Categorized as a horror comedy, writer/director Dominic Bridges’ feature debut proves minimal on laughs as it pits an amoral estate agent against the insidious man secretly sharing his apartment. The idea that someone is hiding in your home, and openly using your things while you’re away at work makes for an excellent horror set up. Bridges takes it a step further by giving that stranger malicious intent toward the apartment’s resident, often with great gross out effect.
Genre character actor Javier Botet ([Rec], Mama) plays Orlan, the creepy man that hides in relative plain sight in Hussein’s apartment. We’re introduced to Hussein by way of his morning routine; showering, dressing, teeth brushing, and eating cereal before carefully stacking his dirty dishes in a high pile of dirty dishes. The film carefully lays out Hussein’s routine because shortly after he leaves for work, Orlan steps out of hiding to recreate Hussein’s routine. He brushes his teeth using Hussein’s toothbrush. He reuses the used tea bags and dirty dishes from the sink to make tea. It becomes clear immediately that he’s not a simple squatter, though, when he uses Hussein’s hand towel to get intimate with his junk before neatly placing it back for Hussein to use later.
It’s a pattern that repeats again and again, growing increasingly sinister as the film progresses. Watching Orlan blow snot into a woman’s panties and spit a phlegmy wad into Hussein’s mouth wash before giving a swirl to mix tests the gag reflex. Yet, the repetitive nature of it also drags the pacing to a crawl, despite a short run time. Hussein’s life spirals downward due to Orlan’s creepy meddling, but after a while it becomes hard to care.
Aside from the monotonous nature of the setup, Hussein is as unlikable, if not more so, than Orlan. Played by Mim Shaikh, Hussein is essentially such a prick that it’s difficult to muster empathy for what Orlan is doing to him. That’s nothing against Shaikh’s performance; his character is intentional written as a jerk.
The how and why of Orlan’s motivations are slowly stitched together by way of conversations that he has with a pair of pigeons that often spend their day on the ledge outside the apartment window. It gives a glimpse to a more human side of Orlan that’s otherwise absent in his quest. Botet does his best to convey a monster with a tragic underside, but the writing is too muddy to properly flesh out his character. In other words, when the audience is finally let in on the master plan, it’s weak and doesn’t make much sense.
The reality is that there’s a strong core idea behind Bridges’ debut, but one that is far better suited to a short film format. There are some stylistic flourishes that invoke a music video aesthetic that doesn’t quite fit, either. It’s a dark film that only gets darker, offering very little in the way of comedy, but it’s hindered by its repetitive nature, immoral characters, and no logical way to escalate the story.
Two Pigeons made its world premiere at SXSW on March 10, 2017.