The first thing you’ll notice when watching the indie thriller Homecoming is that Shelby (Mischa Barton) has got to be the best looking woman who ever worked in a bowling alley. We know she’s the most interesting character because she’s introduced as a psycho right from the start. We know she’s a little screwy because she smokes.
Jessica Stroup stars as Elizabeth, Mike’s new girlfriend (Mike’s a former high school football hero—geaux, Tigers!); they met in college. Elizabeth and Mike (Matt Long) go to his home town (Mt. Bliss) for the high school’s homecoming—his jersey is being retired. Shelby, who can’t get it through her head that she’s Mike’s ex-girlfriend takes their arrival badly, but puts on a happy face and makes friends with Elizabeth.
The friendship sort of ends when Shelby runs Elizabeth over. (C’mon, be kind, she didn’t do it on purpose. She was drunk driving and it was dark and she was crying…and she didn’t expect Elizabeth to be dragging her suitcase down the side of a deserted road…give the girl a break.) Shelby takes Liz to her house (where there are plenty of prescription drugs and medical equipment) and when Liz wakes up she’s hooked up to an IV and has a broken ankle. (If this sounds like Misery, a quote on the box from Horror-Asylum.com advises, “A mix of Fatal Attraction and Misery for the Gossip Girl generation.”)
Shelby is pretty likable—she’s got a cool car, nice clothes, and a great old house filled with antiques in the middle of nowhere, and she’s very pretty—but when she starts twisting Elizabeth’s foot, we stop sympathizing with her. She still makes a good villain, though. Elizabeth on the other hand is very pretty, has a great tan, and really knows how to flip the bird. Mike? Oh he’s pretty, too, but he’s also pretty dense and incredibly shallow.
Homecoming is an oft-told tale, but it’s not a tale told by an idiot. Director Morgan J. Freeman deserves an A+ for restraint; his actors never appear naked, sexual content is limited, and there’s little blood. As the story unfolds the audience will have its suspicions about Shelby and they will be right. Elizabeth, the captive, surprises us by not doing things we wouldn’t do, but she also doesn’t do some of the things we would. Having managed to drag myself up a flight of stairs with a broken ankle and heel, I can’t believe she can’t get down a flight of stairs and outside during one of Shelby’s absences (out trying to seduce Mike). When does she try to escape? When Shelby’s there (none of us would do that).
Moving along at a respectable pace, and employing a minimum of gore, Homecoming entertains us without making us think. It’s not a classic horror film, but it’s a decent one. Watching pretty people being mean to each other may not be the best use of your time, but you could do lots worse (want a list?).
In the end, we learn why football helmets are vital pieces of safety equipment, and why you should never let anyone retire your number. Homecoming is rated “R” for violence and language, but is not especially offensive or brutal. Listen for Bowie’s “Modern Love” performed by Last Town Chorus; it provides a nice David Lynch accent.
Homecoming will be shown on Lifetime, April 11 and 13, and available on DVD April 20. The DVD includes deleted scenes.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent Homecoming? Yes. This is a film that would go well with popcorn and a Coke.