coherenece (2013) - 10/10 ping pong paddles. it’s an indie mashup of scifi, relationship drama, and suspense about a dinner party between 8 friends during the night a comet passes over the sky and WEIRD THINGS START HAPPENING. [like cabin in the woods, you are advised to stay away from reading ANYTHING about the movie. other than this review.]
THIS WAS SUCH AN INCREDIBLE MOVIE. my favorite movie of 2014, definitely. the suspense is well done. the feel of the movie is so unique (partially because it was filmed similar to paranormal activity; mostly improv and shot at the director’s house; it has a pretty strong “found footage” feel. but also a very organic feeling as well). it has stuck with me and i keep thinking about it and there are so many easter eggs and ugh. i love it.
semi unrelated, but mason asked:
Set to further expand its run this weekend from 1,945 locations to around 2,400, and having grossed $65.1 million through Wednesday on a sub-$15,000 production budget, “Paranormal” has already exceeded the film it is most often compared to, “The Blair Witch Project,” as the most profitable movie of all time.
“Blair Witch’s” $248.6 million worldwide haul a decade ago – juxtaposed against its $60,000 production costs – represented an almost unthinkable 414,233 percent return on investment.
Doing the same basic ROI math on “Paranormal” (65.1 million minus 15,000 divided by 15,000 times 100) yields an equally unfathomable result of 433,900 percent.
SPOILERS TO FOLLOW STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN”T SEEN IT:
omg so beautiful
okay let’s see various incredible moments of the movie where i went crazy and can’t stop thinking about:
- WHEN SHE REALIZES THAT IT”S HER HANDWRITING ON THE BACKS OF THE PHOTOS
- THE PHOTO IS FROM THAT NIGHT
- AMIR AND OTHER DUDE HAVE RED GLOWSTICKS AND WEREN”T FROM THE ORIGINAL HOUSE
- IT”S THE SAME NOTE ON THE DOOR
- OMGGGG THE CLIFFHANGER ENDING WHEN HE GETS THE PHONE CALL FROM REAL EM
- OMG INFINITE HOUSES/AMIR AND OTHER DUDE ARE TIED UP
- WHEN SHE REALIZES THAT SHE”S IN THE WRONG HOUSE BECAUSE SHE WROTE DOWN DIFFERENT NUMBERS IN DIFFERENT COLORS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
BTW HOW COOL WOULD IT BE TO THROW THIS KIND OF HOUSE PARTY???? it’s not a MURDER MYSTERY but it’s a SCI FI MYSTERY!!!!!!!! that would be so awesome.
i love how the dice rolls and the randomness was just SCREAMING remedial chaos theory from community.
How much information did you give each of the actors going in?
We shot over five nights, so each day, the individual actors would get a page of notes for what they had to do that night. And it might have a bit of a backstory that they would tell, or a bit of motivation — like, “If this happens, you’re gonna want to do this.” Or, “Somehow get outside tonight.” They didn’t know what everybody else was told to do, so it was all a surprise to them. They had no idea about the bumps and power outages and surprises that were coming.
Were there moments beside the power outages that were genuine surprises for the actors?
I would say just about everything. They didn’t know what was in the box; they didn’t know what the glow sticks meant; they didn’t know when a fight was going to break out. I just basically thought, “What would a person know at this time?”
Were they given any guidance about the tone of the film? It turns from jokey to serious very quickly.
I did not want to do that. And that’s why, specifically, we chose not to give them broad characters. I tried to say, “At a party of smug Northern California white people, what would be the most normal types of people to run into?” [That way], nobody draws attention to themselves as having this incredible unrealistic character.
I also thought it was really funny that Sliding Doors — the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow movie about alternate dimensions — came up inconversation. Was that something you planted, or something that one of the actors came up with on their own?
That’s an example of something that would have been in the notecard that Lauren Maher got. [She plays Laurie, an outsider to the group who comes with Amir and once dated another of the men, Kevin.] It said something like, “At this point, she might reference this movie to make sense of it.” But there were like, twenty things like that they could draw from, and it was really up to the actor to pick and choose what felt natural at what moment. So that was sort of primed by me, but specifically chosen by Lauren.
Did you always know how you wanted the film to end?
Sort of. We always knew it was Emily’s story, and that we wanted to have an emerging hero story. [Emily is the dancer played by Emily Foxler.]We wanted something that felt like an ensemble at first, and you weren’t quite sure who the lead was — except on the second viewing, it’s clear that, even from the first shot, everything is about her. And so we always knew Emily had to go through something extraordinary, and make some big choices. And there was one version that we thought she and Kevin [her current boyfriend played by Maury Sterling] were going to end up with each other — she was going to end up with the wrong person, and they had to make a choice to be happy about it, and kind of look at each other go, “That’s…okay?” But then this other version just seemed much more honest. If you’re going to behave that way and make those very violent choices, it’s not going to wrap up nicely for you.
Let’s talk about the alternate-dimension houses. How many people from the original house are in the original house by the end?
Not the good house at the end-end, but the house that she decides to bail on?
That would be her, Laurie, and Kevin. Because they and Mike went out as a foursome to check out the house. The camera follows them when they say, “We’ve got to check out that house.” So the four of them went out, came back to a new house, and then Mike left after that. So that’s not the original Mike, right? Because Mike says, “I had a napkin.” So you actually get a very clear breakdown of who’s from which house when they’re having that screaming fight at the end, where they ask, “What was the item you had?” You know right there that Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) and Amir are from a house that had a stapler. Beth (Elizabeth Gracen) and Lee (Lorene Scafaria) had an oven mitt, and they’ve never left this house, so this is the oven mitt house. And then Kevin, Laurie and Em are all [in the house with] the ping-pong paddle. And then Mike says, “Mine was a napkin.”
How many “code” objects do we see? At the end, Em pulls a monkey out of somebody’s box.
Yes, and that’s just to indicate the idea that they were right — that many other houses have done this sort of quick code, throwing an item in just for instant recognition. So if there’s a monkey, which we’ve never even heard of before, then clearly this concept is working. [By then], you can figure out that there are probably at least fifty items. Because they’re limited to how many items are actually around them in the house: In the immediate dining room or living room, what are items they would see with their eyes at that moment and choose, that would fit in the box?
Should viewers keep an eye on the door to nowhere?
[Laughs] The door to nowhere is used several times; [Emily] comes in and out of it, or she comes in through it at the end — I guess it’s more metaphorical than anything, and it’s also the door that Hugh and Amir escape out of when they take the box. I will also say, when Hugh and Amir decide to leave the house and take the box with them, if you look very close, [you’ll see] they put an oven mitt in it.
That’s a clue for the sixth viewing. They are deciding to leave this house, they pack up all their photographs in the box, and they put an oven mitt in the box. Because this is the oven mitt house, unbeknownst to Emily, Kevin, and Laurie. If they would have just looked at the table and said, “Why is there an oven mitt here instead of a ping pong paddle?,” it would have gone very differently, but they didn’t. They didn’t notice, and the actors didn’t either. They never questioned why there was an oven mitt suddenly on their table.
Are there other minuscule details, like the Band-Aid changing, that are hidden in the movie and not pointed out?
Yeah, for sure. Those are the “Where’s Waldo?” ones, so I can’t give them away. At one point, we were joking that the tagline for Coherence would be “Four hundred and fifty continuity errors, four hundred and forty-nine of them intentional.” But if you look closely, Alex and I were having so much fun going, “Oh, since this is this house, why don’t we do this differently?” If you look at Nicholas Brendon’s buttons on his shirt, he’s got it buttoned a different way. There are little clues like that that only Alex and I knew about, and the actors had no idea why we were obsessing over making this one little thing different. So that’s the fun of watching it twelve times, hopefully.
Is there anything else you want to throw in for people who are watching it multiple times?
You know, yes. The big thing that people tell me about, who have watched it more than three times, is that it starts all clicking into place how every piece of dialogue that seems random the first time you watch it becomes thematically relevant on the third or fourth viewing. So even in the first kitchen scene, when they’re all greeting each other and Emily walks in, they talk about three things: They talk about the arrival of the comet, they talk about Laurie coming, and they talk about ketamine. And you just think they’re dancing from random topic to random topic, but those are the three things that combine to give Emily a plan at the end. Those three things: the comet has arrived, Laurie has arrived — Laurie is jeopardizing her relationship with Kevin — and the ketamine, offer a solution. And she holds that ketamine in the kitchen going, “Okay, I’m going to put all these elements together, and I’m going to take a stand and alter the course of my life and step into this version that I think I deserve.”
I love all the themes woven into the story about the different paths their lives could have taken: Emily and her understudy, Laurie and her boyfriend-hopping. It’s like their alternate lives are already in front of us even before things start to shift.
Exactly. Everything is about that. Everything is about being in conflict with yourself, or another version of yourself existing. You know, Mike has a version of himself that’s on Roswell that a fan of Roswell doesn’t even recognize. Like, “You’re not that guy.” And Lee says, “Wait a minute, that’s not the man I married.” Every little thing is about the big idea of being in conflict with ourselves and wondering about these versions of ourselves that could have been.
Originally, the film was conceived as wrapping up with everyone in the house(s) realizing that they needed to get to the ‘dark space’ in which the universes collided. They all stampede out the door and blast towards the nexus. As they approach, they see looming out of the dark ahead of them a version of themselves. Reaching out their hands to grasp themselves by the shoulder, a hand grasps them from behind and they spin around in an infinite loop of surprise.
I think I might have appreciated that ending more; an oblique finale that leaves the future pretty preposterous.
Byrkit went on to share that he realized as we worked that the film needed a main character, and that ended up being Em. He almost called the film ‘The Understudy’, but Coherence won the day. And so, in the version that got shot, poor Em gets stuck once again as an understudy, except this time her own, and a criminal one.
RPL: Were you pitting the actors against each other?
JWB: It was very organic. In fact, at one point, when two of the characters leave and come back to the house, and the other actors wouldn’t let them in. They were too freaked out. My rule was to not interfere too much if they had an organic instinct, but after 45 minutes of this intense standoff at the door I finally had to say, “Guys, you have to let them in otherwise the story’s going to stop.”
They were so freaked out, and just trying to figure out the puzzle. So it naturally led to conflicts and a real heightened sense of tension. The actors would leave every night so energized. They were just on fire after five or six hours of this immersive experience. It was sort of like those murder mystery parties but this felt a lot more real, and a lot weirder.
TMN: Now, was there any kind of message you were trying to get across through the film or was it just your own creative outlook at something.
James Ward Byrkit: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s a preachy message, but it’s certainly an exploration of what I hope is a universal question that all people have of saying, “Are we living the best version of our lives?” I think almost everybody questions what if I would have done something different? What if I would have said, “Yes” to that person years ago? What if I would have taken that job? How would my life be different if I would have made some small decisions differently or micro-decisions? And I think because everybody has that, that even though this gets into sci-fi and into thriller stuff, it’s still grounded in a very human outlook, which is this question about choices in my past, and how did it get me to the present.