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The Surprise Visit

USA 2021
produced by
Serah Henesey, Nick Lyon, Nathan Cowles (executive) for Hoodoo Productions
directed by Nick Lyon
starring Rob Riordan, Jacqi Vene, Eric Roberts, Serah Henesey, Johnny Santiago, Tricia Hawn, Regan Ferrier
story by Serah Henesey, Nathan Cowles, screenplay by Stephen Meier, music by Chris Ridenhour, additional music by Chris Cano, Eliza Swenson

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Annabelle (Jacqi Vene) tells her boyfriend Casey (Rob Riordan) she's pregnant - and he couldn't be happier, and promises to be the best father ever. There are several problems with that though, most of them having to do that Casey and Annabelle are totally broke and live in a beat-up trailer, and are both meth users. She's willing and able to kick the habit, and he promises to stop using as well, and he's probably even honest about wanting to straighten out, but old habits die hard. But he goes to his father (Eric Roberts) to ask for money, and maybe even a job, but he has messed up one too many times, so dad tells him off until he's clean. Now Casey's dad works for Mrs. Dixon, the richest woman in the area, as a gardener, and Casey can't help but to overhear a conversation where she tells his dad that she's out of town for the weekend. So Casey figures for some immediate financial relief, why not break into her supposedly abandoned mansion the next night, to steal some of her jewelry, and if he and Annabelle pull it off subtly enough and aren't too greedy,  there's a chance Mrs. Dixon won't even notice so it'd be a victimless crime. Annabelle is not too sure about this, but comes along as she sees the necessity of getting money soon. Thing is, they're not professional thieves and have no idea where to look for the jewelry, so it takes them to find the loot (which eventually turns out to be costume jewelry anyways) - plus they eventually have to notice they're not alone in the house. What they didn't know was that Mrs. Dixon's daughter Juliette (Serah Henesey) and her husband Daniel (Johnny Santiago) have come over for a surprise visit - and were more than surprised to find her out for the weekend, but Casey's dad was only happy to let them stay in the house anyhow. And now Daniel catches Casey and Annabelle red-handed, and out of pure reflex Casey hits Daniel over the head with a fire iron, effectively killing him. He's visibly shocked but not as shocked as Juliette, who becomes an immediate problem, not only because she's a witness but also because she has recognized Casey, remembering him from when he was a little boy. But it's not as easy to kill someone with intent as it is to kill someone in affect. Plus, Annabelle is less than sure about killing Juliette, so Juliette works on her, persuading her to let her go. So the situation between Casey and Juliette soon becomes a game of cat and mouse in the woods surrounding the mansion - but it's not always clear who's the cat and who's the mouse ...


Sure, the premise of The Surprise Visit doesn't promise much originality - and yet the outcome is a very tense thriller, with suspense, action and violence in all the right places, but at the same time the story is character-based, and all the main characters are afforded at least some kind of relatability. Of course, much of this is thanks to a well-balanced and -structured script that even allows for quite a few surprise twists, a very swift directorial effort, steady pacing that never lets up, and a very fine small ensemble cast. And the result of this is a very nice piece of thriller cinema.


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review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD