Just another working day in Los Angeles. Lexi (Mary McCormack) heads off for the commute, while hubby Brad (Rory Cochrane) stays home. His morning ablutions are interrupted by the news that a series of dirty bombs have just gone off in the city. Stymied in his attempts to reach his wife, Brad retreats home, where he acts on the instructions to seal up the house, as the bombs have released a deadly toxin. When Lexi does return, Brad cannot let her in, as she is contaminated. How’s that for a strain on a relationship?
The first act of Right at Your Door is a propulsive exercise in panic. There is a genuinely alarming realism to the depiction of LA under terrorist attack, accomplished through a judicious and restrained use of FX and convincingly freaked-out radio news reports. This section of the film will not only conjure unpleasant memories of 9/11, but will generate a deeply distrubing you-are-there sensation for viewers. Once Lexi returns, the film becomes less about the attack then about the individual responses to it, and the action shifts to the emotional domain. After the frenzy of the first half hour, the second act inevitably feels a bit slower, and one has the impression of the plot marking time until the conclusion can begin. Said conclusion is dark and twisty, and very much in keeping with the bleak zeitgeist the film is tapping into.
The audio plunges the audience into the midst of the chaos with much the same insistent, disturbing effect as the film itself. Environmental effects are very nicely done, and the placement of the sound effects is excellent. You’ll be scanning your own skies for passing helicopters. Dialogue is crisp and without distortion. The score is driving and inescapable.
The film has a gritty, naturalistic look that, again, makes the goings-on all the more convincing. The transfer captures that look very well. The blacks are very deep – so much so, though, that I did find myself having to boost the contrast a bit. The image is sharp. All in all, while the look of the picture isn’t quite that of a documentary, is has that same kind of awful authenticity.
Director Chris Gorak makes his feature debut with this film, and his commentary touches quite a bit on the trials and tribulations of mounting an independent feature. “Forearm Shiver” is an interview with Gorak, and is the equivalent of the usual making-of featurette, but is a bit more thoughtful than most. “Film School: Tips on Making an Independent Film with Chris Gorak” is a bit more autobiography than it is actual tips, but is still interesting. Unfilmed alternative endings are provided in script form.
Not quite a home run, but a smart, tense, disturbing thriller all the same, and very much a product of its equally disturbing times.