True to the genre's low-budget roots, most of the action unfolds in one place: a house recently acquired by a shiny young couple (Jaime King and Frank Grillo). They're throwing a housewarming party when a gang of armed thugs crash the scene after fouling up a bank heist. Addley (Warren Kole) is especially nasty, threatening the women with rape before prematurely firing his weapon... (i.e. your basic Freudian nightmare). The youngest, Johnny (Matt O'Leary), is bleeding from a gunshot wound and the eldest, Ike (Patrick Flueger), struggles to lead them. Initially, the chaos is confusing, but that quickly gives way to predictable bickering over what to do next.
It seems the lads have broken into the wrong house, expecting to find mummy to fix the boo-boo and instead making a bigger mess. However, it's not long before she arrives with a sharp telling off, drumming it into Ike that if he would just call once in a while, he would have known she had moved... And yet, in contradiction, we're also led to believe that the formidable Missus Koffin has an emotional stranglehold on her kids, warping them to the point of blind obedience. The bank job was her idea and their role now is to twitch and quake as she barks orders in a hostage situation.
The rest of us might smirk with amusement as Koffin humbles these grown men and then puts on a smile for the hostages, even treating them to cake and ice-cream. It's as if Jane Asher is having a nervous breakdown - this isn't a performance from De Mornay as much as a mask she wears. It slips when she learns that Ike has been sending money back to this address and the new owners deny all knowledge. She becomes relentlessly evil and dull, much like the plot which settles into a monotony of gruesome torture. These scenes are cringe-making but devoid of suspense.
Thrills come cheap and, as with the Saw films, Bousman relies on viewers' morbid fascination with sadistic violence (and the anticipation of it) to bring tension. Still, he can't sustain it, only upping the levels of gore. If the film is creepy it's only because he is shameless in his portrayal of the twisted mother-son dynamic, culminating in a scene where mother tries to choreograph a rape for Johnny's pleasure. Thankfully, Bousman draws a line at how far this plan goes, but it's enough to signal the desperation of a filmmaker with a limited understanding of true psychological terror. He only touches upon it with Koffin's teenage daughter (Deborah Ann Woll) who struggles to reconcile her natural instinct with mother's wisdom. At one point Koffin insists that "punishment is never easy", but evidently, it is the easy option for a filmmaker short on inspiration.
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