The opening act in James Ward Byrkit’s Coherence is purposefully naturalistic – with a set of believable characters sharing a palpable, authentic chemistry. The director gives his actors freedom, the ability to talk over one another persistently. We need this approach in the early stages as it sets this fantastical tale up perfectly – allowing us to invest in these characters and this narrative, to ensure we’re totally onboard when things get, well, completely, and utterly absurd.

Set across one night, we peer into a dinner party at the abode of Mike (Nicholas Bredon) and Lee (Lorene Scafaria), where they’ve invited three couples over for the night – to celebrate the passing of a gargantuan comet overhead. Emily (Emily Baldoni) and her partner Kevin (Maury Sterling) are in attendance, as are Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) and Beth (Elizabeth Gracen), and Amir (Alex Manugian) and Laurie (Lauren Maher). Wine is flowing and dinner is being served – until Emily’s phone loses reception and the screen breaks completely out of the blue. Though a seemingly unrelated occurrence, it paves the way for a series of supernatural acts, which takes the evening down a dark and dangerous path where morals and ethics come into play.

That’s just a brief, somewhat ambiguous synopsis – because here is a film that, to enjoy, you need to go into knowing as little as possible. However, and in spite of the nonsensical, paranormal themes at play, Byrkit never loses sight of the human element, as he pits these characters against one another, as we watch on, studiously examining how an unnatural disaster of this ilk can highlight the cracks in their relationships, and how it can bring out the very worst in people. At the start of play our protagonists are so untroubled and merry – with the forthcoming comet a source of fun and frivolity. But there’s an underlying tension and foreboding atmosphere throughout, as they bicker amongst themselves, with comments aimed in the direction of Emily, for instance, about her hapless career choices. We know all along this gaiety will never last (mainly because it wouldn’t make a very enjoyable movie otherwise) – putting the viewer in a position of power, as we know something they don’t.

Then the lights go out – and it happens, instantaneously, this picture becomes a dark thriller, borrowing various tropes from the horror genre in the process. But that’s not the only genre Byrkit explores, in a film that is ambitious and wholly original, bursting with ideas and creativity. Not all of it pays off, however, and the film is lacking an identifiable lead – an entry point to guide us into this supernatural world. It’s an ensemble piece so that’s to be expected, but it’s to the film’s detriment, as we haven’t got that one character we can relate to, and adhere to. Which is where, for example, this film differs from the likes of You’re Next – which this shares similarities with.

Coherence is, at times, somewhat incoherent, but always on the right side of farcicality. It’s ridiculous and illusory but you just have to go along with this or you’ll have no hope of enjoying it. Which, thankfully, is easily done.