It's another day for the elderly residents of this Cincinatti apartment block, but there are dark clouds on the horizon. That's not all that is on the horizon, as the city is undergoing redevelopment and the residents' block is due for demolition so that a huge, ultra-modern building can be built on the site. One of the old ladies, Mattie (Paula Trueman), spends her mornings sitting and watching the towering skyscrapers being constructed, but today a tragedy occurs which delays the project: one of the workers is killed on a falling girder... placing a potent thought in Mattie's mind.
Homebodies looks to have been dreamt up after a late night viewing of Arsenic and Old Lace which put the thought into director Larry Yust's mind to make the oldsters, usually perceived as harmless, and have them turn homicidal maniacs. As few would suspect them, it's initially surprising the idea hasn't been used more, but when you see how it was handled here you will understand it's not as simple as it sounds, which is mainly down to finding a decent motive and then working out how far to take it. In this case, it's grounds for black comedy of the most uncertain sort.
Yet its very idiosyncrasies are what have made it lodge in the minds of more than one viewer who have caught it over the years, and the performances of the six lead characters are a weird mixture of the sweet, the mischievous and the downright brutal. Mattie regularly reports back to her agoraphobic friend Miss Emily (Frances Fuller) and when the woman from the planning department starts turning up to hand over eviction notices, she is at first greeted with a bunch of elderly people feeling sorry for themselves and wondering if there's any chance they can stay.
When this woman makes it clear that there is no way out of this and they are to be relocated, Mattie's thoughts turn to murder - literally. She manages to get her cohorts to go along with her evil schemes, and soon the lady from the authorities has a knife in her gut and they're looking around for somewhere to lose the body. There is an element of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? in this, and those twisted though aged killers that followed in its wake, but Yust never seems sure of how funny this is supposed to be, never mind how scary we're meant to be finding it.
So in one scene Homebodies is pretty tense, as in the cement mixing scene, and the next we're given an eccentric item of humour, as if to say, yes, they're murderers, but they can be quite lovable really. The strongest idea in the film is that you can take something you're attached to - a place, a person, or a notion - and become so determined not to give it up that you go to lengths far out of proportion to its value to ensure it stays with you. This plays out in a plot that sees its protagonists neglect the fact that they will be relocated, fair enough their new home would be a heartless retirement complex, and set out on extreme behaviour to guarantee they have the upper hand, tragically unaware that they have become monsters in the process. It's not a slick film, but it is hard to dismiss. Music by Bernardo Segall.