Sarah (Katie Walder) and her husband Josh (Matt Passmore) are at a bit of a crossroads in their marriage. She wants a child, but he’s barely even interested in the sex required to make one. It’s not that he’s stopped loving her or her body — it’s that his job as a dealer at a casino isn’t exactly keeping them flush while she works on her thesis about online pornography. Into this family drama comes a new neighbor named Dale (Nathan Keyes). Young and a bit odd, he immediately takes a liking to Sarah, and the couple’s troubles magnify overnight.
She begins experiencing odd night terrors that leave her shaken, confused and lacking any memory of what happened while she was asleep. It’s probably for the best as what’s happening is a series of strange assaults, one of which involves finding Josh bound and dead with a plastic bag over his head. They both wake up the next morning with no recollection of what has transpired, but slowly Sarah comes to suspect and discover the terrifying truth.
Come Back to Me begins with a terrifically creepy premise — an intruder doing what he wants with you during the night, and you having no knowledge of it the following day — and it adds in a supernatural angle that feels fresh and exciting. Unfortunately though, not only is that extra information revealed far too early (as in the first five minutes), but the execution of the entire scenario leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. Even worse? The film features one of the best endings of a horror film in years.
Sarah wakes up each morning hyperventilating and panicked, and her concerns lead to a slow trickle of revelations that viewers have already been made privy to. We’re essentially always several steps ahead of her, and the repetitive nature of the story means we’re watching her go through ineffective motions again and again while we already know the answers she’s unaware she even needs. The script, adapted by director Paul Leyden, would have benefited by pulling us in with the already disturbing scenario of the threatening neighbor before dropping the supernatural twist, but instead the opening sequence basically spells it all out for us.
Dale is gifted with the ability to bring dead things back to life. The added benefit, for his interests anyway, is that the resurrected have seemingly no memory of their last few hours.
There are terrifying implications as to what he’s doing with Sarah at night, but again and again we watch her wake up, refuse to plan accordingly even when she suspects something is happening and then fall victim to the intruder all over again. The female as victim angle is equally repetitive here with all three of the film’s female characters acting as little more than recipients of terror. That’s not to imply that the men come off any better as they’re portrayed as either evil or, in Josh’s case, as ineffective tools.
The performances are competent for the most part with Keyes standing out as trying a bit too hard to come across as odd or troubled. His transgression is the film’s slightest though as the script issues truly kill (and fail to resurrect) any interest in the story or characters. She installs a camera, but then takes a couple days to look at the footage. She refuses to go to the police with proof that she’s been raped by her neighbor. And for the love of god… I know the couple is on a budget but maybe turn on a light in your house once in a while.
Come Back to Me wastes a solidly creepy setup with bungled execution and populates the story with characters who grow less and less interesting. Lacking in scares or anything resembling suspense we’re left with a strong core idea and little else. And again, the sub-mediocrity of it all makes it even more frustrating that the ending is one of the best on a horror film in some time. It’s bold and guaranteed to bring the first positive reaction from viewers who’ve suffered through the ineffective 85 minutes that preceded it.
The Upside: Creepy premise; kick-ass final minute
The Downside: Opening shows what should have been a big 2nd act reveal; some sketchy acting; character stupidity; turn the goddamn lights on people
On the Side: Paul Leyden’s acting career includes a 133 episode run on “As the World Turns.”
Come Back to Me opens in limited theatrical release and on VOD starting July 25th, 2014.