’s Handycam holiday highlights, musical cues are just some dude playing random guitar notes to replicate “mania,” and action sequences display the choreography of toddlers rolling around in a playpen. Call it unpolished, call it shoestring, but Gayne’s final product is a bit embarrassing compared to other films that have conquered low-budget hurdles with far more technical prowess. Gayne can’t sell believable violence (Michelle’s laughable knockout head trauma moment), nor do editing cuts trim around dead air between transitions. There are always 2-3 seconds where a performer stares at their mark before even acknowledging the camera is rolling, like they forgot their purpose on a movie set.
The kidnapping scenario itself is an unfunny joke, as Chong overzealously amplifies Linda’s breakdown while Michelle’s survival instincts define futility. Michelle gets into a stranger’s car, goes to her house, accepts an alcoholic beverage, and rolls with Linda’s batshit-blatant control. Even worse, after being bashed unconscious, Michelle’s “escape” attempts are even less aware and dare to have us believe Linda lives in some impenetrable suburban fortress. Doors look like refurbished landlord installations, ones you could kick off their hinges without much force, yet Michelle treats them like thick steel. Windows are unlocked, yet we’re to believe Linda’s domestic safehouse blocks all sounds from onlookers who wave into the window when they see Michelle being choked out with a blanket. Production design does nothing to assure audiences Linda can keep Michelle inside based on extreme measures, shattering another cinematic lie Homewrecker so desperately wants you to believe.
Scripting lacks the nuance or impact to comment on Stockholm Syndrome, gender decade divides, or anything worthwhile in romantic turmoil. Michelle’s epiphanies are never earned, nor is Linda’s psychosis ever adequately served. Homewrecker comes together in this disjointed mess of hurt feelings that pits woman vs. woman while a single man is to blame, and yet even that angle is hopelessly fumbled. When Michelle’s partner Bobby (Kris Siddiqi) comes into play, we’re forced to endure one of the year’s most excruciating endings. At least The Turning abruptly fades to credits before you can process the seconds-long disaster. Homewrecker attempts to justify its ramble-on, monster-making turn of Linda in a way that fuels your hatred of everyone on-screen somehow infinitely more. I know what this film is trying to say but can’t understand how Michelle’s journey veers so uncontrollably off course.
Add Homewrecker to my list of 2020 avoidables alongside Human Zoo, Creepy Tales Of Pizza And Gore, plus a few other no-star zeroes. A sub-ninety minute hostage scenario with meager means, worse execution, and a jumbled statement that’s not even worth vocalizing by the end. It’s a film that pulls every punch, acts without urgency, and never creates a world where audiences can become lost within. Performances are uninteresting, uninspired, and all-around unappealing. There’s a clear divide between the screen and viewers, which fails to create cinema’s magic that otherwise allows for full immersion. How can something so short be so endlessly insufferable? The “Party Hunks” board game bonding, the out-of-nowhere-horrendous Lisa Loeb karaoke interlude (4th wall broken), the awkwardly long durations of loud grunty sound effects?! I’m wrecked alright, for all the wrong reasons.
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).