Directed by Todd Levin
Distributed by New Video Group
A couple going through serious problems with their relationship shacks up in a large, isolated home. A young female visitor shows up on their doorstep in the middle of the night. A group of masked assailants arrive and terrorize our protagonists. A fight for survival rages as the night wears on, with our heroes’ attempts to escape thwarted at every turn.
So far, so Strangers.
And had Static concluded with a more conventional finale, one might be tempted to call the film somewhat of a knockoff of that 2008 thriller (albeit a well-made, well-acted knockoff). But Static concludes in no typical way, paying off a few hints and clues sprinkled throughout its running time with a genuinely surprising climax which reveals the villains to actually be…
Okay, look. The most enjoyable aspect of the film is something I can’t really discuss without ruining the entire film, so…let’s just start back at the beginning.
Static opens with Johnathan and Addie Dade (Ventimiglia and Shahi), a married couple who have holed up in their large, middle-of-nowhere house to deal with the pain of losing their three-year old son in a drowning accident. There is tension between the two, as Johnathan pours his grief into finishing his new novel while Addie yearns to simply leave the property (and perhaps her husband) behind. Tensions rise and long held resentments are dredged up when a young woman named Rachel (Paxton) shows up on their doorstep in the early hours of the morning, claiming her vehicle has broken down and that she may have been followed by a strange man in a gas mask. After determining that no one else is on their land, the Dades invite Rachel to spend the night, even as they bicker amongst themselves away from the young woman’s prying ears. But when a group of gas-masked thugs break into the home and abduct Rachel, Johnathan and Addie find themselves under attack from a group of villains who appear to have no discernible motive. The two must fight for their lives if they wish to survive and see the dawn – and to understand the true, shocking purpose of the people terrorizing them.
Again – this reviewer doesn’t imagine the synopsis will inspire any hope that this movie is anything more than a typical home invasion flick. Indeed, for the bulk of its running time, that’s exactly what it is. What sets the film apart from most others of its type is the care that went into crafting the characters, some strangely surreal moments throughout (involving the titular static), and – of course – that ending.
Oh, that ending. I will not spoil for anyone this film’s biggest secret, save to say that it rescues the previous eighty minutes from being a run of the mill cat ‘n mouse tale. It’s a bold choice, and one that might very well turn off audience members expecting something a bit more grounded. Nevertheless, this reviewer genuinely dug the final five minutes of this film, and wouldn’t mind seeing a follow-up of some sort – so long as it gives us a longer look at our villains and the nature of their “work” (SPOILER ALERT I’d even go so far as to suggest that a sequel should focus entirely on the masked ones and show one of their projects unfold from their point of view END SPOILER).
Ending aside, Static really is a well-crafted movie. The dialogue is often quite good, with the script focusing on letting us get to know the leads as much as possible before the film’s threat rears its head, while co-writer/helmer Todd Levin’s direction keeps the film engaging and intense. Cinematographer Johnny Ching’s shadowy work is quite beautiful at times, while composer Tim Ziesmer’s musical score adds quite a bit of heart to the film’s ever-present dread.
The actors all do a fine job, too. Ventimiglia, from “Heroes” and the recently released Kiss of the Damned, is very good as Johnathan. He makes us care about a guy whose decisions are occasionally frustrating, and makes his character seem quite real throughout. Shahi is good as well, presenting us with a character who appears to be nearly emotionally dead, until the film’s events awaken within her a will to live and fight. Paxton, from Ti West’s The Innkeepers, is only in the film for a brief bit, but the actress manages to walk a thin line and make the audience afraid for her even as we’re somewhat wary of her character (is she a damsel in distress, or a villain in disguise?). Even smaller parts are played by strong actors, such as Dominic Bogart and William Mapother, who each have brief but important roles to play in the film’s final act.
The film isn’t perfect, however. As noted, the first two-thirds of the film feel overly familiar, and there are a few moments of both drama and action that are awkwardly staged – particularly an important exchange between the leads, who pick the worst possible time (while being pursued) to have a heart-to-heart. Still, this reviewer is willing to forgive its faults for what it brings to the table – strong performances, a character-focused script (credited to Levin, Gabriel Cowan, and John Suits), and a denouement that is genuinely surprising and practically begs for follow-up installments (to say nothing of it pretty much demanding a rewatch once one is made aware of the film’s big secret).
New Video Group has brought Static to Blu-ray in a combo pack which includes two Blu-rays (one featuring the film in 3D, the other in 2D) and a DVD. The version reviewed here will be the 2D Blu, which boasts a very detailed image that occasionally pops with vibrant colors, though is also somewhat desaturated throughout stretches of the film. Sometimes the picture has great depth, though at other times the film looks quite flat. Likewise, the film’s frequent shadows alternate between being jet-black and washed-out. Still, the variance in the image doesn’t distract when viewing the film. The Blu also boasts a 5.1 soundtrack which does a good job of balancing the film’s more quiet, creepy moments with the film’s larger, louder scenes of action and terror.
Sadly, we get little in the way of bonus features here. There is a commentary with the writer, producer, and editor, and that’s it. It’s a fun, energetic listen, but one wishes a better package could have been put together for the film.
Static may not be a home run, or even a terribly original movie throughout most of its running time. However, it’s a solidly made little thriller featuring good performances, nice photography, and an ending which might prove to be divisive, but was found by this writer to be its saving grace. If you get the chance, be sure to give Static a shot.
3 out of 5
1 out of 5