Two young dysfunctional couples rent a house in the Mojave desert, only to become the victims of a home invasion.
Attempting to put a new spin on the home invasion plotline, Orson Oblowitz’s Trespassers (originally titled “Hell is Where the Home Is”) follows two couples with a complicated history as they reunite for the weekend.
We’ve got Sarah and Joseph (Angela Trimbur and Zach Avery) who are trying to rebuild their relationship after an unexpected loss, and then Sarah’s high school friend Estelle (Janel Parrish) who has brought along her complete jerk, and coke-loving boyfriend, Victor (Jonathan Howard).
After a lot of grating relationship drama, there is a knock at the door to reveal a woman needing to use their telephone after supposedly breaking down (the glorious Fairuza Balk of “The Craft“), but can she be trusted? Her hole-ridden story and her disposition suggest otherwise.
Now I wouldn’t say that Trespassers is an absolutely terrible movie by any means, but when it comes to horror movies, I find there is a very thin line between being watchable and being boring. This is especially true when focusing on a frequently used subgenre like home-invasion.
The truth is, there’s nothing new here. Yes the script attempts to throw plot twists at you at every corner, but these twists don’t work in a script that lacks foundations. It jumps from one storyline to the next while instantaneously forgetting what came before. It also criminally underutilizes Balk’s ability to play crazy, her character would have been perfect as the unhinged matriarch of the ‘trespassers’, but her role is more of a brief red-herring introduced to try and create suspense.
As for the couples we have to spend all our time with? They’re the worst. I understand that the horror genre will often use stereotypes as main characters, but why do we have to have the worst stereotypes imaginable being used frequently? Johnathan Howard’s Victor enters this movie on a racist comment, only to be an over the top, sex-crazed, drug-addicted party boy for the rest of his screentime. It’s obnoxious. I’m not saying we have to care about everyone here, but give us something. This character leans far too into the ‘I can’t wait to see him die’ playbook.
The acting from our cast is also mostly average, with the aforementioned Johnathan Howard struggling the most to sell an admittedly lazily written domestic violence storyline. Another red-herring that gets used and removed in almost comical pacing.
In the opening moments, the movie also has no shame in casting Mexicans as the villains. We see the presumed owners of the house our characters are currently renting get kidnapped, and murdered by Latino men, wearing Latino paraphernalia while listening to Latino music. The bad guys here are given barely any speaking lines and adhere to so many stereotypes that it had me rolling my eyes.
They also just barely make an appearance at the end of the movie, and looking at the movies marketing materials, you would assume they would be featured throughout. The poster, especially, frames the Latin masks the villains wear as if they are some new slasher villain, when the reality is they’re just a gang whose motive is mostly unexplored, but not in an effective way like say, The Strangers.
The directing from Oblowitz is standard, but he does some nice things with color. They make no real sense in the context of the house but admittedly make for some interesting visuals as the cast begins running through the house being terrorized. Blue and pink lighting features throughout, and different colors are used for the different emotional beats that the movie tries to hit. It’s an interesting technique, which also goes a long way into styling up a movie that likely had a minimal budget.
Finally, gorehounds may enjoy this movie more than others, as while the kills aren’t over the top, what is done is quite effectively realized. We get stabbings, machete’s to the head, and a few heads going boom to great splatter effect. Oblowitz shows potential in some areas, but we need a better script to really see what he’s capable of.
Trespassers is an average movie, that’s quite hard to recommend. There’s something to be said for it being watchable, but at the end of the day, it brings nothing new to the table. It also underutilizes Balk in a role that could have taken it outside of the generic home-invasion plotlines.
Trespassers is available to rent on VOD as of July 12, 2019. It stars Angela Trimbur, Janel Parish, Johnathan Howard, and Zach Avery. Writing duties fell to Corey Deshon and Orson Oblowitz directed. The movie was released by IFC midnight.