Friday, August 28, 2015
Lakeview Terrace (2008)
Before we go any further, though, I want to try to talk down any people who don't exactly care for this movie for a certain reason, which is why I initially hesitated doing this review in the first place. I know that there are many out there who feel that this movie doesn't paint the most flattering picture of African-Americans and I couldn't respect that view more. Even though I really like the movie, I will say that there are aspects of it that I do feel go overboard in that respect. But, I do enjoy this movie because I feel it has a lot going for it, I think it handles its subject well for the most part, and I'm going to be honest and describe why I think the movie succeeds. I don't mean any disrespect so, please, relax. Some may feel I'm being paranoid by saying this but, since I don't tackle movies with this subject matter that often (I honestly don't seek them out because they're usually just not my thing), I felt I had to make my intention clear, especially since I'm a white man. So, with that melodramatic disclaimer out of the way, let's get into this.
As wildfires burn out of control in California, Abel Turner, a widowed, 28-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, is dealing with the loss of his wife three years before and attempting to raise his two kids as best as he can, however they're not too crazy about his overly strict rules, especially his teenage daughter. One extremely hot day, after his kids leave for school, some new neighbors arrive to purchase the house next door, which catches Abel's interest. Initially, it looks the neighbors are a black couple, although the man is much older than the woman, but Abel soon realizes that the older man is actually her father while her husband is a white man, much to his chagrin. The couple, Chris and Lisa Mattson, quickly settle into their new life in Lakeview, the suburban neighborhood out of L.A., despite the annoyance of Abel's outdoor security lights shining directly into their bedroom during their first night. The following day, Chris meets Abel, who introduces himself in a rather unorthodox manner. Although he's friendly enough, there's an undercurrent of hostility towards Chris and his wife as Abel talks to him, and his opinion of them goes down even further when he, as well as his kids, sees them having sex in their swimming pool. Following that, their AC-unit is vandalized, Abel's security lights continue shining into their bedroom, and the more Chris talks to him, the more Abel makes it clear that he doesn't like their being together, let alone living next door to him. Following a party at their house where he chastises them and some of their guests for certain opinions that they hold, particularly when one makes a very unflattering comment about the police, Chris confronts Abel as he leaves about his behavior but the cop obviously has no intention of staying out of their life, as Chris tells him to. Things quickly go downhill, with Abel making Chris and Lisa's day-to-day life a living hell, with them not being able to do much because of his stature in the police department. Things get further compounded when Lisa, accidentally or not, become pregnant, something that Chris was insistent about waiting on, and as the wildfires get closer and closer to Lakeview, Abel's already unbalanced mental state deteriorates further to the point where he will do whatever he can to drive Chris and Lisa out of their home, not matter how horrific his actions may be.
While it's not one of the best ever, I do enjoy the score for the film that was composed by Jeff and Mychael Danna. It's a very subtle and quiet one, never overwhelms the movie and accentuates the mood and tensions going on very well. The main theme that plays over the opening and ending credits is a soft, melancholy piece that I think gets across the idea that Abel's life hasn't been that easy lately and a lot of the other residents of Lakeview and the nearby city of L.A. are probably in a similar state. Its being reprised over the ending credits I think reiterates the notion of the bad stuff that's happened in this innocent-looking neighborhood and that it might truly never be the same again (it especially won't be the same for Abel's kids when they get back to find their father dead). The rest of the music is also subtle but effective, getting across the tension in a lot of the scenes and giving the sense that the situation is growing worse with each passing moment, often with the use of an eerie, echoing noise that sounds kind of like what you would hear on the creepiest segments of Unsolved Mysteries. Even the music you hear during the more fast-paced scenes, like when Chris and Abel rush to his house when Lisa is being attacked and the final confrontation between them, is pretty low-key and doesn't get in the way, which is nice. And given the film's subject matter, you hear a lot of rap on the soundtrack, which is not a style of music I'm a fan of but since it's not dwelt upon, save for that scene where Chris is listening to some in his car when he first meets Abel, it doesn't bug me as much as it could.