Who would have expected that the top film trend of 2020 would be paying homage to retro cinema? Maybe it’s the return of the drive-in experience that has us feeling nostalgic, but it seems like 2020’s best new releases are all looking back at great films that came before. From the ’50s sci-fi sensibilities of The Vast of Night to The Invisible Man reimagining one of film’s classic monsters, retro is what’s hot! Homewrecker fits in perfectly with this trend as a throwback to the colorful and playful films of the ’80s, with the era’s quintessential slasher elements mixed right in.
Homewrecker is directed by Zach Gayne and stars Alex Essoe (Doctor Sleep) and Precious Chong (L.A. Confidential). The film was received warmly at several genre film festivals, including Fantastic Fest and Fantasia Film Festival, and has built up a reputation as an energetic and unexpected treat.
In Homewrecker, Linda (Chong) is a lonely and middle-aged girl that fills her time with exercise classes and classic ’80s movies. In a desperate bid for friendship, Linda coerces a young interior designer and newlywed named Michelle (Essoe) into a quick visit. Things take a sinister turn when the friendly but awkward visit becomes a descent into a dangerous obsession and the fight to survive.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
As mentioned at the outset, a huge part of the charm of Homewrecker is its tendency to throwback to the films of the ’80s we know and love. The poster and tag-lines call back to the sort of gems you’d find browsing the aisles of a video store (there I go getting nostalgic). As for the film itself, Homewrecker is just the right amount of kooky and crazy to be a ton of fun!
The film’s reference to the clothing and tropes of the ’80s make for a nice trip down memory lane, but the unfolding story and horror elements can keep up with any contemporary piece. Rather than being a distraction, the ’80s callbacks of Homewrecker are key to the deeper storytelling. It’s a subtle and expert balance between the neon, the fluff, and the film’s harder elements. Really well done.
Homewrecker reads as the maniacal love child of the 1982 slasher classic The Slumber Party Massacre and campy greats like Serial Mom. Aesthetically, the film is pleasing and disarming, but perfectly fitting for a story about a woman who is a slave to her “prime;” she’s stuck playing the retired part of a popular young woman in the ’80s. Just as with the character of Linda, all of the friendly nostalgia is just a mask for the present danger.
For better or for worse, some of the most iconic moments for women in pop culture are centered around stories about homewreckers – think Fatal Attraction and Dolly Parton’s hit song, “Jolene.” One of the most brilliant things that Homewrecker does is it immediately forces the viewer to recognize our inherent bias. The opening scenes show an attractive, middle-aged woman giving it her all in workout class after workout class, putting in the effort to keep up with her figure. As the opening sequence continues, we begin to see how she is fixated on a younger woman and realize that she is following that younger woman.
At first blush, Homewrecker creates the automatic assumption of a classic story of “spouse leaves for the younger model,” before quickly dismissing it. This device is crucial because, in its own way, it puts the viewer in that same headspace and expectation as Linda. Like Linda, we are bound by antiquated narratives and the bias that younger women are in competition with older women.
Our popular understanding of feminism is a unique plot device that is used throughout the film. Early on, when Linda is luring Michelle into a false sense of security, Linda is all about girl power. She takes interest in Michelle’s career, her decision whether or not to have kids, and is opposed to catcallers and potential male assailants. That surface level feminism works in several interesting ways. First, it begins to position Linda as a woman who is mentally stunted and trapped in her “glory years” as an attractive and popular young woman in the 80s. Secondly, the assumed sisterhood that comes with trusting a woman who touts “girl power” ends up being Michelle’s downfall.
Juxtaposing contemporary feminist ideas with a story about aging and the stigmas we place on older women is brilliant. Linda is both perpetrator and victim of society’s fascination with youth. She sees herself in competition with Michelle for a man’s affection, the classic struggle of age versus youth, but she has also imprisoned herself in her youthful idea to the point of insanity.
Homewrecker is an absolute blast! Every moment of the film, crazy or scary or just plain weird, is played with a lightness that makes it a joy to watch. Precious Chong is a standout, but full credit must go to the entire cast for taking this to the next level. I can easily see Homewrecker becoming a darling of home movie nights and midnight screenings.
The film deftly moves between dark comedy and horror elements, creating an accessible film that will delight any film lover. The energy is high and the laughs are plenty. There is a little something for everyone. Don’t sleep on (or sleep around on) Homewrecker.
What are your favorite ’80s films? Let us know in the comments!
Homewrecker will arrive in select drive-ins on July 3 and will be available on VOD, DVD and Digital on July 7.
Does content like this matter to you?
Become a Member and support film journalism. Unlock access to all of Film Inquiry`s great articles. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about cinema – get access to our private members Network, give back to independent filmmakers, and more.