Paramount // 2009 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // April 30th, 2010
If she can't have him, no one will.
When a film essentially boils down to interplay between three specific characters, then you'd better make sure you have damn good actors. Unfortunately for Homecoming, it doesn't. A routine plotline is made boring in the extreme thanks to a trio of unconvincing performances from Mischa Barton, Jessica Stroup, and Matt Long. Granted for an R rated horror flick the film is light on blood or bite, but ultimately the production's biggest misgiving is the low quality of acting it provides. Despite a miniscule 88 minute runtime, the film feels like an arduous and ponderous watch, the pacing is glacial, and the characters wholly underdeveloped.
Elizabeth (Jessica Stroup, 90210) is visiting the hometown of her boyfriend Mike (Matt Long, Ghost Rider) for the first time. On arrival, Elizabeth gets drunk with Mike's seemingly charming ex-girlfriend Shelby (Mischa Barton, Closing the Ring), and in a bid not to disgust Mike's parents with her inebriated state, she decides to check into a motel for the night. Upon finding the Motel is full and with no phone signal available, Elizabeth heads out onto the road, only to be mowed down in the foggy haze. The culprit turns out to be Shelby, who decides to take Elizabeth hostage whilst she's injured. As Elizabeth is trapped, Shelby attempts to make good again with Mike, for whom she is harboring a dangerous obsession. Tricking Mike into thinking Elizabeth has skipped town, Shelby begins to make her move, all the while keeping the distressed and wounded Elizabeth locked up.
Homecoming is obviously reminiscent of Misery (substitute obsessed fan for obsessive ex-lover), but Mischa Barton is no Kathy Bates. Barton is a very physically attractive girl, but her performance in Homecoming is woeful. Barton adopts a crazed stance from the start, abandoning any subtle build-up of her psychopathic intentions. It's a lazy and amateurish performance, and one that shows little understanding of screen terror. Barton is meant to be the big bad wolf in Homecoming, but she's about as fearsome as a pair of rabbits. Thanks to Barton's superficial reading of the character and her own monotonous performance, Homecoming is never able to sustain threat or fright, immediately rendering the picture's horror aspirations void. Stroup is saddled with the worst screen persona but probably delivers the film's least wince inducing performance, not that's its good by any stretch. The 90210 star simply goes through the motions without offending or impressing; it's a two-dimensional turn for a two-dimensional film. Matt Long is ridiculously stiff and emotionless; the actor generates no suspense or sympathy via his wooden acting. Certain scenes with Barton and Long are clearly meant to generate a mood of forbidden lust, yet due to the dismally cold thesping, it never materializes.
Director Morgan J. Freeman (no, not that one) shoots the film competently but fails to construct any real tension. Freeman never makes his villain seem like a genuine horror, and appears to loose his nerve in several initially promising scenes. One sequence with an axe about halfway through looks like a starting block for some bloody mayhem, but for some reason Freeman pulls out and just delivers another dull and badly acted sequence. Along with an axe the movie also features needles, guns, blades, and amateur ankle surgery, yet somehow it never feels gory or graphic. Homecoming is a largely bloodless movie and had it toned down the expletives, the picture could probably have scored a PG-13. It's a thoroughly unexciting film, failing both as a horror gambit and a sexed-up thriller. The screenplay by Katie L. Fetting (Method) is stacked with clichés and grinds from start to finish with painstaking predictability, not to mention a lack of friction or scares. The dialogue is pretty bad in spots too.
The lack of believable relationships or sympathetic characters means that viewers won't care who lives or dies, albeit Fetting's screenplay draws to the stalest of conclusions anyway. Technically the film looks fine, but it's badly paced and lingers far too long in certain scenes. An ex-boyfriend of Elizabeth's gets introduced at the start and then is barely mentioned again; aspects like this should have been cut in editing to liven up the pace. Homecoming is more or less a total shambles, and a film that even horror/thriller devotees should skip.
The DVD only offers a few poorly presented deleted scenes as extras, not that this particular movie deserves much else. The video presentation courtesy of Paramount is actually very strong, helping to emphasize the small bursts of style that Freeman sees fit to inject his movie with. The audio isn't quite as good, but the Dolby 5.1 mix is perfectly ample.
Break its ankles and leave it to rot.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes