Terror Comes Home With Trick 6 Films Evil At The Door

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There are few places more sacred than our home. That sanctum sanctorum, that domicile of leisure, that haven from the world and its ever-present ills. The sense of defilement when the inviolability of our homes are robbed, vandalized or otherwise desecrated by uninvited intruders can be profound. Like Poe’s Prospero sealing his abbey from the Red Death, billions are invested annually in the name of home security, and from simple guard dogs to handguns to the latest state-of-the-art digital systems, we spare no expense to keep our private refuge safe.

Filmmakers intent to exploit our collective anxieties have created an entire silver screen subgenre devoted to the fear of home invasion: Funny Games and The Strangers, You’re Next, The Purge, even the otherwise family-oriented Home Alone, each straddles the same hostile scenario. Now Trick 6 Films and MRP Entertainment bring their own invasive entry to the fore with Evil At The Door, a story that wisely trades gore for nail-biting suspense.

In an affluent Los Angeles neighborhood, we meet Daniel (Matt O’Neill), a boozy mortgage manager involved in shady business dealings who’s upset his wife, Jess (Sunny Doench), has agreed to let her troubled sister, Liz (Andrea Sweeney Blanco), spend the night after an altercation with her boyfriend. Unbeknownst to them, their comfortable abode has been targeted by four skull-masked prowlers who quickly disable the home’s internet connectivity, incapacitate Daniel and lay in wait for an unaware Jess outside the bathroom door.

So far, so familiar, but the lure that quadruple creative threat writer/director/producer/actor Kipp Tribble succeeds in hooking an audience with is the slow burn revelation that these intruders aren’t irrational, motiveless slashers, but members of an elite, secret brotherhood called The Locusts, whose murderous members competitively prey upon society for sport. One day a year they are allowed to wreak havoc any way they please on a pre-vetted target location, all the while abiding by their fraternity’s strict guidelines: firearms and cell phones are forbidden, and every ‘run’ must be completed within a tightly-monitored 180 minutes. When one of the Locusts flagrantly breaks those rules, however, the plot, and the night’s run, becomes increasingly complex.

Told in real time, Evil At The Door is a film that takes enormous risks; it’s a non-linear and nearly bloodless horror thriller, with little action and largely immobile protagonists (Liz, for example, spends a vast majority of the movie trapped in her hiding spot beneath the bed, unable to escape without being seen). Yet Tribble’s controlled, Hitchcockian skill exposes itself in those lengthy stretches of inactivity; tension compounds upon itself, ratcheting up the dread with a harrowing ‘will-they-or-won’t-they’ survival situation that exudes almost palpable, seat-squirming unease. The Locusts’ patient, cryptic game of wait-and-see rewards viewers willing to piece together the mosaic narrative, and forges briskly ahead due to the indelible strength of the actors. Far from the unknowable, faceless killers so often seen in stories of this ilk, once the masks come off each individual murderer becomes more frightening precisely because of their readily-relatable humanity. The rest of the year they could easily be an ordinary citizen, a co-worker, a neighbor, a friendly face behind the cash register. But for that 180 minutes, they could even be you.

While parallels to the aforementioned Purge franchise are inevitably raised, Evil At The Door has more going for it than mere anarchy. On a symbolic level it can be seen as an attack upon modern materialism and the cult of technology. By worshipping money and placing his faith in his (unworking) computerized home security system, greedy Daniel unwittingly puts himself and his family at risk, and the Locusts’ choice of upper-crust targets likewise brings commentaries about class in America to the cinematic table.

“You’re safe here now.” Jess tells Liz at the film’s onset, but by the incendiary, carefully-crafted finale, Evil At The Door proves that, when it comes to terror, there’s truly no place like home.

I give Evil At The Door a well-earned 4 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale.

4.0 / 5.0