The first of the two is directed by David Morlet, who also helmed 2009’s Mutants. That is one that some liked and some definitely did not. Much of what opinions I’ve read on that one focused on the odd placement of dramatic action and slow, building emotional turmoil that might not have been earned. I guess one could say it was his signature style because it shows up somewhat in Home Sweet Home. It is fairly simple in its scope, focusing its attention on a single house location and four people. Well, actually 5-6 if you count messages on the answering machine, but four physically. Anyway, the film has two fantastic ideas at the start and at the end that were unnerving and batshit, respectively. The middle swath of the film, however, abandons the sheer creep-factor of its startoff and never really finds a tempo. In some instances, this could be a good thing: to keep the viewer off-guard but I don’t think, ultimately, it was intentional.
The two primary characters are a husband and wife (and secondarily their small child) who’ve recently moved out of the city and into a large craftsman style home in, presumably, the rural suburbs. Before we meet them, however, we’re introduced to a man who we start to figure out ought not be there. We spend the first chunk of the film watching him wander around the house (their house), touching things, investigating drawers and just generally creeping me the hell out.
There are few things more unnerving to me than the idea of a stranger just making their way around my living space and inspecting my stuff etc etc. Coupling the actions of this man with the way in which the scenes are shot (you do not see his face, the camera looks around corners, under tables etc observing him) and I was pretty wrapped with nerves. He starts soon to ‘rig’ up the house: powerdrill screwing shut the windows, messing with the security system (among other things) and I dreaded whatall would happen next.
He hides as the couple gets home and we meet the two unsuspecting victims (as their child is visiting an overbearing grandmother). All the while we know the masked fellow is lurking in a shadow nearby, unsure when he’ll make his move. This should be the very measure of suspense as we know what is happening but they don’t. But instead of a slow ratcheting up of the tension to unbearable levels, we instead are left to deal with the married couple for a bit and, by and large, they are boring as hell. Save for slight tension about her mom’s overbearingness, these two are about as milktoast as two people can be. No real marital angst (a la The Strangers) or real family tension (a la the masterful You’re Next) or really anything to them. They are just, well, they just are. I only bring this up because beyond a faint feeling of not wanting bad things to happen to anyone, I really couldn’t care less about these people.
Once our killer/intruder reveals himself to them, they are incapacitated immediately. As in, no challenge at all. From this point forward, every escape attempt, every fleeting fighting-back moment is punctuated by the near-lethargic nature of the masked man. He is not in a hurry, he is not worried, he just kind of meanders around. Now, had there been a larger investment in the two victims (which sounds callous I know given they are parents and seem like decent people) then this slow, measured way in which he acted would have carried over the creepiness of the first part of the film. Instead, I found myself encouraging him to hurry the hell up already not for bloodlust on my part but for an interest in something to propel the story forward. A backstory, a reason for doing what he is doing, some guilt on the victim’s part, some more resolve out of them. Nothing.
By the time we arrive at the final act (which, by the way, was really excellent in and of itself) I just didn’t really care what happened one way or the other. I let my mind wander and started thinking of possibilities of who the masked fellow could be, whether it might be one of those all-in-someone’s-head type of deals, aliens, anything. This is a shame because the final 15-18 minutes or so are pretty solid and quite interesting. For those looking for that little glimmer of hope clashing with hopelessness will be quite pleased with how everything comes to a head. I won’t spoil it but, at least for me, the outcome’s greatness was severely undercut by the murky and scattershot way in which the entirety of the middle of the film was handled. So, while it is shot very well and certainly carries some good creative ideas I just failed to get invested in anyone’s plight.