9/11 paranoia knocks on Your Door

Right at Your Door

on August 24, 2007 by Jay Antani
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An effectively chilling bit of post-9/11 horror, writer/director Chris Gorak's debut draws on our collective terrorist-attack paranoia, the flames of which have been relentlessly fanned by fear-mongering media and leadership. On multiple levels, Right at Your Door mirrors Night of the Living Dead , pitting desperate characters, sealed inside a confined space, against a menace ravaging the countryside and threatening to breach.

In Gorak's picture, the horror comes in the form of toxic vapors spreading across Los Angeles in the wake of multiple dirty-bomb explosions in the city. The perpetrators of the attack are never named, and rightly so—there's no need to in an age when terrorism is a specter already haunting the collective conscience. But against the backdrop of that frightening scenario, Gorak posits a second enemy: the system itself, appearing in the form of overloaded hospitals and police and military authorities meting out draconian justice.

Door uncannily approximates the hysteria that snarls the airwaves and civic order as stay-at-home musician/husband Brad (Rory Cochrane) learns of the attack through his local radio station. By and large, the radio is his, and our, only source of information—staticky strains of bleak, disembodied voices that give little hope and seem just as vulnerable to the enemy as our protagonists.

Brad panics because his wife Lexi (Mary McCormack) was caught in traffic at the site of one of the explosions. Efforts to contact or retrieve her fail, and before long he retreats home, forced to seal up his doors and windows, because the fallout from the bombs, it is reported, carries a lethal virus. As dark plumes rise from LA's downtown and ash floats from the sky, Brad must reckon with his absolute helplessness and guilt, especially after Lexi, haggard and terrified, shows up to find the house barricaded.

Gorak is versed in building suspense, and Door 's freaky setup is as riveting as horror cinema gets. But as the story's attention shifts to Brad and Lexi's marital tensions and their respective failings, the movie seems less sure of itself, the direction becomes harried and messy, and Cochrane and McCormack's performances feel too tightly wound. Their scenes together, separated by a makeshift cellophane barrier, feel anguished but clichéd in their urban disconnect and, frankly, uninteresting compared to the harrowing radio reports in the background and visions of a city—and of an America—falling apart catastrophically.

Thankfully, Gorak keeps the material moving, with the rapidly ailing Lexi leaving to aid a contaminated boy and Brad visited by hazmat-suited strangers—army containment specialists—who may as well as be Martians, and as evil as the attack's unnamed perpetrators. Smartly edited and staged, Gorak's picture more often than not hits the right emotional (and, yes, political) notes that keep us rooted in all their absurdity, terror and sense of loss. After the Katrina tragedy, the filmmaker's fears are both well-grounded and keenly realized.
Distributor: Lionsgate
Cast: Mary McCormack, Rory Cochrane, Tony Perez, Jon Huertes and Scotty Noyd Jr.
Director/Screenwriter: Chris Gorak
Producers: Palmer West and Jonah Smith
Genre: Thriller
Rating: R for pervasive language and some disturbing violent content
Running time: 96 min.
Release date: August 24, 2007 ltd.
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