The Wrong House aka House Hunting (2013): Disjointed Thriller

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Written and directed by Eric Hurt, House Hunting (The Wrong House in the UK) is Hurt’s first feature length film. On IMDb the film has received a score of 4.5 which, I think, is a bit harsh.

Starring Marc Singer (who I haven’t seen since his V mini-series days in the 1980’s) and Art Lafleur, the film is about two families who both wind up looking at a house for sale out in the middle of nowhere.

Charlie Hays (Singer) and his new/second wife Susan (Hayley DuMond) and daughter Emmy  (Janey Gioiosa) form a nuclear but dysfunctional little family. Emmy hates her new step-mom and Charlie tries to keep the peace between the two.

They all go out to look at a house that Charlie is interested in. On their way there a bloody girl runs out of the woods and collapses in front of their car. When this happens a second car that has been behind them stops and out steps the Thompson family.

Don Thomson (Lafleur) and his wife Leslie (Victoria Vance) and injured son Jason (Paul McGill) take the Hays family and the girl into their vehicle and head to the house. Once there, the families find out that they can’t get away from the place.

Marc Singer and Art Lefleur.
Marc Singer and Art Lafleur.

The film starts out with an interesting concept. Wikipedia states that the “theme” of the film is that “other people are Hell.” I disagree. I think the film’s theme is one of secrets and sins. Everyone has one or the other, in some cases both, and the two families peccadilloes all come home to roost while they are trapped in the house.

Arguably, the film can’t seem to make up its mind on whether it is a ghost story or psychological horror film. This adds to the overall confusion of the events and why some of the things that transpire don’t really make any sort of “logical” sense. Part of the story’s arc deals with the information that Hays’ bank foreclosed on the family who lived in the house previously. Indicating some sort of Faustian pact with the “ex” owner.

There is also an intercom system that repeats a “recorded” message and “sells” the house to prospective buyers. One of the disconnects in this film is that system. While the house has no electricity and no heating, the intercom works fine throughout the entire film.

Some of the actors were a bit wooden, but Singer and Lafleur more than made up for that. Lafleur is one of those actors who seems to have been in just about every film or television series made. He has made a career out of playing very similar parts and if ever there was an actor who could be said to making a career out of being type-cast as an “also-ran,” it would be him.

Despite the dichotomous nature of the film and the lapses in logic, it is strangely watchable. I actually enjoyed it and was surprised to see it get such a low score.

I would say that as far as films go, I’ve seen much worse (Underground springs immediately to mind) and it did at least keep my interest until the end of the film. Annoyingly, there are no special features on the DVD so Hurt has no forum to explain his thought process.

So, a 3 out of 5 stars just for the presence of Singer and Lafleur.

Writer/Director Eric Hurt.
Writer/Director Eric Hurt.

Murder Party (2007): Bargain Basement Fun

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I’ve been passing over this film choice on Netflix for months. I don’t know why, but something about the film’s poster put me off. To be brutally honest, the poster that starts this blog post actually looks better than the one on Netflix and it’s the same one!

Last night I finally bit the bullet and decided to give it a go. I girded my loins (whatever that means) and forced myself to watch it. I expected to wince constantly and turn the dammed thing off at the mid-way point.

Well…

I didn’t do that. Why? Because if there was ever another film in the world that could be the ethereal twin of Sam Raimi and co’s first film Evil Dead, it is Murder Party.

It is like the comedy/horror version of Judy and the kids saying, “Come on gang lets put on a show in the barn!” But in the film makers case it was in the warehouse of a cheap set.

Because despite the low-budget of Evil Dead (remember now, I’m talking about Raimi’s film, not the re-make), E D at least had a budget. Murder Party started rolling with a budget of 0 dollars and cents.These guys made a film so cheap, it made Raimi’s first film out of the gate look extravagant by comparison.

I am digressing, but, dammit; I have to. I looked this achingly funny film up on Wikipedia after I’d wiped the tears of mirth from my eyes while the end credits rolled.

“Who are these guys?” Looped through my head like a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid mantra. I had to know!

It turns out that the guys who made, starred in, and financed this “zero budget film” were all childhood friends who grew up and went to various film and media schools. They kept in touch and made a short film or two. It was while they were waiting for another film that they really wanted to make, but was caught-up in turn-around limbo, that they decided to make Murder Party.

Chris Sharp as Christopher Hawley aka Mister Average.
Chris Sharp as Christopher Hawley aka Mister Average.

The film is about an average guy who is a bit of a lonely loser. A sad sack (and points for those of you who remember this comic book character – answers, as always, on a post card please) who has no friends and his cat bullies him.

It is Halloween and on his way home from work, he finds an invitation to a “Murder Party” floating around on the sidewalk (path). He decides to go and in a burst of creativity makes his own costume with cardboard and duct tape. *It actually looks pretty good in a childish sad sort of way.*

He finds the party’s location and goes in. He finds to his consternation that it is a real murder party and he’s the victim.

All the members of this “party” are a consortium of artists who are trying to get funded by a rich pretentious pain in the ass rich boy. Each of the artists are flakey as hell and quite funny. Each of them are dressed up as iconic horror and science fiction characters. As “flakey” as each of these “artists” are, the rich boy prat Andrew is worse.

This film is great, gory fun and has a load of horror film references scattered throughout. I sat through this film giggling, laughing, and chuckling. *At one point, I believe I even snorted, but don’t hold me to that.*

It just goes to show that entertaining movies can be made for very, very little money and still look fantastic.

Murder Party was written, directed and produced by Jeremy Saulnier. It stars Chris Sharp as “everyman” Christopher S Hawley, meter cop non-extraordinaire and he does a brilliant job as the feckless hero/victim of the film. Every one of the actors does a splendid  job with their characters and at no point did I feel like any of them (apart from the foreign drug dealing chap who was a bit two-dimensional) were anything other than what they portrayed.

This is a real horrific comedy of errors that will have you cackling with laughter though out. If you haven’t seen it yet, hop on Netflix right now and watch it.

If you don’t love this film, I’ll eat my  metaphorical cardboard hat/helmet.

5 out of 5 stars for hilarious effort.

Murder Party Cast and Crew.
Murder Party Cast and Crew.

Berberian Sound Studio (1012): Sounds like a Winner!

My take on this brilliant low budget British film!

Eden Lake (2008) A White Knuckle Ride

Eden Lake

Directed by James Watkins (My Little Eye, Gone) this tale of two young professional urbanites going to the countryside and running into “hoodies from Hell” is a tour de force of white knuckle moments and wincing violence. Watkins uses the film to make a topical statement about juvenile crime‘s increase in the UK and who is responsible for it.

 Kelly Reilly and  Michael Fassbender play the young professional couple Jenny and Steve. Steve has set up a romantic weekend at a lake he remembers from his childhood, It is secluded and a perfect spot for him to propose to his nursery teacher girlfriend. Arriving at the lake, Steve finds that the whole area is to be bulldozed and turned into houses for the “Yuppie” market. He also finds the the secluded area is obviously not so secluded as a gang of local kids seem to be using the area to hang out.
Steve is not best pleased by the appearance of the noisy neighbourhood kids and their dog. Jenny wants to move to another quieter area, but Steve is adamant that they are going to stay. He goes over to the group and asks them to move on. This idea is met with derision and hostility. It is also an open invitation for the youngsters to start harassing the young couple.
Little darlings...not.
Little darlings…not.
The harassment starts with the group just being noisier, before moving off sometime in the middle of the night.  After waking Steve and Jenny find the food they brought has been invaded by insects. They decided to go into town for a meal and to buy provisions. As the couple drive off, they run over something left by the kids and get a flat tire.
Steve replaces the tire and they drive to a cafe in town. While eating their meal they see the kids from the lake in town. Steve asks the waitress if she knows the kids as he wants to talk to their parents about the tire. The waitress becomes very defensive and says, “My kids would never do that.”
Things between the kids and the young couple escalate. Steve angrily confronts the children and one of them takes out a knife. Steve struggles with the boy and during the struggle accidentally kills one of the boy’s dog. The leader of the pack, a lad called Brett (played brilliantly by Jack O’Connell) who is visibly upset, tells Steve and Jenny to go. Steve tries to apologise for the killing of the dog, but the children ignore him.
Steve and Jenny decide they have had enough and start to leave. Brett, however has had a change of heart and has now decided that his gang are going to exact retribution for the death of the dog. So begins a heart pounding, cringe making attack by the children and Steve and Jenny’s attempt to escape.
Deadly hide and seek.
Deadly hide and seek.
James Watkins is another of those British directors that specialises in writing and directing low budget films that grip you. Made in 2008. Eden Lake takes a look at what was considered by  many to be a frighting increase in juvenile crime. The new millennium saw the emergence of the hoodie.
These hooded sweatshirts were the common uniform sported by gangs and other juvenile delinquents who had no problems breaking the law. Their emergence coincided with the courts in England becoming so lenient in terms of punishment for juvenile offenders that law abiding citizens started to fear these young criminals. Watkins’ message seems to be that it is the parents who are to blame.
This film is not easy to watch. I found myself repeatedly getting angry at the “grown-up” characters and their annoying combination of naivety and belief that, until the end, they could solve it all by talking. The calibre of performances was top notch. The location they chose for filming was spot-on, it looked like your average English town.
In fact there is a pub in the film that is a spitting image of a pub outside of Norwich, Norfolk. My daughter and I shiver every time we drive past it and I can’t help but drive a little bit faster.
Not your local friendly village pub.
Not your local friendly village pub.

Mum and Dad: Keeping Horror in the Family

Shot with an estimated budget of just £100,000 ($157,000) this film sets the goal posts for “shoe string budget” films.  First time director Steven Sheil also wrote the film, putting him in the illustrious company of peers like Shane Meadows (Dead Man’s Shoes and This is England) and James Watkins (Eden Lake). This small elite group of British film makers have made brilliant and successful   films that they wrote and directed for  ridiculously tiny amounts of money.
The horror film Mum and Dad shows us first hand what happens when we talk to strangers or trust them. It also proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you really don’t know the people you work with.
The films starts out in Heathrow Airport where cleaner Lena (played by Holby City Alumnus Olga Fedori)  gets to know her fellow workers, brother and sister team, Birdie and Elbie (Ainsley Howard and Toby Alexander). Birdie takes a shine to Lena and tells her about her wonderful parents. Lena explains that she doesn’t get along with her parents and wants to move away from home. At the end of their shift, Lena misses her bus home, and Birdie invites Lena to stay at her house which is near the end of a runway. Lena agrees and follows Birdie and Elbie to a gap in the runway security fence. Clamouring through the gap, they all proceed to the house.
After arriving in Birdie and Elbie’s home, the brother and sister disappear leaving Lena alone. She just starts to explore the house when she meets Dad (played brilliantly by actor Perry Benson) who knocks her out and injects her with something. Lena regains conciousness only to find that she is in a dark room. All she can hear are the tortured screams of someone in the house. Dad then enters the room with Mum (played with sinister madness by Dido Miles). Mum tells  Lena that she will belong to her and she injects Lena again.
The  film deals with a host of indignities inflicted upon Lena. Watching the film, I kept wondering who was going to rape Lena first, Mum or Dad. The entire household appear to be insane sexual deviants who rely on stolen items from the airport to help them get by. It also turns out that Birdie and Elbie are “adopted” just as Lena will be. The only real child that Mum and Dad have is a daughter who is chained to her bed in an attic room.  The daughter suffered severe brain damage after being born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Dad explains, quite gleefully, that as she was a home delivery he had to cut the cord with his teeth.
Lena soon realises that if she does not escape, she will become the mad couples new “daughter.”   Mum and Dad  explain that other “children” who could not  behave were disposed of.  Since their definition of behaving includes being tortured and sexually molested, Lena  starts playing Mum, Dad, Birdie and Elbie against one another with the hope of getting away.
Steven Sheil  based his film on real life rapists and serial killers Fred and Rosemary West whose victims included their own flesh and blood daughter. The film could have been very grim viewing but the director has taken a lot of the sting out of the tale by injecting large doses of black humour. I found myself cringing one moment and laughing the next. The film  deals  with taboo issues such as cannibalism, sexual fetishes, and incest on top of the main topics of kidnapping, murder and theft.
The title of this review could very easily have been Mum and Dad: Horror on a Budget. The director and the cast and crew have proven you don’t need big Hollywood type funds to make an entertaining film.  Writer/director Steven Sheil has produced a film that has been hailed as one of the most disturbing Brit-Horror films to emerge  in recent years. Do not watch this film if you are at all squeamish, but if you can stand a lot of gore, this is a must-see.
Personally, I cannot wait to see what Steven Sheil has in store for us in his next feature.