I don’t remember the last time a horror movie actually frightened me. Ghosts and dismembering psychopaths and angry aliens – it’s all run its course by now, hasn’t it? Which is why I praise filmmakers like Chris Gorak, who took a concept used all too often in low-budget horror films (one setting, interior, as few characters as possible), churned out a drama instead, and ended up with a rather harrowing type of “horror” film.
Brad (Rory Cochrane) and Lexi (Mary McCormack) are the Odd Couple. Lexi (evidently) has a shi-shi job in downtown LA that requires her to wear pant suits and drive a convertible luxury car; Brad stays home all day and practices with his go-nowhere band. All is evidently good until a chemical bomb goes off in L.A., leaving Brad worried about his stranded wife, and eventually sealing and quarantining himself in the house. When Lexi finally arrives back home covered in bomb-soot, she’s none too pleased to be shut out.
Honestly, I was skeptical as to whether this premise could be stretched out longer than a half hour. I must say, as threadbare as the plot is, the movie itself holds up quite well. Gorak was very smart in not making Right at Your Door a thriller (although I understand that’s how it was billed in the UK); instead, this is a movie about the frustration of a couple separated by social backlash, serious illness, the government, and even – if you look closely – possible infidelity. Gorak has built a stew of interesting flavors that pop up when needed: a stranded neighbor’s plea, a lost child, cellular phone communiqués from family, even the untrustworthy government itself.
The most interesting moment in the movie really has very little to do with the bombing. Lexi, crouching outside of her own hermetically-sealed house, is contacted by one of Brad’s dirtbag musician friends looking for a trek to find their own possible cure. The scene is brief, and the situation isn’t mentioned again, but it’s a haunting moment of loss and betrayal, which is really what the film’s base theme is.
I must also commend Gorak’s choice – possibly a budgetary decision – to only show the after-effect of the bomb. Years ago, I was caught in the middle of a shooting in a shopping mall. The most frightening moments came when I attempted to get my mom back to my car, unscathed, without knowing what or who was around each corner of the half-mile trek. Gorak understands that bombs are surely startling, but what’s really frightening is the questions, the unknown consequences, the insecurity. One third of the movie is spent with Brad worrying about his wife, and that’s so much more engaging than seeing shit blow up.
While certainly not a movie I will watch repeatedly, I suggest Right at Your Door for the fact that an independent filmmaker took a real chance with a shallow concept, and it works well. If only half of this year’s nationwide graduating class of film school hacks put this much effort in to their boring, cliché, melodramatic “calling cards,” we might actually find a respectable place in society once again for low-budget films.