Coherence

Director: James Ward Byrkit (2015)

When a passing comet causes a space-time anomaly, it turns a dinner party into disaster in this dull and derivative sci-fi thriller.

Glossy, arty, unlikeable and poorly established characters bicker their way through a catastrophic storm of hyperactive camerawork and weak writing.

When phone signals, the internet and external power fail, Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) and Amir (Alex Manugian) head off to the only other neighbourhood house with lights on.

They intend to call Hugh’s physicist brother who warned about possible ill effects of the comet, it’s a wonder the brother isn’t called Bill Mason.

With no obvious leaders, the guests start squabbling like contestants on The Apprentice. Glamorous Emily (Emily Baldoni) starts to give partner Kevin (Maury Sterling) a hard time over a perceived slight at the table. Others make passes at each other’s partners. Their sense of priorities are more puzzling than their situation.

Someone turns to the bottle which seems a reasonable response to being cooped up with these idiots.

With close ups, shallow focus, jump cuts and restless shaky cam we’re treated to a full range of found-footage effects without this being a found-footage film – which is annoying when we realise there’s no character behind the camera to interact with the ones we can see.

Presumably the intention is to create intimacy and suggest forthcoming danger while visually preparing the ground for when these effects will be usefully employed.

But this distracting approach heightens the script’s failure to sufficiently identify the characters for the audience; we fail to engage with them or care what is happening. At times it would have been useful if they’d worn names on the backs of their clothes.

Having being lost in the dark space between houses, Hugh and Amir return injured and with a metal box. They’d encountered the inhabitants of the other house who were unfriendly and disturbingly looked exactly like themselves.

The box contains photos of themselves taken that very evening. Notes are stuck to their front door written in their own handwriting and personal items unexpectedly appear.

A book containing Hugh’s brother’s lecture notes is discovered in the back of a car. They offer a mercifully brief explanation using the coherence variation of quantum mechanics. Gwyneth Paltrow is mentioned alongside Schrodinger’s cat – which must be a first.

There’s more bickering and another splinter group wander off outside. A second Hugh arrives claiming to be the first Hugh and it dawns on the inmates there are more than two houses with identical occupants, increasingly mixed up between identical houses.

But when the comet passes the quantum anomaly will collapse and everyone must find their correct house – or be trapped in the wrong dinner party forever. Paranoia, suspicion and violence follow.

☆☆☆

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