By Ken Parker
This review will be broken up into two parts, a non spoiler review and then a spoiler heavy review. By all means read the first part but do NOT read the last part if you have not seen the film. This is one of those films that needs to be seen without any spoilers.
This low budget independent movie is one of those films that doesn't come out in wide release and you probably don't even hear about it until you see a review or someone mentions it at some point down the line. Coherence is a film that is such a simple idea and yet so genius at the same time.
A group of friends gather together for a night of wine and food. These friends have a long history together and the usual personality clashes and connections that you expect. Everything seems fairly normal but it isn't. A cracked phone and the power going out in the neighborhood are only the beginning. The presence of a passing comet seems to be related to a few strange happenings or at least the paranoia of the friends. While breaking out the candles and glow sticks, the group notices a house a down the street with its lights on. Why don't they go check it out?
Spoilers toward the end of the review
This film is a thriller with some sci-fi elements. The claustrophobic setting coupled with the off setting cinematography makes for a story that is ever tension building and keeps the viewer watching to see what is going on. The paranoia and fear that the characters can't seem to feel in this setting spreads to the audience with every minute of the story. We know there is a comet and we know of a cracked phone but what is going on and who is that at the door?
I really cannot say much more in this non spoiler part of the review except that I watched this film twice. It is one of those films that you will feel you have to go watch it again. This film will lend itself to multiple viewings and you will want to discuss it with someone. It is clever and original and creepy at the same time.
SPOILERS BELOW – BE WARNED
Being a low budget film and basically taking place in just a couple of locations, the movie relies on the acting and characters and for the most part this is handled well. Nicholas Brandon (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) is probably the biggest name in the cast and this is all good. The cast has to sell that this group of friends have known each other for years and have varying histories with one another. The interaction is natural and realistic and seems almost ad libbed at times.
The strange happenings occur in a slow progression with some banter about the passing comet. The set up really reminds me of a scary movie really. The power goes out and phones go dead. Emily (Emily Baldoni) tells her group of some strange happenings a hundred years ago with a couple other comet passings. In addition to the comet, a little of each character's history is revealed including Emily losing out to an understudy in a dance show, Beth's use of drugs and mind warping substances and Mike's previous trouble with alcohol. Very little of this background information seems forced and yet much of it gives us more insight to these characters once things start going crazy.
I will assume anyone reading this has watched the film and will not ruin a potential good movie for themselves.
I mentioned watching this film more than once because as soon as some of the friends begin to venture outside then it gets really interesting. A lot of little clues begin to filter through although I have to admit that I did not expect that any of the characters had changed houses until Amir and Hugh steal the photos and book from 'our house.' A few early hints Emily picks up on early that I wasn't sure about until the second viewing.
The cinematography is perfect as we really don't see anything of the outside world from the house. Even before the lights go out we see parts of the street and cars but nothing beyond and this adds to the suspense. You have no idea what is going on beyond what you see.
The film has several comparisons including Cube 2 where an ever changing environment within an enclosed room confuses its inhabitants with traps and temporal shifts. This idea is also very Twilight Zone like, which is a good thing!
You do have to accept a few things in the film like the inability for the characters to try to get to another house and their ideas that might not be that good but overall this film has a great pace and tense build up that leads to the inevitable outcome that is more obvious, at least for me, in the second viewing.
I love these types of films that are surreal and weird and simple all at once.