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  Coherence Multiple Personality Syndrome
Year: 2013
Director: James Ward Byrkit
Stars: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Lorene Scafaria, Elizabeth Gracen, Hugo Armstrong, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Em (Emily Baldoni) is driving over to her friends' house for a dinner party, and is on the phone as she does so, or at least she is until something odd happens: the call is cut off, and when she looks at the gadget it is mysteriously broken. She has no explanation, but it's a story to share when she arrives and the others dismiss it with the supposition she accidentally broke it, besides there are more pressing topics to discuss, such as the fact when Kevin (Maury Sterling) arrives he will be with his old girlfriend Laurie (Lauren Maher), much to Em's chagrin for she still carries a torch for Mike, only they are splitting up and she hasn't gotten over him. But there are other things she can talk about, like that comet overhead in the night sky, so close to Earth...

Coherence was one of those low budget genre movies, relatively tiny in cost compared to some of the efforts director and co-writer James Ward Byrkit (who guided the improvised dialogue) had worked on, relying on a big concept that could be achieved with the smallest cost. A lot of this was down to the script, as the film that had apparently kicked off this trend, Primer, had demonstrated the value of a good, solid mindbending premise; not all of these were as purposefully complex as Shane Carruth's cult hit, but they all shared a sense that being smart in these tales was nothing to be ashamed of, they may risk alienating a section of the potential audience, yet that only meant those who did appreciate it would only feel so much warmer towards it, and this, reminiscent of a 21st century The Exterminating Angel, was one of the most bracing.

Thanks to the comet passing close by, something odd has happened on Earth, something that quickly becomes apparent after a few scenes of setting up the characters and in particular the important fact that Em could be a lot happier in her life, not something that appears significant when it's part of the general chatter, but increasingly ominous as the movie drew on. The next thing after the phone incident we twig something is up is when one other guest, Hugh (Hugo Armstrong), finds his phone is broken as well, and then all of a sudden there is a power cut, plunging the room into darkness. Fortunately the hosts have candles and even glowsticks to provide illumination, but they will be needing a lot more than that to shed light upon what is actually happening.

Cleverly, because Byrkit ensured the characters were on a fast learning curve, we were not ahead of them in working out the information from what we were told, so when a couple of them head outside to investigate and find only one of the houses in the street has its lights on, it should be the cue for suspicion in a Twilight Zone, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street style, but initially they accept it as a quirk of the blackout, and suppose the house in question has a generator. Yet then the duo who went to investigate return - after someone is heard banging on the window, freaking out everyone inside the home - Hugh is slightly injured and has brought a box he found with him. With some persuasion he explains when he looked into the windows of the lit up house, he saw...

Well, he saw the very room most of the film takes place in, except it's not the same room, it's a different one which looks identical. If you haven't realised yet, the comet has triggered a cosmic event, and that's only in your mind as you try to follow what is happening, not in a tedious, frustrating manner but in an amusing, intriguing way because in their demeanour this group has been very complacent in their middle class fashion, and it's all the more diverting to watch people who think they've got it made in their insular circle to feel the pressure of an outside force to make them realise they should really be engaging with the world. Yet what renders this an uneasy watch is that engagement can be the source of anxiety when it calls into question all you had accepted, and the vast possibilities of living that you had narrowed down to the fewest, safest possible choices are beginning to encroach. With a light sprinkling of just savvy enough science and a finale that becomes sinister to build to a great "Waaaait a minute..." last shot, Coherence was a small gem of oddness. Music by Kristin Øhrn Dyrud.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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