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'Trash Fire' Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: Adrian Grenier learns the hard way that you can't go home again

October 15, 2016Ben MK

Dysfunctional families usually make for prime Hollywood dramatic fodder. But what happens when you mix familial dysfunction with mental instability, murder, substance abuse, sex and religion? The answer is that shit doesn't just get real — it gets downright creepy.

In Trash Fire, Entourage's Adrian Grenier plays Owen, an unpleasant narcissist with a rude sense of humor, who also happens to be a bulimic alcoholic and prone to seizures. At first glance, Owen isn't the type of character you'd normally find yourself empathizing with. However, as things progress in this third feature from writer/director Richard Bates Jr. (Suburban Gothic, Excision), that's exactly what ends up happening.

Owen's girlfriend of three years is Isabel (The Final Girls' Angela Trimbur), and they have a self-destructive relationship. So imagine the couple's surprise when they learn that she's pregnant. Naturally, an abortion is the first thought that pops into their heads. But against their better judgment, they decide to make a go of it, providing Owen can excise his personal demons, all of which stem from his tenuous relationship with his estranged family.

You see, when Owen was a teenager, he lost both his parents in a house fire that also left his sister Pearl (AnnaLynne McCord) with disfiguring, third-degree burns. Not only that, Owen blames himself, and has been running from the guilt ever since. Now Pearl lives with their mean-spirited grandmother Violet (Fionnula Flanagan); and if Owen wants to make amends with Pearl, he and Isabel will have to pay a visit to grandma's house.

What follows isn't particularly terrifying, but there's no denying that it's unsettling as Hell, as Owen and Isabel comes face to face with the ghosts from his past, which have shaped him into the broken man that he is today. The question is: can these two unwitting souls survive their little trip? As they soon discover, Violet's sharp tongue isn't the only thing they'll have to worry about; and Pearl isn't the helpless, fragile little sister that Owen remembers.

In many respects, Trash Fire is very much a character drama, as its dialogue-driven narrative doesn't immediately scream horror. But what the movie lacks in jump-out-of-your-seat scares it more than makes up for with its poison-tipped black humor and subversive tone, not to mention note-perfectly creepy performances from Flanagan and McCord. And in the end, it's just further proof to support the old adage — you really can't go home again.

Trash Fire is receiving its Toronto premiere at Toronto After Dark 2016. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 31 Mins.

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