Rating: ★★★ 1/2
We’ve all had holidays that didn’t go according to plan, but George Ratliff’s new thriller takes this idea to a whole new level. Welcome Home follows couple Cassie and Bryan as they travel to Italy together. They’ve rented a secluded, spacious home for a few days, so they can spend some quality time together. So far, so simple. However, it’s soon revealed that they’ve been having relationship problems due to Cassie having a drunken one night stand. It’s clear that this isn’t going to be an easy trip for them, and that’s before we meet the real threat.
Aaron Paul and Emily Ratajkowski are great in the lead roles. They feel like your everyday, plausible couple who are simply trying to repair their relationship. I found myself rooting for them and hoping they could reconnect throughout. Despite the slow pacing in places, I did genuinely care about them as characters. Without the strength of their acting, I think this film might have struggled in places as some of it seemed to drag or could’ve easily been cut out. Welcome Home does have similarities to the 2008 film The Strangers, in which see a strained relationship set within a secluded summer home, with the couple being terrorised by masked murderers.
This film’s antagonist, Frederico, is less ambiguous than that, and instead spends time with the couple and tries to befriend them in order to gain their trust. Cassie is a lot more receptive to this than Bryan, who is distrustful of Frederico after he brought Cassie back to the house when she sprained her ankle whilst running. He believes something else is going on, based on the one night stand. At first they believe he’s a neighbour, so nothing really seems out of the ordinary. Then, it starts to get weird. He says some strange things and starts showing up uninvited, even running into them on the street and deciding to turn up to the house to cook dinner.
Every second that Frederico’s on the screen is an uncomfortable one, and you know he’s not the innocent person he’s pretending to be. It’s only a matter of time before his true intentions are revealed to the couple, putting them both in danger. Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio really blew me away in this film and I’m excited to see more from him.
Although it takes a while to get going, the second and third act of Welcome Home is a tense and unnerving experience. Frederico goes from friendly, helpful neighbour to a creepy psychopath very quickly, and it turns out he has very dark intentions for the couple. He spends the film manipulating them and turning them against each other. I won’t spoil it for you, but it turns this couple’s holiday into a complete nightmare. I did quite like the big reveal at the end, though it seems a little far-fetched it’s not beyond the realms of possibility given the digital age that we live in. This fact is emphasised by the voyeuristic nature of the camera, how we’re always peeking around doors or watching things we shouldn’t be.
I have seen stronger thrillers with better pacing, but Welcome Home is certainly an entertaining watch if you’re looking for a new, exciting story with a strong cast list. It puts a fun twist on your classic home invasion horror, with a charming, magnetic antagonist to really lure you in. I’d recommend giving it a go if you get the opportunity, as it’s worth it for the characters and the ending.
Welcome Home is available for Digital Download now.