Jealousy, rage, infatuation. These are the sort of heightened emotional states that have made for incredible viewing on the silver screen for many years now. Whether it was Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction or Robert De Niro in Cape Fear, unbalanced characters often make for the most intriguing and engrossing movie-watching experience. It is very much in that vein that Homewrecker sets itself up, with a minimal cast and a central focus on an burgeoning, but unsettling friendship between the two main characters that unfolds in disquieting fashion.
Homewrecker is for the most part a two-woman show, as Michelle meets Linda in a cafe after their yoga class where Michelle is working. Despite her reservations Linda talks Michelle into coming to her house to potentially look at redesigning her home. As they travel to Linda's home she begins exhibiting some erratic behavior, and although once they are at Linda’s house Michelle tries to leave, Linda begins aggressively trying to convince her to stay before things turn nasty and Linda ends up holding Michelle captive. However, as the two women begin to discuss their lives it becomes clear that they have more in common than it first appeared before things take a turn for the worse.
The only way a film like Homewrecker really works is if the central characters are engaging and offer a strong contrast. There is no hiding place for the two leads in this sparsely populated drama, with everything largely happening in one location. Alex Essoe does really well as Michelle as she tries to empathise with the increasingly deranged Linda. Essoe embodies the typical Canadian sense of politeness, continuing to humour Linda even when others would likely have made their excuses and left. However, she also shows great fire and a fragile balance of aggression and vulnerability when needed. That said, Precious Chong is very much the star of the show as Linda. Chong does brilliantly throughout, bringing a blend of fragility and instability, while still remaining weirdly relatable and sympathetic at points. It’s a masterful juggling act of a jumble of emotions and Chong shines brightly. The fact that Chong and Essoe wrote the film together is telling as it is clearly demonstrated in how well the two characters are drawn and the chemistry between the two leads.
Homewrecker is not a perfect film. Some of the “fight” scenes look a little shaky and the plot is a tad repetitive in the middle, although arguably you can forgive that given the limitations of the setting and the confined nature of the narrative. The big “twist” is a tiny bit contrived and I’m not sure it is adequately explained. In addition, the tense, and at points surreal atmosphere is mostly very subtle, which means the one big piece of body horror in the final third seems somewhat out of place.
As psychological thrillers go, Homewrecker is gripping, darkly comedic and well constructed. The two leads do a marvellous job of providing a fantastic contrast between their personalities and as events unfold there is a genuine sense of discomfort. Also, if someone doesn’t make the board game they play a real-life product they are missing a trick. A strong, independent horror film that feels eerily plausible at points.