Scotty Noyd Jr.
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Right At Your Door (2006)
11th Sep 06
When chemical explosives go off in LA, Brad (Rory Cochrane) is forced to seal his house and stay inside, despite his wife being trapped outside in the chemical fallout.
Review “We interrupt your regular programming for a KDHP emergency news brief. This is Neil Simmons reporting from KDHP’s Pasadena studios. Multiple explosive devices were detonated simultaneously across downtown LA moments ago…”
It’s been five years now since that world-stopping day on September 11th, and Hollywood is finally starting to deal with its nation’s moment of mourning. Already this year we’ve had United 93 and Flight 93 with Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center (sic) barking just around the corner, all three films dealing with non-fictional accounts of that fateful day.
Now, shifting somewhat slightly away from the actual focus of events of 9/11, comes the indie flick Right At Your Door which posits the question, what would happen if a city such as LA came under chemical attack, terrorist or otherwise? It’s a great concept (c’mon – how many of us have imagined how we would react if the same happened in our country / city), well written by first-time writer / director Chris Gorak, and features two memorable lead performances from Rory Cochrane and Mary McCormack.
When out-of-work musician Brad (Rory Cochrane) says goodbye to his wife Lexi (Mary McCormack) one morning, he has nothing planned other than to relax and listen to a spot of Radio KDHP. However, his day is turned upside down when an emergency news brief interrupts the morning’s programmes to bring news of a multi-dirty bomb attack in downtown LA. Fearing the worst, he jumps into his car to look for his wife, frantically calling her (although failing to reach her) on the mobile to see if she’s ok.
Further attempts to find her are thwarted though, as armed policeman have taken to the streets to stop people from travelling close to the heart of the disaster-zone. The authorities have even taken to shooting innocent civilians in an attempt to establish some semblance of order amongst the chaos, so Brad drives to a shop stack up on sticky tape and plastic sheeting before reluctantly returning home.
At his house he finds a sheltering neighbour’s handyman, and together they take the radio-advised action of sealing up the house to make it airtight, even though this means that even if Lexi has survived and finds her way home, there is now no way she can enter the quarantined house. Of course, Lexi does return, setting the scene for husband and wife to deal with their own respected fates on opposite sides of a plastic-sealed house.
Right At Your Door takes the decision to focus on a huge disaster from the viewpoints of two characters, and it’s an interesting concept. The film keeps the events of the day or two that follow the attack small-scale, and even if this is mostly due to financial constraints, it works well within the story. With only fleeting glimpses of the outside world, we are kept in the same position as Brad and Lexi, desperately listening to the radio broadcasts for news as the situation looks ever more bleak for the stranded Lexi outside the house amidst the falling ash.
Both Rory Cochrane and Mary McCormack play their characters well, and it is largely thanks to their performances that our attention is held for the majority of the film. The plot does occasionally move outside of these two, but only fleetingly. A young black kid’s appearance is only partially resolved, whereas an ex-lover of Lexi pops up for a short scene before disappearing completely. As a result, Right At Your Door often has the feel of a stage play as it rattles on to its unexpected (and shocking) climax, but it’s a very thoughtful one, and makes it’s point known without even a single mention of the word ‘terrorism’.
With minimal, but effective, use of special effects, the ubiquitous hand-held grainy camera work and a subtle music score, there’s no doubting that the low-budget Right At Your Door is a harrowing watch, but it manages to keep you hooked, especially if you’ve ever imagined what you would do in a situation like this yourself. This is not a film about that fateful day five years ago, but how we, as a Western society are currently living post-9/11, and in a way, that is far more terrifying than any other recent Hollywood slasher movie, Japanese ghost story, or Wicker Man remake of recent years.
Thanks in part to his previous employers (such as Terry Gilliam, Stephen Speilberg, the Coen Brothers and David Fincher), Chris Gorak has marked himself out as an intelligent filmmaker who is not afraid to take risks. If you have the stomach for it, Right At Your Door is highly recommended.
Right At Your Door was released in UK cinemas on September 8th 2006.