{Movie Review} In Trespassers Fairuza Balk Steals the Show

Trespassers, IFC Midnight’s latest horror film is an overly complicated mix of home invasion terror, irritating house guests, and folklore.


Courtesy of IFC Midnight
Heavy spoilers below……….
A story of white hubris, ignorance, and assholes; Trespassers tells the tale of two young couples who rent a beautiful AirBnB in the Mohave Desert for a weekend of partying and forgetting.  Unfortunately for the couples, the owners of the house have broken a sacred rule about photographing native people, or more likely capturing criminals in the act. It’s all a little sketchy and convoluted.  The most important thing to realize about this stylish genre film is you kind of want most of the characters, even the so called protagonists, to get dusted.  When the wheels comes off and things go sideways for our group it’s a relief.  The moments spent establishing domestic drama are as tedious as they are unnecessary.  Get on with the killing.  To the film’s credit it will hold your attention from beginning to end.  The film from director Orson Oblowitz is quite pretty, even within its inherent grittiness.  Home invasion films are rarely anything but gory and brutality.  There is plenty of blood and guts to be sure, but it is all layered under an attractive film of saturated colors, jarring lighting, and interesting sound choices.  
Attractive uses of heavy red, blues, and purples juxtapose with the natural tones of the house and surroundings.  The film is composed of three main acts all with their own distinct color pallet.  The first third is dedicated to meeting the main players.  The colors are reminiscent of the setting itself.  Sun drenched horizons, orange hued landscapes, too blue water.  With the exception of the shocking initial scene that introduced the band of traveling invaders everything is sunshine and sand.  As such most of what happens during in the first act is bland.  Past mistakes are revealed, bad house guests arrive, and uncomfortable conversation is made.  The second act is much shorter but perhaps the most effective of the entire movie.  Fairuza Balk arrives in a cloud of jittery energy that steals the movie.  Her brand of bizarre hyperkinetics permeates every scene.  She exudes anxiety. The moment she knocks at the front door the entire film is elevated. Her presence is offset with dark foreboding shadows and starkly lighted art.  The dread is palpable and the color choices enhance that. The final act plays out in a pall of crimson pools, red and blue light bulbs, and inexplicable black lights. All of this supposedly because of power outages, which for some reason require the generator to power Halloween mood lighting and under the bed sex illumination.  It’s weird and shouldn’t work, but oddly does because of the sheer beauty of the saturation and brutality of the killers.
The characters by and large are all pretty terrible people and perfunctory.  They read as memes.  There is the douchey, abusive financial dude who imbibes drugs like they are Skittles, the sex kitten who is fucking her best friend’s husband while being pushed around by the aforementioned money turd, the guilt-ridden husband who wants to fix things with his wife, and the wounded wife trying to recover from trauma who is clueless to everything.  Toss in a bizarre neighbor, shady cop, and obligatory scary Mexicans and you have a quality film about relationship, paranoia, and homicide.  It’s horror by the numbers but results in an enjoyable experience.
The standout performance which quickly turns the predictable film into creepy thriller is Balk.  Performances by Angela Trimbur and Janel Parrish(Pretty Little Liars) are solid. Each playing their female archetype believably, but from the moment she enters the shot Fairuza Balk commands attention.  Her early work in The Craft defined her status as a character actor we all love to be terrified of.  There is a wild unbridled tension about her visitor and her ultimate fate that switches things from trite horror to oppressive fear.  Without her character, which was originally slated to be a male role, this film would have a completely different feel.  With the absurd mania she brings to her bit role, the film got a new sensibility that allowed for the more artsy final product.
The bad hombres in question have supposedly broken in to recover a photo taken by the actual home-owners.  Balk’s character plays the stranded motorist who checks out the lay of the land for her criminal partners.  She ominously tells stories of Native people’s beliefs that forbid photographs of themselves because it will steal their soul.  In actually, it’s more about not having photographic evidence floating around.  That reality aside, there is a long history of beliefs similar to this.  Even before photos were invented, reflections and paintings were thought to be dangerous.  It is the basis for Oscar Wilde’s famous novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. When photography was first invented many people believed your spirit would become trapped in the box.  Lack of technological knowledge and superstition led to this misunderstanding.  Ancient Mayans believed mirrors possessed the power to steal souls and a few surviving sects adhere to the old ways today with photography being banned from church due to the use of mirrors in the cameras.  It is rumored(but unsubstantiated), the famous Lakota warrior Crazy Horse refused to have his imaged captured for similar reasons.  Balk’s story meant to scare have some basis in historic fact even if that has nothing to do with her own gang of lunatics.
The film while very familiar, has some truly remarkable elements which allow for a recommendation.  It is artfully shot, well acted(especially by Balk), and the gang is effectively costumed.  In the final credits the film reveals its biggest secret.  It is actually a Eurotrash B movie with lofty aspirations.  As such Trespassers is worth a watch.  If for nothing else watch for Fairuza Balk because she is fantastic.  Trespassers is premiering in select theatres and  streaming everywhere today.