❉ An intimate, wild cinematic ride that revels in its volatility, writes Nick Clement.
Homewrecker is a down and dirty and very nasty indie that takes its two-hander narrative approach and goes for the jugular all throughout the lean and mean 72 minute running time. It’s exactly the type of super-low-budget offering that’s good enough to suggest that the filmmakers, in this case director Zach Gayne, who co-wrote the slim but effective script with co-stars Alex Essoe (Doctor Sleep) and Precious Chong (LA Confidential), will go on to bigger and better things. But in terms of a sharp feature debut, this is definitely one of those items that will get its creators some notice. People might argue that more meat on this project’s bones might’ve benefitted the emotional resonance component, but I’m not sure that’s what Gayne and his collaborators were going after. Rather, they had an incredibly streamlined idea, a film that explores female relationships with a darkly satirical touch, and a moment of graphic violence lying in-wait.
The set-up is very simple: An unhinged woman (Chong) becomes obsessed with a new friend (Essoe) after a series of seemingly random encounters. And very much in the vein of David Slade’s Hard Candy (but nowhere near as visually polished or refined or ultimately perverse), a battle of wits (and finally to the death) will eventually occur, with the winner not easy to predict. Anything feels like it could happen at any moment in the controlled yet spastic screenplay, with shocking moments deftly mixing in with the quieter sequences, and because Chong and Essoe invest 110% of their being into their roles, there’s a level of strenuous dedication that can be felt in every single scene. It takes passion and excitement and a boundless sense of energy to get ANY film made these days, and something like this requires a bit more in order to get it made. It’s an intimate, wild little cinematic ride that revels in its volatility.
Delaney Siren’s precise cinematography makes clear sense of interior visual space within each scene, which helps to create various feelings of unease and dread and playful mystery. Doug Martsch’s appropriately jangly musical score adds great levels of tension, and when called for, moments of bouncy levity. And the exacting editing, which was handled by Gayne and Gary Chan, is sharp as a tack.
This film is all about its unique and oscillating tone, and what’s clear is that Gayne and his team knew exactly what they were trying to pull off. When you go “small” you’re able to govern the elements in a more rigorous way, so despite the obviously limited financial resources that the filmmakers had at their disposal, they were able to likely craft the absolute perfect version of their deranged vision. The final scene will definitely raise the pulse, and features some awesomely bloody dummy-death antics. Homewrecker is destined to find a supportive cult audience.
❉ ‘Homewrecker’ was released on digital platforms 24 May 2021 by 101 Films. Starring Alex Essoe, Precious Chong. Directed by Zach Gayne.
❉ Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.
An earlier version of this review was published 17 July 2020 for its North American DVD/Digital/On Demand release via Dark Star Pictures and Uncork’d Entertainment.