May 18, 2013
Jim Towns, Scott Frazelle
Heather L. Tyler as Teig
Sadie Katz as Sirah
Cheryl Sands as Lily
Indie flicks with a pulse provide hope. All too often we see micro-budget movies that seem as though they were shot by “filmmakers” with zero experience, zero talent and zero understanding of a picture’s mechanics (in other words, they don’t belong behind a camera). Jim Towns’House of Bad exhibits a clear understanding of solid storytelling, and it’s got just enough polish on the technical front to steer clear of joining the countless productions that lack a soul. The flick, and its contents aren’t going to win every viewer over, but those who dig movies that make the most out of very little should get a kick out of this psychological/ghost tale.
The story sees a trio of sisters on the run after stealing a large sum of heroin from a tough-guy drug dealer. They take to hiding in an abandoned house that was once called home by two of the three sisters (the third, Lily, is a half-sister who never lived with the other two, Sirah and Teig). But laying low for this familial group will not be easy. Sirah has a conscience that quietly, but constantly, plagues her; Lily is a junkie attempting to kick the habit; and Teig is a tough convict with more than a single skeleton in the closet. As the days pass, these women begin to go a bit stir crazy, making fool hearted decisions in increasing abundance, and eventually turning on each other. The past that Sirah and Teig share in the home is haunting, and the spirits of those who died there aren’t exactly taking a vacation. The only real questions are: Can these ladies avoid the wrath of the man they’ve wronged, and furthermore, will the home they’re hiding in claim more souls, or will these young ladies survive their unnerving ordeal?
Director Jim Towns has a few films under his belt, and that experience certainly pays off. House of Bad is well shot. Given the nature of the film, the visual demands aren’t overwhelming, and while one might believe that should pave the way for an easier filmmaking process, they’d be wrong. Towns is forced to turn relationships and brief visions of ghostly specters into jarring aesthetics, and he does that quite well. But it’s important to understand that a film that leans on the mental angle of horror can arguably be more demanding than a big, sprawling special effects extravaganza. Jim isn’t forced to deal with a massive special effects load, but he is responsible for making mundane day-to-day activities enthralling. That’s just not an easy feat. Life can be awfully boring, and this film had the potential to be more sedative than stimulant. While not the mostexciting viewing experience, House of Bad is no sleep inducer.
While the faces in front of the camera aren’t likely to ring any bells (there isn’t a marquee name in the bunch), each of the three focal women do a solid job of selling their characters. Sadie Katz does a fine job of portraying a shaky, uncertain mess of a woman; Cheryl Sands doesn’t exactly look or behave as a withdrawing junkie might be expected to, but she’s off kilter enough to impress; Heather L. Tyler, however, is just awesome as the big bad bully of the three. She’s strong willed, projects an accosting nature and resilient until the very end. For a trio of young, green thespians, this is solid work and respect is due.
House of Bad isn’t the perfect picture, I want to reiterate that. For that matter, it isn’t even close. However, there’s some true spirit in the production and it comes across as very endearing. Chad Courtney has a solid idea of what constitutes a clean, clear picture, which gives way to sound cinematography. And, Towns has a strong enough vision to draw appropriate energy and intensity levels from his performers. The pic could have benefitted from some heavier editing; a solid 10-minute trim might have garnered a more stealthy narrative. But again, countering the errors is drive and dedication. Everyone involved in this flick showed up with the intent of creating a kick ass flick. For the most part, the invested efforts pay off.