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John’s Horror Corner: House (2008), which is not really a “house” horror movie

April 17, 2013

MY CALL:  Not good, completely underwhelming, no sense to be made. All the cowbell in the world couldn’t make this better!  WHAT TO WATCH INSTEADThe Farmhouse (2008), House Hunting (2013).

Jack (Reynaldo Rosales; The 4400, Smallville) and Stephanie (Heidi Dippold; Mexican Werewolf in Texas) get lost in Alabama.  Their car breaks down in the woods and they wander into a bed and breakfast and meet Randy and Leslie, another couple who also broke down on the same road.  Oddly, the dining room is set for four as if they were expected.

This bed and breakfast is run by a VERY strange woman and her VERY off-putting adult sons.  VERY clearly, something is not right about these people.

The couples find they are trapped in the house by The Tin Man (Michael Madsen; Species, Piranhaconda), a local deputy and madman.  The Tin Man drops a can in the house which contains the “rules of the house,” which demand that there must be one dead body by dawn.  The caretaker and her son seem to know about this psychopath, and appear quite crazy themselves.

After an altercation, we learn that the woman may be some sort of demon that bleeds black ectoplasm, that she and her sons are apparently deep into some black magic, and that the house has supernatural properties that taunt each of our four protagonists with the sins and guilt of their past.

As we see how the house manipulates each of them, I find only melodrama, pandemonium and disappointment.  Instead of tactfully approaching one person’s past at a time, we simultaneously begin seeing everyone’s past haunt them at once.  It feels like a melee of disconnected, unexplained pasts bombarding you one after another like horror-writers’ Turrets syndrome.  Many of these scenes come in the form of flashbacks and, not taking place in the house, only reduce their effectiveness.

The Tin Man seems to know these people’s sins and guilt as if he’s some other-worldly dark force.  He’s not an effective antagonist and, frankly, the nature of this story does not require an anthropomorphized figure to represent forcing people to face the demons of their past.  Overall, the whole premise and the events therein feel completely unrooted and the only good thing about this movie seems to be the lighting.

As the movie wears on, instead of tying things together and making sense of the story and the characters’ pasts, we just get more random things happening and more new elements from their past and weird ways to present them; in short, more weird evil supernatural devices just “happen” as if they fell in the story’s lap by accident. The writer just continues to add supernatural components, but never links them or explains them.

It’s as if this was written as the movie was being created…with the producers and director screaming at the writer “MORE SCARY THINGS!!!” much like a drunk Christopher Walken raving “I gotta’ have more cowbell!!!”

Oh, right, then there’s this weird ghost girl who turns out to be good.  She tries to help the couples and acts as an opponent of The Tin Man, challenging his “rules.”  Any sense there?  No.  Just more cowbell.  And not the good kind.  Oh, and guess what: SPOILER ALERT!  The ending sucked, too.

Don’t watch this.  There’s not enough cowbell on Earth to save it.

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