M.L. Miller here and welcome to my tenth anniversary Best in Horror Countdown! Every day in this glorious month of October I’ll be counting down the best in horror, culminating with the best horror film since last Halloween! With theaters closed for the bulk of this shitty, shitty year, much of the countdown comes from alternative sources like streaming services, digital download, and On Demand. Plus, we saw the return of the drive-in theater, which is awesome! This list compiles the best horror films released beginning on October 1, 2019 and ending on September 30, 2020. No elitism here—only films released to the public on this list which rules out haughty festival flicks that only esteemed reviewers get to see. If it played on a public screen this year, it’s fair game to be on the list. Here we go!
Released on June 29, 2020. Available on digital download and On Demand from Dark Star Pictures and Uncork’d Entertainment!
Directed by Zach Gayne
Written by Precious Chong, Alex Essoe, Zach Gayne
Starring Precious Chong, Alex Essoe, Tony Matthews, Kris Siddiqi
What a fantastic little film! HOMEWRECKER is the female equivalent of Patrick Bice and Marc Duplass’ CREEP, minus the shaky cam. Incorporating equal parts MISERY, FATAL ATTRACTION, SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, and the aforementioned CREEP, director Zach Gayne and his co-writers and stars Alex Essoe and Precious Chong have delivered a wonderfully and darkly delicious little story of twisted relationships, gullible people, and menacing loneliness.
STARRY EYES’ Alex Essoe is Michelle, a home decorator who fills out her time with dance, yoga, and exercise classes. Far too preoccupied with her troubled relationship with her husband, she does not notice someone in her classes that seems to be paying remarkably close attention to her. A chance meeting in a coffee shop finally introduces Michelle to Linda (Precious Chong), a middle-aged free spirit who invites herself to join Michelle at her table and then proceeds to manipulate her to come to her house to help redecorate it. Once Michelle is inside Linda’s home, Linda’s neediness and manipulations warn Michelle that she needs to vacate post haste. But by this time, it is too late. Michelle is trapped and soon gets into the battle of her life trying to simply get out of Linda’s home.
HOMEWRECKER, like CREEP and some of those other films mentioned earlier is a film about a pushy person taking advantage of a more gullible soul. We have all been in this type of situation, where we know we are being taken advantage of, but in order to be nice, you go along with the pushy person so as not to rock the boat or cause a scene. Everyone understands that regret we have Monday Morning Quarterbacking the events leading up to the uncomfortable situation, asking themselves, “Why the hell didn’t I just say something?” or “Why the shit didn’t I just say no?” HOMEWRECKER taps into those feelings in such a deft manner and it works because it is such a familiar human situation. Because that humanity is such a common feeling, HOMEWRECKER works no matter how insane it gets in the latter portions of the film, as the events leading up to them do not feel so out of the ordinary.
Poor Alex Essoe. First, she rips out her hair and becomes an inhuman monster in STARRY EYES. And now this. It seems the poor gal must suffer in every one of her roles. The thing is, she suffers so well. Essoe has a great girl next door quality. There is a niceness to her, and she seems to be utterly believable in these underdogs, in over her head roles. This is a really physical performance here as Michelle and Linda go toe to toe throughout Linda’s home and she seems up to the task to dole out a beating when pushed too far. Essoe is great and it is easy to understand her position, feel for her plight, and root for her to get out of this dire situation.
Essoe’s co-star Precious Chong is a true standout here as I have never seen her before. Yes, I checked, she is the daughter of Tommy Chong and the sis of Rae Dong. Which gives light to Precious’ wonderfully comedic timing that occurs so often in HOMEWRECKER. Chong really is fearless in the role of Linda. The little we do see of her life is sad and if she was not doing such terrible things, one might almost feel sorry for her. Still, she makes for a memorable villain here as it seems she knows exactly what she is doing to Michelle through her manipulations, pleadings for her to stay, and desperate battle to keep her in the house once Michelle has had enough. This is a star making role for Chong who is not afraid to get down and dirty and look downright unappealing in her portrayal of this extremely sick and demented woman.
Despite the seriousness of the way Michelle is being held hostage inside Linda’s home, HOMEWRECKER maintains a quirky and hilarious dark tone throughout the film. Linda’s room is decorated with Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Anne doll wallpaper—a twisted reminder that Linda is too old to have children and a room that becomes a prison for Michelle, who herself is having doubts that her husband wants to start a family. Linda dances around like a teenager singing into her vibrator while looking at the camera in a scene that works comedically, but also has a perverse, sad, and wicked feel. The over the top, teeth-gnashing fight scenes between Linda and Michelle seem to be for life or death, but the way they fumble around using household objects as weapons still cannot help but be ludicrously entertaining. This is a film that understands the twisted tone it possesses and takes full advantage of it.
HOMEWRECKER appears to be a collaborative effort from director Zach Gayne and his two stars Essoe and Chong, and you feel it in every move this film makes. The film very meticulously moves towards its climax and smartly lays breadcrumbs to follow if you are a deft viewer. There are surprises to be had and some gruesome and bloody scenes in the latter portion of the film that made me pull back in my seat in acknowledgement that this film had to guts to go to extremely uncomfortable places physically, mentally, and emotionally. HOMEWRECKER is a pitch black and horrifying comedic achievement that you need to seek out. This is the type of film you can watch with your significant other to laugh and gasp your way all the way through.
THE 2019-2020 COUNTDOWN!
#17 – HOMEWRECKER
#18 – IMPETIGORE
#19 – BUTT BOY
#20 – BECKY
#21 – UNDERWATER
#22 – THE DEAD CENTER
#23 – BLOOD MACHINES
#24 – ALONE
#25 – THE BEACH HOUSE
#26 – AMULET
#27 – LAKE OF DEATH
#28 – SEA FEVER
#29 – THE RENTAL
#30 – ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE
#31 – REPLACE
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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