You've been warned.
Official Synopsis: "After multiple dirty bombs are detonated spreading deadly toxic ash across Los Angeles Brad (Rory Cochrane) inadvertently quarantines his wife Lexi (Mary McCormack) outside their new home by safely sealing himself inside. With the city under siege and Martial Law in effect Brad and Lexi struggle to survive with little supply limited time and no information - all the while separated by thin doors and thinner sheets of plastic. When "help" finally does arrive it appears to be anything but."
Is Right at Your Door Sci-Fi?
It's strange, when it came time to find something for the Movie Club to watch, I immediately thought of Right at Your Door. It's been probably two years since I last watched it, but I knew it was on Netflix Watch Instantly so I jumped on it. I liked it just as much this time around as I have in the past, but about 30 minutes in I did start to wonder whether or not you should even call it sci-fi.
Gorak doesn't establish it as a fanciful scenario by any means. He plays it out with a straight and cold logic, never making any kind of assumption jumps until the very end. No one has actually set off a dirty bomb in Los Angeles, so it is fiction...and there is a strange perversion of science going on in regards to the effects of the "chemical" dirty bomb (Wouldn't an explosion vaporize any chemicals? I thought the whole point of a dirty bomb was to blow up radioactive materials?)...but are those two enough to classify it as science fiction as opposed to a flat out drama?
I don't know. That's not a complaint against the movie, which never labels itself as sci-fi, but an observation as to how sci-fi has evolved in the last decade or so. Twenty years ago one would instantly associate the genre with spaceships and laser gun battles, but not so much any more. A new climate of concern has emerged and I guess in my mind I associated the massive, never-flinching, vaguely-apocalyptic "What if?" question of Right at Your Door with the normal what-if scenarios of sci-fi.
Speaking of "What if?" What would you do?
One of my favorite things about Gorak's film is that his script never has any of the actors behaving out of turn. They're never ahead of the curve, but they do act sane (for the most part) and rationale throughout the entire ordeal. It's easy for films of this speculative nature to constantly have characters doing things that'll make you question whether anyone would actually do that, but Gorak sidesteps that pitfall. I'm particularly fond of the scene in which he and the worker from next door begin sealing up the house, using every little scrap of impermeable plastic sheeting they can get their hands on.
As for what I would do personally...I like to think I'd open the door and immediately let my wife in when she returned. This isn't really a problem in the movie though, as Gorak does a fine job of establishing that Lexi and Brad are kind of on the outs already; plus Brad has spent the last few hours before her arrival in a state of complete fear and panic. But still, you've gotta let your loved one in, right?
What do you think of the ending?
Is it a little too last minute twisty for you? I could see that. Personally I really dig the hell out of it. It makes sense within the logic of the film that by sealing himself in he's basically turned his house into an incubator, but Gorak's pacing never really leaves you enough wandering mental time to predict that it's about to happen. I'd even say that the ending may be my favorite "could have been an Outer Limits episode" (I always thought OT had more aggressive and punishing endings than Twilight Zone eps) endings to come along in a while.
I also think this last minute twist may be one reason I've associated Right at Your Door with sci-fi in my mind. In this genre we're used to the ending upheaval of characters and their fate, so it kind of falls comfortably in line in retrospect. Plus, that shot of him opening his door to find the fumigation canvas swallowing his house...it's a thing of dark beauty.