The entirety of Home Movie is designed to look like a series of camcorder documents. David and Clare Poe have moved to a nice house in the country to raise their two 10-year-old kids who have been exhibiting disturbing behavior at school. David does most of the shooting, and he documents everything: holiday celebrations, anniversary dinners, even chores prescribed as punishments. Clare points out--more than once--that the camera belongs to her, and she bought it specifically for the purpose of documenting the treatment of her children. David's videos are cheesy and boisterous, Clare's always begin with a clinical recitation of the current date and time, and a summary of what she intends to accomplish in the following footage.
We watch over the course of several months as they kids descend from sociopathy to psychopathy: violent drawings and refusal to participate give way to animal abuse and the attempted torture of a classmate. Pretty soon they're crucifying the cat and beheading the dog, and poisoning their parents.
There are a few surprises in this movie, but I've more or less given away the biggest ones in that last sentence--sorry. That's one of the problems of found footage movies--they lack subtlety. It's hard to summarize one without giving most of the plot away.
Trying to decide how to express an opinion on a movie like this triggers something of a philosophical debate in me. Siskel and Ebert reduced their verdicts to a "thumbs up"/"thumbs down" system which lacked nuance, but ultimately provided a simple answer to their viewers' most relevant question: "should I spend my money and/or money on this movie?"
Home Movie is squarely in C- (thumbs down) territory, in that it's mediocre, but not pernicious. I don't at all regret spending my time on it, but another viewing would probably be a waste. Should you spend your money and/or time on it? No, I guess not.
I made some little observations over the course of the movie, and I wanted to include them, but I don't feel that Home Movie warrants a seriously argued critique so it's hard to figure out where to bring them up.
- I like that Daniel's faith is handled maturely; it gets mentioned more than a few times, but the film doesn't moralize about either Christianity or atheism, which makes me happy because horror movies like to use faith as shorthand for either "crazy" or "hero". His approach to the kids is religious and hers is scientific, and they both make mistakes.
- The kids have a locked clubhouse in the back 40, which their parents are aware of but do not break into until almost the end of the movie, and when they do, it is unsurprisingly full of mutilated animals and drawings of graphic violence. No parent--no matter how open-minded--is that respectful of their children's privacy.
- If you call the police to report that your kids have tried to murder their friend, the police will take your kids away. There is absolutely nowhere in modern America that the police will say "well, it's Easter Sunday, so we'll deal with it tomorrow."
- Not having the kids speak on camera until just about the end was a good choice, and I'm surprised at how well they executed it.
- Kudos to writer/director Christopher Denham for sticking to his convictions. A lot of movies promise murderous kids, but very rarely do they follow through.
Here's your damn trailer.