Signal Horizon

See Beyond

{Movie Review} Paradise Cove: A Lukewarm Thriller That Is Frustratingly Predictable

Paradise Cove is a film about a homicidal homeless woman living under a house while law enforcement does squat to rectify the situation. In turn our characters descend into a vicious cycle of paranoia, fear and violence. It sounds like a done-and-dusted but still effective recipe for a home invasion thriller that has the potential to keep one glued to their screens. But somehow, Paradise Cove manages to turn this tried-and-tested concept on its head and transform it into a dreary thriller where the turns are predictable and the movie less than thrilling.

Paradise Cove follows the story of a married couple, Knox (Todd Grinnell) and Tracey (Mena Suvari) plus their dog, Gary, who are on their way to Malibu to remodel the two-bedroom beach house left by Knox’s mother. Knox plans to turn the burned down house into their ticket to a secure future where they can live in their forever home, have children, and stop worrying about making money. But conveniently, almost everything is going wrong for the couple and more than half the time, it’s not the psycho living under their house but their frustratingly repetitive bouts of carelessness that is to blame. 

The Woman Under the House

The root story is that Knox’s mother died when her house, the titular Paradise Cove, burned down and he is here to remodel the two-bedroom house into a modern haven which he plans to sell for millions. But his plans to renovate the house are initially challenged by the presence of Bree, a homeless woman who has lived under the house for years. She was the wife of a big Hollywood producer who has a deep and unfriendly connection to Knox’s mother.

Courtesy of Quiver Distrubution

Bree is deranged, refusing to leave the property and is always on the lookout to make life difficult for the couple. The events that transpire next, reflect that the couple are really their own worst enemies as Knox overspends money on the house even as Tracy undergoes expensive medical procedures. Moreover their building permit specifies a one bedroom house but Knox ignores that little detail and continues to waste money on the expansion.

Their own incompetence seems to be the source of the evil that befalls them. Even though Tracey considers their dog like a son she is strangely unaware of his absence in the house while Knox just routinely leaves the door open allowing Bree to enter their house through the door or if need be a big open vent in the main living area. All of her actions completely unbeknownst to Tracy and Knox.

Even though the story’s direction and some of Bree’s actions do portray her as the true villain, there has never been a more impaired couple in a thriller to date. Thus when Bree executes the last leg of her revenge, while you may not say it out loud, you feel that they deserve it for being so irresponsible. 

The lack of chemstry between Todd Grinnell and Mena Suvari only add to the apathy we feel towards their respective roles. And even though Kristin Bauer van Straten tries her best to look menacing and unhinged as Bree, there is only so much she could do with a story that is only dead set on ticking all the cliched points that makes a thriller without checking whether they are actually needed.

Courtesy Quiver Distrubution

Your Neighbors Are the Real Enemies

It’s only when we sideline the lead couple’s chronic inclination towards being blatantly negligent and the random plot arcs Bree’s character is subjected to, that we get a fleeting taste of what is the prime danger in the film– it’s the people of the town, from the law enforcement to Knox and Tracey’s neighbors who relentlessly support Bree. The police are reluctant and at the end, downright unwilling, to press charges against Bree even as she shows symptoms of being deranged and homicidal. The neighbors bail Bree out when the couple does manage to get her arrested. 

These are the only times when the helplessness of Knox and Tracey feels justified and a palpable sense of fear is obvious as they sit trapped, unable to leave as they have bet everything on a house that is virtually unlivable. The tight community of Malibu continues treating them as outsiders and are even ready to look the other way when Bree exhibits every sign that she is not the nice Mrs. Lahvey she used to be. They are terrifyingly okay with the fact that she might harm Knox and Tracy. This is one of the more effective qualities of the movie and it does have the desired effect. We are unnerved, most of us have neighbors. It could be us next, right?

Paradise Cove arrives on VOD platforms February 12, 2021.