Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Come Back to Me: There Goes the Neighborhood

The message is clear: get a dog. They are protective and sensitive to the supernatural. Sarah and Josh’s neighbor simply cannot abide them, but unfortunately, they do not have one. Things will get decidedly creepy for her as a result in Paul Leyden’s Come Back to Me (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

It is pretty clear from the opening prelude Dale is a little off. He seems to be one of life’s victims, but there is something wrong about his responses. Not surprisingly, he grows up to be a weird, twitchy adult, who moves in right across the street from Sarah. Clearly, she is just his type, while she would prefer to avoid him altogether. However, she soon realizes his arrival coincides with the vivid night terrors suddenly plaguing her.

Her M.D. friend can relate. She too had similar experiences, but they subsided with a little medication. She also got her dog Buster around the same time. In a funny coincidence, Dale used to deliver her groceries, until he switched assignment due to his canine aversion. Even Sarah realizes Dale is a profoundly bad guy. She just cannot figure out how he is tormenting her. It is kind of a big revelation, but the title of former kick-boxer Wrath James White’s source novel pretty much gives it away, so do not watch the credits too closely.

Frankly, Leyden deserves credit for not going the found footage route, even though some digital video footage plays a pivotal role. He actually set out to make a real movie instead. It is still a rather mixed bag, but there are a couple of nasty surprises in store for viewers and he nicely maintains a consistent atmosphere of dread.

Nevertheless, he never really capitalizes on the potentially disorienting Vegas setting, aside from occasionally showing Josh at work dealing at his casino table. In fact, Josh is often problematic, disappearing to sulk over his sterility at the worst possible times. The fact that they own smart phones but never check their voicemail is annoyingly convenient. Katie Walder furrows her brow well enough for us to buy into Sarah’s ordeal and Nathan Keyes is appropriately unsettling as Dale, suggesting a restrained Crispin Glover. Even so, good old Buster often steals the show.

Maybe it is the over-exposed looking flashback scenes, but CBTM never truly takes flight, despite some promising elements. The ending is also likely to be divisive, but it earns points for avoiding the clichéd horror movie finale. Mainly for dark thriller-horror movie addicts, Come Back to Me opens this Friday (7/25) in New York at the AMC Empire and also launches on VOD platforms.