It would be quite easy to rattle off a list of films that explore hostage situations where women have been captured by men; their dominance and potential for violence (especially of a sexual nature) have been depicted time and time again. But women keeping women hostage is a lesser told tale. In Zach Gayne’s Homewrecker, which saw its World Premiere at Fantasia Festival on Friday, we see one woman’s desperate attempt to make a friend, in a very extreme fashion.
Linda (Precious Chong) and Michelle (Alex Essoe) both attend many of the same classes at a local fitness centre: yoga, dance and spin class − you name it, they’ve tried it. Except these women have never actually interacted until Linda bumps into Michelle in a coffee shop and gets chatting. After seeing Michelle working on her laptop on a client’s project, we learn that she is an interior designer. Linda’s enthusiasm for her new acquaintance seeps through and it is not long before she’s asked Michelle to come around to her place to potentially redecorate the house.
Reluctant at first, Michelle eventually accepts and is won over by Linda’s bright-eyed positivity and curiosity, two traits which later come to prove that Linda is not so normal at all. With a giant hammer displayed proudly on her dining room wall, a room covered with vintage children’s wallpaper of the original doll that inspired horror film Annabelle and a pressing need to feed Michelle cocktails, Linda’s presence soon becomes suspicious.
When Michelle refuses said cocktails, things get nasty. Clocking her over the head with an ornament, Linda knocks out her new friend and keeps her so they can ‘talk about boys’. Stuck in a permanent adolescence with a keen nostalgia for her 80s teen-hood, Linda is completely deranged. Precious Chong is the entire driving force of this film, each new scene is a new level of mania to unfold, so off-kilter and thoroughly engaging, even culminating in a bizarre musical number that plays out like Lola Stone’s rendition of ‘Am I Not Pretty Enough?’ in The Loved Ones, but staged like it’s in Dirty Dancing.
The physicality that both leads give to their respective roles really lifts some of the duller moments in the film. Their multiple fight scenes are wonderfully comic and exaggerated, and it seeps through the frames so that Homewrecker looked like an absolute riot to shoot. What unfortunately lets it down is the score. Sounding like a Nintendo Wii loading screen in the first half and escalating to screeching guitars that are beyond distracting in the second – the music feels in complete contrast with the film. It is neither threatening nor comical, and doesn’t reflect the 80s-infused world Linda has created for herself in her home.
Linda is a woman battling with the womanly expectations placed upon her since high school, unable to reflect those ideals in her own life she seems to have retreated into her own idealised world of cute hunks, 80s films and leotards. When she eventually coaxes Michelle to talk about boys, mainly her husband Robert, the pair seem to come to a mutual understanding about the ways in which they’ve both been conditioned to want the same thing out of life: a man to call their own. Luckily enough for the audience, Linda will always see herself as the one that missed out, so the film never wastes too much time on grand messages and friendship and we get to see Precious Chong completely lose it repeatedly.
Although our Screen Queens ethos is always ‘women united’, there’s something terribly fun about seeing two women just go for each other’s throats. It’s messy, surprisingly violent, even a bit cheesy, but Homewrecker is so confident in letting its two leads run wild that its difficult to not be dragged into the cat-fight.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of SQ. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her life source is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends far too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here