Right At Your Door Review
It starts out as just another ordinary weekday for Brad (Rory Cochrane) and Lexi (Mary McCormack), a young married couple living in the Los Angeles suburbs. Lexi heads off to work in the city. Brad, a struggling musician, stays at home, gets on the phone and tries to rustle up a few bookings. Then there's a newsflash on the radio: explosions have been reported in central LA. Brad steps out of his front door and sees enormous clouds of smoke engulfing the skyscrapers in the distance.
Trying to drive into the city to find his wife, Brad finds every route blocked. The police are setting up a quarantine around the city centre. Brad watches a couple of cops pull over a driver trying to leave. When the man tries to flee on foot, they shoot him. On the radio, the newscasters repeat rumours that the explosions were caused by "dirty bombs" - chemical weapons - and that the clouds spreading across Los Angeles are toxic. Listeners are advised to go home, seal themselves in their houses and refuse to let anyone inside.
As you'll have gathered, Right At Your Door is not exactly a fun night out. The debut film of writer-director Chris Gorak is inspired by the widespread fears of a terrorist dirty bomb attack, which were spread in the wake of 9/11, and it imagines how real people might respond to such a situation. Conceptually, the movie has much in common with the "what if?" nuclear war dramas of the 1980s: Miracle Mile, Testament, When The Wind Blows, Threads.
This is very grim subject matter but it could inspire a worthwhile film. Right At Your Door begins impressively, with a frighteningly credible first half hour. Smoke in the sky, panic on the streets, confused reports on the news - it all rings true. Then, after Brad barricades himself inside his home and he's confronted by an infected Lexi, the movie becomes a melodramatic, two-character drama, curiously resembling a dry-land version of Open Water.
Brad and Lexi are initially effective as an "everyman" couple caught up in a nightmare beyond their control. However, I didn't feel they were fleshed out or sympathetic enough to draw me into the slow, downbeat second half, which chronicles their desperate attempts to survive the night. It would have helped to have seen more of this couple together before the attack and gotten a feel for their relationship. Rather than identify with them, I felt the same queasiness I felt listening to the last phone calls made by victims on 9/11 when they were broadcast - like I was eavesdropping on the private tragedies of people I didn't know.
The movie's negative portrayal of the authorities gives Right At Your Door a political edge but it detracts from its realism. I can believe the emergency services wouldn't be fully prepared for an attack of this magnitude but I find it hard to accept they'd be quite so cold and uncaring. Then there's the ending. Right At Your Door concludes with an ironic twist that subverts some of its messages and turns the movie from a semi-serious commentary on the War on Terror into an overblown Twilight Zone episode.