If any of you reading this have kept up with this blog for any extended amount of time, then you’ll know that I have a tremendous amount of fun reviewing horror movies- especially around October when I completely ruin my recommendations list by watching and ripping apart the worst of the worst- bottom of the barrel horror and slasher flicks Netflix has to offer. I’m scathing, spoiler-filled, and my critiques could be (and probably are) considered borderline mean to anyone involved in the creation of the films. That’s not to say I don’t encourage and support artistic endeavors and efforts- but I live for insane plots, cheesy special effects and shoddy CGI- and I definitely don’t hold back about it.
So I was admittedly pretty surprised when I was actually ASKED to not only watch, but also review an independent horror movie here on Legally Redhead last week. I felt like I would be the last person anyone promoting a film would want to go to, considering my knack for movie-mockery, but I went into the assignment, for lack of a better word- and the film itself- with an open mind. Not too long after agreeing to watch and dissect the movie: 2014’s ‘Come Back to Me,’ I received a gigantic version of the poster shown near the left in the mail. I plan on adding it to my “Horror Den,” which sounds far more diabolical than what it actually is- a spare bedroom filled with all my horror genre-related stuff.
‘Come Back to Me’ is available for rent and download on iTunes, and also as a rental on Charter on Demand. A quick plot summary, per the movie’s IMDB page:
“Sarah & Josh are married suburbanites. After a car accident, Sarah suffers blackouts & ends up pregnant though Josh is sterile. As her life spirals she hides a camera in her home & unlocks a horrific secret with far-reaching consequences.”
Before I begin, I would like to add that despite being asked to review this movie as opposed to just watching it on my own- I critiqued this like I would any other- giving it a final rating which will be revealed at the end of this post.
And, as always:
FULL SPOILERS ARE AHEAD. DO NOT CLICK THE “READ MORE” TAB IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW IMPORTANT PLOT POINTS- INCLUDING THE ENDING OF THIS MOVIE. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
Opening with a scene that takes place in a house that also doubles as a meth lab/drug den in Reno in 2002 (and having been to Reno before, this is a fairly accurate assessment of how most places there actually are,) the sounds of a man and woman arguing and apparently beating the hell out of each other (see: meth addicts) can be heard while a teenage boy, cradling a bunny, watches TV on a couch. In the first of many red flags when it comes to this kid- he creepily asks the bunny if it wants to watch the domestic dispute between who I’m assuming are his parents unfold before he sets the rabbit down on the couch and goes to be creepy elsewhere.
Before the kid can fully open a door in the house, the sounds of screaming and things breaking still going strong on the other side of it- his mother pulls it open, covered in blood and begging for help. Oddly enough, the teenager, who I’ve already put on my “Future Serial Killer” list two minutes into the movie- does actually call the police- who arrive and show more restraint than anyone currently employed in the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department when a bloodied man comes running out of the home- wielding a knife menacingly at them. After he drops the knife and makes a run for it- another cop approaches the kid who has been sitting outside, waiting for their arrival. His name is no longer “Future Jeffrey Dahmer.” It’s actually Dale.
Leaving Dale on the front porch, the cop goes into the house, and after entering what looks to be a blood-soaked bathroom, proceeds to gag and run outside to vomit directly in front of Dale- which may not be correct police protocol but CERTAINLY isn’t considerate. Shots are fired, and the cop goes to investigate/help/go home and call it a night- leaving Dale alone in a very dangerous situation where he can contaminate a potential crime scene- which of course, he does- when he goes into the house to see the bathroom for himself and starts attempting to have a conversation with whatever is left of his mother’s body. We never see anything apart from a foot, which twitches after a moment or two when Dale leaves the frame to approach the rest of the body.
Wherever the bunny ended up- I hope it’s okay.
Cut to present day Las Vegas, where a pretty blonde (Katie Walkder) wakes up to the sound of a UHaul backing into the driveway of the house across the street. Downstairs, her husband is making breakfast, and using about half a roll of paper towels to pick up one egg that he dropped in the process. The culinary chaos in the kitchen is enough to get the blonde, who we find out is named Sarah, all hot and bothered- but her husband, Josh, is “too busy” for foreplay, although he somehow has time to go across the street and meet the new neighbors (and also ruin breakfast.) Sarah seems just as confused/annoyed by this poor time management and waste of perfectly good bacon as I am, but complies with the ridiculous request anyway.
Across the street, Sarah and Josh bring a plate of from-the-box cookies to their new neighbor: grown-up Dale, who is still creepy but kind of cute in a way I’m not fully comfortable admitting. Dale seems thrilled about the cookies, but expresses visible disappointment when he finds out Sarah didn’t bake them herself. Things only continue to get awkward and uncomfortable when Dale can’t stop staring at Sarah, finally admitting that she reminds him of someone (I’ll take “mommy issues” for $500.) While he gawks, Josh gives us Sarah’s entire life story, including where she went to school and the subject of her dissertation- no, I’m not kidding- until Sarah realizes that even she doesn’t care, so why would a complete stranger?- and urges them to leave Dale alone with his plate of cookies.
After a brief scene where Sarah hangs out with her pregnant friend, or maybe it’s her sister- Leslie- and the two play a guessing game as to which guy Leslie slept with since her divorce could be the father of the baby- we see her at a supermarket checkout, where Dale is now working as a bag-boy. He offers to carry Sarah’s groceries to her car for her, at one point even taking her keys from her to unlock her trunk. He nearly walks away with her keys, at which point I screamed “MAKE SURE HE DIDN’T STEAL YOUR HOUSE KEY” at my monitor- but poor, naive Sarah didn’t check.
At a seedy looking casino on the Vegas strip, Josh is finishing up his shift as a dealer (card dealer, for clarification. Not drug dealer) and avoiding the advances of a regular gambler at his table. He turns down a co-worker’s offer to go smoke pot, stating he has another one of “those appointments” scheduled, which seems to parallel the brief, cryptic conversation Sarah had with her friend just a few moments earlier in the movie. Although the plot synopsis I posted earlier gives it away- for someone who hadn’t read it- it would be obvious there was underlining health/marital issues between the couple.
Back at the house, the suspicions are confirmed as Sarah takes a shower and we’re treated to a flashback conversation between her and Josh where he tells her that he needs a little more time before he thinks about starting a family, and that it’s only been a couple of months since her “accident” that they’ve talked about it. Meanwhile, across the street- Dale pulls into his driveway and sure enough- he has Sarah’s house key. I KNEW IT. He proceeds to go inside to stuff his face with the cookies Sarah and Josh brought him (funniest scene, really-) while Josh calls Sarah to tell her he’s picking up a couple of extra shifts at the casino that night so he can “save for their future.”
Now alone and still not realizing she doesn’t have her house key (how did she get back inside after she left the supermarket, anyway?) Sarah answers the door when Dale stops by to bring back her plate and bitch about how he wanted home made cookies but ate the store bought ones, anyway. After creeping up her night a little more before he finally leaves- Sarah falls asleep on the couch while making a recording for her thesis- only to wake up in her bed the following morning with a panic attack and the realization that she’s wearing a different top than what she’d fallen asleep in- which prompts her friend/sister/I missed the relationship between them/Leslie to come over to take her blood pressure, vitals, and whatnot. Leslie then writes her a prescription to calm her nerves while giving her a pep talk, explaining that she went through something similar with night terrors- because people just do that in Vegas, apparently- doll out prescriptions.
Later, while doing laundry, Sarah finds a rolled up sweatshirt, the one she had been wearing the night before, in her washing machine- blood stains visible on the front of it. Josh comes home to find Sarah rightfully freaked out and draws her a bath- only leaving her to take an incoming call from the clinic where he had the previously mentioned appointment- and is told news that visibly upsets him. Later, while Josh sulks on the couch, Sarah gets back to work on her thesis- listening back to the recording she had made the night before- which reveals the sounds of someone breaking into her home (I wonder who,) and what I can only describe as murderous shrieking. Sarah goes to get Josh to play him the recording- only to find him face-down on their dining room table with a plastic bag tied over his head. After trying to pull it off, Sarah goes to get help- but falls and is promptly dragged off-screen, instead.
JUST KIDDING. It was all a bad dream. Sarah and Josh both wake up on the couch, but Sarah has a meltdown as she tries to recall exactly what happened in said bad dream. It only gets worse when she sees her cell phone, cracked, on the table- and for those of you who have ever tried to save work for a thesis only to have it not save properly- you understand her hysterics are completely justified.
Leslie pays Sarah a visit, and offers to change her prescription, because, you know- Doctors. Sarah declines, but states that every time she wakes up from her night terrors, all she can smell are cleaning products, so at least she’s doing something productive while she sleepwalks. Leslie is unnerved for a moment, but suggests Sarah set up a camera to record what happens during the night, which seems to go right over Sarah’s head as she instead shows that her scar, a visible mark along her hairline from where her head hit the steering wheel during the aforementioned car accident- has apparently vanished.
In the midst of all the confusion and stress, Josh whisks Sarah away for a week to fabulous… Las… Vegas? (in other words: he got them a nice hotel room in the city they already live in.) where they do what everyone does in Vegas. When they get back home, Sarah almost immediately faces a wave of nausea- and I’m sure you all see where this is headed, spoiler-synopsis or not. She’s also greeted by Dale, who sees her outside and approaches- demanding to know where she’s been for the last week and using the “concern” guise when Sarah makes it obvious he’s behaving like a creepy dick. After he leaves, Sarah decides to check out what’s happening in his house while he’s gone- breaking in during broad daylight to find what looks like a typical fraternity house- filthy and filled with empty pizza boxes. He also has a cabinet loaded with packages of the type of cookies Sarah had brought for him and a table with framed photos of what appear to be the faces of sleeping and/or dead women with creepy captions on the backs of them, such as “Mama hung herself” and “Mama slit her wrists.”
Dale, of course, forgets something and has to go back to the house- strolling in while Sarah is upstairs rifling through his childish looking bedroom, including a box filled with house keys he’s apparently stolen from other women. He also has a series of photographs of Sarah while she’s sleeping. Dale catches Sarah in the act, and knocks her unconscious by smashing her over the head. She wakes up, on her own couch and in her own home again- but she realizes her head is bleeding- and rather than go to the hospital, or more importantly- the cops- she calls Leslie. Sarah apparently can’t remember what happened between the time she was outside talking to Dale and when she woke up on the couch- but another bout of nausea prompts her to take a pregnancy test- which reveals she’s expecting.
While outside walking Leslie to her car, Sarah spots Dale- and it turns out that he used to deliver groceries to Leslie before her German Shepard ultimately scared him off. Hey- remember how Leslie is pregnant and isn’t sure who the father is? About that…
Sarah goes to the casino where Josh works to tell him she’s pregnant, and he’s surprised to say the least. When Sarah leaves- he proceeds to angrily down shots of whiskey at the bar. He comes home, shitfaced- and tells Sarah that he’s sterile. He assumes she’s cheating, and leaves- even though he’s nowhere near good enough to drive- and Sarah once again wakes up with a panic attack with cuts on her wrist- prompting her to set up a security camera in her bedroom the following day, and Leslie to stay the night with her German Shepard shortly afterwards.
The camera, whose video quality is atrocious, captures the dog going nuts as he runs after an intruder in the house- prompting Leslie to follow instead of just letting the dog rip whoever it is to pieces. The dog ends up getting killed, stabbed- by the looks of it- which made me have to turn away for a moment as the assailant goes and murders a screaming Leslie while Sarah is SOMEHOW still sleeping upstairs despite the commotion going on below her. Eventually, she does wake up- and goes to see where Leslie went.
BUT THAT WAS ALL A DREAM, TOO. God damn it. Sarah and Leslie both wake up on the couch. The dog is fine. There’s blood on the floor, and it’s from Leslie- who is going into labor. At the hospital, the baby looks nothing like either of the men she guessed it belonged to (BECAUSE IT’S DALE’S.) That night, Josh is debating calling/seeing Sarah- while Sarah is at home, alone- when a masked intruder appears and she once again wakes up, in bed, gasping for air- which at this point is starting to get really, really, really old. She realizes she’s undressed, and turns to her grainy video surveillance footage for answers.
Sure enough, the footage reveals Dale carrying Sarah, bound and gagged, to her bedroom. She she watches the footage of Dale dancing with her, then eating cookies in her bedroom, and raping her- the last part being what I expected was happening right along. As Sarah watches, her memories begin to flood back- but then the footage takes a bizarre turn as Dale lays out a plastic mat on the bedroom floor, lays out what looks to be a series of knives- and slits Sarah’s throat. Um- what?!
Dale puts Sarah back in the bed, and cleans up the bedroom- scrubbing at the floors, which explains the smell of cleaning products Sarah had told Leslie about earlier. He takes a photo of her with a Polaroid camera, like the pictures on display in his house- and at this point I thought the movie was entering ‘Sixth Sense/she’s been dead this entire time!’ territory- when the footage then shows Sarah suddenly waking up, gasping for air- like she’s been doing right along.
The next day, Sarah shows the footage to Leslie, who urges her to go to the cops, but Sarah explains that they’ll think she doctored the video as some sort of joke. She recollects Dale breathing into her mouth right before she’d woken up- and then goes on to show some research she’d done in the wake of all the supernatural insanity. Pulling up an article from the 2002 meth lab massacre from the very first scene, Sarah goes on to read a quote from the cop with the weak stomach that claims Dale’s mother was found in pieces- but that somehow she was brought back to life. There is another article that states Dale’s mother is now in a mental institution in Nevada- which is where Sarah is heading next to get answers. After she leaves, Leslie stares at her baby- remembering how she went through something similar: the night terrors, the smell of cleaning products, Dale delivering her groceries. I called it.
At the mental institution, Dale’s mother tells Sarah that the night she was murdered was also the night Dale discovered his gift of being able to bring people back to life. We’re treated to the rest of the scene following Dale’s mother’s resuscitation, and a narrative from his mother explaining that Dale became obsessed with his ability- killing and bringing things back to life on the regular (including his bunny- God DAMN it.) After a while, he began to use his ability to get things he wanted- including refusing to resuscitate someone until his mother baked him cookies (it’s all falling into place now.) After a while, probably because she was sick of baking and having to deal with dead bodies around her house, Dale’s mom attempted suicide- quite a few times- only to have Dale photograph her face for weird, creepy purposes and bring her back. Over and over. It makes perfect sense why she’d snap and get herself committed. Granted, dousing herself in gasoline and lighting herself on fire in front of the neighborhood was a little excessive- but whatever works, I guess.
Dale kills and brings people back to life to connect with them- which could make him a sympathetic villain in a weird, sort of twisted way if it weren’t for the whole also being a rapist thing- so it’s pretty clear that he needs to be dealt with accordingly (see: killed. Immediately.) His mother even urges Sarah to do it if she catches him in her house again.
That night, Dale has broken into the house- only to find that Josh has returned home before Sarah. She arrives shortly thereafter, gun in tow- and accidentally shoots Josh when Dale shoves him, hands tied, around a corner- startling her. As Josh bleeds all over the linoleum floor, Dale refuses to bring him back- telling Sarah he wants to be with her to raise their family (also: that he’s exhausted from continuously cleaning up after he murders her, which admittedly made me laugh.) Sarah accepts his offer- putting the gun down, baking him cookies, and leading him upstairs to seduce him. When she asks Dale to kiss her and he complies, Sarah inhales sharply- and Dale realizes she’s attempting to get some of, well, whatever’s in his breath- out of him to breathe into Josh.
A struggle ensues, with Sarah briefly getting the upper hand and resuscitating Josh effectively. Dale attacks her again, threatening to kill her and her husband for the last time- but Sarah gets the gun from the floor and empties what I assume is the rest of the clip into him while poor Josh stands there, bound and dumbfounded. If I were her, I probably would have cut Dale’s head off- just in case- but with only five minutes left of the movie- you have to leave some room for the credits.
Josh and Sarah look lovingly into each other’s eyes after Dale croaks- and I anticipated a happy ending with them raising his demon spawn together outside the Vegas strip- BUT WAIT- THERE’S MORE?
Josh’s gunshot wounds begin bleeding again. Sarah’s throat, previously slit in the surveillance footage, re-opens disgustingly. Around the Nevada area, women that Dale had previously stalked/murdered/brought back- all start dying in the horrific ways and methods Dale had previously killed them- including his mother. The final shot of the movie, after Josh and Sarah die together on the floor- is Leslie laying dead in her hospital room while her poor baby wiggles around in his crib.
And that’s it.
Now, here’s the part where I would typically re-cap just how terrible a movie is, or at the least try to find something salvageable in it- but that’s the thing- “Come Back to Me” really isn’t that bad. For an independent movie that was presumably made on a smaller budget than other, more financially-backed and promoted films- I wasn’t left angry or disappointed with this. Most of the acting isn’t bad by any means, there’s no corny CGI or cheap gore effects (the final scene isn’t too over the top,) and the twists: both Dale’s ability being revealed via surveillance footage and the ending after he died- was actually unexpected. I had mentioned my getting annoyed with the non-stop “it was all a dream!” St. Elsewhere-esque sequences, but once it was laid out why it kept happening over and over again- it made more sense and was acceptable after that point.
Would I recommend “Come Back to Me?” Sure. It’s a pretty cool concept packaged in a creepy hour and half film. It’s definitely different and certainly a breath of fresh air in the current state of horror and suspense.
By the way, let’s give it up for the unsung hero of this movie: