Overview: A dinner party goes awry when a comet passing overhead sparks bizarre and unsettling events. 2014; distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories; Not Rated; 89 minutes.
So Much With So Little: Writer/Director James Ward Byrkit does nothing to hide the fact that his budget was limited for Coherence. The entire film takes place not only in one house, but in one single room within that house. The camera work is shaky and invasive, and the lighting is minimal, creating almost a home movie atmosphere that draws us even closer into this headtrip of a film. Coherence’s ownership of its small scale is a testament to the benefits of an intimate viewing experience, proving that you don’t always need special effects or elaborate set pieces to create intensity, excitement, and even a few scares. As the action ramps up, the close quarters become stifling, adding to the increasing sense of unease and dread already fueled by the combination of an astrological phenomenon and the nature of human anxiety.
Who’s Who? Coherence benefits from its relatively unknown cast, anchored by Nicholas Brendon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who gives fans a nod during his portrayal of Mike, a struggling actor that begrudgingly goes unrecognized for his claim to fame as the star of a CW television show. Although he provides the only comedy relief the movie has to offer, his character is also the most tortured, adding a twist to the well known concept of internal fears being stronger than external threats. He manages to create an unsettling dynamic among the other characters, fueling the tension to an extent that makes it impossible for them to ban together.
The real standout here is Emily Baldoni as Emily, a hesitant and soft spoken young woman who attends the evening’s festivities with her boyfriend. Although every member of the eight person cast ensemble shares relatively the same amount of screen time, Emily draws us in as the only one who really understands the gravity of the chaos that’s been caused by the comet’s disruption (I’m tiptoeing here to avoid spoilers). Throughout the film we’re able to rely almost entirely on her expressions, reactions, and ultimately her panic to decipher the events of the night, which finally come to a head when she snaps. And although we’re left with plenty of questions and few answers, Byrkit’s writing and the intrigue of his characters are more than enough to leave us frustratingly satisfied.