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After winning the cinematography award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, Right At Your Door has struggled to find an appropriate release slot in most countries, most likely due to the controversial subject matter. Now that it has appeared on DVD in the UK, is everyone else around the world missing out on a classic or is it not worth bothering with?

Right At Your Door

Feature


Brad and Lexi have recently moved to a new neighbourhood in Los Angeles. Lexi is the bread-winner while Brad is a stay-at-home struggling musician. Right At Your Door begins on a typical morning with Lexi heading off to work but their humdrum lives are thrown upside down when a dirty bomb goes off downtown and a toxic cloud starts to pour ash all over the city. After failing to track Lexi down, Brad follows the advice of his neighbour’s handyman and seals the house with his wife outside. It’s not long before she comes home and finds her husband refusing to let her inside.

Drawing on his feelings following the September 11th attacks, writer and first-time director Chris Gorak has crafted a tale firmly rooted in contemporary western fears. His intention is to get the audience to put themselves in the position of the central characters and ask themselves what they would do if they were in the same position. It’s a very interesting premise for a movie and appeals to the more active movie watchers out there.

Right At Your Door
Unfortunately, this was the main reason I found it difficult to really enjoy Right At Your Door. To me, an active movie watcher is someone who analyses pretty much everything they are watching, whether they are enjoying it or not, and a passive viewer sits back to take in everything and may choose to analyse it later. By inviting debate from the audience while they are watching the movie, it is unfortunately easier to pick out the niggles that could have been overlooked or forgiven in a less challenging movie.

I was looking forward to watching this movie because of the premise. It had already sparked debate between my girlfriend and I (if you're interested, we’d both let each other in) but the reality of watching the whole movie was not as fulfilling as I’d hoped. For a start, the idea is good on paper but it doesn’t really stretch out to a feature that well. After all, it is essentially a movie about two people talking to each other through a door. Gorak gets us to the action very quickly and for plot purposes he’s eager to get us to the point where Lexi turns up at the door by the end of the first thirty-minute act. However, this means that character development is not given as much screen time as I would have liked and I didn’t feel like the two main characters were people I really identified with.

Right At Your Door
Another factor that stopped my buying into the characters was some of the things they said and did. Brad uses the F-word a lot when talking to his wife and given that he spends a lot of time trying to calm her down, I think it would actually have had the opposite effect. I didn’t like the way Brad talked to his neighbour’s handyman either and of course this may just be because he was meant to be a difficult person to talk to but this is a movie that lives or dies on whether these people act in a believable way in a crisis.

Screenplay aside, the performances of the actors is a highlight. It must have been an actor’s dream to take on a project that could easily have been performed on stage because they get to share intimate moments and show off a range of emotions. Come to think of it, a one-hour one-act play may have been a more preferable format for this story. There is not always a compelling plot device to move the story along but the actors always make Right At Your Door watchable. Once the suspense ramps up towards the end, I was already at the point where I was checking my watch and wishing that we’d had more of it earlier in the story. There’s a conspiracy angle that isn’t as developed as much as it could be and the twist in the tale feels like it was added in for the sake of having a twist rather than it being a part of the master plan all along.

Right At Your Door

Video


As art director on big budget blockbusters like Fight Club and Minority Report, Chris Gorak has obviously picked up more than a few tricks because he has wrung every penny out of the low budget to make Right At Your Door look like a very professional production. The picture is grainy but this is due to Gorak’s decision to film using Super-16 rather than HD. He purposely aimed for the gritty look and this is well represented on the DVD without introducing artefacts that are detrimental to the viewing experience. The detail in the picture is also good, which is very important in a movie where some of the action is viewed through sheets of plastic-sealed doorways.

Audio


As with the picture quality, Gorak has got good value out of his budget and the 5.1 surround track isn’t bad. There’s very little music in Right At Your Door (I assume to cut down on licensing costs) but the use of sound effects is good, with high-pitched whines unsettling the viewer at the right times. Even though the movie is about a bomb going off, we don’t get to hear the explosion. There’s not as much in here to give your home cinema system a good work-out as you’d find in a big action movie but the dialogue and effects are clear and strong and you can’t expect much more than that from this type of film.

Right At Your Door

Extras


Chris Gorak features heavily in the extras and it’s no surprise seeing as Right At Your Door is very much his baby. He supplies a commentary track in partnership with a writer from Empire magazine and the dynamic of a chirpy Brit asking questions of a rather dry American works well. Gorak can tend to waffle a little and his counterpart keeps him on the straight and narrow with plenty of interesting questions about his career and the making of the movie.

The interview with Chris Gorak repeats a lot of the information from the commentary track in a shorter format and I got the feeling he was holding back from really letting rip with his feelings about September 11th and the Iraq war. His feelings on the subject are obvious but he quite rightly keeps them to himself. The ‘Film School’ featurette is really just additional footage from the interview, with Gorak going into more detail about how he got into the movie business and the challenges he faced as a first-time director coming from a production design background. The alternative ending scripts are for the completists and only contain slight variations on the real ending.

Right At Your Door

Overall


So do I recommend Right At Your Door? Just about. Had I not seen it before, I might want to keep watching it if I found it late one night while channel-surfing but it’s probably not worth picking up on DVD for the movie alone. It is a good-looking film but the lack of real entertainment value doesn’t make me want to watch it over and over again. However, the disc does provide some good information on making a low budget movie and as a result the DVD is probably of more value to amateur filmmakers than Joe Public.


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