Michael C. Hall plays a mulletted family man and devout Texan, circa 1989, which means when his wife wakes him up in the middle of the night because she heard a strange noise in the house, it’s his job to grope around for his bedside gun and tip-toe towards intruders. You always hope it’s just the cat, or a gusty tree branch, or water in the pipes, but when Richard finds a stranger in his living room, it’s a matter of mere heartbeats before that stranger’s brain is splattered on the ugly painting behind their ugly couch.
Richard feels awful. He didn’t really mean to kill anyone. The cops are quick to assure him that it was self-defense, and besides, the intruder is known to them, a criminal with an extensive rap sheet, no one worth being upset over. Except the dead criminal’s father (Sam Shepard) happens to disagree. He’s fresh out of prison himself, and his new project is stalking and threatening the young family of the man who just gunned down his son.
The cops are useless, of course. At first they brush Richard off, but when the threats become unignorable, they use a maneuver I can only hope is more Hollywood than handbook, and use the family as bait. Shit goes down and just when you think maybe Richard can go back to sleeping through the night, he discovers that the intruder he killed is likely not Sam Shepard’s son at all – but why would the cops deliberately misidentify him?
And that’s where I lost the thread. This movie is gritty and seedy, but it may be too intent on delivering twists and curveballs for its own good. You get in deep with this one, and things keep going from bad to worse. They stir the plot, and it thickens accordingly, with lots of shifts in tone, sometimes going from noir to comedy and back again within a few lines of script. Richard is the one who’s supposed to steer us, the audience, through all of these changes, but it’s hard to keep making excuses for why he’d let himself get involved in this increasingly shady stuff, as a sidekick to a man who just minutes ago wanted to revenge-kill his whole family.
This movie has a lot to say about masculinity and though it’s set 30 years ago, in our house it’s still Sean’s job to go confront the things that go bump in the night. In other houses? Apparently 1 in 5 men are happy to send their wives down to do their own investigating, with 25% of men willing to feign sleep in order to avoid the duty. Sean is not so lucky. If left to his own devices, he’d absolutely sleep blissfully through a home invasion, and possibly also a portal to hell tearing a thunderous opening right underneath his pillow, if I wasn’t there to forcefully shove him awake. I’m not much of a nervous nellie, and since I’m an insomniac, I’m used to the moans and groans a home makes when it thinks its occupants are asleep. But I have woken up Sean and sent him down to “check things out.” And guess what? It’s never a baddie. And if I really thought it was, I’d never sacrifice my best guy. I’d also never want to be left alone! I have seen a Wes Craven before: safety in numbers. What’s the middle of the night protocol like in your house?