Welcome back to Geek Hard’s coverage of the 2019 Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Now in its 14th year, the festival has always been a champion of horror and genre films. When talking about horror, thoughts of zombies and vampires and werewolves spring to mind. But not all horror movies involve the supernatural. Sometimes horror can take place in the most normal of settings, involving people you see during your day to day encounters. Such is the case with Homewrecker, showing Tuesday, October 22nd at 9:30PM.

Directed by Zach Gayne, Homewrecker is the story of two women. Michelle (played by Alex Essoe) is a newlywed in her early 30s who works in interior design. Linda (Precious Chong) is a free spirit in her late 40s who fills her days with painting and exercise classes. After a “chance” meeting at a coffee shop, Linda invites Michelle into her home to get an assessment of her place. As the two women discuss their lives, Linda begins to pry into Michelle’s marital situation. Her questions become more aggressive and lead to a wicked game of cat and mouse where Linda has no intention of letting Michelle leave.

There is an underlying tension throughout Homewrecker that moves from awkward to creepy to horrifying at an alarming speed. When we first meet Linda, there something not right about her. She’s polite and engaging but it feels very much like a mask for sinister intentions. When Michelle enters Linda’s home, her desperate and intense nature fully manifests. The viewer knows that Michelle needs to get out of the house. When Linda’s intensions are revealed, the audience is invested in Michelle’s survival in response to strong performances by Chong and Essoe.

The script, co-written by Precious, Alex and director Gayne, is a classic two-hander in a high stakes conflict. While the dialogue is nothing special, Chong and Essoe present the right level of menace and fear to make every scene uncomfortable. There’s also a subtle dissection of the sexist and unrealistic portrayal of love and dating in 80s teen entertainment. Linda’s understanding of relationships appears stuck in that decade. She obsesses over films like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and boardgames about finding “the perfect hunk”. Her inability to detach herself from this teenage romance fantasy greatly contributes to her current situation. Chong’s performance drives this home with a lack of subtly befitting of any popular 80s high school movie.

While Homewrecker is a very intense film, there are a few moments in the middle of the movie where the tension is derailed. Linda is a very menacing character….until any moment of physical violence plays out. There are several physical confrontations between Linda and Michelle that are very funny. The two flop around the floor or against a wall. They strain to get the better of one another. While there is comedy in various scenes of this film, it’s unclear if the humour in these sequences are intentional. The fights between these two women would be awkward based on the space their in and their lack of combat ability. But there’s a definite comic feel to these moments. By the time we reach the 3rd act and the intensity reaches its apex, the violence loses all traces of funny and moves to the more grotesque.

If you’re looking for a movie that ratchets up the tension and presents some intimate performances, check out Homewrecker, playing tomorrow night at 9:30PM at the Scotiabank Theatre. The movie screens with short film A Noise That Carries by Guillermo de la Rosa. Get your tickets HERE.

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