Home Movie (2008) Review
Written by: Serena
Since arriving at this year's festival, I had heard Home Movie was the one to see. When I went to see the movie, the theatre was jam-packed with enthustiastic audience members excited and curious to see yet another entry in the popular hand-held horror sub-genre. ( I, myself was excited to see the handsome Adrian Pasdar onscreen. :P) So was Home Movie a Blair Witch Project or did it turn out to be a St. Francisville Experiment? Read on to find out!
Like all hand held horror films, all of the events are shown through recollections of footage shot on a video camera. This time the video camera belongs to a happily married couple named Clare and David Poe. (played by Cady McClain and Adrian Pasdar) David is a Lutheran minister who doesn't believe in Freud. Clare is a psychiatrist who doesn't believe in God. Yet somehow, this couple proves that love conquers all and they have two "lovely" ten year old twin siblings named Jack and Emily (played by real-life siblings Amber and Austin Williams) to show for it.
When Clare purchases a video camera to document her client sessions, David can't help but be seduced to use the camera to tape many family home movies.(As any parent would.) However, when either of the parents hits record, they are witness to their childrens' increasingly odd and perverse behaviour which is shown through frightening and sometimes fatal ways on camera. From then on in, both parents make it their personal duty of rescuing and reversing their childrens' evil ways before its too late.
Writer/director Christopher Denham uses his skills as a playwright to make a film that relies heavily on the actors' performances. This is no Cloverfield or Rec. Like The Blair Witch Project, Home Movie relies on the audience's investment in the protagonists throughout a slowly paced film that is met with a chilling final act that will haunt you long after the credits have rolled. (Especially if you are parents.)
What I enjoyed mostly about this film was the social commentary the director provided on the controversial nature vs. nuture argument. Watching this movie, I found it hard to believe that the parents would continue to try to live out a normal family life, despite the fact their children were obviously growing into psychopaths. Rocks are thrown at a parent's face, a frog is dispatched of by the daughter through an eerie and accurate precision, and the family cat is crucified on Christmas Day. This would be enough for me to send my kids to the psychiatric ward. However, I remembered that I was fellowing a previously abused Minister and a successful psychiatrist. One spoils their children because of what he went through as a child, and the other is a massive control freak and thinks that every dysfunction and learned behaviour can be cured and reversed. If the Halloween series has taught us anything, it's that evil never dies. To watch a couple become full of desperation and despair, hopelessly clinging to the idea that their children could be saved was truly riveting and I'm sure it hit a little close to home for viewers who have ever tried to forgive loved ones for unforgivable acts.
All four actors gave superb performances and made even the slowest moving scenes interesting to watch. Everything depended on these actors and they all conveyed what they needed to, to make the footage look as real as possible. The children especially sent chills up my spine.
Having said that, there were a few things I did not like about the film. For one, the movie seems to drag at places, (ironically, the movie is only 80 minutes long.) and at times, I was wondering when something of note was going to happen. Some would say it's a slow burn worth the wait, however I thought that some scenes dragged on longer than others.
Another thing I noticed about this film is something I notice in all films that use this new hand held cinema verite. In Clovefield and Rec, I could not believe the protagonists would actually still be shooting while trying to escape monsters and zombies, and in Home Movie, I found it quite hard to believe that these parents would continue to film their children after knowing all the disturbing things they have done. There are actually a few red herrings that stood out too. (Like why would the father teach his children to pick locks and tie the perfect knots despite knowing there is something REALLY off about them?) Things like this is when suspension of disbelief was pushed into maximum overdrive.
Despite some of the film's flaws, the experience of watching Home Movie was not ruined, for this movie was definitely a worth while entry in the new hand held horror sub-genre. However, if you're a parent, it will definitely have you second guessing your parenting skills at home. I'm looking forward to Denham's next project! Well done!