Directed by: James Ward Byrkit.
Written by: James Ward Byrkit & Alex Manugian.
Starring: Emily Foxler (Em), Maury Sterling (Kevin), Nicholas Brendon (Mike), Elizabeth Gracen (Beth), Alex Manugian (Amir), Lauren Maher (Laurie), Hugo Armstrong (Hugh), Lorene Scafaria (Lee).
Four couples gather for a dinner party. Above them, a comet is passing overhead – and already some strange things have begun to happen – like a cellphone that simply cracks while one of the characters is talking on it. Then, all of sudden, the lights go out. The couples dig around; find some candles, glow sticks and flashlights. They head outside, and see that the entire neighborhood is dark – except for one house. Two of the men decide to go over and see them. One of them, Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) has a brother who told Hugo to call him if anything weird happened during the comet passing. So they head over to the house, but come back with nothing more than a metal box, and a cut on Hugh’s head. Inside the box are pictures of each of the 8 people at the dinner party – and a ping pong paddle.
To say anything more about the plot of James Ward Byrkit’s Coherence would be criminal, because the movie goes in many different directions – involving advanced physics (courtesy of a conveniently placed book that explains just enough to give the movie at least the appearance of some hard science background to this sci-fi film). The film is no-budget at its finest – it has already earned comparisons to Shane Carruth’s Primer, and the comparison is earned. The film was shot over 5 nights, with mostly improvised dialogue, yet like Carruth’s film is intelligent in its uses of science to tell its story. And Coherence does Primer one better in that the characters are better defined than they were in that film – especially Em (Emily Foxler), who is insecure when the film begins because of some missed opportunities in her dancing career, and the fact that one of their friends is bringing her husband’s ex-girlfriend along as his date. Em drives the films finale – and it’s a great one.
The movie does show the limitations that its budget places on them. The film is mostly shot with handheld cameras – and although for the most part this is done well, there are a few moments here and there where it becomes somewhat distracting. Mainly though the film works – and that is because the cast sells the premise of the movie. The film becomes tenser as it moves along, and the characters become increasingly paranoid – as does the audience, and we begin to grasp everything that has happened. There are holes here and there in the plot – and how a comet could cause any of it is never explained, or even hinted at, so it may have been smarter to simply not mention that at all. But overall, Coherence is smart and tense – proof that a director doesn’t need any money to make a great sci fi film.