Studio: New Video Group
Director: Todd Levin
Writer: Todd Levin, Gabriel Cowan, Andrew Orci, John Suits
Producer: Gabriel Cowan, John Suits, Andrew Orci
Stars: Milo Ventimiglia, Sarah Shahi, William Mapother, Dominic Bogart, Sara Paxton
While coping through a family tragedy, a husband and wife have their country retreat upturned after a stranger arrives on their doorstep.
“Static” is a different kind of home invasion thriller. With its mask-wearing intruders that rarely utter a word, a comparison to “The Strangers” is unavoidable. But while “Static” reveals a purpose behind the threatening visit that “The Strangers” did not need, the hard traveled road taken there is equivalent to riding a horse and buggy in an age of supersonic air travel.
Popular novelist Jonathan Dade and his wife Addie are killing two birds with one stone by retreating to a posh cabin in the woods for solitude and for healing. Jonathan needs the getaway to complete his latest work. Both of them need the tranquility to continue grieving over the recent death of their three-year-old son. Perpetually pickled by prescription meds and generous glasses of wine, Addie needs more help coping than Jonathan.
Cue the unexpected arrival of stranded motorist Rachel, who claims to have been chased to the couple’s front door by a man in a mask. Her presence in the home kickstarts a chain of events that threatens Jonathan and Addie’s minds as well as their lives.
With a largely wordless script even before the mute invaders arrive on the scene, “Static” spends so much time taxiing on the runway before takeoff that is difficult to fully enjoy the flight once the story is finally in the air. Even at just 75 minutes without credits, that sour taste in the mouth from the drawn out first act makes “Static” feel like a dragging experience in spite of the short running time.
The other passengers onboard add to an oftentimes uncomfortable journey like a coughing neighbor or a child kicking the seat from behind. Milo Ventimiglia and Sarah Shahi are fine performers, but their roles are unrelatable. Booze and drug addled wife Addie spends the majority of the film in an annoying daze of everlasting grief. She makes accusations of infidelity against her husband that the backstory never confirms or denies, which in turn makes it hard to take her side in the marital discord. Always moody, temperamental, and irrational, being on her side in general is a burdensome chore that keeps her personality beyond arm’s length at all times.
Jonathan at least displays compassion for his wife as well as for the unexpected visitor. But his quick dismissal of Addie’s valid concerns about being willfully left alone with a stranger causes one to question how seriously he takes his family’s safety. With his wife already casting doubt on his integrity through her vocal suspicions, his is another personality not overly eager to endear himself to an audience.
For a story based heavily on emotion, leaving the viewer as a distanced outsider is a huge detriment. It causes the impact of the film’s final revelation to land with a soft thud instead of with a resounding crash.
Although the twist of “Static” has been seen several times in genre films, which shall not be named because their mentions would be spoilers, its fleshed out exploration here is a satisfying and novel idea. It is the execution of the concept that is too reserved. “Static” wants you to know what is really happening with an opening scene whose inclusion may have been a mistake. Even if the intention was purposeful, “Static” plays as a story that leans more towards sweet than it does towards scary. And the delivery is handled more tenderly than is appropriate for a film trying to thrill with its tale.
“Static” has a sound concept at its core, and it relishes the dark mood created by its tone and color palette. Absent is a more fearless and engaging approach to the overall design. If the characters were able to entrance the audience and had the presentation been less gentle, “Static” would have been memorably frightening instead of just serviceably average.
Review Score: 65