Film Review: “Trespassers” Delivers with Terrific Tension

Film poster: “Trespassers”

Trespassers (Orson Oblowitz, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.

Trespassers begins with a literal bang, opening with a brutally quick double execution of a couple at the hands of a masked man, showing viewers what they’re in for, right off the bat. The home-invasion thriller, directed by Orson Oblowitz (The Queen of Hollywood Blvd),takes place in a luxury-home rental in the middle of the desert, where two couples come to escape the real world and forget about their problems for a weekend. Angela Trimbur (The Final Girls) stars as mellow, yet scarred, Sarah, who arrives at the Airbnb with her boyfriend Joseph (Zach Avery). They are soon joined by Sarah’s energetic friend Estelle (Pretty Little Liars’ Janel Parrish) and her cocaine-addict, alpha-male-type boyfriend Victor (Jonathan Howard of Thor: The Dark World). The home-invasion genre has been taking a back seat as of late to the supernatural and creature features of today’s horror films, but it is still a genre with a few notable entries each year. Trespassers is a refreshing addition to this genre that, while still using a few of the tropes that most home-invasion films use, adds some different, intriguing elements.

The film gives us a good amount of time to spend with our main characters before the intruders arrive, and while in some films this could be a negative, for this film it is overwhelmingly a positive. Each character has a unique aspect about themselves that goes deeper than their surface personalities, and each deep secret, trait, and past trauma comes back into play throughout the film. These characters are also smarter than your typical horror-film types, thoroughly thinking out their decisions before making them, even if they do make a few wrong decisions. Each character has something that puts them at odds with another character, and soon the characters are all at odds with each other. The banter between the characters and their interactions is enough to maintain interest and intrigue even before anything remotely strange happens, which is more than I can say for most home-invasion films and most horror films, in general. Even sex scenes that most will roll their eyes have a deeper meaning to them than what we see on the surface. Each couple’s relationship is in turmoil and soon so are friendships among the four. During all these interactions, the tension is building so much between all the characters that once we hear a knock on the door it’s almost a relief.

Angela Trimbur as “Sarah” in Orson Oblowitz’s TRESPASSERS. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Midnight Release.

The tension heightens when a woman shows up at their front door claiming to be a neighbor with a broken-down car. Even this clichéd trope is taken up a notch here, with a perfectly unsettling performance by Fairuza Balk that is just grounded enough to make one really wonder if she is telling the truth. Soon, things spiral out of control in several different, unexpected ways and the tension is not only maintained, but heightened in almost every sequence. The score masterfully accompanies this tension in most instances, but in a few it is a bit overbearing. For example, during an attack scene a heavy-rock instrumental is played which took me out of the moment a bit, where I believe either no score or a better-fitting one could have been played. But for the most part, the score is a nice complement to the tension.

The ending of the film is a bit of a mixed bag: run of the mill chase and fight scenes and a plot twist that, while interesting, doesn’t make sense from some perspectives; at the point that was supposed to be the climax, I found the tension to be at its lowest. The ending is also a bit underwhelming, as the reason for the intruders invading the home doesn’t make much sense. But even if the film doesn’t ever quite reach the levels of brutality foreshadowed in the opening scene, it is still unsettling, nonetheless. Oblowitz actually gives us characters we can identify with and care about before the madness ensues and builds tension masterfully throughout the whole film, making Trespassers a notable entry into the home-invasion genre.

Fairuza Balk as “The Visitor” in Orson Oblowitz’s TRESPASSERS. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Midnight Release.

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