Review Date: May 4, 2010
Released by: Paramound
Release date: 4/20/2010
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
A familiar story can be just as interesting as a new one provided that those doing the telling have enough skill, talent or desire to tell the story well. I really have no problem with films that bill themselves as ďblank meets blank;Ē most of the joy in genre films comes not from what theyíre about, but how theyíre about it. From the get go, Homecoming
makes no bones about where it draws its influence. With its inspirations on its sleeve, some good performances and an icy milieu, is Homecoming
truly worthy of a warm reception? Letís cozy up and see.
During a break in his first semester at university Mike (Matt Long
) returns home for homecoming weekend with his new girlfriend, Elizabeth (Jessica Stroup
), eager to introduce her to his parents. His former high school is holding a ceremony to retire his old football jersey number (number 7, in case you were wondering). While he was away at school pursuing higher education and football glory, Mikeís ex-girlfriend Shelby (Mischa Barton
, The OC
, The Sixth Sense
) stayed behind to care for her ailing mother. With her mother dead, Shelby now divides her time between carrying a torch for Mike and running the local bowling alley.
After attending the big homecoming game Mike is goaded into joining his friends and his cousin Billy (Michael Landes
) at the bowling alley for drinks. Hesitant at first, Mike agrees to go; if nothing else it will be a good opportunity to get closure with Shelby. When Mike goes to talk to Shelby in her office she throws herself at him Ė an advance he quickly brushes off. Heís about to leave when Shelby switches tack, turning on the charm to lure Elizabeth over to the bar to get her drunk and plant seeds of doubt. The seeds come to fruition by the end of the night: Elizabeth, worried about making a bad impression on Mikeís parents, decides to spend the night at motel so she can sober up. Things to donít go according to plan when the hotel sheís dropped off at has no vacancies and sheís forced to walk to another motel miles away. If that wasnít bad enough Shelby, whoís an emotional wreck from Mikeís rebuke, accidentally runs her off the road.
Elizabeth wakes up at Shelbyís farmhouse, patched up and in Shelbyís care. However, it soon becomes apparent that Shelbyís intentions are less than honorable. With Elizabeth out of the way, Shelby begins a campaign to recapture Mikeís affections. When Elizabethís repeated escape attempts threaten to undermine her efforts, Shelby shows she will stop at nothing, including seduction and murder, to get what she wants.
most clearly draws upon Misery
as its source of inspiration, though it throws in a dash of predatory ex-girlfriend and the cold, winter milieu of an early David Cronenberg movie for good measure. Thatís as good a start as any and Homecoming
shows enough promise in its opening scenes that I was kind of rooting for it. Unfortunately, that promise is never fully realized and the end result, while not bad, is never truly satisfying, either. Thereís nothing terribly wrong with whatís in Homecoming
: under the direction of Morgan J. Freeman (not Red from The Shawshank Redmeption
. Sorry.) itís got far more polish than I usually expect from a direct-to-video release and itís very well acted. Its faults are mainly ones of exclusion.
Itís rarely a bad thing when a film doesnít mess around and gets right down to business, but in this instance the filmís quick pace is one of its biggest liabilities. Too many character details and plot points are left for the viewer to infer. Itís really unwise to have a character that can act as an entry point for the audience and as an exposition sponge, and not use him or her as such. Elizabeth could have been just such a character: while everybody else is familiar with the history between Mike and Shelby, sheís a newcomer and everything the audience needs to know can be explained to her. Instead, exposition is delivered as matter-of-factly dropped lines or not at all, leaving the viewer to puzzle very basic plot points when they should be engrossed in the suspense. How long has Mike been away at school? Did he and Shelby actually break up? What was the nature of their relationship before Shelbyís mom fell ill? How long have Mike and Elizabeth been dating and how serious is their relationship? I think I can answer most of these questions, but only because Iíve watched the movie twice.
Itís almost as if the payoff beats were filmed and then the money ran out. Potentially suspenseful scenes are constantly cut short. Thereís a scene (thatís, incidentally, almost a direct lift from Misery
) where Elizabeth discovers just how deep Shelbyís obsession with Mike runs. The set up is fine but the payoff comes before any tension is allowed to build. The same thing when Elizabeth sneaks out of her room to try and make a phone call. Suspense is a tricky thing, but filmmakers tend to err on the side of drawing out the build up too much and thus diluting the impact. Here itís the complete opposite: the payoffs have no impact because thereís no build up. Iíve never seen a film billed as a thriller so desperate to be over with itself. And, despite one genuinely cringe-inducing scene of tendon damage, Homecoming
soft-pedals the violence too, so neither fans of psychological suspense nor gore hounds will really be satisfied.
The plotting is lacking, but at least the film compensates with a couple of really well drawn characters. Shelby is far and away the best, most rounded and sympathetic character in the entire film. Mischa Bartonís performance completely subverted my expectations. Although sheís playing the Annie Wilkes role, she doesnít make Shelby a psychopath in waiting, but a broken woman with little in her life and little to look forward to. Itís not hard to see how sheíd be carrying a torch for somebody, even a bland Ken doll like Mike. Thereís a bit of inconsistency in the way the character progresses, sheís wielding an axe far too early and unconvincingly, but itís a credit to Mischa Barton that sheís able to overcome the underdeveloped script and creates a genuine and compelling character. Iíd never seen anything Ms. Barton had been in prior to this but she really impressed me. Sheís so good she almost rescues the rest of the film.
Next to Shelby the next best character is, shockingly, Mikeís cousin, cop Billy. He has very little screen time but every minute heís on screen tells us something about him. Moreover, he acts consistently and his motivations are always clear. He also cuts through Mikeís bullshit and says a lot of things that the audience is probably already thinking. Heís really nearly a textbook example of efficient characterization. Itís too bad he didnít have a bigger part or, better yet, all the characters were this well drawn. Then Homecoming
really would be something special even in spite of all its other flaws.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Homecoming
was originally planned as a theatrical release and that the original script for Homecoming
included a lot of things that are missing from the final version but either time, money, or both ran out and the filmmakers pieced together what they had. Itís too bad, since whatís here shows promise and the skilled cast performs it with aplomb. As far as direct to video features go, Iíve seen a lot worse (like Deadline
, for instance).
has a higher degree of polish than youíd expect, but the 1.85 anamorphic transfer is a mixed bag. Flesh tones are good, and fine object detail is good in brightly lit scenes though almost totally lost in shadows, which are also plagued with noise. I noticed a couple of scenes where the color timing varied drastically from shot to shot. With its crisp day scenes and murky night ones it looks like it was shot on HD video, although according to the IMDB it was filmed on 35mm. Odd.
The audio is ostensibly a 5.1 Dolby Digital track but for all intents and purposes itís a stereo track. The surrounds are relegated entirely to quiet, ambient effects and thereís absolutely zero in the way of LFE. Itís a good stereo track: dialogue is always intelligible and music and sound effects are well balanced but, like the movie proper, it bills itself as more than itís able to deliver. A couple of well-placed stinger effects in the surrounds would have helped immensely.
Considering that I kind of liked Homecoming
despite much of it feeling so unfinished, I was really looking forward to watching the collection of deleted scenes included here. Sadly, the slim selection of excised scenes doesnít add anything or clear up any hazy plot points. Some trailers for other Paramount releases are included but beyond that there are no other special features.
Like I said, thereís little wrong with whatís in Homecoming
, itís simply not enough to make it a totally satisfying experience. The DVD is as passable as the film itself. A meatier supplemental section couldíve tipped the scales in Homecoming
ís favor. Mischa Barton delivers a performance that almost single handedly elevates the entire film. I canít really bring myself to recommend Homecoming
. On the flip side, though, I canít really bring myself to dissuade someone who has an interest in seeing it from doing so. Letís just say that should you find yourself watching Homecoming
you probably wonít regret the time spent, even if you donít remember much of it afterwards.
Movie - C
Image Quality - C
Sound - C-
Supplements - D
- Running time - 1 hour 28 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- Spanish subtitles