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By Pete Vonder Haar | January 26, 2006

Chris Gorak’s “Right at Your Door,” a harrowing depiction of one couple’s attempts to deal with the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Los Angeles, hits depressingly close to home. In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita emphatically demonstrated how unready American cities are when it comes to dealing with large scale disasters and the resulting panic, a scenario which could easily be repeated in the event of an attack like the one presented here.

The movie starts with a typical Southern California day, where we find Brad (Rory Cochrane) a musician who spends most of the day at home, kissing his wife Lexi (Mary McCormack) goodbye as she heads to her job in downtown LA. Within moments, Brad hears on the radio that a series of explosions have rocked the downtown area. Panicking, he jumps in his car in desperate attempt to track Lexi down. Encountering widespread chaos and hastily thrown-up police roadblocks, Brad hears for he first time that the bombs detonated were, in fact, loaded with some sort of biological agent. He’s faced with an even bigger dilemma now, as the police make him return to his house and seal it up with plastic and duct tape, potentially trapping Lexi outside. Brad’s hand is forced when toxic ash starts falling from the sky, and he and a contractor working at his neighbor’s house hole up together waiting for word from the authorities. Inevitably, Lexi shows up, and Brad now has to decide how to deal with the obviously sick woman he loves very much, but who could end up killing him if he allows her inside.

“Right at Your Door” benefits not only from the timely subject matter, but also from former production designer (“Lords of Dogtown,” “Blade: Trinity”) Gorak’s touch. With a minimal effects budget, he still convincingly depicts a city ripped by terror and confusion. Long shots of the Los Angeles skyline billowing smoke and flames and ash coating everything are extremely effective in spite (or perhaps because) of their brevity. And as with other cheerful apocalyptic fare such as “Testament” and “The Day After,” the value of accurate information increases a hundredfold in situations like this, and while Cochrane and McCormack may anchor the film, the performances of the voice talent heard on radio broadcasts throughout the film shouldn’t be overlooked, as they are featured prominently in the story.

Ultimately a story about the American mindset post-9/11, “Right at Your Door” is also a much more personal tale, as it forces all of us to consider what we would do if the chips were down.

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