Mediocre: Home Invasion

Home Invasion (2012)

Directed by Doug Campbell
Written by Michal Shipman, Ken Sanders, Christine Conradt, Doug Campbell
Produced by David Japka, Robert Ballo, Ken Sanders, Douglas Howell, Tosca Musk, Christine Conradt, Timothy O. Johnson
Starring Lisa Sheridan, Haylie Duff, Jason Brooks, C. Thomas Howell, Kyla Dang, Al Sapienza, Barbara Niven, Taymour Ghazi, Jason Stuart


In the commission of a botched burglary, a career criminal (Ghazi) is greased by the restaurateur (Sheridan) whose home he’s invaded. His partner (Howell) is afterward walloped and left for dead in the wild by the deceased’s girlfriend (Duff), who then locates her burglarious beau’s killer, joins her support group, and exacts revenge by assault, arson, contamination of pine nut salad dressing, and swimming lessons for her target’s lubberly foster daughter (Dang).


Shipman’s and Sanders’s story is formulaically fabricated to sequentially press every relevant button in the psyches of the alcoholic housewives, careerists, and cashiers of dollar stores addicted to Lifetime’s crime dramas. It’s a notch above most of its type simply because it’s less silly, notwithstanding the spoken surplusage of Conradt’s and Campbell’s screenplay. Naturally, this is all but a fantasy: intraracial crime committed by white Americans rarely involves breaking and entering.


Probably the most successful director in the stable of Johnson/Shadowland, Campbell heads this as procedurally as he has his hits in series such as …at 17 and Stalked By My Doctor. Expect nothing approaching experimentation or innovation from his workmanlike manner, and he’ll never disappoint you.


More often the victim than villainess in televised and direct-to-video productions, pouty Duff can twist her smile sweet to sinful at the drop of a hat, but she’s too cute to convince as a verisimilitudinous vehicle of vengeance. Good old C. Thomas chews his scenery as spicily as ever in his limited time onscreen, which is a treat for some nostalgists, who might notice that he’s at least 10 years too old for his role. He’s almost as entertaining when Stuart’s fruity chef peckishly reproves his crew. Everyone else is as unremarkably able as their director. Sheridan bears a striking similitude to Margot Kidder in her youth, but she hasn’t her personality, or personality disorders.


This reviewer is all but sure that most or all of Michael Burns’s and Steve Gurevitch’s percussion, pianism and syntheszised synthpads are algorithmically generated.


Spoiler: C. Thomas’s hapless lout resorts to squatting, survivalism, and subsistence on dog food through the first and second acts, yet he’s smoked straightaway early in the third by Duff’s schemer. A quick, requisite catfight between Sheridan and Duff precedes a sanguinary ending.


Fulsome flashbacks and moronically explanatory dialogue are provided for viewers whose attention spans are so deficient, they could almost be diagnosed with anterograde amnesia. After trekking through miles of wilderness, C. Thomas’s pristinely white sneakers are clearly brand-new.


Neither will these trespasses view themselves, nor those boxes of plonk drink themselves. Enjoy, ladies.

Mediocre: Late Phases

Late Phases (A.K.A. Night of the Wolf) (2014)
Directed by Adrián García Bogliano
Written by Eric Stolze
Produced by Larry Fessenden, Brent Kunkle, Greg Newman, Zak Zeman, Joel Alonso, Luis Flores, Lex Ortega, Andrea Quiroz, Hamza Ali
Starring Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Tom Noonan, Erin Cummings, Rutanya Alda, Tina Louise, Caitlin O’Heaney, Larry Fessenden, Dana Ashbrook, Karen Lynn Gorney, Al Sapienza, Bernardo Cubria, Charles Techman, Haythem Noor, Frances Sherman, Karron Graves, Raina, Kareem Savinon, Pun Bandhu, Ralph Cashen
Should you in the autumn of your years confront lycanthropy, take as many of the beasts with you as you may. That’s the intent of a blind Vietnam vet (Damici) whose first night at a cloistered retirement community leaves his service dog (Raina) and neighbor (Gorney) messily murdered under a full moon. He has a month before the next to reconnoiter his settlement, investigate its inhabitants, and arm himself to the teeth and death. At least as much a drama as a horror, this curiosity is enriched by Bogliano’s thoughtful direction, Aaron Crozier’s meticulous editing and its fantastic, familiar, graying players. From gait to diction, Damici’s studied turn as the tough, sightless, cantankerous soldier makes his truly challenging role seem facile when tossing off Stolze’s wittily brusque rejoinders as naturally as he avouches rigors and regrets to a local priest created reticently by Noonan, who understates (as usual) a boundless sympathy for his flock, though he’s no less striking or suspect than Guest, his most faithful congregant. Embry now resembles an ugly Henry Ford, but his concerned and uncomprehending filial army brat is well-rendered as a solid foil for Damici. Unfortunately, two of the movie’s most compulsive thespians are merely peripheral: warmly wolfish co-producer Fessenden haggles with Damici over the cost of a tombstone as though it’s a used car, and seedy Ashbrook fills his order for silver ammunition with his enduringly boyish bubbliness. During intervening lunar phases, Stolze dispenses exposition with sensible and conversational reserve, painting his protagonist with a humane detail that transcends cliché. Any viewer patient to wait for the showdown between geriatric werewolves and grizzled warrior will be rewarded with its smartly plotted and gorily impressive action. Transformational effects here can’t compare to those of the classics from ’81 that inspired them (The Howling and An American Werewolf in London), but they’re gruesomely realized with an adequate balance of makeup, prosthetics and CG. Damici’s facial makeup ages him realistically, yet few old men have such glabrous and blemishless upper extremities. Softer passages of Wojciech Golczewski’s score contribute to a minatory miasma cleft by sharp strings that are outsize and unharmonious for such a modest production. Hardly a classic, this umptieth filmic treatment of the loup-garou is nevertheless a poignant portrait of familial and mortal affairs put in order.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Bubba Ho-Tep.