Making its world premiere as a SXSW Midnighter, Two Pigeons is a home invasion thriller that is skillfully crafted by director Dominic Bridges to produce maximum audience unease.
When we first encounter loudmouthed real estate agent Hussein (Mim Shaikh) in his London apartment, he’s getting ready for his day — showering, brushing his teeth, and dressing in a ridiculously loud suit before heading out. Seconds later, an alarmingly emaciated giant named Orlan (Javier Botet), clad only in tighty-whities, emerges from beneath the bed. Creeping around the place, he helps himself to breakfast, carefully measuring out small portions of milk and cereal so that his unwitting flatmate won’t notice anything missing. He spends the rest of the day inhabiting the apartment as if it’s his own.
When Hussein comes home in the evening, Orlan makes himself scarce, but he’s hardly gone. He’s hiding in a crawlspace behind the wall, and he listens in as the man goes about his evening — ordering takeout, playing video games, and masturbating. It’s a disturbing scenario, especially since we don’t know who Orlan is or what the hell he wants. And Botet, who is afflicted with a rare disorder known as Marfan syndrome (which causes extreme height and emaciation as well as elongated limbs and fingers) didn’t need any special effects makeup to portray this otherworldly-looking intruder.
As the days pass, Orlan’s behavior becomes increasingly overt and offensive. He spits into Hussein’s mouthwash, adds bleach to his shampoo, and uses his toothbrush in a highly inappropriate way. When Hussein’s girlfriend, Mel (Mandeep Dhillon) returns from a trip, he ups the ante on his antisocial assaults in order to drive a wedge between them. He blows his nose into a pair of her panties and leaves a trail of gay porn searches on her computer, convincing Mel that Hussein’s recent inability to perform in bed is due to a conflict in his sexuality.
They bicker and blame each other until she finally gives up and leaves. Orlan becomes even more blatant, adding toxins to Hussein’s food and drink to make Hussein physically ill as well as leaving doors open and moving things about to make him question his own sanity.
As Bridges and co-writer Rae Brunton pile on the atrocities, our sympathies naturally lean toward Hussein. After all, Orlan is invading his space and generally behaving deplorably. But if you pay attention to the dialogue the giant is carrying on with two pigeons sitting on the windowsill outside, a different story comes to light, one that paints a much darker portrait of the estate agent.
Adding to the claustrophobic atmosphere is the fact that Two Pigeons takes place entirely in Hussein’s flat. Even though it’s a small space, Bridges still manages to transform it into a house of horrors; it’s the one place where a guy should be able to feel safe and secure, but it’s important to realize that it’s also a place where he can be at his most vulnerable.
Two Pigeons was reviewed at SXSW on March 10, 2017 (world premiere) at the Stateside Theatre in Austin, TX.