With so many individuals having settled back in to a pre-9/11 mindset, Right At Your Door is a timely and pretty effective wake-up call, really hitting close to home with the ever-present danger of international terrorism. I have no idea why the working title of this film was once Forearm Shiver, but the final choice of title fits the story perfectly. Brad (Rory Cochrane) and Lexi (Mary McCormack) are sort of a modern-day Everyman and Everywoman (she works while he practices - or not - with his "band") whose normal lives are shattered by a series of explosions across nearby Los Angeles. As if that weren't bad enough, the drama reaches a sustained crescendo at the couple's very door - literally. Plenty of films make you wonder what you might do in a certain character's shoes, but Right at Your Door takes it to an extreme, all but demanding that you take a stand on one of the most difficult of questions.
Brad is performing the most mundane of tasks - brushing his teeth - when the local radio station interrupts the music to announce that multiple bombs have exploded all across Los Angeles. Unable to reach his wife (who works in LA) on the phone, he jumps in the car and heads out into the chaos to find her and bring her home. Turned back by policemen blocking the city off from incoming traffic, he returns home and soon learns that some sort of dirty bombs were used in the attacks. As the deadly ash makes it way toward his location, he holds out as long as possible, hoping his wife will suddenly turn up at the door, before rushing to seal off the house - with the help of a construction worker from next door who has come there seeking refuge - from the deadly fallout. Then, not long thereafter, the miraculous occurs, and his wife is in fact there at the door, still living and breathing and asking - then demanding - that Brad let her in.
What would you do? Would you let your soot-covered, contaminated spouse into your house or would you heed the advice of government leaders and deny her entry, hoping that medical help will arrive in time to save her? Knowing she has been exposed to whatever chemical or biological substance the dirty bombs were packed with, Brad must make an agonizing decision. Since that decision pretty much sets up the final hour of the film, I will not reveal it here in the context of this review - nor will I even offer a hint as to the nature of the ending (except to say that I think it works rather well).
If you're looking for heart-stopping, blockbuster special effects or visceral horror, Right at Your Door is sure to disappoint you on those counts. This is very much a character-driven story. Even if writer/director Chris Gorak had had more than a limited budget to work with, I don't think he would have shot the film any differently, as a bunch of distracting special effects would have interfered with the interpersonal dynamics at the heart of his story. Brad can see smoke from the nearby explosions, but his only real source of information is the radio (he and Lexi just moved into this house and this was the very day that the cable guy was supposed to come out and get their television set up). This only adds to the insular feel of the drama playing out before our eyes. Having said that, though, I do have to admit that the film didn't pull me in as powerfully as I thought it would. While Brad and Lexi obviously love one another, there's seemingly a lack of chemistry in their relationship. I felt as if one of the home's many layers of plastic sheeting and duct tape found its way between me and the characters - just enough to prevent me from truly embracing this couple and their awful plight. Still, Right at Your Door is a memorable and well-made film built around a most fascinating premise - and quite a debut for first-time director Gorak.