Dir. Justin Gallaher & Sam Roseme (2023)
After a recent break-in, a young woman moves into a house protected by a home security system. The security system has a bit of a mind of its own.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Techno-horror movies are relatively rare in comparison to the vast array of other options, and making one is a bit of a daunting task, if for no other reason than that technology moves so fast, it’s likely to be outdated before it’s out of theaters. Smart houses, however, haven’t caught on as quickly as a lot of other technological advances, and it seems like there are just as many glitches today as there were when the concept first hit the market. Houses that obey our every whim, with the potential that they may have their own whims they’d like to see to fruition, is a topic that is very capable of producing fear in people who very well may look to make their own homes smart houses at some point in the near future. Hell, I’ve had the majority of my technology linked to my house for several years now, and I’m still worried every time I close the door that I might not be able to open it next time I try. The possibility that my house may be run by the devil? Well… that’s something that I hadn’t even considered!
Thankfully, Motion Detected considers this very possibility in a safe, watered-down way. Miguel (Carlo Mendez) and Eva (Natasha Esca) have just moved to California from Mexico, seeking a safer life and a safer home. Eva is scared of a serial killer named El Diablo that is roaming the Mexico City Streets, and she believes that she’s left those fears across the border. Her new home is equipped with a security system called Diablo Control, which is totally a coincidence and contains no foreshadowing whatsoever. Needless to say, Diablo Control is just as nefarious as it sounds, and shit starts to go south pretty much immediately. The house is run by artificial intelligence, tracking biometrics, learning the house’s occupants’ patterns, and controlling every feature of the house, from the locks to the lights. It’s a system that is perfectly set up for a horror movie.
Unfortunately, the film’s concept is its best feature. There are some bright spots, however. Devilishly clever nods to the alarm’s possibly-supernatural origin, such as its 6am wakeup call and the 6 minute wait time every time she calls customer service, are good for a chuckle, as is the potential for message boards to be a major pain in society’s ass. That is just about where the major positives end, however. The acting in the film is a bit subpar, very much feeling like its cast is populated by Lifetime Television castoffs. Esca’s performance is uneven, though it’s difficult to tell how much is on her and how much is on the writing: her character starts out the film saying she barely understands English, but she speaks English through the entire rest of the film, unless she’s slipping into Spanish seemingly just to remind the audience that she’s from Mexico. The writing is passable but doesn’t quite rise to the level of a good indie horror, and Esca’s alternating characterizations are far from the only trouble. There is faaar too much exposition from Eva, who tells in pretty much every instance where the film should show instead.
The Lady of Holy Death is actually a really awesome concept for a horror film, and the way she is an addition to this story works well at making things just a little more unsettling. It sorta reminds me of Huesera, another film we previously looked at here, and the combination of Mexican and Spanish religious and cultural beliefs with horror. Obviously there are plenty of Spanish horror films that combine elements of their own culture, but there are precious few in America. I’d love to see a lot more of these being used in mainstream American horror, because a lot of their beliefs are creepy as hell and could combine effortlessly into the genre.
Honestly, though, the film is gorgeously shot. The ideas are there, the bones are good, and this movie screams “remake me after you’ve done a few more films!” Directors Justin Gallaher and Sam Roseme are first-time filmmakers, and most of the faults with the film are pretty clearly problems of experience, not talent. There are some great combinations of technology and film, with digital overlays allowing for the exploration of multiple scenes at once. It’s nothing new, of course, but it’s used creatively and really helps to blend the horror and the technology. Yeah, the movie is a little Lifetime-esque, but it’s got enough heart that that won’t matter all that much. You’ve seen a lot worse, is what I’m saying. While this one isn’t going to knock your socks off, it for sure won’t be the worst film you’ve ever seen, and it’s a worthwhile effort at discussing the newer changes in technology that have a lot of potential as future explorations within horror.
Who this movie is for: Techno-horror fans, Hispanic horror lovers, ADT salesmen
Bottom line: A little cheesy and with more misses than hits, Motion Detected is nevertheless an interesting and well-made first effort from filmmakers Justin Gallaher and Sam Roseme. The acting is where the film really falls flat, because there are some creative and intriguing ideas at play here. I look forward to seeing what Gallaher and Roseme do next, because with a little bit more experience in telling a complete story, I feel sure they’re going to be capable of producing something really good. If you’re a fan of techno-horror and you don’t mind your horror being a little corny, check this one out. The film releases today on VOD, so you can check it out on iTunes, Amazon, or wherever else you get your streaming content!