'Alarm' succeeds as a thriller thanks to a terrific performance from lead actress Ruth Bradley, a cleverly written script and reliably solid direction by Gerry Stembridge.
Bradley plays Molly, a young Dubliner who, when traumatised by an attack on the family home in which her father was killed, decides to move to a small house in the country. After negotiating a typically Celtic Tiger-ish house-buying process, she secures a property just outside Dublin.
Initially, all is well. Molly enjoys the quiet life, working from home and getting to know the village. There’s just one quirk: initially, due to its associations with her father’s death, she refuses to have an alarm system installed.
At first, it doesn’t seem to matter. Molly adjusts to country life and, in the manner of many an exiled Dub, arranges a party for her friends from home. There, she meets one time acquaintance Mal (Turner) for the first time in a few years and they hit it off. He quickly becomes a fixture as the man in her life.
There are some problems, though. Unwelcoming neighbours, the local shop-owner and handyman, identical twins both played by Owen Roe, and even her elderly friends from Dublin all start to seem suspicious for one reason or another. Mal, meanwhile, begins to behave a little erratically, drinking too much and revealing a more vulgar side to his character.
A series of break-ins stretches Molly's already fragile sense of security to breaking point and, as her sense of isolation deepens, she begins to wonder who she can really trust.
It’s a tense scenario with plenty going on and Stembridge plays it out skilfully, keeping the audience guessing and maintaining the suspense without letting the pace flag. Bradley, meanwhile, does a brilliant job of getting the audience rooting for Molly.
Stembridge also pursues an appropriate secondary theme in which he runs a sharp eye over modern Ireland. There are lots of clever observations and a sense that, both in the security obsession detailed in the plot and in his critique of the realities of outskirts-of-Dublin-living vibe of the film, he’s managed to capture something real and interesting.
Although it clearly didn't cost the earth to make, 'Alarm' is much better than some of the glossy schlock that turns up in multiplexes from across the pond.