dir-scr Mari Kornhauser
with Katharina Wressnig, Peter Sarsgaard, Angeline Ball, Geoffrey Lower, Liz Stauber, Ann Magnuson, Scott Ryan Whinery
release St Louis Film Fest Nov.00
awards Best Feature--Stony Brook 00
00/US 1h30 4 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Suspicion. Lodger Tom (Sarsgaard) freaks out his landlady Marie (Wressnig) with strange smells, sounds, activities...
With a striking visual style, writer and first-time director Kornhauser crafts an eerily effective little thriller that cleverly uses agoraphobia as its lynchpin. Marie (Wressnig) is a rape victim who hasn't left her home in a year. She works at her computer and has groceries delivered, never goes out with her boyfriend (Lower) and is taking her time redecorating the house her father left her. To make ends meet she rents a room to a chef, Tom (the excellent Sarsgaard). And then in her closed-in mind she begins to believe that Tom is actually responsible for a series of murders on the L.A. freeways. Will she or her sister (Ball) be his next victim?

A sense of claustrophobia fills the film, as the darkly painted rooms inside the house contrast with the Southern California sunshine streaming in through the windows. Kornhauser builds both suspense and sexual tension as the events progress, punctuating the story with title cards showing dates from the religious calendar that add a timeless, otherworldly quality to the goings on. And when the action erupts, it's startling and very disturbing. This isn't a perfect film--the plot is a bit convenient at times, requiring a slight logical leap at the end--but it builds its atmosphere so nicely that it's a film well work looking out for.

[strong themes, language] 11.Nov.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall