I'm all for an ambitious independent film, but I really love when a concept is both clever and built for a smaller budget. "Coherence" hits both these points.

I’m all for an ambitious independent film, but I really love when a concept is both clever and built for a smaller budget. “Coherence” hits both these points.

The sci-fi indie turns its budget limitations into strengths with a less-is-more approach. It’s a promising feature debut from writer-director James Ward Byrkit, who knows about the bigger side of Hollywood having worked in the art department on three “Pirates of the Caribbean” flicks.

The plot is deceptively simple before it becomes anything but. Eight friends gather for a dinner party on the same night as a rare comet is passing close to Earth. In the midst of their jovial conversation, the power goes out and, more importantly, their phones stop working. The horror!

When they decide to investigate a nearby house that inexplicably still has the lights on, things get strange. We’ll leave it at that.

Byrkit gets a great sense of paranoia out of a simple setting — this could work wonderfully as a stage play — and a refreshing absence of special effects. It’s helped by great performances by a cast of relative unknowns — Nicholas Brendon, who played Xander on “Buffy” is the only really known commodity.

I also applaud “Coherence” for making great use of handheld photography and minimal light without falling into the found-footage trap. Go see why “Coherence” makes Byrkit a filmmaker to watch.