OK kids, gather round for today’s lesson in “How to get it done” in the movies.
“Homewrecker” is a C-movie with justifiable delusions of B-movie glory.
One simple premise, a couple of characters and a house you aren’t afraid to mess up, maybe spill some blood on — that’s basically all there is to this “Stalker took me captive” thriller.
Cast two decent actresses, get them to collaborate on the dialogue and “problems” each character must solve so that they’re all-in, and blast through it in 75 not-quite-breathless minutes.
There’s not a lot of polish, little in the line of over-the-top action or pizazz. But all involved wring every last drop of entertainment out of this student-film-simple movie.
They keep running into each other in yoga, spin cycle or dance class. Michelle (Alex Essoe) is younger, lithe and 20something. Linda (Precious Chong, yes, you-know-who’s “other” acting daughter) is a generation or so older. And if we know where to look, we notice she’s paying a lot of attention to Michelle.
A “chance” meet-up in a coffee shop gets the ball rolling. Meek and “nice” Michelle doesn’t know what to do with the stranger who notes their shared classes and exercise mania, who insists on sitting down for coffee, who moves her CHAIR so she can look at Michelle’s screen and see the answer to her second pushy question.
“Whatcha WORKIN’ on?”
The first query was about the photo on Michelle’s home screen. “Is that your BOYfriend?” No, it’s her husband. Before we or Michelle know it, Linda is asking nosy questions that reveal they’re “trying to start a family,” but that “he” isn’t that into the idea.
Linda’s questions are relentless, and when she gets around to what Michelle does for a living — interior decorator — the trap is sprung.
“You’re gonna do my HOUSE. It’s close by. C’mon! Let’s take a look at what you’ll be dealing with.”
Michelle, too polite and yes, compassionate — Linda’s wide-eyes scream “NEEDY!” — is in a car with a slightly-off stranger going to a house she doesn’t know in a neighborhood where she’s out of her element.
And once inside — you guessed it. The eyes turn from wide and “needy” to wild and “crazy.” The woman who insists her home be decorated “around this one piece,” a SLEDGEhammer she has hanging from her wall, has Michelle in her clutches.
What does she want? When will Michelle start to resist? How can she escape?
The script starts innocuously and then turns to building suspense. Just over 20 minutes in, the ’80s VHS copy of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (the movie), the ’80s “Let’s Get Physical” headband, the ’80s teen board game “Party Hunks” stops being amusing and turns unsettling.
We channel surf straight into “This freak is STUCK in the ’80s, and she has a SLEDGEHAMMER!”
Chong manages a “Valley Girl with Malice” vibe with ease. Totally buy her in this, in Linda’s “Life peaked in the ’80s” mania. Chong hurls herself in an imaginary music video in which she acts out Lisa Loeb’s video of “Stay.”
Talk about chilling.
Essoe does well enough by the hapless “victim,” although the fights — struggles to get the drop on her captor, attempt an escape — have a timidity that matches the character perhaps a little too closely.
If there’s a fault to the picture it’s that the life-and-death wrestling and punching are stage-fight tentative. Neither nice young actress wants to hurt the other, seeing as the shooting and editing strategy doesn’t allow time to film from many angles to create the blur of violent close-ups hurtling past that allow stunt doubles to take over.
The film’s coda seems to provide more explaining and logic than the viewer needs or has asked for.
But “Homewrecker” is laugh-out-loud funny and edge-of-your-seat thrilling just often enough to come off. Dollar for low-budget dollar, it delivers fun and value many a Hollywood production would envy.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, profanity
Cast: Alex Essoe, Precious Chong and Tony Matthews.
Credits: Directed by Zach Gayne, script by Alex Essoe, Precious Chong and Zach Gayne. An Uncork’d release.
Running time: 1:16