Review by Mark Schwab
Good, mind-bending science fiction movies are getting harder and harder to come by these days which is why Coherence felt like cool water to a thirsty movie goer. Director James Ward Byrkit combines a lot of styles and genres here but somehow (except for a slight misstep at the end) it all works very effectively.
Like all good sci fi, this is one of those "the less you know, the better" types so I'll be careful where I step here.
The movie takes place almost entirely in one house during a dinner party where a mysterious comet is passing close to the earth. The dinner party is the usual assortment of hip Silicon Valley 30-somethings, where good wine is poured along with the organic kale salad. They sit down to eat, the comet is brought up for conversation, more wine is poured, and yet something is just....off.....about the whole proceedings. One guest tells an inappropriate story about an ex-girlfriend, another just insists to one guest that they once taught "Spanish Yoga" while that same guest has no memory of it. It starts to get downright David Lynchy uncomfortable, and tension builds quickly after the electricity suddenly shuts off in the entire neighborhood.
Once that happens, Coherence really is off to the races by bringing in theoretical physics, scary horror-film style shakey camerawork, creepy dopplegangers and weird off-kilter clues and props as to what is happening to them. The actors (all strong and capable here) think through this mystery in a believable way and watching them try to unravel it all is fun to watch. It's like Luis Bunuel decided to make a sci-fi thriller and I must admit to being on the edge of my seat for most of the 88-minute running time, wondering how in the heck all this is going to be resolved.
Surprisingly it does get resolved quite nicely at around the 80-minute mark. However, there is that additional 8 or so final minutes which for me somewhat diluted the effect. It isn't so much a bad ending that ruins it, just an unneeded one that lets the air out of it a bit. If Byrkit had a bit more courage, I think it would have been stronger without his little epilogue.
But it's still minor to an otherwise very strong low-budget film. It shows what can be done with basically one set and no wide shots (this is almost entirely shot in medium close ups and close ups) if you are clever enough.