Trespassers (2018) – movie review

Every time IFC Midnight announces a new horror film they either produced or distributed, I get excited. They’re a production company that truly cares about providing horror fans with a certain level of quality: this year, for example, they already released two good movies like Pledge and The Wind, and I Trapped the Devil, a disappointing yet very well-made psychological horror.

Trespassers, IFC’s 4th title of 2019, premiered at two European festivals in 2018 and, from July 12th, is available on VOD and for a limited theatrical release in the US. The movie follows two couples that rent a home in the Mojave Desert to sort out their messed-up lives and relationships. Tension rises as the men and women in the house start abusing drugs and finding out dark secrets about each other. Then, a stranger knocks on their door claiming her car broke down: as they let her in, the couples’ night turns into a survival game.

Continue reading and check my final grade below…

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Surprisingly enough, the critical reception for this home-invasion film has been terribly negative: as I usually do, I avoided reading reviews from fellow critics before assessing this movie, but I did go in with lower expectations. Is Trespassers as bad as they say?

Firstly, one cannot ignore visual and technical aspects of a movie. After a rather atmospheric opening executed in one take, the rest of this film takes place inside the house rented by the two couples: such a small location allows for some great camera-work in Trespassers, where the use of dolly camera makes every movements inside the house feel natural and provides a very pleasant visual flow. The cinematography relies on symmetry quite a bit, offering some very neat shots to the audience: considering the narrow spaces, they way these nice visuals are achieved is quite impressive. Yet, lighting and colour palette are meticulously crafted to enhance the sense of continuity and fluidity provided by the camera work.

Trespassers is also based on an interesting concept that combines classic home-invasion elements with conflicts between characters inside the house, as opposed to presenting the people whose house is invaded as totally innocent.

However, neither the potential of this idea nor the visual can save this movie from being broken at its core when it comes to story and characters. Instead of writing troubled and conflicted characters, the four people who rented the house are just dysfunctional, violent, drug-addict assholes who come off as truly annoying and unrelatable. Their dialogue is poorly written, as moments of potential confrontation are dismissed by corny one-liners. The acting is, unfortunately, subpar at best: I don’t know whether to blame the performers or the script for their either stale or hilariously over-the-top delivery. The exception here is represented by Fairuza Balk (the visitor whose car allegedly broke down) who, being a seasoned horror actress, really understands what she needs to bring for her character to work.

Yet, the story that unfolds from such an interesting concept winds up being an amalgamation of ridiculously manipulative plot twists, tonal inconsistencies, poor character choices and blatant conveniences to move the plot forward. Aside from a clever scene where Trespassers plays rather well with audience’s expectations, every other reveal in the movie feels very far-fetched, forced and nonsensical. Due to the overabundance of switches and turns, this flick also suffers from a lack of coherence when it comes to the tone: at times it tries to be unsettling, sometimes it relies on fake jump-scares, during other moments it wants to be a gore-fest.

Speaking of gore and violence, Trespassers manages to be very timid, as far as home-invasion flicks go: there’s only one satisfying kill (towards the end) that justifies the R rating. In fact, the whole picture is very tame, and it replaces violence and blood with unnecessary cursing that makes the character feel even more annoying and unlikeable. During the action-packed sequences, Trespassers also manages to make every moment feel cartoonish and a bit laughable.

In conclusion, Trespassers is a horror movie that suffers from its attempt at being something more than a straight home-invasion thriller: it’s not scary, it’s not gory, it’s not interesting nor original, it’s not exciting, it’s not thought-provoking. However, it’s a very well-shot film with high production values and some great visuals. It had the potential to be a fun and violent watch, but it wound up being a mess with only a few redeeming qualities.

Trespassers                          4/10

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