THIS IS OUR HOME **** USA 2019 Dir: Omri Dorani. 73 mins
A disarmingly effective character-driven horror story, shot in 11 days in the home of lead actress Simone Policano, who co-produced with co-star / real life partner Jeff Ayars. Clever misdirection abounds: the opening stretch cleverly sets up a cliched modern horror backstory that the script gradually subverts. A compact montage sees Policano and Ayars discussing their imminent parenthood, debating baby names in bed and then tragically losing the baby. They take refuge at her childhood home in the country, but a further narrative red herring – invoking backwoods maniac horror tropes – tells us more about Ayars’ character than it does the threat that subsequently vanishes from the narrative. The existing sense of disquiet is amplified when a damaged, seemingly abused child named Zeke (Drew Beckas) shows up at the house and starts referring to them as Mom and Dad. Director Dorani is no advocate for cheap scares and instant gratification – instead recognising the impact of long-held shots of darkened doorways to rooms that shouldn’t be opened, and sometimes lingering on a black screen for longer than we’re accustomed. With his two leads, he captures an authentic, almost voyeuristic portrait of a fractured relationship – with a convincing degree of tension, intimacy and humour (there’s a fabulously played, deceptively minor scene involving Ayars’ forehead, a raw steak and a knife). A foray into what could be creepy kid territory ventures into a vivid snapshot of the family unit the protagonists never achieved, as “Mom” nurtures the kid and strives to protect him from perceived closet monsters while “Dad” swiftly becomes irrational and irritable. The film experiments with screen ratios, music and sound design while generating jitters in both tiny details and a climactic sequence of visceral horror. It’s a creepy, concise piece of work.
Review by Steven West