TAD Review: Home Movie

Director: Christopher Denham
Writer: Christopher Denham
Producers: William M. Miller, Andrew van den Houten
Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Cady McClain, Amber Joy Williams, Austin Williams
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 90 min.
Country of Origin: USA
Toronto After Dark Film Festival

“Point of view” or “perspective” films, as they are referred to, seem to be all the rage these days. From the recent Cloverfield or [.rec] (and its subsequent American remake, Quarantine) and even going all the way back to The Blair Witch Project, these types of “found footage” films are popping up all over the place… and for good reason. They provide a sort of aesthetic and creepiness that dolly cams and crane shots can’t quite provide. They also show us a raw, “lived in” feel that brings the viewer a little closer to the subjects and makes us feel like we are in the same reality as the characters – even if we’d prefer not to be.

Hearing the title for the first time, one might conjure thoughts of dance recitals, family vacations or kids playing touch football in the backyard with mom and dad. While Home Movie has a bit of this sort of fluff to start the film, everyone’s aware that things are soon to go sour and this sort of casual, family banter only helps provide for a feeling of misplaced complacency; thereby heightening the impending disaster. Sure enough; the cute, ten year-old siblings, Jack and Emily, soon prove to be something more than their parents had ever imagined in their worst nightmares. Shortly after moving into a beautiful new home in the country, the Poe children begin exhibiting some quite disturbing behavior that begins with simple rock throwing incidents and slowly escalates into more horrifying episodes including crucifying the family cat.

Seen entirely through the eyes of the home video camera that the parents seem to lug around the house constantly, we watch as the kids devolve in mental stability mostly by way of holiday increments. In other words, we drop in on the Poe’s for Halloween. The next time we see them is on Thanksgiving and then Christmas and so on. We see a little bit of the action in between, but mostly time is passing by only noticeably by seeing which holiday the Poe’s happen to be celebrating.

Because the father is a pastor and the mother is a psychologist, of course the parents have very different ideas as to how to handle the children’s “delusions.” Should they be treated medically or spiritually? Upon further discovery of the father’s back-story, there’s even more to debate with regards to behavior and development; including the nature vs. nurture discussion. Funny enough, the film doesn’t really provide an answer to these questions (and maybe it doesn’t want to), but only begs the question.

But let’s be honest, the point of the movie is not to spark philosophical or psychological discussion. Its design is to entertain and thrill. And on these points it succeeds marvelously. Although there is a rawness to the shakiness of the home movie camera aesthetic, that isn’t to say that the film maker’s didn’t play a little bit with style and lighting. There are some quick edits and directing techniques that just wouldn’t be there if this was truly found footage. But while some might complain that doesn’t jive with the “authentic” feel of the experience, I think if you’re able to buy into and just accept it, it’s exactly what gives the film its edge.

The actors involved are all terrific and convincing; particularly Adrian Pasdar (Nathan Patrelli from NBC’s “Heroes”). His wit and charm shines all throughout the, shall we say, less horrific moments in the movie. On top of this, he shows complete believability in all of his husbandry and paternal conduct. When it comes to the children, they definitely ooze a creep factor that is quite high. While I’d like to praise the actors for this, I think it has a lot more to do with being under the direction of Christopher Denham. His choice to have nearly zero spoken dialogue from the kids and almost use them as merely props works wonders to give them their sinister demeanor.

Admittedly there are about a hundred different things one could nit-pick about Home Movie: continuity issues, editing styles, believability in the characters’ action and one or two legitimately confusing plot turns. But going through with a fine tooth comb and picking all of these minor details apart is self subterfuge and the film probably isn’t going to work for you. Should you sit down and just accept everything and try to enjoy the thrilling vibe, there is no reason why you won’t have a ball trying to keep all of those little hairs on the back of your neck from standing on end.

Click “play” to see the trailer:

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Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Andrew James
Podcaster. Tech junkie. Movie lover. Also games and guitar. I dig music.