Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Not So Normal Living Rooms - Streaming Contained Thriller Horror

I like blockbusters as much as the next aging geek. I went to see Jason Bourne on Sunday because I knew it was going to be fun and frenetic. Other than one car chase that goes on from the third act until the next feature time, I was right.

I'm always intrigued also by films that sometimes get dubbed chamber pieces in keeping with theater tradition and terminology for small cast and limited setting.

Those chamber piece films are those that that go the other direction from the blockbuster. Instead of globe hopping, like a lot of TV viewers, they stay in the living room.

Alfred Hitchcock's Rope with it's real time storyline and Leopold and Loeb-inspired psychopaths is a stunning example. I think Hitchcock liked the challenge of developing thrills in tight settings because what are Psycho or Dial M for Murder as well?

I've enjoyed several variations on the streaming services of late, all eerie and effective, never making us feel just like we're stuck on one set but making that one set or location essential. These are some very weird living rooms if you will.

Coherence was conceived apparently in part by James Ward Byrkit as a respite from blockbusters, and it gives us a dinner party on the night of a comet that soon slides into a night of weirdness as it becomes apparent timelines in the many worlds theory are criss-crossing, and mistakes and missed opportunities drive some characters to desperation. 

Time Lapse from Bradley King plays different games with time to good effect. What might be a grim crime drama without its science fiction conceit becomes a cool and compelling nail-biter when three friends (The Flash's Danielle Panabaker, Matt O'Leary and George Finn), one with a gambling addiction, discover a dead scientist who's left behind a camera in his apartment that snaps Polaroids one day in the future. It's aimed at their living room. What can it hurt to post race results in the window?

If movies have taught us anything, it's that men who dabble in the realm of God reap a big and complicated mess.

That's what the heroes of Time Lapse soon discover. Is the camera creating self-fulfilling prophecies, or are other forces at work? Between dangerous bookies, double crosses and the challenge of keeping secrets and sticking to time's rule's, their world's soon awry, and the tale offers many twists and surprises before its revealing conclusion.

The Invitation has been getting just a bit of buzz upon its Netflix debut, and I think it's deserved.

It's the story of Will (Logan Marshall-Green of Prometheus) the grief-stricken father of a child killed by a playmate. He and new love Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are on the way to a reunion with his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband (Khaleesi boy toy Michael Huisman.) The latter couple met in grief counseling and fled to Mexico for an Est-like (or not) experience that's replaced grief with joy.

Now they want to make amends to Will, so he and a host of old friends have received the invitation to join in, and the evening gets creepier and creepier in a slow burn buildup that engages and refuses to relent. Can any party with John Carroll Lynch as an unexpected guest go any other way, whether or not he's decked out as Twisty the Clown?

These films won't allow just vegging on the sofa, but they will make your living room viewing a bit breathless for a few hours. Check them out via Amazon or Netflix.

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