Film Review: Safer at Home

STUDIO: Vertical Entertainment | DIRECTOR: Will Wernick | CAST: Jocelyn Hudon, Dan J. Johnson, Emma Lahana, Alisa Allapach, Adwin Brown, Michael Kupisk
RELEASE DATE: Feb. 26, 2021
SPECS: NR | 82 min. | Thriller

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

After trudging through the pandemic for over a year, the question remains: Do you really want to see a film about the pandemic—and a realistic thriller, at that?

Safer at Home is set in 2022, a world in which the pandemic is still going strong and where quarantine and early curfew are a police state norm, and Donald Trump is still president. The film, co-written and directed by Will Wernick (No Escape), centers on a group of friends who get together remotely by way of iPhones and Zoom-like  devices for remote social interaction. The extra kicker this time for what has become a regular bonding event is that the drug Ecstasy has been provided by one of the friends to enhance the experience.

We soon learn that Jen (Jocelyn Hudon, When Hope Calls), one of the female pals, is pregnant, which is still not known by her boyfriend Evan (Dan J. Johnson, Escape Room). But as the evening goes on, the Zoomed-in acquaintances—and the audience—witness heated arguments, sexual activities, drug freak-outs and some more disturbing activities as they take place.

Shot during the pandemic, the film effectively captures the frustration the world continues to go through now, and takes a disturbingly on-target look at how even more uncomfortable things could get if the current COVID-19 anxiety is pushed even further. In that regard, Safer at Home remains unnerving throughout, with Wernick tightening the screws as the friends’ already frayed nerves take it to the next level.

The acting throughout is solid, with Hudon and Johnson registering the most strongly. One wonders how an audience outside of the principal characters’ millennial demographics will take to the film—none of them are particularly warm and cuddly, most have annoying speech patterns and little backstory is offered on any of them. Not helping matters is a disappointing “surprise” ending that opts for some lightness, while also sacrificing logic along the way.

Kudos to Wernick and company, regardless, for even attempting to shoot a film during such difficult times. Perhaps a physical copy should be placed in a time capsule only to be opened in the future when the subject of COVID, lockdowns and need for remote socialization are fading memories.

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.