David Palmieri’s ‘Heart Of The Home’ (2021): A Cautionary Tale of Terror – Movie Review

Close quarter roommate situations where privacy is a rare commodity can be challenging to say the least. Throw in clashing personalities and mental instability mixed with murderous intent and you have a recipe for upheaval and disaster.

In Heart Of The Home, a newly released indie horror inspired by true events, Natalie (Elisabeth Steen-Nokleberg: Rideshare 2018 – read our review here) learns the importance of roommate selectivity upon welcoming a disguised evil into her humble abode. And this grave mistake sparks a spiraling nightmare she won’t soon forget.

Opening with a foreboding scene, the film begins as a woman climbs into the back of her vehicle. After typing something into a laptop, she unleashes a shrilling scream as she gazes into a handheld mirror. Serving up one hell of an attention grabber while proposing numerous questions, Heart Of The Home cuts to Natalie helping Shino (Kazumi Zatkin: The Forest), one of her two roommates, pack belongings. Having formed a tightly bonded friendship with Shino, who is newly engaged, this is a tough bittersweet goodbye for Natalie and the third roomie, Kimiko (Yukina Takase: LR Lost Road).

After Shino embarks on the next chapter of her life, Natalie and Kimiko must now welcome a new person into their lives to fill the vacant room. After several humorous interviews, it looks as though the ideal roommate doesn’t exist … until the arrival of Miko (Mia Ando: The Catcher). Compared to the bizarre prospects Natalie and Kimiko had just spoken to, Miko appears to be odd but harmless. She’s in need of a place to live, and the two roommates desperately need to fill the vacancy. This is L.A., after all, and the City of Angels isn’t exactly known for cheap rent. So, the sudden appearance of this stranger seems like a blessing. An eerie, ominous blessing.

Mia Ando as Miko

Electing to forgo a background check prior to moving in, Natalie and Kimiko welcome Miko who subtly manipulates the situation into her favor. While Kimiko brushes this off, Natalie becomes suspicious. And so begins the real peculiar behavior from Miko who sparks a cold war of passive aggression towards Natalie. Though Kimiko attempts to keep the peace at first, she wisely begins to spend more time with her boyfriend, distancing herself from the brewing conflict.

Elisabeth Steen-Nokleberg as Natalie and Yukina Takase as Kimiko

Strange behavior aside, I couldn’t help but feel a little sympathy for Miko. When you’re new to an area and desperate for a place to live on short notice, it can cause distress that you may understandably hide for fear of rejection. Who wants to take their chances being homeless in a city? And some impulse reactions towards things such as an incoming hug from Kimiko and fear of a dog that means well hints at past psychological trauma. Other behavior indicates social anxiety, as well as other possible struggles with mental health. And Ando flawlessly balances all of this as Miko while still conveying a calm yet threatening demeanor that silently screams, “Psychopath!”

Any and all sympathy melts away when neighbors Emilio (Rideshare’s Tremain Hayhoe – read our interview with him here) and Rachel (Chloe Brewer: Be Our Guests) anxiously report to Natalie that their beloved dog is missing. Soon after the neighbor’s friendly beast can’t be found, stalking begins, malicious lies are told and bodies begin to drop as murderous deceit cooks up behind closed doors.

Directed by David Palmieri (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World), Heart Of The Home is an intriguing, cautionary tale of terror that’ll leave indie lovers chilled with its haunting conclusion which is backed by a great cast with authentic performances. While bringing intensity onscreen as Natalie, Steen-Nokleberg is the heart of this production’s home seeing the process through from beginning to end. Co-writing the script with Sami Sonnesso (Lecherous), this leading actress also served as the production’s executive producer. Although actual events of Steen-Nokleberg’s story did not involve murder or assault, there are plenty of alarming, surreal elements that accurately reflect source material. For a look at the film’s inspiration, be sure to read our interview with Steen-Nokleberg here!

Heart Of The Home is now available on most major VOD streaming platforms. And, when searching for a roommate, be sure to know who you’re welcoming into your home. It could mean the difference between a desirable blessing and devastating curse.

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