This movie blew my mind, gave me nightmares, and has impressed everyone I’ve recommended it to. Please watch it.
It’s tempting to end this review there: just watch the darn thing, which is currently available on Amazon Prime. Don’t Google it first. Just let it work its spooky magic. Plus, it has Nicholas Brendon!
Want more? Okay, here’s a trailer. It doesn't give too much away:
Want even more? Here's my attempt to explain why this movie is awesome without spoiling its awesomeness. Then a spoiler kitten, below which lurk spoilers.
The logline for this film does a decent job of explaining the premise: “In this mind-bending sci-fi thriller, 8 [sic] friends at a dinner party start experiencing strange and mysterious events on the night a comet is passing close to Earth. Soon it becomes clear that nothing and no one are what they appear.”
Although calling it “sci-fi” implies more technology porn and metallic gleam than this low-budget movie contains, that description communicates the basic idea: a dinner party with friends while a comet passes. At first, all the predictable tensions of long-term friends dealing with long-term baggage over canapes and wine. Then, all sorts of unpredictable baggage as their phones break, the power goes out, and everything goes haywire.
Haywire—as my lead quote implies—at the level of abstract physics, which is to say the sort of “mind-bending” concept that is delightful to read about and would be completely fucking horrifying to experience.
That obscenity is, I think, justified. The handheld camera, tight locations (most of the movie takes place in the house), and semi-improvised dialogue made this movie seem vitally real. The nightmares I had about it were shot in the same shaky-cam, poorly lit style.
Because shaky-cam is exactly what the world would turn into if suddenly your neighborhood was not your neighborhood, the individual self was no longer a discreet entity, and you found yourself trapped in a logic puzzle with serious ontological—and even physical—stakes, with no hope for escape, especially once you realized the depth of your own predicament.
There’s no flash here, no special effects of mindmelds or anything like that, just a deeply personal story of a group, and of individuals, coming apart at the seams as they are forced to reflect on the nature of their own existences.
|Spoiler Kitten, Below Which Are Spoilers|
Typing that sentence feels slightly absurd, but this movie really did a number on me. When the group realized that their house has a duplicate, a double, just a couple blocks away, inhabited by themselves, things got pleasingly odd. The jostling confusion of various people moving in and out of the house, disappearing for periods of time then coming back, was disturbing. But once the situation became clear—not two houses but infinite houses, infinite groups—I got completely lost in the tension.
Towards the end of the film, the audience-identification character Em realizes that even the people she thinks are “her” people from “her” house are not “hers.” They haven’t been for a long time, and she has no way to get back to “her” people or even identify them. (More on that below.) Her journey through the blackness, peering into the various houses—at one point seeing two Nicholas Brendons tied to chairs, marked with red and green glowsticks—felt like an ontological apocalypse.
It’s been a long time since a movie disturbed me as much as this one did, but the disturbance was actually quite pleasing: comparable to Primer, another lowbudget mindbender, Coherence is thoughtful and trippy, like House of Leaves crossed with an as-yet-undiscovered garage band. I hated dealing with the nightmares (which may, I admit, have been exacerbated by an excess of Nutella before bed), but I love that I managed to discover a little gem that I get to recommend wholeheartedly to anyone interested in the offbeat and disturbing.
Bits and Pieces and Pieces and Bits:
• This movie was filmed in five days.
• Nicholas Brendon plays a TV actor from the TV show Roswell. Or does he? The conversation with Laurie about whether or not he was really on that show raises some interesting questions about which universe she came from. (Perhaps the one composed of nothing but shrimp. I'll bet she tired of that one quickly.)
• The killer moment for me was when Em, walking from house to house, takes a moment to check the identifying box and discovers a stuffed monkey. It was at that moment that I—and I think Em, too—realized that she could never identify “her” house, since she didn’t know what object they put in their box. She’d left “her” house before that happened. (The ping-pong paddle was brought into the house but not from her house.)
• I wonder how many tiny things had to happen, butterfly-effect style, for the last house to be as happy as they were.
Four out of four glowsticks.
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)