Zach Gaynes’ Homewrecker is a fun, scary excursion through delirium, obsession, and chaos where the audience’s reality is only as good as that of the unstable, deeply disturbed narrator...
...The basic plot, tiny cast, and minimal set could have easily fallen flat, lost interest, or gone in directions that did not do the actors any favors. Instead, it is an almost pitch-perfect journey in storytelling. One that is both bone-chilling and laugh-out-loud funny and leaves the viewer thoroughly satisfied.
The premise is quite simple: Linda (Precious Chong) “casually” bumps into yoga class acquaintance Michelle (Alex Essoe) at a coffee shop with an uncanny, invasive intensity that portends the rest of the film. Michelle is there attempting to get work done for her interior design firm when interrupted by Linda, who begs her to visit her house, claiming it’s a mess in need of her talents and that she’d like to eventually hire her to redesign the place. Michelle decides the best way out of an uncomfortable situation is to acquiescence so she can then go back about her day sooner than later. After this creepy, foreboding intro the pair meets again at Linda’s house, which will be the setting for the remainder of the movie. Once there, Linda seems less interested in Michelle’s professional advice and more intent on forcing a deranged best friendship. It becomes increasingly clear that Linda had a different, more sinister motivation for bringing her here and that in fact, Michelle may never be allowed to leave.
The viewer is firmly in the grips of Michelle’s struggle as she navigates Linda’s increasingly bizarre demands. They range from drinks in the afternoon, to watching Linda’s favorite movie, to chatting about boys. It is here that the even darker side of Linda’s ploy, and the reason for the film’s title, is revealed. The story is a literal cat and mouse chase through both Linda’s physical dwelling and the far more convoluted labyrinth of her mind. The audience and Michelle are left to wonder what is real, and exactly how far Linda will go. Eventually, all the unease and tension come to a wild conclusion where truths are unveiled and nothing will be the same again.
This is an entirely performance-driven film, and luckily both the lead actors excel at their roles. Precious Chong, who is the daughter of Tommy Chong, is absolute perfection as Linda. She makes you laugh one second, then jolts you into complete terror the next. It’s a concert of stops and starts, with manipulating and breaking down Michelle as the only end game. Whether or not Linda is living in reality or is an unhinged manic, she knows what she wants and will stop at nothing to get it. The ability of Chong to completely portray instability is masterclass acting, from her smile down to little head tilts. Her portrayal is the backbone of the story, though it is the reactions of her co-star Alex Essoe that make everything work. Her performance is much more subdued and acts more as the audience’s sanity, which is quickly becoming unraveled with each twist and turn we experience with her. Essoe is one of those actors that just can understand a scene and how to make whoever is sharing that space shine. They both do such a brilliant job, and when your movie is almost exclusively two performers they need to be as sharp as these two wonderful actors.
Though some of the camerawork could be better and it would be interesting to see what could have been achieved with a larger budget, the use of essentially one set serves to emphasize the performances. The audience, like Michelle, is trapped in Linda’s home and her head. It's an excellent mechanism to boost the script by Chong, Essoe, and Gayne. Having the three work together on every aspect of the film makes for the strong acting, directing, and overall feel of the movie. Everyone knows what will make for the best in each scene because they were all there from inception to finish. It’s this type of filmmaking the world needs more of, a shared vision that is executed to perfection.
Homewrecker is a film that is best to know as little as possible going in. Obviously, the title is a bit of a giveaway but it doesn’t spoil the ride that the audience gets to take. What an insane, twisted, and worthwhile one it is.
Homewrecker is currently playing in select drive-ins and will release on digital/DVD July 7th from Dark Star Pictures and Uncork'd Entertainment.
By Justin Drabek