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Film / Coherence

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"Here's to the life that we do lead."

Coherence is a 2013 low-budget Science Fiction thriller directed by James Ward Byrkit.

On the night a comet is passing near Earth, a dinner party takes an odd turn. When the power goes out, eight friends discover that the only house on the street left with power also holds many secrets.

Due to the Mind Screw nature of the film, quite a few spoilers have been left unmarked.

This film provides examples of:

  • Afraid of Blood: Laurie. She freaks out when blood from Beth's nosebleed drips onto her arm.
  • The Alcoholic: Mike. His wife mentions that his drinking problem destroyed his career.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Mike starts making poorer choices as the night progresses.
    • His paranoia lets him get into useless fights with his other selves.
    • Also he comes up with a plan to blackmail himself with a note about the one-night-stand he and Beth had ten years ago. However, he slips the note under the door for the wrong person to find.
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    • His comment to Hugh about having slept with Beth in every single reality, while absolutely correct, sure doesn't help to de-escalate the situation.
  • All Just a Dream: Played with. When Em wakes up the next morning, she is kind of surprised that everybody reacted as if nothing has happened. Was she just dreaming? Turns out that Em #2 escaped from the bathroom unnoticed. Em's plan failed.
  • Alternate Self: Several, due to the time anomaly. Some of them even meet each other.
  • Alternate Universe: As the comet pass, the parallel universes are linked by a "dark zone". Crossing that zone to "the other house" means that character leaves their own universe/reality. The link is gone after the comet breaks apart.
  • As You Know: Hugh greets Beth with a kiss and a "Hello, my wife!"
  • Berserk Button: Hugh snaps and gives Mike a good beating after the latter drops the line about having slept with his wife in a million different timelines.
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  • Black Screen of Death: On several occasions the movie suddenly cuts to black. It's being theorized that each time this happens, the story moves to another/parallel house with different versions of the characters.
  • Bound and Gagged: In one of the alternate realities, Em sees two Mikes gagged and tied down to a chair, presumably after having a fight with another.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Beth is a wealthy woman with New Age beliefs and an appetite for recreational drug use.
  • Bread Milk Eggs Squick: Beth mentions that her relaxation concoction contains a bunch of ingredients: echinacea, valerian root, ketamine.... When she hits the last one the other characters react exactly as you'd expect.
  • Casting Gag: Nicholas Brendon plays an actor who claims to have been in all four seasons of Roswell, and his wife indicates in one scene that his career was derailed due to alcohol addiction. Of course, Nicholas Brendon was in all but one episode of the seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and admitted in 2010 that he had a recurring problem with alcohol.
  • Cellphones Are Useless: The characters are isolated in the house with no phone reception or internet.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Hugh's band-aid. First, it's made of cloth but later changes to regular.
    • Beth's ketamine, which Em later uses to sedate her Alternate Self.
    • The "door to nowhere" is introduced early on, but the name doesn't strike as relevant until much later.
    • The numbered photos of the group. Their significance is not revealed until very late in the movie.
  • Closed Circle: Contact to the outside world via phone or internet is impossible. And trying to leave the place, will just cause characters to reemerge at the same house in an alternate reality.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The colored glow sticks help to identify visitors. Or do they?
  • Distress Ball: Also Conflict Ball and Idiot Ball. The Anthropic Principle in full swing. For there to be a plot, characters are required not to stay calm and sit out the night in the house but rather venture out to solve the problem. Case in point is Hugh who desperately tries to contact his brother and Properly Paranoid Mike. Even more than that, for the film to really work the characters should act not just of somewhat understandable curiosity, but of unprovoked hostility towards and fear of, basically, themselves. The fact that the movie ends with one of the characters discovering that at least one party who did end up staying indoors all night consequently had a pleasant and stress-free time could be seen as a nod to this.
  • Door Handle Scare: Em supposedly kills her other self and placed her in the shower. The next morning, she walks by the bathroom when suddenly the door knob is tried a few times from the inside. Oh, Crap!. Then the door opens and another visitor of the house is exiting the bathroom.
  • Downer Ending: Every single continuity is screwed, involves people attempting to kill each other and almost everyone's lives are altered for the worst. The one pleasant dimension that Em #1 escapes to is unintentionally sabotaged after her plan to kill Em #2 fails, trapping her in that continuity forever.
  • The Empath: Beth believes herself to be this.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: The book Hugh's brother left which provides Info Dumps about quantum decoherence.
  • Everybody Lives: No matter how hard Em tries to sabotage this trope in the third act.
  • Evil Counterpart: Mike and Em discuss the possibility of such thing. And Em ultimately becomes one.
  • Exposition Party: The audience gets to know the characters through their talk around the dinner table.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The plot spans over one night up until the next morning.
  • Fainting: Near the end, Em #1 faints shortly after believing that she's murdered her alternate self and sleeps through the rest of the night.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Em talks about a particular comet event in Finland where people would end up in the wrong home and seemingly forget things, also another story about a woman claiming the man in her house is not her husband, because she killed him the day before. Later in the movies, characters get lost between realities and have slightly different memories about past events, and Em herself deliberately tries to take residence in another reality where the other Em is still alive.
    • Laurie notes how that other dancer has stolen Em's life by ending up with Em's dancing show. Em later tries to steal the life of Em #2.
    • After venturing outside for the first time, the party goers return inside and note that a glass has been broken that no one remembers breaking. They've returned to a different version than their original house.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: The initial POV group is identified by their blue glowsticks, while the "other" group is identified by their red glowsticks, helping to portray the other group as a threat. The distinction ultimately becomes moot.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Mike manages to open the mysterious box with a pin from his pocket. Lampshaded by his line: "Holy shit, it worked."
  • Haunted House Historian: Em is an expert on mysterious comets.
  • A House Divided: The Movie.
  • Hysterical Woman: Laurie freaks out when blood from Beth's nosebleed drips onto her arm.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: What everybody thinks when Beth comes under suspicion of having drugged the food the group ate with ketamine.
  • Ignorance Is Bliss: The only happy dimension we see is the one where the party never realized that there were any other dimensions running amok. They simply enjoyed the party for the whole night.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Mentioned by several characters. Mike in particular.
  • Improv: The film's dialog is largely improvised.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Several people gush about how attractive Laurie is before she arrives, which exacerbates how insecure Emily is about Laurie being there.
  • Killing Your Alternate Self: Em tries to invoke this when attempting a quiet Kill and Replace of her Alternate Timeline counterpart, but botches the job. It's Left Hanging which of them will actually survive.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Mike says that he had a recurring role in Roswell. Laurie says that she loves that show, but cannot remember Mike in it. In reality, the actor who plays Mike, Nicholas Brendon, is the most famous member of the cast, but he was never in Roswell. Instead, he he was in a different WB show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: The trope that drives the plot. A frustrated Em even snaps, "So we're splitting up again?!?"
  • Minimalist Cast: Of eight characters.
  • The Multiverse: The film explores the idea of Alternate Universes crossing paths.
  • Never Split the Party: Subverted twice when the group decides to stay together to check on their cars. Em #1 leaves the group to check out her own car, only to bump into Kevin #2. Later Em #2 does the same mistake and gets knocked out by Em #1.
  • Not Quite Dead: Em #2. First she escapes from the trunk of the car and comes crawling back into the house. Then after taking a good Tap on the Head she goes out, presumably dead, but is gone from the bathroom the next morning.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: The fight between Em #1 and Em #2 in the bathroom is accompanied by a Jitter Cam and screen flicker.
  • Oh, Crap!: Em and Kevin both have this moment outside by the car, when they realize they are not from the same continuum.
  • Other Me Annoys Me: Mike is shown to be extremely hostile towards his alternate versions, up to the point where he picks a fight with one.
  • Portal Door: The mysterious dark zone induced by the comet, where characters pass between realities.
  • Properly Paranoid: Mike is suspicious of his alternate counterparts trying to kill him. And eventually one does attack. Might very well be a case of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: In the end, having realized she may never find her home reality again, Em decides to search for a more pleasant reality, kill her counterpart there, and take over her life. And it sorta works... until it doesn't.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Em locks her sedated Alternate Self into the trunk of her car.
  • Removed from the Picture: When Laurie produces a photograph of Kevin from her wallet, Em loses her temper and cuts the photograph of herself and Kevin into two.
  • Shared Mass Hallucination: Played with. At one point Em raises the suspicion that Beth might have drugged the food with ketamine, which would have explained the weird occurrences. On top of her denial, the group admits that even if she had, they wouldn't all have the same hallucination.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Similar Squad: The eerie moment when the group of four carrying blue lights bump into their counterparts with red lights.
  • Space Is Magic: The Miller's comet is mysteriously causing Alternate Timelines to intersect at the dark zone.
  • Spot the Imposter: The group uses colored glow sticks to identify visitors. Much later the mismatching dice numbers and icons from the box make it clear that this approach failed.
  • Token Minority: Amir.
  • Trapped in Another World/You Can't Go Home Again: Discussed by Em and Mike. Once characters pass the dark area they are randomly transported into Alternate Timelines with little hope of returning to their homeworld. For Em it actually serves as a Foreshadowing.
  • The Tunguska Event: Invoked by Em early on, when she shares what she read about weird comet events. Parts of her story are important later.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Hugh's brother gave him very vague warnings about the comet, telling Hugh to contact him if anything seemed strange. Unfortunately, this led him to leave the house, setting off many of the events of the film. He also told Hugh to stay in the house. If he'd only given the second piece of advice, things might have turned out better for far more timelines.
  • Wham Line: Downplayed: Em hearing the otherwise trivial small-talk between Beth and Lee about the vase from "Galaxy, that thrift store" for the second time could have served as one, but it's still a long way from there to the final reveal.
  • Wham Shot: The writing in the notepad. Done with a different marker.
  • Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Mike shouts about how he's going to kill the people in the other house, but he isn't the one who tries to Kill and Replace their counterpart from a happier reality.
  • Wrong Assumption: Mike jokes that he's the resident expert on paranormal phenomena due to appearing on Roswell, but he turns out to be the biggest liability of the group.