Replicas: Tribeca Review

Replicas Tribeca Film Still - H 2012

Replicas Tribeca Film Still - H 2012

Good performances and atmospheric direction aren’t quite enough to elevate this home-invasion thriller above genre clichés.

A well-acted but conventional home-invasion thriller, Jeremy Power Regimbal's directorial debut fails to live up to earlier genre benchmarks like "Funny Games."

A violent home invasion tale is infused with psychological and social undertones in Jeremy Power Regimbal’s film making its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. But while Replicas admirably attempts to add interesting subtext to a by now familiar genre, it ultimately pales in comparison to such truly terrifying predecessors as Funny Games. Most notable for its strong sense of atmosphere and the arresting performances by its leads, it does serve as an impressive calling card for its debuting director.

The situation is fairly basic. Upscale couple Mark and Mary Hughes (Josh Close, Selma Blair) have retreated with their nine-year-old son Brendon to their well-appointed vacation home in the woods after the recent death of their young daughter in a car accident. They’re woken up early one morning by a neighboring couple’s seemingly friendly gesture of dropping off firewood.

Although Mark is initially put off by the overly welcoming Bobby (James D’Arcy) and his skittish wife Jane (Rachel Miner), he reluctantly agrees to host them for dinner that night. But the meeting turns awkward when Bobby persists in asking highly personal questions, and turns disastrous when their son Jared puts a knife to Brendon’s throat when an argument breaks out over a video game.

Mark and Mary soon find themselves under siege, with their dog apparently shot and the interloping neighbors forcing their way back into the house. As the violent games of cat and mouse ensue, it becomes apparent that the bizarre family is not quite who they say they are and that the disturbed Bobby intends to get rid of the Hughes and assume their identities.

Director Regimbal does an effective job of slowly ratcheting up the tension and handling the sometimes brutal violence in a relatively restrained manner. Josh Close’s screenplay is equally nuanced, concentrating as much on the characters’ psychological complexities as the gothic thriller storyline.

But despite the excellent work by the actors—D’Arcy makes a truly creepy villain and Blair brings unexpected depths to the grieving wife—the film is neither lurid enough to work on B-movie terms nor deep enough to rise above its familiar tropes.

Technical credits are above average, especially Norm Li’s gloomy, darkly tinged lensing that makes the interiors of the house feel as scary as the endless woods outside.

Tribeca Film Festival (Celluloid Dreams).

Production: Studio Movement Entertainment, Sepia Films, Telefilm Canada.

CAST: Selma Blair, Josh Close, Rachel Miner, James D’Arcy, Quinn Lord, Alex Ferris.

Director: Jeremy Power Regimbal.

Screenwriter: Josh Close.

Producers: Justin Tyler Close, Jeremy Power Regimbal.

Executive producer: Kim Roberts.

Director of photography: Norm Li.

Editor: Austin Andrews.

Production designer: Tink.

Costume designer: Kathi Moore.

Music: Keith Power.

No rating, 96 min.