388 Arletta Avenue (2011)

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388 Arletta AvenueStarring Nick Stahl, Mia Kirshner, Devon Sawa

Directed by Randall Cole

Considering how popular low budget handheld horror films and high budget home invasion films are with the horror crowd, it was only a matter of time before a director took on the task of merging both of the sub-genres into one thriller, and director Randall Cole attempts to create a discomforting and intricate illusion that could actually happen in reality with his low-budget home invasion thriller 388 Arletta Avenue.

The film doesn’t waste any time on getting to know its characters as the viewers are introduced to married couple James and Amy (played respectively by Nick Stahl and Mia Kirshner) through the eyes (or should I say lens) of a stalker in the opening sequence. It’s quite clear that this mystery man has been stalking this couple for a while now for he has strategically placed cameras all over their house, cars and even their work offices, setting the ominous mood for the audience very early on.

The stalker’s agenda is petty at first–he taunts James by leaving mixed CDs in his car of old soul classics full of subliminal messages and breaks in occasionally at night without disturbing the sleeping couple. However, the more James starts to sense something is off-putting in his home, the more sinister the stalker’s agenda becomes, and the couple soon discover that they aren’t dealing with just any “Peeping Tom.” A deadly and frustrating game of cat and mouse ensues.

Much like other thrillers like My Little Eye and Paranormal Activity 2, 388 Arletta Avenue is also a clever, voyeuristic take on the cinema verite horror genre as it is able to provide the perfect amount of peril, dread and unnerving tunes to entertain its audience. (Trust me, you will not be able to listen to “Reunited” by Peaches and Herb the same way again.) However, unlike those films, 388 Arletta Avenue fails to provide any meaningful character development and doesn’t focus on the couple’s relationship long enough before putting them in peril, which in this reviewer’s opinion is essential in order to give the audience a frightening sense of realism when the horror does eventually strike.

388 Arletta Avenue also takes some fairly illogical twists and turns, and James, the film’s main protagonist, makes some pretty insipid decisions merely to move the film forward, which is disappointing considering the film had the potential of being far more witty than the more recent handheld horror offerings as of late.

Despite the film’s transparent shortcomings, 388 Arletta Avenue is still a solid Canadian horror indie that has a simple premise that delivers the goods. The film’s flaws will bother any true horror fan; however, the appropriately harrowing denouement will not disappoint even the most jaded of viewers.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Serena Whitney