motion detected | justin gallaher | sam roseme | natasha esce | carlo mendez | roland buck iii | religion | united states | julie brister | bob clendenin | kimberli flores | katelyn macmullen | haunted | haunted house | demon
Film: Motion Detected
Directors: Justin Gallaher and Sam Roseme
Writers: Justin Gallaher and Sam Roseme
Starring: Natasha Esca, Carlo Mendez and Roland Buck III
This is a movie that I got the chance to see as a screener thanks to Justin Cook. When I saw that it was a 2023 horror movie, I was intrigued. I will admit, outside of glancing at the cast and the genre, I came into this one blind. The title was intriguing as well. I started thinking of different things with technology, which also pulled my interest.
Synopsis: when a recent victim of a terrifying home invasion moves to what she thinks is a safer house, the smart home security system begins to take over her life.
We start this seeing a little girl. She is lying in bed and there is a distortion trying to enter her room. She then opens her closest and gets sucked inside. A recurring motif is the security system gives an alert about motion being detected. On the screen, we see a glitch that moves.
It then shifts to a couple moving from Mexico to the United States. They are Eva (Natasha Esca) and Miguel (Carlo Mendez). They’re being shown the place by Julie (Katelyn MacMullen). The place has space and of course, the security system. The couple goes upstairs to chat and Julie watches them on a camera. Eva is put off by the name of the system, Diablo. They take the place regardless.
I want to reference back to the synopsis as the reason they’re moving to where they are was because of this home invasion by a guy named El Diablo. He murdered multiple women and held Eva at knifepoint. He left her alive though. She now lives in fear that he will come for her. This house and area seems safer.
Things aren’t paradise though. Miguel must go back to Mexico for work. Eva can’t figure out the security system and we see that it might be reading her thoughts. She has nightmares every night of her encounter with El Diablo. She contacts the company who manages the system and Ray Brown (Roland Buck III) comes over to recalibrate it. It uses artificial intelligence to adapt to what its owners’ need. It might be a little bit too smart though.
The more Eva messes with it, the worse her fears get. Miguel is gone longer than he thought. A neighbor, Nancy (Julie Brister), has her join a social media group that shares information. Joining this makes Eva believe her neighborhood isn’t as safe as she thought. She even reaches out to Dr. Olivares (Kimberli Flores), her former psychiatrist who helped with her trauma with El Diablo. Eva also sees the glitch, this time looking like a little girl. She must figure out what to do before it is too late.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to their characters. Where I want to start is that I thought this has a poignant premise. AI is a hot button topic and one that has been since computers started to take more off our daily routines. This is combining it with a home security system which is an interesting one. As someone who has a Ring doorbell and a Google Home, these make lives much easier. Now if the AI thinks for itself, it could become a terrifying thing.
Sticking with this idea, one of the first movies that made me think about how high-tech systems like this could be dangerous was the Scream requel. It is featured in the beginning where the killer could use it to unlock the door. We get a bit of that here as well, just used differently. Eva can’t figure out how to get the system to work and when she arms it, the door locks. She gets frustrated since she either must leave the door unlocked or not leave. In the real world, this would annoy me. I do think that this does well in setting up that there is an issue. This is just one aspect of the technology being off and Eva’s issues there.
Where I want to go is over to the system itself. I don’t like that it is called Diablo. It seems to only use that name as a plot convenience with the killer being called El Diablo. Now I know in my limited Spanish that it means the devil. The system doesn’t have anything to do with marketing to indicate why they chose that name. It would be better if that was a nickname due to having issues with it. Since we are following a Mexican couple, I did like them incorporating their religious beliefs as that is in line with what I know from their culture.
The last bit of the story is another negative. I don’t understand how the system is doing what it does. There is a Poltergeist element that the little girl is pulled into her closest and disappeared. Something bad happens to a neighbor who tries to help Eva. What I don’t get is how it can analyze her memories to project El Diablo. I guess if we’re saying that this system is the devil, then that makes sense. We don’t get that though. This goes ambiguous and just have things here for the plot to work for them.
Next should be the acting. I do think what we get is fine. Esca is good as our lead. She is beautiful and I think that we’re given an interesting introduction to her. With Miguel there, she seems like she would be fine. Being isolated like she is pushes her toward madness. I like that as no one believes her. What she is saying is farfetched as well. Mendez is fine along with Buck. They try to help her when they can’t while also not believing her. Other than that, MacMullen, Bob Clendenin, Flores and Brister are fine also in their roles as well to round this out.
All that is left is filmmaking. The cinematography is fine. It does interesting things with reality and what you see on the monitor being different. That makes me uncomfortable so credit there. The use of CGI for digital glitches work. If this was found footage, that would bother me. This is based around technology though so I can let it slide. Other than that, we don’t get much more in the way of effects. The voice of the system works. It gets creepier for the climax which works. It didn’t stand out aside from that.
In conclusion, we get a better concept than what was executed on the screen. A problem here is that we’ve had other technology-based horror films that do it better in my opinion. I like using AI, which is a hot button thing, with a home security system. There are too many plot conveniences and other aspects not explored enough. The acting is fine. That is one of the brighter parts. This is also made well enough. If this sounds good, I’d recommend viewing it. This one I think is lacking to have staying power.
My Rating: 5.5 out of 10