Saturday, October 22, 2016

30 Days of Nightmares #22: COHERENCE (2014)

The Story: A dinner party is interrupted by a rip in the fabric of space and time, pitting a group of L.A. eccentrics against their doppelgangers.

Expectations: Two-thirds of the way through my month-long marathon, I’m obviously trying to pick some films that are a little different from the usual horror yarn.  This one has been touted as more of a sci-fi picture, but I thought it sounded like a TWILIGHT ZONE episode—and I tend to think of TWILIGHT ZONE as horror, because the most memorable episodes are pretty ominous.  So I was expecting something along the lines of TRIANGLE, THE CALLER, and YELLOWBRICKROAD If it turned out to be more of a sci-fi film, something along the lines of PRIMER, MOON and SOURCE CODE.  Either way, I had high hopes.

Reaction: This is a film that hinges on an understanding of quantum physics, so in a way it reminded me of DONNIE DARKO.   I love DONNIE DARKO (especially the theatrical cut) because although it’s completely baffling at first, it is overwhelmingly heartfelt.  I love the characters. 

I wasn’t as attached to the characters in COHERENCE, which was a problem.  When they descend into backbiting and pseudo-intellectual explanations, I cared for them even less than I had at the outset—and so I wasn’t working as hard to figure out what was going on.   Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this movie (I’ll admit I was tired when I started watching it), but I feel like many of the a-ha moments were delivered so casually and subtly that their significance got lost in the shuffle. 

I seem to be in the minority here.  Reviews show that most people—at least, most critics—really liked this movie.  On paper, I can understand why.  It’s definitely not the usual genre film.  It’s rich with ideas, the acting is mostly solid, and it looks pretty good for a microbudget production.  But somehow the story felt dry to me.  Too much like a stage play.

After doing some digging, I learned that this film was made the way I assumed CREEP was made.  Only the writer/director knew the full story.  Each night (for five nights of shooting), he gave the actors a list of beats they had to hit.  The rest was improvisation.   Which leads me to wonder: Am I so accustomed to the big emotional reactions of most horror films that genuine in-the-moment reactions failed to register with me?  As an idea-driven film (there’s even a long monologue about Schrodinger’s Cat, for crying out loud), did this film really need a greater emphasis on emotional / character moments in order to make the ideas seem less abstract?  Or do I just need to watch this movie a few more times in order to fully appreciate it?  Maybe.  But I’m not going to—because, as a horror film, it just didn’t resonate with me. 

Then again, my wife really liked it.  Maybe I'm just being difficult.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment:  Some scenes are effective in their simplicity.  There a scene where a group of people meet their twinners—their differences apparent only because of the fact that they’re carrying different-colored glowsticks—on a dark street where we can't see anyone's face.  Later, a married couple realizes, mid-conversation, that they are each interacting with an alternate version of their spouse.  The silence in these moments speaks volumes.

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