Here I was, all set to hate all over “Trespassers” and leave a mess as I did.
But it delivers such a visceral, pulse-pounding and predictably far-fetched finale that my hate was gone with the wind — almost.
“Trespassers” is an attractive-young-folks trapped in a remote house thriller, menaced from without — SOMEbody wants to get in — and menaced from within.
Angela Trimbur, Zach Avery, Janel Parrish are Jonathan Howard are two young couples, the ladies “high school besties,” the guys utter strangers set to have a “Quien es mas macho?” contest.
Sarah (Trimbur) chose to not do this AirBnB weekend from Hell alone with her husband Joe (Avery). They’ve experienced a loss, and she’s summoned Estelle (Parrish of TV’s “Pretty Little Liars”) and Estelle’s boorish beau Victor (Howard) to this McMansion in the desert.
A little booze, a little coke, a little sex in the hot tub, “have fun, and forget the world exists for a bit.”
But an opening scene has teased us with the fate of the owners of the house. It wasn’t a happy fate. Sarah’s messing around in their dark room might be a clue as to why they were targeted by masked, gold-toothed, machete-and-pistol-packing Latinos. The owners were photo journalists.
The quartet in the house have just enough time to get irritated with Victor’s bullying, his racist cracks about “border hoppers” and sexist insults about strip clubs, when a stranger calls. Or knocks. As she’s played by Fairuza Balk of “The Craft” and “Valmont” and “Bad Lieutenant,” we question her motives.
“Finding truly kind people in this world is like finding a diamond in a sea of broken glass.”
Why, again, does she need to use their phone? And man, if there’s a screen-written “story” about why anybody needs to use a phone that’s more elaborate or contorted than the Corey Deshon wrote for “The Stranger” here, I’ve forgotten it. Red flags in every line.
“I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West, honey. I’m a neighbor.”
So far, so formulaic, right? But here’s where the “hate” kicks in.
Any time a thriller gets so caught up in dreaming up ways to torture women that we wonder why the torturers don’t stop torturing and, you know, go FIND the “MacGuffin,” the Hitchockian plot contrivance that drives the movie, instead of demanding that their hostages TELL them or “We’ll do this to your eye or THAT to your teeth or leave your friend’s brains spattered all over the wall,” you have to wonder.
Wonder what the director or screenwriter’s beef with women is, wonder if they have mommy/sister/girlfriend/wife issues they might want to work out with a shrink instead of subjecting viewers to their torture porn.
The complex entanglement of relationships among the two couples is of only lukewarm interest, and the drawn-out assault on McMansion in the Mohave so expected that “Trespassers” dissipates the good will and intense interest it needs for its mid-movie twists to come off.
But that finale is a real corker, excruciating in the ways director Orson Oblowitz ratchets up the tension and the expectation of intense suffering and pain. Yes, I’m saying the torture porn, and its resolution, made me squirm.
I hate the genre, can’t stand those genre tropes, and can barely forgive them even when they work.
Balk is the stand-out in a cast of supporting actors (a “Fury” credit here, a “Last Ship” regular, or a recurring “Good Place” character there) given a shot at taking on leads.
Howard has the meatiest role, and impresses as something of a brutish stereotype, and Trimbur gets across intelligence and anguish without straining.
But Corey Deshon’s script is a veritable catalogue of thriller devices, types and worn out situations. Every “cut” and “paste” shows.
And no amount of sex in the hot tub or stabbings in the eye can hide that.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, sex, cocaine and alcohol use
Cast:Angela Trimbur, Zach Avery, Janel Parrish, Jonathan Howard, Fairuza Balk
Credits: Directed by Orson Oblowitz, script by Corey Deshon. An IFC Midnight release.
Running time: 1:27