(director/writer: David Koepp; screenwriter: James Burke; cinematographer: Newton Thomas Sigel; editor: Jill Savitt; music: James Newton Howard; cast: Kyle MacLachlan (Matthew Kay), Elisabeth Shue (Annie Kay), Dermot Mulroney (Joe), Richard T. Jones (Raymond), Michael Rooker (Gary), Bill Smitrovich (Steph), William Lucking (Pharmacist), Rick Worthy (Johnny), Shisshir Kurup (Raji), Molly Morgan (Babysitter), Richard Schiff (Gun Shop Clerk), Gary Bayer (Middle Aged Neighbor), Elizabeth Gandy (Cafe Waitress); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Michael Grillo; Gramercy Pictures; 1996)

“For this film to have worked better for me, I would need an alien invasion to add to its inexplicable strangeness and paranoia.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Cleverly directed by David Koepp (“Stir of Echoes”/”You Should Have Left”), in his debut feature, who co-writes it with James Burke. The high-concept thriller about middle-class alienation has a spare look and a story that holds our interest throughout. It reflects on our behavior when we run into ticklish problems that we can’t handle and have to live by our wits, like in a blackout or in an unsafe city or with Blacks in white neighborhood who psychologically threaten them because of their bigotry.

Matthew Kay (Kyle MacLachlan) and his wife Annie (Elisabeth Shue) are woken up at night during a citywide power outage that continues the next day.

Their infant daughter is ill. When they go to the pharmacy, the pharmacist (William Lucking) tells them he will only take cash for payment on the drugs.

An intruder (Michael Rooker) who breaks into their house is fatally shot when fleeing by their neighbor Steph (Bill Smitrovich). They find he was only armed with a knife, so in a panic before he’s found they replace the knife with a gun.

Their neighbors worry about anarchy in the streets and meet to band together to protect their turf. But Matthew finds their actions not to his liking and walks out of the meeting. Meanwhile Annie is so afraid to stay in the city that she accepts the invitation of her friend Joe (Dermot Mulroney) for her family to stay in the country with Joe’s parents. An area where nuclear facilities exist

The time frame covers a three-day period.

The well-written drama was inspired by The Monsters are Due on Maple Street (1960), an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959-64), which was a cold war tale where the residents of a suburb became frozen in paranoia and fear after an alien invasion.

There were too many gaps in the story for it to hold together, but I can see where it was going in pointing out that the distrust there is for others can bring down a society.

For this film to have worked better for me, I would need an alien invasion to add to its inexplicable strangeness and paranoia.

REVIEWED ON 11/14/2023  GRADE: B-