Putting a new twist on a classic setup, Trespassers asks you to wonder how you would react if your Airbnb was the setting for a home invasion horror thriller. The movie walks a well trodden path, but a few enhancements in lighting and score keep it feeling fresh.
Two couples meet up for a long weekend at a fancy house rental in the middle of the Mojave to relax, snort coke, and let their tensions bubble up to the surface. Sarah and Joseph (Angela Trimbur and Zach Avery) are trying their best to reconnect after a recent trauma. Sarah’s childhood friend Estelle (Janel Parrish) has brought along her jerk of a boyfriend (Jonathan Howard) to get away for a bit as well. Though nothing is idyllic about this group of familiars, the weekend is about to get far worse.
Out of nowhere, a woman (Fairuza Balk) arrives at the door and asks to use their phone. She seems nice enough, but her story of being a neighbor whose car has broken down just doesn’t add up. The two couples have every right to smell something funny with their visitor, though they truly have very little clue about just how bad things will soon be.
Mixing horror homages into a contemporary horror film can be a risky approach to the genre by any filmmaker. While it can show a literacy of the history of horror films, it can also feel a bit like pandering and avoiding originality. Director Orson Oblowitz successfully showed off his cinematic merit badges by the well studied The Queen of Hollywood Blvd, and Trespassers is no different. This is the kind of film that really shows off that it was made by a fellow movie buff, and the hat tips to other home invasion thrillers (including The Purge) show that Oblowitz has done his homework.
It’s a little disappointing that Trespassers doesn’t go too far beyond its predecessors. The movie has some small surprises along the way, but overall doesn’t try to reach beyond the scope of a classic, and often reproduced, invasion horror.
What it does bring to the screen is some enhanced style in the filmmaking. The score, including both rock and electronic, is incredible. In a few moments, it’s slightly saccharin and overbearing, but those are only the few places where the movie tries to tug at our heartstrings. Mostly, we’re treated to urgent, hypnotic beats that add to the feeling of danger and excitement.
The lighting design of Trespassers is also fascinating. As the film’s action ramps up, the power to the house gets cut and the entire set is bathed in a blue tone of emergency lights. When the police arrive, the contrast between the car’s flashers, the interior lights, and the other visible outdoor light make it look like an old-fashioned Italian giallo, and not just another house of trapped victims.
Though Trespassers doesn’t do anything new, what it does, it does well.