HOUSE WITH 100 EYES (October 19th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
Ok so after all the sleazy fun I had with 'Art of the Dead' I thought that I might try something a little more serious, a little more horrific. I didn't seek out anything torture porny (honest) but that's what I ended up with. In part, because it was one of my Cinema Paradiso rentals and I need to play catch up with them a bit. The film in question, House with 100 Eyes, was one that I had added to my list several years ago and when it arrived on my doormat I couldn't remember why I had it on there in the first place. But hey, that's part of the fun isn't it?
House of 100 Eyes focuses on a married couple, Ed and Susan, who are also amateur film-makers. They are seemingly very much in love and seem a pretty normal coup...actually, wait. No they're not. Because they're not just your standard amateur film-makers. They don't make interesting arthouse shorts or professional looking edits from their nephew's birthday party footage. Nope, they are more into filming people being abducted and murdered. Snuff, basically. Ed and Susan are planning on making a special feature this time though. Not happy with offing one or two victims at a time, they want to shoot an unprecedented triple-kill feature which they are sure will make them famous. They plan to edit the footage into a DVD for their 'fans' and also want to offer a complete DVD experience – director's commentary, interviews, deleted scenes etc. So they rig their house up with loads of cameras to catch all the 'off-screen' moments. Sounds like fun eh? Well after unsuccessfully cruising around Hollywood for victims, they eventually find a trio of young homeless people and get them back to their house (which is obviously soundproofed and secure from escape). We then play witness to the ensuing mayhem...
Christ, this was a tough watch at times as what you are watching is a 'how to make a snuff film' documentary. You know that bit in Vacancy (2007) where Luke Wilson finds watches that VHS tape that's in his room? And it's some grimy footage of people being sexually assaulted and then killed? Well that's basically what this film is. There's a sense of realism to the movie that's hard to shake whilst you are watching it. The annoying audio interference, the grainy footage, the naturalistic acting and script. To succeed in what it sets out to do, House of 100 Eyes really needs to effectively fool you into thinking that what you are watching is real and there are times when it feels chillingly plausible. Part of that is down to the way that violence is portrayed. Instead of quick cut editing we are forced to watch prolonged shots of this stuff which makes it more difficult to bear. The victims screams and attempts to escape feel genuine and the blood and gore effects are really well done for such a low budget movie. As the film the psychotic duo are trying to make is part porn, part snuff, there is some sex references here too but that side of it plays second fiddle to the torture and killing part.
What is doubly unsettling is that there are times when I was half-laughing at what I was watching. Not because I think watching people being tortured is amusing obviously, but the chemistry and relationship between the two leads is really very well done but also makes for a couple of really dry, darkly comedic exchanges. Its' uncomfortable to find yourself chuckling at their antics but hey, that's the aim here. I tell you what isn't funny though. Watching a man put on a snuff movie, plonk himself down on a chair, remove his trousers and pants and start touching himself. Yep, that's in there. The scene is neverending too. At this point I turned to my other half with a deep frown and said 'are we just sitting here watching a man wanking over a snuff film?'.
Some will point out that the 'found footage' or 'true story' elements of the format are a bit of old hat now (although the film is 6 years old now to be fair). However it actually works here. I tell you what else works – and that's the performances of the cast. Especially the two leads. Shannon Malone is quite unsettling as the ultra weirdo housewife with a penchant for poisoning people but it's Jim Roof (who also co-directed and wrote the film) who stands out as Ed, a truly depraved individual who relishes inflicting pain on others. Him recounting what he used to do to cats when was a kid is chillingly affecting.
The film hasn't got much love online and that, in part, seems to be down to criticisms over the audio, which I must say didn't bother me. Others accuse it of being derivative or exploitative. Both may have some truth in them but it doesn't take away from the fact that it's a thoroughly engrossing (if torrid) watch, that's really competently made. I'd recommend it for genre fans who like their horror particularly horrible and grubby.