“Sisterhood has not been this menacingly funny since Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?“
By Elias Savada.
There’s a devilish wink running through this (mostly) housebound tale of two generations setting off against one another. In one corner is Linda (Precious Chong, daughter of Tommy, who also helped finance the film with Shelby Chong, his wife/her mom). She represents the 1980s, that bygone era of Jane Fonda workouts and pastel-colored salutes to “You Look Mah Va Lous” hunky men. Linda is lonely, wide/wild-eyed, yet a fiercely focused character who needs to find a friend to share her fixation on Girls Just Want To Have Fun, the bland 1985 low-budget salute to chicks, cliques, and dance-offs. She’s quite dedicated to her pop culture. On the other side of the ring stands introverted, early-30-something Michelle (Alex Essoe), agonizing about her marriage while trying to focus on her online interior design business. She’d prefer to have the older woman, trying to cheer Michelle up at her Grinder coffee shop “office,” leave her alone, but she’s afraid of a bad impression. Especially after Linda offers her a job, point blank, redecorating her drab apartment.
Big mistake. Some jobs should be refused. Coffin polisher (Sean Connery!), assistant to Harvey Weinstein, Chief of Staff for POTUS 45, and fixing up the lair of a psycho.
The film is very much a private two-hander gone awry. This close quartered, darkly comic horror entry is played as a cat-and-mouse tale that barely moves out of Linda’s well-fortified venue, and, whether intentional or not, it feels like a deranged, extended version of the rousing ’80s cat-fight between Joan Collins and Diahann Carroll on the long-running television soap opera Dynasty.
Chong wears a few hats in Homewrecker, which I think is her first starring feature role. So does Essoe, a veteran of numerous horror features (most recently picking up Shelley Duvall’s Wendy Torrance character in 2019’s Doctor Sleep based on Stephen King’s 2013 follow-up to The Shining). Both women were among the film’s seven producers, and they co-wrote with director Zach Gayne the film’s chess game script. Gayne, who last year directed his little seen (and reviewed) debut feature States (which starred Essoe) will have a much better reception ahead for his sophomore effort.
Gayne and Chong have been making short comic “Sex and the Single Parent” sketches on Funny or Die over the last half-dozen years. Essoe provided long-distance input to their script. It was filmed in the Toronto house where Precious actually lives – is that why she’s also listed as the film’s art director? Or maybe because she secured the sledgehammer from Home Depot for her character’s destructive inspiration.
Gayne does a good job putting the actors through their paces, adding little dashes of flair. I especially like his use of a messaging app between Michelle and her husband Robert (Kris Siddiqi). Hoping for some support from her partner when she learns she’s not pregnant, the camera focuses on the dialogue bubbles in his presumed supportive response. Ten seconds of desperate hope on Michelle’s face turn to miserable disappointment when Robert cancels his reply. It’s also the perfect spot for the inquisitive, over-effervescent Linda to invade Michelle’s vulnerable space.
Their early dialogue grows into an awkward rapport between the women, as they head toward Linda’s house. “Honestly, I’m probably just creating drama,” Michelle wonders aloud to her driver. With a quick turn of the steering wheel and a screech of the tires, Linda’s response, with a tad too much determination, “Oh man, I just love drama!”
Limbs of a fallen tree cover Linda’s small front yard, and the stairwell is cluttered with magazines, but it’s that mounted sledgehammer in her dining room that foreshadows the ominous and eponymous events that lie ahead. And the tear-down party starts about 20 minutes in and doesn’t let up until the end of this 76-minute Canadian production.
Behind Chong’s Travis Bickle eyes and off-kilter smile, there is an ulterior motive, one that bridges their generation gap and sends Homewrecker into unexpected territory. It leaves you wagging your tongue. An already grim tale turns into a true horror story. The actors are terrific with their killer interaction, some of which probably came off on-set improvisation. Sisterhood has not been this menacingly funny since Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
You might find the film in select drive-in theaters, but it’s also scheduled for digital/DVD release on July 7.
Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Movie Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the horror film German Angst and the new documentary Nuts! He co-authored, with David J. Skal, Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning (a revised edition will be published by Centipede Press).