Stay Out of the F*cking Attic (15)
Review: RJ Bland
The Nazis. What a bunch of absolute tosspots eh? It's rather terrifying when you comprehend how close they came to complete domination and what the world would look like now if they had. I mean, we all have some big issues facing us right now but at least fascism and ultra nationalism isn't something we have to really worry about at this moment in ti....oh wait. Actually, rather than getting into all that, we'll segue into how this particular group of people have been a part of the horror genre since the end of WW2. Nazis have obviously had a part to play in pretty much all film genres, from War movies (obviously), comedies (The Producers), musicals (The Sound of Music) and superhero movies (Captain America). However the sheer wickedness of them makes them an obvious candidate for the horror genre. You can go all the way back to 1966 to a British film called The Frozen Dead to see their inclusion. It's only an ok movie but it's about a scientist trying to revive a load of Nazi war criminals so he can get the Third Reich back up and running. It's effectively the first Nazi-Zombie horror and this seems to be a running theme in most of these features. Not only were they evil and responsible for some incomprehensible experimentation on humans, but those fascists were also into the occult too apparently (well, some of the senior ones were). This horrid combination makes them perfect for the niche medical-zombie-occult sub-genre. Since then we've had stuff like The Keep (1983), The Bunker (2001), Dead Snow (2009), Frankenstein's Army (2013) and most recently – and probably the best of the bunch – Julius Avery's Overlord (2018). You know what's scarier than a zombie trying to eat your brains? Apparently one that used to have disgusting political beliefs! Jerren Lauder's instructionally titled Stay Out of the F*cking Attic is the latest to revisit this old hypothesis...
Schillinger, an ex-con, is in the process of trying to turn his life around and atone for his previous crimes. Through his newly formed removal company, he hires other 'unhireables' in an effort to help keep them on the straight and narrow. There's Imani, who is jovial but tough and Carlos, a new father who wants to start providing for his kid. Their latest job involves cleaning out an old (and obviously creepy) Victorian mansion. Although they all get a bit of a weird vibe from the house and its owner, an old (and slightly odd) German guy called Vern – the job at hand is simple at least. Clear the house out by lunchtime the next day. However the owner insists that the house is cleared by first thing in the morning, so after a bit of a chat, Schillinger and his crew agree to pull an all-nighter to meet the deadline. They get to work straight away but it's a big house and they are going to have to pull out all the stops to clear the house in time. At least Vern has told them that they don't have to touch the basement or the attic, so that's two less floors to clear. In fact, he was quite insistent that they are strictly off limits. Over the course of the night, it becomes apparent why...
When a film has four credited writers, it sets a few alarm bells off. Not that having multiple writers on a project is a problem as such. However when a story as straightforward as this has four people working on the script, those bells ring even louder. And for good reason – because Stay Out of the F*cking Attic is a ultimately let down by its failure to find an interesting narrative amongst all of the attempted horror.
There's something comfortingly old school about the title and premise of the film. Although we'd leave out the swear word, we're not sure that adds anything. Imagine that with other horror films; A Nightmare on Wank Street. Shit Follows. I Know What You F*cking Did Last Summer. Anyway the point is that there's scope here for some trashy, B-movie fun but the film is rather insipid on this front. There is a battle going on from a plot perspective between the Nazi scientist and the creatures he has created. The latter have the potential to provide more of the scares but SOOTFA (It's just easier to write that at this point) opts to focus more on the former and as a result, we don't quite get the creature feature that most of us were probably hoping for. Also, there's shockingly little action that takes place in the attic itself. Getting my Christmas decorations down in early December from my loft is nearly as dangerous. In fact, the gloriously creepy Victorian mansion itself feels rather underused. There is a real opportunity to build some dread and atmosphere here amongst the creaking dimly lit corridors and dusty rooms but director Jerren Laudert doesn't seem too interested.
Despite these shortcomings, there is some stuff here that means it's not a total dud. Although the three central performances are unexceptional, The cacophony of writers do at least make them mildly interesting characters with some semblance of depth. Credit for making us care a little about this trio but perversely this is undermined with not seeing them suffer quite enough! The creature effects are decent enough but there's just not anything new or particularly interesting in the last act to get you on the edge of your seat. It all ends with a series of bizarre character and plot choices that only compounds the sense of disappointment.