REVIEW: ‘Safer At Home’ Fails To Deliver On Its Premise

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Safer at Home

Since the pandemic started, the production of web camera-based found footage films have gone up significantly. These films existed pre-quarantine, such as Unfriended and Searching to name a few, but it’s interesting to see them take on a new approach with social distancing in mind. 

Safer at Home is one of these thriller films, directed by Will Wernick and co-written by Wernick and Lia Bozonelis. It takes place entirely over a Zoom-esque webcam service as seven friends celebrate a birthday two years into the pandemic. A new, deadlier variant of COVID is spreading, and Los Angeles is essentially a police state due to lockdowns and increased police presence. 

Everything is going well for the group of friends, especially considering the circumstances. Our focus tends to fall on Jen (Jocelyn Hudon) and Evan (Dan J. Johnson), who have been happily dating for about a decade. Liam (Daniel Robaire) and Ben (Adwin Brown) are a long-time couple also living together, Oliver (Michael Kupisk) and Mia (Emma Lahan) are “co-quarantining”, and Harper (Alisa Allapach) is the single comedic relief. They all join a call to celebrate Liam’s birthday. Oliver has sent everyone ecstasy pills through the mail to get the party started. As you can imagine, things go downhill from there when one of the seven is accidentally killed. 

The inciting incident of taking the ecstasy feels pointless. It doesn’t change the characters’ behavior in a meaningful way, and they’re doing things they would do sober, like driving and chatting. Even the character’s death isn’t related to being intoxicated, but every time the film brings it up, it feels hollow. 

Safer At Home’s strongest point is within the first twenty minutes. The viewer is anticipating the drugs kicking in, and after the death of one of the seven characters, we want to see where the film will take us. It is full of potential that goes to waste rather quickly. No one thinks to call an ambulance, and that logical fallacy is the only thing that lays the groundwork for the rest of the conflict. Two of the characters spend the majority of the plot running from cops, while the other four helplessly watch through their webcams. There are brief mentions of curfews and quarantines passed around, but there’s nothing meaningful.

The whole premise of the film is that it takes place during a pandemic that has escalated past what we currently know, but the script constantly undermines itself. Two of the characters hug and are out in public without masks. The police presence doesn’t seem especially out of the ordinary either. It feels like the audience is constantly being told that things are somehow worse in this fictional version of 2022 than they are currently, but doesn’t have the imagery or dialogue to back it up. The movie consistently loses sight of its own agenda in favor of shallow thrills. It’s even difficult to speak to the performance of the actors because the script they’re working off of is primarily fueled by empty panic.

As the surviving friends try to solve the problem of the body on the floor, they’re also having deeply personal arguments over Zoom – unmuted. Everyone brings their phone/laptop with them wherever they go, including into the car, bedroom, or even bathroom. It doesn’t feel authentic to anyone who’s been living their life on Zoom for the last year, and misses potential nuance and foreshadowing by feeling the need to state everything out loud. 

Safer At Home also attempts to grapple with the Black Lives Matter movement that had a peak moment in the summer of 2020, in the midst of the COVID pandemic. The opening news clips mention it alongside the rising case numbers and statements from former President Trump, but it isn’t ever mentioned again. It fumbles with this issue as well, reducing it to an unfortunate, uncomfortable, and exploitative way to end the film. 

In short, Safer At Home fails at encapsulating the isolation through the COVID-19 pandemic. It also isn’t a sufficient source of thrills or scares and doesn’t deliver any of the thoughtful commentaries that the premise could provide. It’s a shallow, panicky ride that feels over before it can really begin.

Safer At Home is in select theaters, VOD, and digital on February 26th, 2021.

 


Safer At Home
  • 3/10
    Rating - 3/10
3/10

TL;DR

In short, Safer At Home fails at encapsulating the isolation through the COVID-19 pandemic. It also isn’t a sufficient source of thrills or scares and doesn’t deliver any of the thoughtful commentaries that the premise could provide. It’s a shallow, panicky ride that feels over before it can really begin.