October 1, 2013
Lloyd Kaufman as Joe The Real Estate Agent
Kerry Finlayson as Anna
Lauren Lakis as Helen
Catharina Widell as Sarah
I’ve got to imagine it takes a wealth of effort to put together a genuinely entertaining anthology on a budget as thin as a Subway sandwich. Stew on the challenge that a filmmaker faces in bringing one single story to the screen, now multiply that by five, and take into consideration that those five films, when delivered in a collective format typically feature a wraparound tale which is, basically, a sixth film. All assembled on bread crumbs. That sounds like a mighty big mountain to climb for just about any director in the business. And history suggests that is indeed true. We see countless indie collections with a few solid million behind the production that do little more than fail. They lack heart. They lack refinement and true dedication, and those millions can’t do much to change it. Evan Marlowe’s new pic,Horror House doesn’t look to have any admirable budget going for it, but that doesn’t appear to have stopped this inspired (that might be an understatement) crew: it’s got some meat on the bones, and it truly does have a whole lot of heart. It’s nice to see that heart pump blood in our faces from time to time.
This macabre mix-up features five short films. None of which are terrible, but a few certainly outshine the others, with one particular short completely stealing the show. “Never Let Go” proves to be one of the darker efforts, the telling of a pair of sisters who aren’t quite right, and the tumultuous trek their mother is about to endure while working to solve the riddle. “Be Careful What You wish For” is a nice jab of misandry (with a fantastic blend of vintage black and white visuals and modern color shots) that as a man, I can completely enjoy and embrace. Let’s just say, what goes around comes around! But the superlative short of the collection arrives midway through the picture… and I can’t say enough awesome things about it. “Hot Stuff” is just… awesome. No, awesome isn’t a strong enough word. Sublime? Grandiose? Eh, you get my point. The story focuses on a pompous ass who fancies himself God’s gift to women. But when he takes a young lady home and disrespects her the following morning, she isn’t happy. This dangerous diva places a curse on the man and shit gets wild! Hot stuff you say? Oh yes, this guy’s hot stuff alright! You’ve got to see this one to believe it, as I can’t bring myself to spoil the story for you. Trust me, it’s memorable, and a half!
I also want to bring to light Lloyd Kaufman’s participation in this project. Lloyd’s a man who’s made a career by taking everything three steps beyond your typical risk taker. And, when in front of the cameras, he hams it up (and I’ve got to say it, reminds a bit of the master of questionably “innovative” cinematic interactive techniques, William Castle) to the fullest, having a blast as he guides us through these stories, all connected – by the way – by a single house plagued by an evil that exercises a variety of attacks (hence the title) on the abode’s residents. As for the rest of the performers, they’re often a bit rocky. There’s some amateur work on display, but a few solid attempts to perform at peak ability as well, which I found to be gratifying. That old adage A for effort means quite a bit to this critic.
If you’re out to take in a creative anthology, Horror House will satiate your appetite. It’s bold and inspired, and the willingness to throw conscious jabs at women’s instabilities and men’s despicable behavior proves greatly fulfilling. That said, if you want to really spice things up, turn your Saturday into a double feature and include The Theatre Bizarre. If you’re really, really into unorthodox but well-made indie anthologies, go all out and make it a triple feature by adding Little Deaths. These collections feel almost predestined to play as companions to one another. Hats off to Evan and Kerry Marlowe for taking some major risks and offering up an anthology that’s all but guaranteed to surpass expectations.