Movie Review: Trespassers (2018)

Now Available 

Bookmark and Share

AKA: Hell Is Where the Home Is

In this ambitious work of home invasion horror based upon Jean-Paul Sartre's existential play No Exit, the action is set not in a single room in hell but a deserted rental property in SoCal where "you can check out any time you'd like but you can never leave"* … especially not when there are masked men with machetes waiting outside.

Still reeling from a personal tragedy that's taken a toll on their marriage, Sarah (Angela Trimbur) and her husband Joseph (Zach Avery) arrive at the modern home they've rented, ready to meet up with her wild high school best friend Estelle (Janel Parrish) and Estelle's boyfriend Victor (Jonathan Howard).

The type of guy that goes on vacation with his girlfriend and within the first five minutes, asks a guy he's never met if he wants to go check out some strip clubs, Victor might not have much of a filter but we learn on night two that what he does have is street sense.

Telling the others not to open the door when a stranger comes knocking after dark, after the bespectacled woman with car trouble (played by Fairuza Balk) says she needs to come in and use the phone, his antennae immediately goes up. Announcing that he wishes they could go back in time "five minutes and leave the f***ing door closed," Victor's concerns get ignored, perhaps less because of any point he's trying to make than no one else wanting to admit that a guy like Victor might be right.

And right, we gather, is precisely what he is when Balk wanders in, eavesdrops, offers weird unsolicited advice like, "sometimes you can't stop what's coming," and seems to be in no hurry to leave, especially not after she tells whoever she calls on the phone that she's waiting, "here with her four lovely new friends."

Remembering the eerie opener, in which a group of masked men with machetes abduct the homeowners and dispatch them outdoors, we know whatever is coming for the four won't be good.

Emotions running on high — fueled by the stress of the situation and Victor's drugs — long before the inevitable weapon-wielding tormentors show up, they begin to torment one another as long-held secrets and pent-up anger come tumbling out.

An unorthodox work of horror, with so much interpersonal drama going on, the success of Trespassers depends upon how invested we are in the characters overall. Though elevated by its affable cast — most notably the excellent Parrish and Howard who brings the film considerably to life — with so little backstory revealed or time spent developing their characters as people, we don't really know who they are (or care much at all). Not involved enough to give any serious thought to who breaks or makes up throughout, as we watch the leads fight, we feel like we're eavesdropping Fairuza Balk style.

Nonetheless ratcheting up the intensity enough to deliver a slam-bang final act, one of the things I admired most about Corey Deshon's script is that a moral quandary following a frenzied confrontation is what ultimately kicks it into high gear. Raising a (suitably) existential question of what you can live with and how you define right and wrong, while it doesn't marinate over the moment long because — in a horror movie especially — every action causes an equal or opposite reaction and violence begets violence, it's still a refreshing way to disrupt a formula we know by heart. Slightly above average in that respect, unfortunately one clever twist doesn't make up for its ho-hum first half.

With genre working to its advantage, director Orson Oblowitz's Trespassers is the type of film that should play better streaming than on the big screen because, as a home invasion scarer, it makes you look over your shoulder enough that you'll be eager to recommend it to others and/or share it with a friend. And once Trespassers really commits to Sartre's idea that "hell is other people" based on our tendency to think after and not before we do something, everything from the film's cast to its pacing becomes compellingly frantic and machete level sharp.

* "Hotel California," by The Eagles

Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.