Saturday, November 9, 2013

In short: Static (2012)

Warning: I'll have to spoil the film's sort of plot twist. Again.

Writer Jonathan Dade (Milo Ventimiglia) and his wife Addie (Sarah Shahi) are still reeling from the accidental death of their three year old son Thomas, and have basically locked themselves away on their huge estate in the country. While Addie is trying to keep the trauma at bay by fleeing into drink, Jonathan has opted for burying himself in his work and making mopey-Milo-Ventimiglia facial expressions.

One night, a young woman calling herself Rachel (Sara Paxton) appears on the couple's doorstep. She says she's fleeing from a group of masked men, and could really use some help. The Dades do of course take her in, but something's clearly off about Rachel. She knows a bit too much about the Dades and their dead son for comfort, and she's acting more than a little strange.

One thing soon becomes clear: Rachel's masked men are pretty real.

I'm not much of a fan of the home invasion sub genre. I suspect it's a bit of a class thing for me, what with most of these films being about oh so lovely bourgeois or just stinking rich people being attacked by those 'orrible poor, with only a few entries of the sub-genre using this set-up to then explore issues of class instead of taking the poor as cheap human monsters.

Consequently, I should be more than happy when a film like Todd Levin's Static attempts to use audience expectations towards how a home invasion movie works to construct its twist (even though the film's not interested in talking about class at all). I generally do love this sort of thing but in Static's case, the actual execution leaves me quite cold. That's probably because Gabriel Cowan's script goes for the old "they have been dead all along!" chestnut, a trope used in more horror movies than I'd care to count, and which I'd - if I were the king of scriptwriting (lucky for anyone else I'm not) - expressly forbid any filmmaker to use unless she or he will do something wildly original or moving with it.

Static, alas, is neither very original nor very moving, nor is it all that wild. Instead, it's merely competent, neither doing anything more than averagely clever with its big idea, nor going really deep in its exploration of the Dades' grief. In fact, using the death of a child as the catalyst here seems to me the cheapest way to get an automatic emotional connection between the characters and the audience without the film actually having to work for it. Again, it's not as if Static did anything horribly wrong here, it's that it doesn't do enough that's truly right or interesting.

On technical level, Levin's direction is perfectly fine, too, and the actors are doing their best - which is quite a lot in the cases of Shahi and Paxton, not terribly much in Ventimiglia's case.

Again, Static is a film suffering from being highly competent but lacking that final element - be it intellectual, be it emotional, be it the virtue of being plain crazy - to make it anything special.

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