Home Invasion Movie Review

Written by Joanna K. Neilson


Written and directed by Graeme Arnfield
2023, 92 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Film Maudit 2.0 screening on 16th June 2024

No cast


It’s a scary world, and those weirdo humans lurking outside your door simply can’t be trusted. We even have the video to prove it! Home Invasion does its best to prove how the huge popularity of smart doorbell videos has only made people even more paranoid about life beyond their front doors. Unfortunately, it also contradicts its own message more than once. And will the unusual format of this documentary alienate more viewers than it intrigues?

Humans have always been fascinated by the authenticity that low-resolution video can give even the wackiest fictional story. It’s basically an updating of the ‘found diary’ format that goes at least as far back as Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel. And the opening section of this documentary works really well, at first allowing us to draw our own conclusions from the vast range of human behaviours caught on smart doorbell cameras. At first exploring the unexpected roots of the smart doorbells, it hilariously juxtaposes a wide range of videos provided by the surveillance devices, varying from funny animal encounters to disturbing attempted intruder break-ins and even creepy (human) doorbell-lickers!

Some people are just bored, perhaps…

home invasion 01 home invasion 02

Then it all plummets from potentially very interesting to deeply infuriating, as it really had the potential to be thoroughly absorbing. It’s at its most interesting when exploring why humans are so fascinated - morbidly or otherwise - in footage captured by this possibly sinister network of cameras. It rightly questions who should have access to view all the footage that we naively capture to try and protect our homes. How much right to privacy should consumers have when the police come knocking? The over-surveillance of humanity is an important and very legitimate issue to examine,

It's a little odd, then, to gleefully show multiple clips of sketchy people trying to break in to homes in real life and then to claim people are overreacting to what seem like quite legitimate fears of break-ins and the titular home invasions. It’s only compounded by the sniffy dismissal of these legitimate fears as both racist and colonial. At that point, it all reads like the first draft of a high school art project.

But the biggest flaw of this is the format. The entire documentary takes place from a view within a single fisheye lens. Obviously, this is meant to mimic the view from a smart doorbell or peephole, which makes sense. It initially works as an introductory concept, but the filmmakers inexplicably decided to stick with this 'silent text in a fisheye lens’ format for the entire 90-minute runtime, and it badly hampers the story they’re trying to tell. Not everyone will have the patience to sit through that, especially when the aggressively discordant soundtrack also seems designed to make you stop watching as soon as you can.

Home Invasion unfortunately feels like an art project you’d stumble upon in a gallery, and manage to watch for about ten minutes before bailing on it, missing the more interesting story hidden within. It could have benefitted from a much shorter runtime, or could have reverted to a more conventional appearance after the first ten minutes. It’s crying out for a voiceover as well. The many snippets of silent text within the centralised fish-eye makes it difficult to take in both video and information at once. And the circle annoyingly chops off the significant parts of any interesting footage or film clips.

home invasion 03 home invasion 04

Despite these issues, there are still a few very clever moments. The slowly slithering snake curling around the doorbell camera, while the film discusses the fearmongering that helped to push sales of the Ring doorbell, is very nicely done. Much of the film seems to be borrowing the stylish cut-and-paste editing of Adam Curtis documentaries. It has flow and tells an interesting story.

But there are over a billion YouTube videos that suggest humans will keep wanting to watch humans, no matter what. This may be why the horror and thriller movie clips that are extensively used in the middle aren’t nearly as interesting to get through as the real life doorbell footage. Supplying a few citations during the history lessons would have also lent all of this greater legitimacy.

Because sometimes, simpler is better. There is a very interesting story here, which certainly should be more widely understood. Questioning who has access to the CCTV seems very wise, though it seems to insist that people’s fears of home invasion aren’t warranted, whilst also showing why it's probably quite justified. But they also need to think, what will make people want to spend longer on this film? Why wouldn’t viewers just seek out the CCTV footage themselves from almost anywhere on social media? Ironically, the current format will simply repel people from watching the documentary at all.

Sticking with the whole film does, in fact, pay off. But only if you can stand the format, the music and the grinding whimper of its message.


Movie: 2 Star Rating Cover

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