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Old 05-05-2010, 05:50 PM
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Scored: 6
Views: 8,015
Homecoming




Reviewer: Chunkblower
Review Date: May 4, 2010

Released by: Paramound
Release date: 4/20/2010
MSRP: $19.99
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Codec: MPEG-2
Progressive Scan
2009



inline ImageA 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 “blank meets blank;” most of the joy in genre films comes not from what they’re about, but how they’re 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? Let’s cozy up and see.

The Story

inline ImageDuring a break in his first semester at university Mike (Matt Long) returns home for homecoming weekend with his new girlfriend, Elizabeth (Jessica Stroup, 90210), 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, Mike’s 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.

inline ImageAfter 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 – an advance he quickly brushes off. He’s 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 Mike’s parents, decides to spend the night at motel so she can sober up. Things to don’t go according to plan when the hotel she’s dropped off at has no vacancies and she’s forced to walk to another motel miles away. If that wasn’t bad enough Shelby, who’s an emotional wreck from Mike’s rebuke, accidentally runs her off the road.

inline ImageElizabeth wakes up at Shelby’s farmhouse, patched up and in Shelby’s care. However, it soon becomes apparent that Shelby’s intentions are less than honorable. With Elizabeth out of the way, Shelby begins a campaign to recapture Mike’s affections. When Elizabeth’s repeated escape attempts threaten to undermine her efforts, Shelby shows she will stop at nothing, including seduction and murder, to get what she wants.

inline ImageHomecoming 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. That’s 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. There’s nothing terribly wrong with what’s in Homecoming: under the direction of Morgan J. Freeman (not Red from The Shawshank Redmeption. Sorry.) it’s got far more polish than I usually expect from a direct-to-video release and it’s very well acted. Its faults are mainly ones of exclusion.

inline ImageIt’s rarely a bad thing when a film doesn’t mess around and gets right down to business, but in this instance the film’s quick pace is one of its biggest liabilities. Too many character details and plot points are left for the viewer to infer. It’s 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, she’s 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 Shelby’s 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 I’ve watched the movie twice.

inline ImageIt’s almost as if the payoff beats were filmed and then the money ran out. Potentially suspenseful scenes are constantly cut short. There’s a scene (that’s, incidentally, almost a direct lift from Misery) where Elizabeth discovers just how deep Shelby’s 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 it’s the complete opposite: the payoffs have no impact because there’s no build up. I’ve 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.

inline ImageThe 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 Barton’s performance completely subverted my expectations. Although she’s playing the Annie Wilkes role, she doesn’t make Shelby a psychopath in waiting, but a broken woman with little in her life and little to look forward to. It’s not hard to see how she’d be carrying a torch for somebody, even a bland Ken doll like Mike. There’s a bit of inconsistency in the way the character progresses, she’s wielding an axe far too early and unconvincingly, but it’s a credit to Mischa Barton that she’s able to overcome the underdeveloped script and creates a genuine and compelling character. I’d never seen anything Ms. Barton had been in prior to this but she really impressed me. She’s so good she almost rescues the rest of the film.

inline ImageNext to Shelby the next best character is, shockingly, Mike’s cousin, cop Billy. He has very little screen time but every minute he’s on screen tells us something about him. Moreover, he acts consistently and his motivations are always clear. He also cuts through Mike’s bullshit and says a lot of things that the audience is probably already thinking. He’s really nearly a textbook example of efficient characterization. It’s too bad he didn’t 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.

inline ImageI 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. It’s too bad, since what’s here shows promise and the skilled cast performs it with aplomb. As far as direct to video features go, I’ve seen a lot worse (like Deadline, for instance).

Image Quality

inline ImageHomecoming has a higher degree of polish than you’d 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.

Sound

The audio is ostensibly a 5.1 Dolby Digital track but for all intents and purposes it’s a stereo track. The surrounds are relegated entirely to quiet, ambient effects and there’s absolutely zero in the way of LFE. It’s 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 it’s able to deliver. A couple of well-placed stinger effects in the surrounds would have helped immensely.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageConsidering 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 doesn’t 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.


Final Thoughts

inline ImageLike I said, there’s little wrong with what’s in Homecoming, it’s simply not enough to make it a totally satisfying experience. The DVD is as passable as the film itself. A meatier supplemental section could’ve tipped the scales in Homecoming’s favor. Mischa Barton delivers a performance that almost single handedly elevates the entire film. I can’t really bring myself to recommend Homecoming. On the flip side, though, I can’t really bring myself to dissuade someone who has an interest in seeing it from doing so. Let’s just say that should you find yourself watching Homecoming you probably won’t regret the time spent, even if you don’t remember much of it afterwards.

Rating

.
Movie - C

Image Quality - C

Sound - C-

Supplements - D





Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 28 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles

Supplements
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailers

Other Pictures

 

 

Extras
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Old 05-06-2010, 01:05 AM
Don't Monkey With Me!
Oh good! It isn't a review of the Joe Dante piece of shit!
 
 
Old 05-07-2010, 08:53 PM
Remaking My Soul
That's what I was expecting too.
 
 
Old 05-15-2010, 07:56 PM
HackMaster
hmm maybe I'll give this one a try then
 
 
Old 09-16-2010, 05:53 PM
Remaking My Soul
Of course... Joe Dante's film wasn't bad because it was political.
 
 

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