Coherence took up exactly ZERO space on my horror film radar screen when it came out. (it’s a metaphorical screen with metaphorical blips and pings and whatnot) Maybe because it’s billed as a sci-fi film. The only reason I know about it at all is because it came up during a way-too-long search for something to watch on Amazon Prime. It was lumped in with Angry Red Planet and Zone Troopers in the “Because you watched ‘The Man in the High Castle’” (or whatever) category. The cover art was pretty cool and description sounded OK. More importantly, it seemed like something my wife would watch with me. (that’s rare) As a bonus enticement to my potential movie watching partner, it has Nicholas Brenden in it! (Xander, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) So, I gave it a shot. And I’m pretty glad I did. Now I’m writing about it. What a world, huh?
Em and her friends are gathering for a little party at Mike and Lee’s house in San Francisco (or a suburb, i don’t know). The main topic of discussion is the comet that happens to be passing very close to Earth. Someone read that the last comet to pass this close caused mass hysteria and/or abject confusion. That someone also read about the Tunguska incident where a comet or something destroyed stuff (my point of reference for this event – Ghostbusters) furthering her assertion that comets are bad. When their phones break and the power goes out, a couple of them set out to visit the only house with power on the block to ask to use their phone. Meanwhile, Mike tries to get the ol’ generator running. When the scouting party returns, they have strange news for the group. The house lit up in the darkness is MIKE AND LEE’S! Even crazier, they saw duplicates of their friends there. Abject confusion ensues.
I read that the dialogue in Coherence is largely improvised. If that is true, then this is a prime example of when independent, ensemble movies do dramatic improvisation right. The players banter, bicker, and chat very convincingly throughout the film. Even when the stakes are raised to insane heights with talk of murder, alternate universes, past infidelities, and more. I believed these people were friends. That speaks not just to their capacity for accurate dialogue, but to their chemistry as well. The story may not be for everyone (it is very sci-fi after all. but not the spaceships and laserguns type of sci-fi. the Primer type), but horror fans will find plenty to like in this existential nightmare. Especially, in the final act. The film presents a situation for which we (humans) have NO frame of reference. And that is scary. What would we do if we found alternate universe versions of ourselves? Shit, I have no idea! Ultimately, the film handles this madness in a very grounded way. A way that we can buy into. Which is quite a feat considering the suspension of disbelief required of the audience. Sure, some of the characters make rash or illogical decisions. But, as I said, it’s an existential nightmare. So there’s some room for nightmare logic. (which is something i’m usually a fan of anyway) Is it a perfect film? By no means. Some fat could have been trimmed. And the pacing could have been snappier. But, overall, it’s a very effective sci-fi thriller worth checking out.
The Final Cut: Coherence is a grim sci-fi thriller with solid performances from its ensemble cast. The emotional (and philosophical) stakes escalate steadily until the very end.