GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Zach Gayne.
Starring Alex Essoe, Precious Chong, Tony Matthews.
Comedy-thriller, US, 76 minutes, certificate 18.
Released On Digital by 101 Films 24th May.
The perils of being polite are at the heart of HOMEWRECKER, a lean, low-budget indie that tells the story of when young Michelle is helped out of a tricky feminine hygiene situation at her dance class by the middle-aged Linda. Almost immediately Linda latches onto Michelle, leaving the younger woman to feel uncomfortable at the attention she is getting from this wide eyed, permanently smiling woman who won’t take no for an answer, especially when she learns of Michelle’s interior design job. Insisting on employing her to redesign her own home Linda drags Michelle back, against her better judgment. Once here Michelle realises too late that it might not be so easy to leave.
Set entirely in Linda’s house from this point on, HOMEWRECKER doubles down in making Linda, and the viewer, squirm uncomfortably as she tries, politely, to make her exit. As the film progresses however, we see just how unhinged Linda is. The script co-written by director Gayne with his two main stars Chong and Essoe, familiar to horror fans from her turn in STARRY EYES and her convincing take on Shelley Duvall’s role in DOCTOR SLEEP, does a nice job as a character study with both women.
Precious Chong especially excels here. Her unhinged portrayal of a woman stuck in the past is simultaneously amusing and tragic. Compliment after compliment spills from her mouth only for a staggeringly offensive putdown to follow in the same breath that it causes Linda to question if she really heard what she thinks she heard. Obviously lonely, as well as suffering from some other issues it is a meaty role that Chong seizes with both hands. Although she indulges in her fair share or moments that make the audience cringe, notably a fourth wall breaking musical number where she sings Lisa Loeb’s Stay, she manages to create and portray a fascinatingly narcissistic, delusional character that grabs the attention. Making her trade mainly in playing minor characters in single scenes in several films over the years Chong really proves her worth as both writer and actor here proving her comedy instincts are every bit the equal of her celebrated father Tommy Chong. As the straight woman in this duo Essoe has less to play with but still manages to create a convincing character that has her own convincing inner life.
Where the film struggles is in testing the audiences belief and patience in the situation. Any normal person would run a mile from Linda, and even when Michelle decides to do so the film’s staging of it lacks any real credibility. However, despite its slim running time of 76 minutes, it slightly drags around the halfway point when it becomes a tad repetitive. Director Zach Gayne nevertheless manages to hold the viewers’ attention with his smart handling of the situation, making inventive use of split screen and even managing what seems to be a visual nod to Godfather of Gore H.G. Lewis towards the surprisingly grisly and dark closing act of the film.
It is a film that manages to hide its low budget with its smart script and well written characters. Shot over a period of a few days it makes for a smart calling card from this creative team who could deliver something even more successful with more resources at their disposal.