Credit: Fantasia International Film Festival
by Matt Lynch Featured Film

Home Invasion — Graeme Arnfield [Fantasia Fest ’23 Review]

August 14, 2023

Allegedly an “experimental” video essay/documentary on the history of the doorbell, director Graeme Arnfield’s Home Invasion purports to be an unsettling and insightful exploration of how a seemingly innocuous invention has propelled generations of racism, classism, and paranoia. By and large, though, it undercuts an admittedly interesting thesis with some shoddy technique and unsourced anecdotes in place of actual data-driven conclusions.

Part horror movie, part found-footage doc, most of Home Invasion is constructed out of onscreen text and endless doorbell/Ring cam footage. Beginning with the tale of Marie Van Brittain Brown, a nurse who in 1966 invented the first video-based home security system, the film then jumps ahead to the development of what would become Amazon’s Ring by a depressed Shark Tank reject, before cycling way back to the story of the Luddites (illustrated with woodcuts and contemporaneous 19th-century art, all inexplicably fish-eyed to look like the ubiquitous door-cam stuff). Along the way, there’s an investigation of the telephone’s influence on modern slasher movies, although there’s inexplicably no such discussion of video surveillance.

What you mostly have in Home Invasion, then, is that Ring footage; there are a lot of crummy delivery guys, confused DoorDash gig workers, and curious stray animals. Occasionally, there’s a spooky dude in a ski mask or drunk asshole or shitty ex spitting profanities and pounding on the front door, and the whole thing is slathered in scary music and covered in ominous onscreen text. Its arguments that corporate-sponsored home surveillance and connectivity have made us a generation of bigoted narcs are certainly tantalizing, but there’s no actual data here, and in fact not much more than a direct poke at the viewer’s emotions, as opposed to a more concrete and cogent examination of these unquestionably complicated dynamics. And although the thematic connections between all these various stories are fairly self-evident, they don’t really track narratively; there’s simply no momentum. One could very charitably compare the whole thing to the works of Adam Curtis, but Home Invasion doesn’t bear any of that director’s insight and ability to tie together seemingly disparate threads in illustration of a thesis. In dragging what seems primed to be a short video essay out to feature length, the whole undercooked project becomes a mere slog.

Published as part of Fantasia Fest 2023 — Dispatch 4.