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Right at Your Door (2006)

Lionsgate Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/29/2008

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/21/2008

Realism it an asset that I typically don't like in my movies. It's very easy for really real life to seep into everyday life, so I tend to seek out films that depict fantastic or distant realities. This is especially true with horror films or thrillers. However, every once in a while a movie comes along which deftly blends a realistic event and the sort of terror which can follow. Right at Your Door is the sort of film which we hope is a fantasy, but in our modern world, the reality of the film is difficult to ignore.

Right at Your Door takes place in modern-day Los Angeles. Brad (Rory Cochrane) awakens and makes coffee for his wife, Lexi (Mary McCormack). She then gets ready and leaves for work. Brad, an out-of-work musician will be staying at home. Not long after Lexi has left, Brad hears thundering booms in the distant. He turns on the radio (they've just moved into their house, so there's no cable for television) to learn that a series of bombs have been detonated all around the L.A. area. Brad immediately jumps in his truck to go and get Lexi, but he finds that all of the roads leaving his neighborhood have been cut off by the police. He then returns home, where he continues to try and call Lexi. The neighbor's gardener, Alvaro (Tony Perez) -- having no where else to go -- joins Brad in the house. They soon learn from the radio that the explosions were caused by "dirty bombs" and that the fires are spreading ash laced with toxic chemicals. Brad and Alvaro then seal the house using plastic and duct tape. As soldiers roam the streets, Brad waits for Lexi to return.

Right at Your Door is an intriguing mixture of the old and the new. A few years ago, the term "dirty bomb" would have been lost on most viewers, and the idea that someone would detonate a bomb in the middle of L.A. seemed far-fetched. But, in our post-September 11th world, anything seems possible. Following the explosions, Brad listens intently to the radio, but can't get any clear answers. When the officials finally arrive on the scene, they too are unhelpful. These ideas echo the kind of confusion which was seen in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Thus the film plays on some very modern fears.

Of course, this isn't the first film to deal with the aftermath of a disaster. Along with recent films like World Trade Center, the 1980s saw movies such as The Day After. If anything, Right at Your Door reminded me of Jericho, as it wasn't so much about the tragic event, but about how normal people dealt with the after-effects. Also, the second half of Right at Your Door is a siege film along the lines of Night of the Living Dead. Brad is trapped inside the house, unsure of what to do, while various forces wait outside.

Irregardless of modern fears or being a homage to past films, Right at Your Door is very good at what it does. Writer/director Chris Gorak has made some excellent decisions in the making of this film. Aside from Brad's flight from the house to try and find Lexi, all of the film takes place inside the house. And once Brad has sealed himself inside, the film takes on a very claustrophobic quality. Despite the fact that the electricity remains on, Gorak has chosen to make the film very dark, which only heightens the sense that Brad is alone. Clearly Gorak chose to rob Brad of access to television for budgetary reasons, but it also adds to the sense of isolation. Also, one can easily imagine that Brad's mental state is crumbling as time goes on, and the constant chatter of the radio is almost like voices in Brad's head. These feelings only emphasize the emotional turmoil which comes in the second half of the film. As with any siege film, people arrive at the door, and Brad must decide what he is going to do. The movie has done such a fine job of drawing us in that we begin to put ourselves in Brad's position, imagining what we would do. As if all of this weren't enough, Gorak lays down a wicked twist ending, which takes a film which could have easily had a weak, or worse, ambiguous ending, and really delivers a knock-out punch.

As with many independent films in the past, Right at Your Door was a darling at the Sundance Film Festival. But unlike most of those others movies, this one is actually good. The film takes a very simple premise, and a handful of actors (all of whom are very good), and makes a spell-binding film. The movie does drag somewhat in the middle, and (if he'd wanted to) Gorak could have made the soldiers much creepier, but as it stands, Right at Your Door is a little movie which raises some big questions, and delivers a gut-wrenching experience.

Right at Your Door explodes onto DVD courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. (Although, the DVD box claims that the framing is 1.85:1.) The movie was shot on Super 16 film and the transfer shows the limitations of that medium. On the audio commentary, Gorak states that he liked the true blacks of Super 16, but they may have been too black, as the image is quite dark here. Even in the daytime scenes, the picture is very dark and in the nighttime scenes, the action is often difficult to make out. This may have been intentional, but it's not pleasant. Also, there is a notable amount of grain here, but there are no defects from the source material. The film's washed-out look is clearly meant to be, but there are some occasional flashes of color. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This movie has an awesome sound design and this track truly does justice to it. The speakers are filled with the sounds of passing police cars and helicopters, and as these noises come and go through the front and surround channels, it truly places us in the house with Brad. These are punctuated by some occasional subwoofer effects. This is the kind of track which reminds you of what a 5.1 audio track is supposed to sound like.

The Right at Your Door DVD contains a few extras, all featuring writer/director Chris Gorak. First, Gorak provides an AUDIO COMMENTARY for the film. He is joined by an unidentified speaker who keeps the conversation moving along. Gorak speaks at length about all facets of the film, from the actors to the house to the actual filming. Some of the talk is somewhat technical, but it's informative.   Next, we have "Forearm Shiver: An Interview with Chris Gorak" (26 minutes). Here, he discusses the idea for the film, the development of the movie, and the actors. From there, he goes on to describe the film's production, including working with the actors, the use of radio, and sound design. In "Film School: Tips on Making an Independent Film with Chris Gorak" (15 minutes) he discusses his career, the experience that he received and how he applied that to making his movie. The final extra has three "Alternative Ending Scripts", which are all like the filmed ending, but with slight differences.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long