In physics, Schrodinger's Cat is used to explain quantum physics as a cat, in a sealed box with a vial of poison that could open at any time and kill the cat, being simultaneously being alive and dead until the box is opened and one possibility becomes reality.  But what if that duality broke down -- and was more than one?  This is the sort of mind game as the center of Coherence, a low-key, special effects-free science fiction movie,

Mike (Nicholas Brendon) and Lee (Lorene Scarafia) are having a dinner party for some couples they know: Emily (Emily Baldoni) and Kevin (Maury Sterling) , Hugh (Hugh Armstrong) and Beth (Elizabeth Gracen), and Amir (Alex Manugian) and Laurie (Lauren Maher).  It's also a special night -- a comet is passing by overhead -- and strange things are happening: Some people's cell phone screen shatter and there's no phone or Internet reception.  Emily has stories about strange happenings when comets have been seen, and Hugh's physicist brother asked him to phone if anything unusual occurs.  The greater tension seems to be Emily's upset that her former boyfriend Amir showed up with Laurie as his date.

When the power goes out in the town (except for one house, two houses down) and there's a knock at the door, everyone gets jumpy.   Then things get really weird.  Hugh and Amir go to the only house with power, to use their phone, but come back saying it was exactly like Mike and Lee's house.  Amir also found a metal box with a ping pong paddle and photos of everyone at the dinner party, with a number written on the back of each photo -- in Emily's handwriting.

 Pretty soon people keep experiencing changes in time (Hugh writes a note to leave on the door of the other house, only to immediately find a copy of the note on their door) and duplicates of themselves with slight differences (like when the originals use blue glowsticks to see in the dark -- and running into other versions of themselves with red glowsticks).  It all comes down to a theory in Hugh's brother's physics book explaining that decoherence keeps different outcomes from interacting with each other.  But the friends start getting stressed and turning on each other, as well as figuring out what to do: Stay holed up in the house until everything passes?  Wander in the dark?  Kill their duplicates?

Coherence reminds me a lot of the movie Triangle, in that both are mind games that don't have much supporting an intellectual mind-blowing concept.  The acting is okay, but the characters are far too ready to accept converging alternate realities as explaining some weird stuff happening during a blackout.  Most of the characters are also paper thin, and the camerawork is jumpy with far too many blackout cuts between scenes.  Coherence has an interesting basic concept, but not enough behind it to involve the audience.  (DVD extras are basic behind-the-scenes features and commentaries.)

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

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