31 Days of Halloween, cinema, co-writers, couples, death of a child, dramas, feature-film debut, film reviews, films, flashbacks, forgiveness, Gabriel Cowan, gas masks, ghosts, guilt, Haunter, home invasion, horror films, indie films, isolated estates, isolation, John Suits, Milo Ventimiglia, Movies, multiple writers, Sara Paxton, Sarah Shahi, Static, The Others, Todd Levin, twist ending, William Mapother, writer-director
Jonathan (Milo Ventimiglia) and Addie (Sarah Shahi) can’t seem to buy a break. First, they lose their young son in some sort of undisclosed tragedy. The terrible event rocks the very foundations of their marriage, as often happens, but the bad times don’t stop there. There are also hints at problems with infidelity in the relationship, just as vague and ill-defined as the tragedy that stole away their child but definitely there. The couple have retreated to the isolation of a remote estate in order to work on their marriage, only to have their peace disrupted when a mysterious young woman (Sara Paxton), clad in a parka, pounds on their front door. It seems that the young woman is being pursued by a mysterious group of assailants, all wearing gas masks, apparently with the intent to cause her grievous injury. After the couple lets the frantic “guest” into their home, they find themselves under siege by the outside group, as a desperate struggle for survival unfolds. Talk about heapin’ on the misery!
For most of its run-time, Todd Levin’s Static (2012) (which features a whopping three screenwriters, including Levin) is a modest, somber little home invasion flick that breaks absolutely no new ground and does nothing particularly interesting with the sub-genre. At a certain point, however, the filmmakers throw in a twist that sends the film off in another direction entirely. From that point on, the film becomes a different, albeit equally familiar, type of movie, leading to a resolution that should be overly familiar to anyone who’s ever seen one of these types of films. I won’t spoil the “twist” but will note that its ultimate revelation made me sigh aloud: I’d recently seen another, much better, film that did basically the same thing and this was like trying to read the smudged Xerox of a fourth-generation photocopy.
The film is well-made and features a capable, if small, cast: for the majority of the film, the only actors that we see are Ventimiglia, Shahi and Paxton. Ventimiglia, who’s recently been making quite the name for himself in genre efforts like The Divide (2011) and Kiss of the Damned (2012), is his usual brand of emotionless cool mixed with the occasional fiery outburst, sort of a much less interesting variation on Mark Wahlberg. Shahi, for her part, gets a few nice emotional beats but there’s very little chemistry between her and Ventimiglia: we can buy that the couple have hit a rough patch in their marriage but there doesn’t appear to have been much spark there in the best of times, either. Paxton, know for genre fare like The Last House on the Left (2009), The Innkeepers (2011) and Shark Night 3D (2011), does fine with what she’s given but the character of Rachel really only exists as a punchline, as it were, to the film’s main “twist.” Beyond that plot mechanism, her character really doesn’t have much of a purpose, which sort of renders her a little moot.
All in all, Static is decent enough but wears out its welcome fairly quickly. The look of the “bad guys,” complete with gas masks, is a good one, although it still manages to unnecessarily reference the whole “masked people trying to break in” angle of films like Them (2006), You’re Next (2011) and The Purge (2013). For the most part, the film is a kitchen-sink drama about a marriage collapsing, intermittently “spiced” up with the home invasion angle. It’s a tactic that could have worked, ala You’re Next, but everything here just feels kind of cheap and reductive. Ultimately, Static is thoroughly competent, if somewhat depressingly so.