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THE ALARMIST

USA, 1997 (MIFF 1998, International Panorama)

Director: Evan Dunsky

Twenty-five year-old Tommy Hudler (David Arquette) is the quintessential boy next door: salesman of residential burglar alarm systems with a smile that conveys nothing but honesty. His boss, Heinrich Grigorpis (Stanley Tucci) is forever formulating schemes for underhanded sales strategies. Tommy begins to suspect that his boss is responsible for burglaries that have occurred in several houses where he has performed his sales pitch. While on the job, he meets Gale (Kate Capshaw), an attractive single mother, and they soon begin an affair. Tragedy befalls Tommy when a dramatic twist conspires to link his relationship with Gale and his boss's corrupt methods.

Evan Dunsky's screenplay is refreshingly original and well-paced. The Alarmist is bound to provoke reactions of concern about the insular logic that so easily pervades the life of a salesperson desperate for a deal. The alarm system hawkers at the centre of Ihe film play on the average citizen's materialism and fear of burglary, fuelling paranoia in order to make a quick buck.

The Alarmist is an affecting and captivating drama, which triumphs through well-defined characters. Arquette handles the lead role with distinctive grace and maturity, contrasting with Tucci's performance as an unsympathetic and petty-minded businessman. First time director Evan Dunsky has skilfully constructed an atmospheric noir comedy with escalating tension. The Alarmist intricately juxtaposes the simplicity and humour of real life with the complexity of imagination to capture a world frozen by fear. The result is a sinfully hilarious film.

Evan Dunsky, born in Chicago, trained as an actor and has been involved in the production of television programs and music videos for 15 years. Dunsky has worked as assistant director to Roger Corman, George Romero, Paul Morrisey and Ismail Merchant. The Alarmist is the director's feature debut after the short, Muddy Waters.

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