If you ask me, what makes home invasion horror so terribly frightening is the idea that someone, at any moment, can interrupt family game night (do people still do those?), and utterly destroy the safe space we thought we had. Too bad that in Trespassers, the home invasion aspect is barely even secondary…
…Directed by Orson Oblowitz (The Queen of Hollywood Blvd) and written by Corey Deshon (Shine), Trespassers opens with the brutal killing of a couple out in the middle of nowhere, a couple which we soon learn just happens to have rented out their home to a pair of dysfunctional couples. Led by Sarah (Angela Trimbur), we follow the couples as they are broken down by a lack of trust and an extra helping of paranoia, which leaves them vulnerable when the cartel eventually breaks in looking for something that belongs to the owners.
It’s your average home-invasion scenario, with a beyond average set of protagonists. Sarah, the only likeable one in the bunch, is a by the rules person with a horribly strained relationship with boyfriend, Joseph (Zach Avery), who I swear looks like a buffed out Nick Kroll. Tagging along with them are good but apparently not so good friends, Estelle (Janel Parrish) and Victor (Jonathan Howard), both of whom are pretty contentious assholes in one way or another. Without spoiling anything, we also learn through some sexy hot tub hypnosis that not everyone in this group of four has been faithful to their significant other, setting up for ninety minutes of yelling, awkward crying during sex, and the inevitable insecure dude who feels the need to remain masculine by turning a gun on everyone. And that’s all before the home invasion even begins.
The characters in Trespassers have about as much depth as a shot glass, and it shows. Especially for a brief period when the film gifts us with the presence of Fairuza Balk as the creepy neighbor, though you may know her as the witchy villain from The Craft. Balk is pure perfection, stealing every scene she’s in with an eerie calculation and dominance of the situation. I haven’t seen her in much for a while, and Balk left me flabbergasted as to why. She was the best part of The Craft for me, and her scenes are easily the most enjoyable moments of Trespassers. Fairuza Balk needs to be in every horror film from here on out is what I’m saying, okay? Cool. Ironically though, she’s also part of a plot that mucks up a perfectly good home invasion movie for far too long, despite the welcome relief she brings to a group of otherwise stale characters.
Trespasser’s biggest mistake is that what should be the A & B plots have been reversed. There is very little actual trespassing in this film. Instead, Oblowitz’s film plays more like a psychological thriller between the two couples, with the cartel not even showing up until there’s only about twenty minutes left of the film. The focus of Trespassers is one hundred percent on the betrayals that exist between Sarah and the others, which might be okay, if they didn’t all seem to hate each other, which leaves us little reason to want to invest in them and their relationships. Who slept with who and who accidentally murdered who are both unnecessary conflicts that end up distracting from the main selling point of Trespassers, which is the underlying threat of the deadly cartel. By the time the cartel do arrive, they’re an interruptive force on an A plot that ends up not mattering much. Trespassers has a harder time balancing the different scenarios than a kid on a teeter totter with the Simpsons Comic Book Guy.
Trespassers spends the first sixty minutes doing very little to invade your mind, but the third act of the film is where it’s at. Finally, things begin to pick up, and Trespassers becomes an entirely different movie. A high-octane score from composer Jonathan Snipes gets the adrenaline pumping as our group of four faces off against nasty criminals donning frightening skeletal masks. It’s as if Trespassers is lying dead on the slab for sixty minutes, only to find a pulse for the finale. However, just like the titillating suspense which Balk’s character brought, the actual “invasion” of the cartel is short-lived, and soon devolves into torture, some somewhat comical forced slapping, and very little of the cat and mouse games that typically make home invasion films so interesting.
Trespassers eventually finds its footing in a pool of bloody carnage that culminates in a satisfying, gory geyser of an ending, but it’s too little too late. With a cast of forgettable characters you won’t even love to hate, and plot points that distract from each other more than they help to build the story, I would recommend getting a guard dog to keep you safe from Trespassers.
Trespassers invades your home on VOD from IFC Midnight on July 12th.
By Matt Konopka