2019, NR, 87 min. Directed by Orson Oblowitz. Starring Angela Trimbur, Janel Parrish, Jonathan Howard, Zach Avery, Fairuza Balk.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., July 12, 2019
"Let's get away for a weekend. That'll fix everything!" is the kind of thinking that inevitably results in cinematic carnage. That's ultimately true for Trespassers, a brutally sleazy home invasion thriller where nobody really belongs in the house. Sarah (Trimbur) and Joseph (Avery) are looking for a quiet weekend away after a trauma that becomes quietly apparent. Those plans have a hole poked in them when Sarah invites her friend Estelle (Janel) and her irksome boyfriend Victor (Howard) to join them for a weekend at a sumptuous rented house somewhere near the Mexican border. The plan really falls apart when a mysterious woman claiming to be the neighbor (Balk) drops by, asking to use the phone.
It's a long ride before the real invasion – with its inevitable bloodshed – kicks down the door, and so the opening is really about the shifting power dynamics between the couples. Most especially, Victor should have a t-shirt that says "I heart toxic masculinity." Coked up, vicious, and a scumbag from moment one, he's the most clearly obnoxious of this entitled crew – although they're all on a sliding scale of awful, between scumbag Victor just on the vile side of the moral fulcrum, and Sarah, who is mostly defined by her own tragedy.
Director Orson Oblowitz proved that he can handle slow-burn sleaze with The Queen of Hollywood Blvd, although that benefited greatly from a captivating central performance from Rosemary Hochschild. Fortunately Trespassers has Balk, who adds just the right dose of slow-acting venom into proceedings. If anything, the film could do with a lot more of her ambiguity: is she really a nice divorced lady from next door, or is she in cahoots with the stereotypical masked cartel heavies seen butchering another couple in the opening moments?
Any nuance goes out the window once the actual home invasion begins, but that's when cinematographer Noah Rosenthal really takes the reins. His use of split diopters and is a clear nod to de Palma but more overtly channeling Manhunter-era Michael Mann, his brutal color-coding matches the gory action as the attack by abstract bad guys crosses with the survival instincts of the quartet and the intervention/interference of the local cops. "Can my violence conquer yours?" one murderous malcontent ponders, and that's when Trespassers works best: simple, sadistic, and definitely not for the squeamish.