Welcome Home

Settle Down, Don't Worry About That Nagging Feeling

by OC Movies

3.5

THE QUICK SELL
A couple spend a weekend at a vacation rental home in the Italian countryside in an attempt to repair their relationship, but soon become victims of the homeowner's sinister plans.

RELEASE DATE
12th November 2018

DIRECTED BY
George Ratliff

WRITTEN BY
David Levinson

 
 

There is something inherently scary in being observed when we’re unaware of it. Of course, all the movies that play on that fear always go beyond the simple act of watching: there needs to be action, blood, and actual scares rather than just the chilling sensation of being observed.

Welcome Home is no exception to that rule, falling into basic clichés and actually offering very little substance, yet it starts off on quite a strong point: that particularly chilling sensation of being watched.

George Ratliff’s (“The Devil’s Child”, “Hell House”) film follows a young couple, Bryan, Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad (TV)”, “Need For Speed”) and Cassie, Emily Ratajkowski (“Gone Girl”, “I Feel Pretty”), who decide to take a week off and rent a large isolated house just for the two of them in the Italian countryside.

The place is even better than the pictures told, so big that the characters could almost get lost in all those corridors and large rooms.

As the camera lingers on them, all alone in empty rooms, we start to feel like voyeurs waiting for the inevitable starting action to occur: will it be a breaking-in? A ghost haunting the place? A fit of madness from Bryan or Cassie?

The tension builds, but nothing happens, until the first night: as things start to get heated in the comfy outdoor pool, Bryan stops, startled. He thinks someone is watching them, but there is no one outside except for four neatly-lined garden gnomes.

And that is when the film reveals to us – and to us only – that Bryan was right: one of the gnomes, just like each room of the house, is equipped with a camera sending a live-feed to a computer somewhere we have yet to know about but which seems to be eerily close to the house.

This reveal is chilling, not only because the couple’s privacy is intruded upon, but because the build-up is felt by the spectator. The film makes us buy into a tension and threat that shouldn’t be here, invisible to both characters and spectators, until we realize that it is exactly what the fear of being watched is about: an invisible person whose presence and eyes you only feel in the back of your skull.

 
 
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This isn't quite what I meant when I said lets experiment - Aaron Paul, Emily Ratajkowski and Riccardo Scamarcio in Welcome Home
 
 

With this strong introduction, Welcome Home looked promising; but unfortunately, it spends the next 80 minutes destroying this creepy premise in uninteresting and stereotypical fashions.

 
 

The invisible threat turns out to be Federico, Riccardo Scamarcio (“Burnt”, “John Wick: Chapter 2”), (who looks uncannily similar to Javier Bardem), a neighbor who befriends the couple to get closer to Cassie.

 
 

Hidden under the apparent bliss of the couple is a crack which Federico seems intent on using: some time ago, Cassie got drunk and slept with a coworker of hers, and although Bryan seemed to have agreed to look past it, his mind can’t stop conjuring images of the fateful night.

 
 

Welcome Home therefore turns into some sort of sexual thriller where Bryan tries to prevent Federico from raping his girlfriend, Ratajkowski’s character serving little to no purpose besides being an object of sexual desire – which director George Ratliff emphasizes in some of her scenes.

 
 

Even what is supposed to be the emotional core of the film (that is the relationship between Bryan and Cassie) is actually devoid of any real substance: their conflict seems to hinge entirely on whether or not Bryan will be able to sleep with Cassie after what she’s done – again, characterizing Cassie as nothing more than a sexual object.

 
 

The rest of the film is either clichés (the inevitable dinner scene in which Federico’s monologue on hunting draws parallel to his motivations; an overdone trope) or leads nowhere (the few things we learn about the bigger picture of Federico’s motives don’t bring any sense to the plot), making the film instantly forgettable as soon as it is over.

 
 

Regrettably for such a plot, the cast is pretty good – better than their roles, at the very least – and the cinematography and sets look great. It is, in short, a well-made empty film.

 
 

Its end that draws on the voyeur theme explored at the beginning only makes me regret all the more what could have been; but I guess the film can find its niche audience in bored male spectators interested in Emily Ratajkowski.

 
 

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