'Trespassers': Film Review

Courtesy of IFC Films
Stylish but familiar.
7/12/2019

Two young couples staying at a remote vacation house are terrorized by home invaders in Orson Oblowitz's horror thriller.

Staying at an isolated vacation home in the desert may be a perfectly reasonable idea in real life, but in movies it tends to lead to nothing but trouble. Orson Oblowitz's Trespassers, the latest horror film to illustrate this principle, doesn't add anything particularly original to the home invasion genre. But it does provide some cheap thrills along the way, and Fairuza Balk fans will relish her brief appearance as the mysterious figure who sets the violent plot mechanics in motion.

Originally shown in festivals under the far more flavorful title Hell Is Where the Home Is, the film is set in a lavish home in the Mojave Desert. Filled with expensive art and outfitted with a darkroom, the house has been rented by two young couples: Sarah (Angela Trimbur) and Joseph (Zach Avery), whose relationship has become rocky since she suffered a miscarriage; and Sarah's best friend Estelle (Janel Parrish, Pretty Little Liars), who has brought her current beau, the boorishly macho Victor (Jonathan Howard).

Since a prologue has shown the home's owners being brutally murdered by a trio of masked, machete-wielding Latinos, the audience, if not the main characters, knows that the weekend is not destined to go well. Unfortunately, it takes a while for that to happen, with the two couples' domestic issues, including the revelation of an illicit affair, occupying roughly the first half-hour of screen time. Along with some cocaine snorting, hot tub sex and erotic dancing by the two women to keep male viewers interested along the way.

The overall tedium is relieved by the appearance of a character listed in the credits only as "The Visitor" (Balk, who established her genre bona fides in The Craft), who knocks on the door late at night and explains that her car broke down and she needs to use the phone. But the perkily chatty stranger seems curiously reluctant to leave the premises and makes several comments indicating that she's not the neighbor she claims to be. When Victor becomes particularly hostile, she amusingly tells him, "I'm not the Wicked Witch of the West, honey." Unfortunately for her, she suffers a similar fate, although definitely not by melting.

The ensuing plot mechanics in Corey Deshon's formulaic screenplay, including the ill-timed arrival of two police officers (Carlo Rota, Sebastian Sozzi) responding to Sarah's 911 call, are never as clever as they aspire to be. The more the violence quotient ratchets up, the less interesting things get, although the film is admirably unafraid of killing off central characters earlier than you would expect. And the attempts to add sociopolitical resonance to the proceedings, mainly through Victor's frequent diatribes about illegal immigrants, feel shoehorned in.

Oblowitz (The Queen of Hollywood Blvd) displays estimable technical polish in his orchestration of the gruesome mayhem, and the film at least looks terrific, thanks to Noah Rosenthal's expert cinematography and the sleekly modernist setting in which most of the action takes place. The performances, too, are better than they need to be, with Balk entertainingly making the most of her brief screen time and Trimbur subtly touching as the emotionally fragile Sarah.

Production: IinMM Productions, The Hallivis Brothers
Distributor: IFC Midnight
Cast: Fairuza Balk, Angela Trimbur, Janel Parrish, Jonathan Howard, Zach Every, Carlo Rota, Joey Abril, Sebastian Sozzi, Chris Gann, Shaun Loeser
Director: Orson Oblowitz
Screenwriter: Corey Deshon
Producers: Julio Havvivis, Diego Hallivis
Executive producers: Sonny Mallhi, Anne Clements
Director of photography: Noah Rosenthal
Production designer: Mike Conte
Editor: Brett Solem
Composer: Jonathan Snipes
Costume designer: Stephanie Powers
Casting: Jessica Sherman

88 minutes