So after checking out a few Social Media Influencer themed horror movies. We are moving onto something completely different today. Again, I am trawling some of the major streaming service’s back catalogues. Having focused on so many classic horror movies towards the end of last year. I decided it was probably a good time to catch up on some more recent stuff. I mean, I have no set rotation here at Knockout Horror. It’s not as if I am trying to be current or “on trend”. I review what I watch but it is nice to catch up a bit.
Some of the recent movies I have checked out have been pretty good. Others are proving to be pretty average. With that latter statement in mind, it’s time to look at Homewrecker. Homewrecker is a comedy horror directed and co-written by Zach Gayne. It follows the story of a woman’s encounter with an overly friendly acquaintance. Without further ado, let’s take a look. As always, I offer a quick spoiler free synopsis. You can skip that if you like. I watched this movie on Prime Video.
Homewrecker follows the story of Michelle (Alex Essoe). Using the bathroom at her dance class. Michelle realises that her latest attempt at becoming pregnant has failed. Disappointed, she heads to a coffee shop to work. While sitting at her laptop, a woman enters the store. She claims to recognise Michelle. Introducing herself as Linda (Precious Chong). Michelle suddenly remembers her as a lady that attends her dance class.
The pair begin chatting, much to the annoyance of Michelle who is rather busy. Linda asks Michelle rather personal questions. To Michelle’s surprise she finds herself opening up to the strange woman. Linda asks Michelle if she can enlist her interior design skills. Offering to pay her well for the work. She claims her house is a mess and needs the touch of an expert. She requests that Michelle come back with her now to check the place out. Michelle reluctantly agrees and the pair head to Linda’s house.
When the pair arrive at Linda’s house. It becomes clear that Linda has other things in mind. The discussions about interior design do not go very far. Linda offers to make some cocktails. Seemingly feeling a little sorry for the rather eccentric woman. Michelle agrees. The pair sit down but Michelle appears reluctant to drink. An overly enthusiastic Linda ends up knocking the drink. Her stunned reaction hinting at what is to come for Michelle. As the day goes on. The passive Michelle begins to regret feeling sympathy for the increasingly bizarre Linda.
Homewrecker, as you may have guessed, is a fairly character driven horror movie. We have the extremely passive Michelle and the outgoing, oddly behaved, Linda. The movie places these two into a somewhat claustrophobic situation. Their contrasting personalities form the basis of much of the comedy. An awkward tension permeates the entire film. Michelle’s attempts to pacify Linda lead her deeper into an uncomfortable social situation.
Linda is eccentric and her history hints at a person who is somewhat ostracised. She is loud and abrasive. Seemingly quite lonely. She complains about her former popularity and laments people’s tendencies to lie. Michelle, on the other hand, is quiet and shy. Obviously ill at ease with Linda’s extroverted nature. Michelle grits her teeth and accepts Linda’s invite rather than upsetting her. The odd couple nature of the pair make for some fairly comical scenes.
As the movie goes on, things begin to spiral out of control. Michelle watches a movie with Linda. One of her favourites. Linda is absorbed in every second of 80’s classic Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Indeed, it would seem Linda’s entire world is stuck somewhere in the 80s. Michelle feels sorry for her, clearly. Linda has an almost childlike sense of rejection when Michelle claims she has to leave. When Michelle’s attention turns to her phone, Linda snaps. From there on out it is downhill for Michelle and, unfortunately, for the movie itself.
Homewrecker is something of a Generation X version of The Loved Ones. If you could take the humour of that movie. The absolutely fantastic antagonist and overall style. Slow it down to an “old person walking up stairs” pace and film it on a cheap camcorder. The result would be Homewrecker. This is a movie that falls flat in so many areas and succeeds in so few. Despite director Josh Gayne attempting to channel his inner Lucky McKee. I doubt this is a future cult classic.
As a horror, it is woefully lacking in any scares or tension. As a comedy, it is painfully try hard. It is difficult not to see the influence of the Aussie horror classic here. The difference is in the things that The Loved Ones makes look so effortless. Things that shouldn’t work are done so well they actually work perfectly. Lola is a brilliant horror villain. The comedy is dark and fits in perfectly. The violence is fairly consistent and absolutely brutal.
Homewrecker really tries to tick many of these same boxes. Linda is a quirky and, sometimes, funny villain. Michelle is a suitably meek victim in waiting. The claustrophobic setting of Linda’s house should make for some intense action. The location’s dated aesthetic combined with Linda’s obsessions with the 80s. Should, in theory, offer a unique style. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work very well. The result is a movie that feels mildly enjoyable at best and terrible at worst.
Linda, as a horror movie villain, feels fairly benign. She is well into her 50s, slight of build and slow of movement. Linda does not feel in any way imposing or, even, threatening. She does not have an accomplice and her only weapon is a large hammer. A hammer that I doubt she could swing with force even if she wanted to. Her methods of entrapping Michelle involve domestic door locks and vague threats. Apparently she has a mean headlock. What she lacks in physical capability she makes up for in screaming.
On the other hand we have Michelle. Most people will likely be able to relate to Michelle’s discomfort. I am sure many of us have spent an afternoon with someone we dislike. Perhaps you were just trying to be nice? Maybe you felt sorry for the person? Michelle’s situation is a relatable one. Still, connecting with her character is difficult. Michelle is forced to act in ridiculous ways to facilitate the movie’s writing. We are repeatedly expected to believe that Michelle would struggle to overpower Linda. This is ridiculous and leads to some terribly awkward moments.
Linda and Michelle fight in what could only be described as slow motion. They roll around on the floor screaming half heartedly. The much younger and larger Michelle struggles against the frail looking Linda. This happens multiple times. These fight scenes are among the worst I have ever seen. If they are played for comedy, it falls completely flat. At one point Linda woman-handles Michelle in the back garden. A neighbour leans over the fence to greet them. Linda claims she is practicing self defence in another of the movie’s attempts at comedy. We are, apparently, supposed to believe Michelle couldn’t speak in this moment.
The above leads perfectly onto my next point. This movie really isn’t funny. Homewrecker is one of those films that expects you to laugh because it is farcical. The established scenario is bizarre. Linda is a strange person. She is obviously stuck years in the past. Wanting to talk about “boys” and watch chick flicks. Her inability to move past when she was a popular girl in school forms the basis of much of the humour.
Whereas Linda’s childlike demeanour can garner a few laughs here and there. The very deliberate kookiness of the character and location fall flat. Homewrecker doesn’t try to earn its laughs. Josh Gayne apparently expects you to laugh because the film is weird. That is not enough. A scene where the girls play an 80’s “Dream Phone” style board game is amusing. I have actually bumped Homewrecker’s score purely for that scene. The rest is an abject miss.
One scene, in particular, deserves scorn. Linda walks around the house staring into the camera. Holding a dildo up to her mouth like a microphone. She sings a horrendous version of Lisa Loeb’s 90’s folk pop classic Stay (I Missed You). Aside from this being a weird confusing of the decades of focus here. This whole part is painfully awful. It is cardinal sin to trash such a brilliant piece of 90’s nostalgia like this. Precious Chong looks almost as mortified performing this as I did watching it. This is just a microcosm of the film’s major overriding issues. Homewrecker’s comedy element falls flat and its aesthetic feels completely forced.
As far as story goes, Homewrecker takes awhile to show its hand. What starts as a simple conflicting of personalities unravels into something more. There is a plot twist, of sorts, but it is fairly obvious. You will likely figure it out not far into the movie. Still, Homewrecker can be fairly engaging and moves along at a decent pace. A predictable ending wraps things up and it’s all pretty by the numbers. The self contained nature of the story works pretty well. We get a decent amount of exposition and there aren’t a ton of loose ends.
The horror element, as mentioned above, is non-existent. Linda is one of the least threatening villains I have ever seen in a horror movie. Don’t get me wrong, scorned women can be some of the most terrifying horror bad guys. Linda’s character just doesn’t work. This isn’t Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Michelle’s decision making is ridiculous. She could easily escape at numerous points. She never choose to pick up a weapon and is too weak to fight Linda off. On top of that, she is equally as slow as Linda. It all leads to a complete absence of tension and atmosphere.
Moments of violence are few and far between. When they do happen they feel wildly out of place. Later scenes descend into an almost torture porn style of horror. It comes out of nowhere and leaves you feeling confused. The movie didn’t have any scares. Why does it suddenly feel the need to be ultra violent? Added to that, one moment of violence in particular makes no sense. It wouldn’t accomplish what was intended. It was purely there to fill a gore quota.
Acting is okay, I suppose. I really enjoyed Alex Essoe’s performance in Starry Eyes. She does an okay job here portraying the meek and quiet Michelle. There’s a nice feeling of authenticity when she comes out of her shell and fights back. Precious Chong, as Linda, is quite fun. Linda has moments of hilarity. The board game, as mentioned above, is great. Chong does a brilliant job portraying Linda’s childlike side. Other time, though, she just feels a bit out of her depth and uncomfortable. The aforementioned scene where she sings to the camera is noteworthy. She doesn’t look like she is enjoying herself. I can completely understand why, though.
Unfortunately, the script doesn’t give these actors anything to work with. This is partly on them, though. Alex Essoe and Precious Chong are both listed as co-writers. Whether this means they retro-scripted, improvising, many of the scenes, I don’t know? It also bears mentioning that Essoe and Chong are also producers on the movie. I am guessing this was a case of a low budget so everyone has to chip in. Did they get Precious’ dad Cheech to produce the horrible guitar scratching sound track as well? Judging by how average Homewrecker is. They definitely got Cheech to supply the weed. Something made them believe that this movie was actually funny.
Some parts feel horribly awkward. Michelle notices she has come on her period and shrieks. It is like she spotted a rat in the toilet or something. She asks a room of women if anyone has a tampon. Aside from the unlikely fact that not one of them does. Linda’s reply is “I’m too old to get my period anymore”. Did a child script this? That is a basic English language fail and moments like that are fairly common.
Directing and cinematography are pretty bad. This is an ugly looking film set in a claustrophobic location. The house has narrow halls and is very reminiscent of a British house. I believe this movie was filmed in Toronto? Coming from watching American horror movies with their big open plan houses. It is strange to see tight halls and small rooms. I didn’t actually realise that parts of Canada featured houses built in a similar way to the ones here. Aside from feeling claustrophobic and limited in space. The small house offers virtually no flexibility when it comes to the shots.
This is a dull looking movie. It doesn’t help that I saw the camera person’s reflection on a number of occasions. Split shots showing Michelle and Linda in different rooms feel pointless. My fiancée questioned why the director chose to do this. I am inclined to share in her sentiment.
It is clear that Josh Gayne had a specific style in mind. It really just doesn’t work. Almost vaporwave style closeup shots of a pink bath bomb fizzing away are pointless. I understand the intention but it just looks silly. The fourth wall breaking, singing at the camera, scene is a huge misstep. I am sure some people will chuckle at it. In my opinion, it feels out of place and awkward. The slide guitar soundtrack of obnoxious noise is torture to the ears. It is the proverbial cherry on the shit sundae. This is a movie with two well known actors. Despite this it looks like a high school media project. It looks painfully low budget, is ugly throughout and feels extremely amateur.
Homewrecker is a horror comedy that wants to be a cult classic. With a style reminiscent of a dollar store Lucky McKee. It is an ugly film with some highly questionable directorial decisions. Featuring a fairly interesting story. Homewrecker's less than threatening antagonists drains the movie of any potential for scares. There is no tension, no atmosphere, and very little reason to become invested. If you want a small woman in her 50's to be your horror villain. You better give her some Annie Wilkes qualities. Or, at the very least, a large gun. Linda is completely incapable of being a convincing bad guy.
Awkward scenes, minimal laughs and a terrible script are just some of Homewreckers issues. The location is claustrophobic and extremely dull. Michelle is forced to make stupid decisions just to keep the movie rolling along. Scenes of violence feel out of place given the events that preceed them. A scene featuring the pair playing an 80's style board game is very welcome. It actually gave me some genuine laughs. Aside from that, there is very little to recommend.
I am sure there are some people who will genuinely enjoy Homewrecker. I bet there are a decent number of people who will see past its flaws. They may find it charming and somewhat amusing. It's a fairly easy watch and there are a few chuckles here and there. I have to review the movie based on my own opinion, though. I really didn't enjoy it and I can't recommend it. Do yourself a favour and watch The Loved Ones instead. It is a far better version of what Homewreckers desperately wants to be.