Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2014. HanWay Films, Snoot Entertainment. Screenplay by Simon Barrett. Cinematography by Robby Baumgartner. Produced by Keith Calder, Jessica Wu. Music by Steve Moore. Production Design by Thomas S. Hammock. Costume Design by Kathleen Detoro. Film Editing by Adam Wingard. Independent Spirit Awards 2014. Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
Sharply handsome Dan Stevens shows up at the home of his late army buddy and immediately cuts through the dull air they live in: mom Sheila Kelley is still depressed over the death of her son in battle, dad Leland Orser has a miserable job at a store that won’t promote him, son Brendan Meyer is being picked on by bullies, and daughter Maika Monroe is working at a diner to pay for college since her deadbeat boyfriend seems to be going nowhere with his music career. Stevens is immediately welcomed with open arms by all except Monroe, for while the parents love the comfort of his presence and Meyer really needs his mentoring, the young lady has suspicions about his story and starts looking into his background, and the bodies that begin piling up around town don’t do much to quell her anxiety. What she actually does do is open up a can of Dune-size worms that results in top-secret, corporate-funded military specialists showing up at their door and bullets flying in a stylish, sexy modern update of Shadow of a Doubt with healthy doses of schlocky 80s horror and B-grade action movies thrown in. It’s not a jumble of inspirations but a smooth combination that make a complete whole, held together by solid direction, an unflagging performance by Stevens in the lead and terrific determination by a wholly appealing Monroe. Great stuff, tense and satisfying with an ending perfectly apt to the spirit of the entire venture.