'Homewrecker' is a pitch-black, bloody brawl driven by Alex Essoe

Let this be a lesson to never, ever capitulate to a stranger’s demands.

click to enlarge Michelle (Alex Essoe), left, plays a dangerous game with Linda (Precious Chong) in "Homewrecker." - Dark Star Pictures/Uncork'd Entertainment
Dark Star Pictures/Uncork'd Entertainment
Michelle (Alex Essoe), left, plays a dangerous game with Linda (Precious Chong) in "Homewrecker."

We’ve all been there, some of us more times than we like to admit or recall.

Cornered by an almost-stranger, someone who is barely-an-acquaintance, definitely not a close friend, whether at a social gathering, an office conference or worse, out in public, the equivalent of being trapped in the wild without a safety net in sight.

And in those moments, when anxiety and momma’s etiquette collide, we do what we think is right and proper given the situation, we acquiesce.

Often, the penalty for trying to be a good person means nothing more than an extra 15 minutes of standing, being sprayed with tiny flecks of sandwich crust and seltzer water, as this person who isn’t even a contact in our cell phone hems and haws about a past grievance and we politely nod.

Sometimes, we agree to a lunch date in the not-too-distant future that we have no anticipation of honoring.

The truth is that we should be able to speak up, to say stop, I’m busy, I barely know you, or even I honestly don’t care. In reality, we never do, not because we’re all just wusses, but because we don’t want to offend, to reject, to deliver a harsh reminder to someone that we too really aren’t their friend or equal.

3.5 out of 5 stars.
Rated: Unrated
Run Time: 76 minutes

Michelle (Alex Essoe) is just that type of person. She tries to be kind to everyone. She hates confrontation. She can’t even bring herself to have an honest talk with her husband, Robert (Kris Siddiqi), about her reservations at trying to start a family.

So, naturally, when Michelle is essentially ambushed at a local coffee shop by Linda (Precious Chong), an older blonde she recognizes from a weekly spin class, Michelle finds herself helpless at deflecting Linda’s alarmingly aggressive requests and demands.

Before she even realizes what has happened, Michelle is in a car with Linda, being driven to Linda’s house, to give Linda an assessment of her interior decoration needs.

Thus begins “Homewrecker,” a pitch-black social satire/horror comedy that Essoe and Chong co-wrote with director Zach Gayne.

“Homewrecker” is an impossible film to easily categorize. The movie, like its dueling leading ladies, is comprised of layer upon layer upon layer of context and contrast.

Early on, its depiction of everyday life in a New York City plays like the setup to a subversive Onur Tukel satire. Nowhere is this more evident than in an extended sequence where Michelle, in a desperate bid to placate her acquaintance-turned-tormentor, agrees to play a slyly hysterical board game called ‘Party Hunks,’ complete with a VCR cassette packed with hilarious ‘80s callbacks.

But even that comparison doesn’t hold true, as “Homewrecker” evolves, and devolves, into something meaner and far bloodier than even Tukel’s brilliant “Catfight” dared attempt.

At the same time, “Homewrecker” relies too heavily, especially during the meat of its second act, on a series of repetitive violent actions that strain the viewer’s patience. Thankfully, the brief frustration this causes doesn’t linger.

At first blush, Michelle seems an easy mark, submissive and sheepish, compared to Linda’s brash personality and vapid observations; however, Linda’s braggadocio is but a shield designed to hide the true depth of her mental delusion.

Linda’s abrasive outbursts also help hide a dark secret that ties directly back to Michelle in a very surprising twist that actually elevates “Homewrecker” significantly, even if it arrives too late in the film to catapult “Homewrecker” into the annals of stalker movie cult classics.

Surprisingly, that reveal, the big twist, happened just after I wrote in my notes, “lacking an Annie Wilkes sledgehammer moment.”

Seconds later, Michelle scrambles to safety into an upstairs closet that doubles as a pseudo altar/sanctuary that finally exposes the true breadth of Linda’s psychosis, and suddenly the entire movie makes sense.

“Homewrecker” is most surprising for how effective its final half-hour plays. And its greatest achievement might well be the brilliant, bitter irony of its final spoken words, which is a true testament to its sharp, intelligent script that flows with the free-wheeling joy of implied improvisation.

For me, the film is yet another example of just how talented Essoe is as an actor.

 After blasting onto the genre scene with 2014’s “Starry Eyes,” flexing her range in 2017’s deliciously dark “Midnighters,” and cementing her craft by taking over the role of Wendy Torrance in “Doctor Sleep,” this latest accomplishment proves that there is nothing that she can’t do.

"Homewrecker" is now available on DVD, to rent or buy on streaming platforms like Amazon Prime and at select drive-in theaters. 

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.

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