Lakeview Terrace
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Lakeview Terrace

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From the youngest age possible children are diligently taught by their parents and teachers to trust the police. These men and women clad it easily distinguished blue uniforms are sworn to serve and protect. In the film ‘Lakeview Terrace´ Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson) discovers a brutal exception to this rule when the policeman in question happens to be a bigoted psychopath that just happens to be his next door neighbor Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson). Although the film failed to live up to its potential what was presented remained a reasonably solid thriller that at least breaks away from the hackney setup of horny teens going off to some deserted woods to get high and have sex. The execution of this movie could have been tighter with a more controlled pacing but it has to be said that despite its short comings the fundamental premise is strong enough and fairly well thought out. The story includes all elements required for the construction of a reasonable classic psychological horror flick. The first and most critical aspect of a horror film like this is to isolate the potential victims. The typical method to accomplish this is placing the potential victims in an isolated gothic mansion of a dense path of forest cut off from any possibility of help and, in a modern twist, no reception bars on your cell phone. In this there is admittedly an interesting twist, instead of a physical removal from salvation the isolation is of a psychological slant. The authorities usually represent rescue from the crazy antagonist. This film poses the question of what happens when a member of the police force is the one who is out to get you. The infamous ‘Blue Wall’ precludes calling the local police station to assist. One of the other chilling elements of this movie is the possibility of the circumstances. The chances of encountering a psycho serial killer with sharpened knives for finger nails or a hockey mask are indistinguishable from nil. On the other hand the chance of a rogue cops making your life miserable even placing you in mortal danger, unfortunately that could very well happen.

Chris and his wife Lisa (Kerry Washington) were recently married and are exceptionally happy to move into their home in a nice, upscale neighborhood, Lakeview Terrace. Her father, Harold (Ron Glass) is extremely supportive of his daughter and her husband, he does warn them that even in this more enlightened age some people are prejudiced against racially mixed couples. Initially they found this to be a non issue that is until Chris crosses paths with his next door neighbor, Los Angeles Police officer Abel Turner. The first encounters are mild enough, Chris leaving cigarette butts in Abel’s back yard or Chris listening to hip hop music. Things escalate noticeably when the newlyweds share an intimate moment one night in their pool; the act was within view of Abel’s children. The officer escalates his response at first through the installation of extremely bright security lights blazing into the Mattson’s bedroom window. This quickly turns into Abel inviting some police buddies over for a very late, extremely loud get together. The tensions and hostilities continue to intensify on both sides as the animosity reaches a mutual boiling point. When Lisa tells Chris she is pregnant he realizes moving away is not a fiscally sound solution. Ultimately tempers flare explosively.

It is difficult to pin down the precise factors that prevented this movie from better reaching its goals. The directorial style by Neil LaBute is well placed providing ample opportunity to elaborate on background and motivation for seemingly insane behavior. It is also reassuring to have the ones in danger not teens. Replacing the idiotic, stereotypical teenagers is a young couple that most in the audience can readily identify with. This provides the required heightened sense of urgency and a secure means fir the audience to connect with Chris and his wife through an emotional connection. The survivor girl trope has morphed into a man desperate to defend his family. This is far more effective than the plight of kids you couldn’t muster an iota of concern over. The script by David Loughery and Howard Korder is well crafted by a pair of writers that have each garnered some notable experience. Loughery would become an executive producer on HBO’s hit series ‘Boardwalk Empire’ while Korder honed his quill on thrillers like ‘Passenger 57’ and ‘Dreamscape’. Okay, he came up with the screenplay and story for ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ but most crimes do have a statute of limitations.

Few actors can pull off crazy the way Samuel L. Jackson can. Despite the stylistic rough edges Jackson still manages to shine with a full out, over the top psychotic performance. In another twist it is the black cop that is in the giving side of harassing someone, a twist fir the media portrayal of the LAPD a portrayal like this requires some grounding factors. This is interjected into the mix by how Wilson plays Chris. He slides his performance through various stages starting with annoyance and ending up in a fight for his life. This transforms into one of my personal favorite concepts for a thriller; pushing a reasonable man past the normal thresholds into an unreasonable survivor mode; a rational human being fall victim to a kind of Blood simple behavior. At this point his there is no reason, self preservation eclipses everything and survival is reduced to kill or be killed. There is a grain of social commentary here but it almost fails to register. This is a beer and pizza flick suitable for a rain delay afternoon.

Posted 03/30/12

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