On Christmas Eve, Jodie (Cocker) is dropped off to spend the holidays with her estranged mother Beth (McIntosh) in Liverpool. And their first meeting doesn't go well, as Beth is with a man, Kieran (Dooley), she only met the night before.
Jodie leaves to stay with a friend (Baglow), and before anyone knows what's happened, the neighbourhood is cordoned off by heavily armed commandos. Details are scarce, but a vicious killer is on the loose. As carnage spreads, Beth and Kieran are going to have to work together.
Beautifully shot in an insinuating, seductive, fiendishly witty style, director Gough gets us on edge from the start by letting us know that no one is safe. It helps that the performances are so natural, because the off-handed style makes even the most outrageous slasher-movie nuttiness feel eerily realistic. After establishing the murderous premise in the prologue, the film cleverly and effectively sets up the domestic situation before plunging everyone (including us) into frantic and seriously grisly horror.
McIntosh and Dooley are terrific as two people who hardly know each other and are trapped in a house together, each with their own preoccupations. Their interaction is fascinating, as they react in different ways to the perceived threat. There's a real sense that these people are truly shocked by the violence around them, rather than the way most movie characters react with vengeance, resilience or a sudden knowledge of military commando moves. These people are recognisably frightened and desperate, inventing unlikely explanations and only barely clinging to their sanity.
It's rare to see a film that continually refuses to let the characters fall back on stereotypes and cliches, so even though this one indulges in sometimes over-the-top grisliness, it feels fresh and unsettling, and it's utterly riveting. Not to mention genuinely scary. And some surprisingly bitter and nasty moments along the way are made even more potent by the carefully drawn interpersonal relationships.
Run time: 80 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 19th January 2006
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 5.5 / 10
Director: Lawrence Gough
Producer: Julie Lau
Screenwriter: Colin O'Donnell
Starring: Laureen Currie Lewis as Claire Parker, Cody Darbe as Jimmy, Chris Ferry as Duke Desmond, Maureen Olander as la mère de Claire, Jessica Delong as Jen, Sam Dahler as Sam, John Briley as le gardien, Jeff Crook as l'adjoint