In contemporary genre-splash Indiewood, the task is often simple but bedevilling: You have an HD camera and a modest house in the L.A. hills; now what do you do? Shane Carruth, among others, has proven that you don't need much more -- just add ideas. Call it Home-Based Sci-Fi, from 2006's Right at Your Door to 2012's It's a Disaster, movies that evoke apocalypse but never actually leave the dining room. Launching into a torrent of unmitigated exposition over wine glasses, Coherence is the paradigm eating itself.
First-timer James Ward Byrkit keeps things generic: Anxious blonde Em (Emily Foxler) arrives at the dinner party ahead of her boyfriend, Kevin (Maury Sterling), who is waiting for an answer to the Big Question. There are the hosts (Nicholas Brendon and Lorene Scafaria), Kevin's provocateur ex-girlfriend (Lauren Maher), and a slightly older New Age diva (ex-Miss America Elizabeth Gracen). The trigger is the news of a comet passing overhead, and an ominously dished tale about one that passed over Finland in 1923 and reportedly skewed people's identities. Before long, the smart phones crack, the power goes out, and an intrepid cohort decide to visit a strangely familiar house up the street, from which they return the same but not quite.
Is it a spoiler to let on that the doppelganger-isms start showing up one-third of the way in? From there, the reveals are all Byrkit has in the bank, so suffice it to say that reality goes all quantum, even though everything appears normal. With its enigmas revealed in dialogue alone, Coherence could be a radio play, and thankfully so, since the handheld, lo-fi digital visuals are so taxing.