Movies taking place entirely on a laptop or mobile screen are nothing new. Probably the most impressive and effective example, in my opinion anyway, is the 2018 movie Searching starring John Cho. But then last year saw filmmakers embracing the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, resulting in the brilliant Zoom based movie Host. Safer at Home is the latest release to make use of the online group meeting format, with the added dimension of being set during a Coronavirus curfew. And it is a perfect example of just how bad this particular genre can be in the wrong hands.
It’s September 2022. Real footage of Donald Trump during his presidency, waffling on incompetently about Covid-19 in 2020, is interspersed with footage of protests and riots taking place across America, while a fake news reporter narrates the truly depressing state that the world now finds itself in. Apparently, a strain of Covid that is three times as contagious hit the world in July 2021 resulting in the mortality rate doubling. A third strain in August 2022 meant that nationwide curfews were introduced, with heavy penalties for anyone found breaking them. When we join a group of seven friends just a month later, there is a fourth strain (Covid-22C) that has taken 2 million lives that day, bringing the death toll to 253 million. In other news, the UK has become the 7th major superpower to fall this year… basically, things are about as depressing as they can be.
The friends are all gathered, albeit in four separate locations, for a birthday Zoom party. With their original plans to go to Las Vegas ruined due to Covid, they decide to make their online gathering a little more interesting by each taking an ecstasy pill at the same time. However, drugs seem to do very little to improve the festivities. Birthday boy Evan (Dan J Johnson) fights with girlfriend Jen (Jocelyn Hudon), while the supplier of the pills, Ollie (Michael Kupisk), starts getting frisky with his new girlfriend Mia (Emma Lahana) on camera. Single girl Harper (Alisa Allapach) looks on while straight-laced Ben (Adwin Brown) frets over whether or not he should have taken the pill before bickering with partner Liam (Daniel Robaire) over it. None of these characters is particularly likeable, the conversation all feels unnatural and the whole thing soon becomes very boring, not much of a party at all.
But then there’s an accident. Jen is out cold following a bang to the back of her head. There’s blood, Evan thinks he’s killed her and, for some reason, possibly to avoid arrest, he decides to head out onto the streets. Only there’s a curfew in force, police are out on the streets, so he’s basically jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. And obviously, all the while he’s running and hiding from nearby cops, he’s still making sure he’s on the video call – arm stretched out with his phone in hand as he captures the perfect live stream of whatever it is he thinks he’s achieving on the run.
Meanwhile, all the rest of the friends can do is look on, with their shocked faces and occasional gasps. Nobody is of any help whatsoever and everyone seems to be intent on either making a bad decision or giving out very bad advice. Or maybe too much quarantine just dumbed everyone right down by 2022. Either way, it doesn’t make for very interesting viewing and the lack of dramatic tension and bad acting only gets worse as it goes on.
Signature Entertainment presents Safer At Home on Digital Platforms from 3rd May
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