Saturday, July 16, 2011

Adrian Pasdar in a Bunny Suit: A Review of Home Movie (2008)

Doesn't the title of my post say it all, really? Do you need any more information than "This movie features Adrian Pasdar wearing a bunny suit," before deciding to watch it? But on the off chance that some of my readers have higher standards than I do, I suppose I'll continue with the full review.

Home Movie fits neatly into both the creepy children and the found footage subgenres. The film is supposed to be a family's home movies, which, like most family home videos, are taped mostly during holidays. Adrian Pasdar plays the Lutheran minister patriarch, while his child psychologist wife is played by Cady McCain, who is apparently a soap opera actress whom I've never seen before. This dichotomy comes in handy when their children start behaving strangely - she looks for clinical solutions while he begins to believe demonic forces are involved.

The kids are played by real-life brother and sister Austin and Amber Joy Williams, and let me tell you, they are some creepy bastards. Through the bulk of the film, the children never say a word, despite their parents' best efforts to involve them in family activities. Writer/director Christopher Denham goes out of his way to show you that this family should be perfect. The father is an affectionate goofball constantly mugging for the camera and cracking jokes for the benefit of his distant, scowling children. The mother is even-tempered to a fault, applying punishment when necessary, but never freaking out about the kids' bad behavior. Okay, not never. Not until things start to get really sick. And it does get pretty bad, although it isn't particularly gory, and most of the violence is suggested rather than shown.

Overall, I found the movie pretty dang good. Although it isn't big on scares, it is fascinating. I couldn't look away, even during the boring parts, because I was desperate to know what the kids had in store next. As you can expect, the children's behavior starts out slightly odd, and gets increasingly disturbing until the "Oh holy shit!" ending. Denham handles the build-up very effectively for the most part. The kids are creepy from the get-go, never speaking to their parents, but only to each other in a gibberish language only the two of them understand. Eventually the children do speak, which I consider a mistake, as it robs them of all the mystery that has been built up around them. They just seem like two little kids you could bitchslap into submission. Although having them speak does lead to one super-creepy line: "Let's have a staring contest. I bet you can't stare until our movie is finished." It's at this point you realize that nearly every sick thing they've done, they've saved until their dad had the camera turned on. Even though they haven't been filiming it themselves (at first) they've been making their movie all along.

The found footage format is essential to the story, and overall I found it to be used effectively, as it resembled a lot of the video my family used to shoot back in the day. There were moments when it felt totally unnatural for the characters to be filming themselves, which is the most common mistake in found footage movies, and one of the hardest to avoid. It is a limitation inherent to the subgenre - at some point, when things start to get really dangerous, any sane person would put down the camera and take care of business (or run screaming).

On a personal note, I found this movie very effective in portraying a family struggling to connect. Try as they might, the parents never seem to get through to the kids, and you can see it take its toll as the father begins to drink heavily and the mother struggles to believe that her own kids could be one of her most acute cases of anti-social personality disorder she has ever treated. I've got two kids on the autism spectrum, and while our family life is nothing like the one portrayed in the film, there are moments when you just can't get through to them, and it's like running into a plexiglas wall. So when I think of that feeling amplified by 100, I sort of understand how these parents would feel, and it hit me where it hurts.

Special thanks to my older sister, who I have to thank for my lifeling obsession with horror, for introducing me to this movie. She picked up a copy on a whim and watched it with my other sister, and both are desperate to talk about it with me. I eagerly await that conversation. And yes, I liked it quite a bit.

Also, Adrian Pasdar in a bunny suit.

Warning: Spoilery Discussion Below

For everyone who's already seen the film, I have some things to add. One thing I loved about this movie is how they leave it ambiguous as to whether there are supernatural forces at work, or if these kids are just extremely disturbed. There are a couple of clues to support each reading. First off, while arguing with his wife, Adrian Pasdar reveals that the kids were having problems before they moved into the new house, and that they moved specifically to a remote area because they thought it might help. While he still thinks there are demonic forces in the house, this would refute that idea. However, it is possible that the demonic forces could have followed the children to the new house and then amped up its influences.

Then, when the father performs the exorcism on the house, he opens the closet, flings holy water into it, then closes and latches it. A second later, it is open again. What explanation is there besides supernatural forces? I suppose the fact that the kids suddenly appear in the room right afterward means they could have opened it without him seeing, but it doesn't seem likely to me. Also, the Thanksgiving scene where they simultaneously start throwing silverware and plates on the floor to keep their father from finishing his prayer hints that they are offended by religion much as any hellspawn would be. But nothing is conclusive, and the open-endedness is what makes it so intriguing.

When the kids start behaving well, interacting with their parents and displaying affection, it is unclear whether it was their father's exorcism or their mother's medication that did the trick, but it turns out to be a fake-out (but you knew it would, right?) I mentioned earlier that I would have preferred that the children never spoke in the film, and I stand by that, but in terms of story, it makes sense that they would. They had to act normally to carry out their plan to murder their classmate, Christian (maybe it was the name that did it). Otherwise, they never would have been able to have a friend over. But still, they are considerably less creepy when they open their mouths.

The two scenes that really stood out were the cat crucifixion at Christmas, and of course, the final shot at the dinner table. When they pulled out the knives and forks, it was a great payoff to all the build-up. Their ultimate plan did seem a little complex for ten-year-olds to pull off, but with the help of Satan's minions, I suppose anything is possible. Hey, maybe I'll use that as my email footer:

Dear so-and-so,

Thanks so much for the free screener of your independent film. I'll certainly give it a look and write an unbiased review on my blog. If I don't like it, I'll say so, but if I do, I'll do what I can to help you promote it. And hey, any press is better than no press, right?

Marvin the Macabre

"With the help of Satan's minions, anything is possible."

No comments:

Post a Comment

I live for your comments.