JUST LIKE YOU
JUST LIKE YOU
Carnage and coveting in Jeremy Power Regimbal’s REPLICAS
Last year’s festival had an almost unconscious sidebar of home invasion films with Jed Strahm’s Knifepoint, Miguel Angel Vivas’ Kidnapped and a repertory screening of William Fruet’s Death Weekend. And while all of these films (as explored in the July 2011 Spectacular Optical article “Cut and Run” HERE) played with the often nasty subgenre in different ways, this year’s Replicas – making its Canadian Premiere after a successful Tribeca debut – is a different kind of home invasion film. The title alone indicates that the emphasis is on the motive more than on the sadism inherent in these kinds of violent crimes, and its resonance is facilitated by some standout performances.
After the death of their little girl, distraught parents Mark (Joshua Close of Diary of the Dead) and Mary (Selma Blair of Todd Solondz’ Storytelling and Dark Horse) escape to an isolated vacation home with their son to try to recover. But their attempt to establish a normalizing routine is interrupted by the aggressive hospitality of ‘neighbours’ Bobby (James D’Arcy) and Jane (Rachel Miner), who insipidly invite themselves into the grieving couple’s home with their creepy pre-teen son. It’s immediately apparent that something’s not quite right with Bobby and Jane: the way Jane stares wistfully at Mary, admiring her every move and nuance, Bobby’s probing, insensitive questions that cause prolonged silences and the exchange of baffled looks. We’ve all been in the kinds of situations where we are forced to spend time with people who inexplicably rub us the wrong way, and trying to discern at which point you willfully disengage can be tricky. But eventually Mark and Mary come to realize that there’s more going on than social awkwardness, and attempts to eject the couple are met with unforeseen hostility that escalates into bloodshed.
Of course the motive – that (in the words of the Shaggs) “the rich people want what the poor people’s got and the poor people want what the rich people got” – runs throughout many home invasion films in which class warfare is a primary source of fuel. Although in films like Death Weekend and Fight for Your Life there appear to be other factors – threatened masculinity, racism and misogyny left over from traumatic childhood events – the perpetrators still choose to torment those who are better off than they are. We know very little about the perpetrators in Replicas, but we do know that they are a makeshift family in search of that elusive Norman Rockwell stereotype of domestic contentment – and that they make assumptions about what signifies that contentment. In simple terms, a vacation home, a family dog, a robust wine cabinet and a shared smile are all the signs of the perfect family. But they don’t see the strain behind that smile. They don’t see that the free-flowing wine is enabling a habit. They don’t see that behind this placidity is the weight of a great loss.
It can be a slow burn at times, again emphasizing the strategies for psychological manipulation that need time to gestate, on both sides of the morality line. Both the perpetrators and ‘victims’ use trust games and emotional button-pushing to create the vulnerability that will allow them to get the upper hand. Rachel Miner (the lead in Larry Clark’s Bully) is particularly great – her awkward delivery reminiscent of a twitchy pre-Hollywood Brittany Murphy – and Joshua Close wears two hats on this production, providing the film’s script as well as confidently inhabiting the big shoes of genre predecessors like Dustin Hoffman (Straw Dogs), Franco Nero (Hitch-Hike) and Ulrich Mühe (the original Funny Games). All of the cast have significant genre credits, but one to watch for certain is James D’Arcy, who appears as Anthony Perkins in Sacha Gervasi’s upcoming Hitchock.
REPLICAS has its Canadian Premiere on Thursday August 2nd at 7:35pm in the Salle JA DeSeve, with director Jeremy Power Regimbal in person. More info on the film page HERE