Written and Directed by Chris Gorak, 2007
I’ve always lamented that we Americans have no iconic cultural fears. Asian countries have cornered the market on ghost films because of genuine, widespread reservations about the after life and trapped spirits. Saying the word Chupacabra out loud in select Latin American countries is akin to inviting the Grim Reaper to town. Even Japan has Godzilla – granted no one has any rational fear of a giant lizard rising out of the ocean, but at least there is a cultural respect for the icon.
Fear in American culture is invasionary. All we care about is other people violating our normality. The masked slasher, the king of personal invasion, is the only icon we’ve got. There are anomalies, sure, but they are rare exceptions and for the most part never integrate into the culture. While the slasher may currently be hibernating on the dark side of the film trend moon, the invasion film is still roaming the tables. It was only a matter of time before terrorism was worked into the fold on a scale larger than the home.
Right at Your Door does confine itself mostly in a home, but the implications of this intimate terror extend on a grand scale that Chris Gorak knows just how to manipulate: Several dirty bombs go off all over Los Angeles, sending plumes of toxic ash into the air. Brad (RoryCochrane), blocked off from the inner city watches the smoke rise with knowledge that his wife Lexi (Mary McCormack) is somewhere in the unreachable city. As confused reports on the nature of the explosions roll in, Brad and a neighbor’s handyman must seal off the house from the outside air, even if that means trapping Lexi outdoors.
Gorak’s script squeezes out every drop of drama possible from the situation. The confusion of a city wide disaster, the nature of the toxin, the health of Lexi, the amount of clean food and water inside the house, the other people outside and a military presence that provides zero answers. There are a few dips in pacing that could have used ironing out, but for the most part the execution is taught and stretches the suspense to the end.
As successful as Gorak is behind the camera and typewriter, all would be for naught without Rory Cochrane and Mary McCormack. Their performances anchor the reality of the film, cementing its terror with palpable panic. They are the stars of the show, but this also isn’t a typical Indie film confined to a single set. Gorak does a great job of balancing their intimate plight with peeks at the city wide chaos.
If the "Twilight Zone" had a contemporary feature film department, Right at Your Door would be a flagship. Chris Gorak’s film shares many of the same qualities that defined that seminal series as the source for culturally relevant what ifs and more. There are a few fallacies in the science (a dirty bomb uses an explosive to disburse a radioactive material; any toxins or “hybrid viruses” would be vaporized in the initial explosion), but that is precisely why Right at Your Door is science-fiction.
Fallacies included, it has a sharp story to tell with a welcome evolution on the one fear we share as a culture.