I went into "The Domestics" last night knowing absolutely nothing about it. I didn't watch any trailers for it, nor did I read a description of the film. I simply saw the poster, laughed at how bad it looked, and decided to go to a 10:00 PM showing since I had nothing better to do. And while I cannot say that the film blew me away, it did surprise me just how much care was put into this film. However, it should be noted that care and attention to detail only go so far when the overall product lacks a certain substance to keep any viewer engaged.
The film follows Mark and Nina, a "married" couple who decide to make the 5-hour drive to Nina's parents house after her mother stops calling her. The problem is the world has gone to crap ever since the government decided to use chemical weapons to kill off most of the population, and almost all of those who survived the attack turned into psychopaths who are out for blood 247. Thus, the trip is obviously a stupid idea, and the film knows it. However, since there wouldn't be a "story" without the trip, we are told that Mark is only doing it to save his marriage with Nina. Off the bat, this comes off as really stupid reasoning, but the aforementioned attention to detail and the chemistry between Tyler Hoechlin and Kate Bosworth does a fairly good job of convincing me of their love.
The film itself plays like a clip show, often presenting an idea in action that lasts a few minutes before moving on to the next thing. While this is actually pretty effective for worldbuilding (and surprisingly, character development), it really takes a toll on the actual story. Another downside to this is often it feels like the film thinks it's presenting this fresh, groundbreaking, thought-provoking idea, when really it's just retreading territory that other stories have covered far better in the past. I've seen people comparing this to "The Purge" and "Mad Max" because of some of the themes and the aesthetic, but I'd be quicker to compare this to the "Fallout" game franchise and "The Walking Dead" for all of the ideas it takes from those two franchises.
There is some originality here, although I'm not entirely sure it was intended. For one, the film plays like a comedy. What I mean by that is any time the film has an opportunity to go for a laugh, it always goes for it. I think I laughed more watching this than I did when I saw "Tag", and that tells me that at least some of the humor I laughed at was intentional. However, I didn't expect to be watching a comedy, I was expecting a tense horrorthriller. It is disappointing to go into a horror film and not be scared (although there were two short-yet-notable moments that made me genuinely uncomfortable), but the laughs were certainly welcome in their absence.
Overall, the film is very competent, but nothing special. The editing is fine, the soundtrack is fine, the acting is pretty decent, the direction is there, and the cinematography is actually more than just basic camerawork. It is an hour-and-a-half odyssey that is not very scary, but packs in some good laughs. You rarely ever feel like you know what exactly is going to happen next, but you're not really invested enough to care either. Despite it's numerous faults and shortcomings, I found the film so enjoyable that I did not regret purchasing a ticket to watch it, and that is always a good sign that a film isn't too awful. Still, "The Domestics" fails to be any better than mediocre and inoffensive, which makes it quite middling for me.
So, should you watch this? If you want to watch an awkward-humor comedy set in a post-apocalyptic America (and I'm pretty sure it's just America, the rest of the world is probably fine), it certainly is a good popcorn film for that. If you're looking for something that makes you feel tense, scared, and uncomfortable throughout? well, Hereditary is still in theaters right now, go watch that instead.
Review by Roger Engle from the Internet Movie Database.