Thursday, 4 December 2014

RAW REVIEW — THE SCAREHOUSE



As a part of maintaining the House of Horrors, I keep a keen eye on horror festivals, especially on those films that are picking up awards as they tour the circuit.
Recently I saw that The Scarehouse scored the coveted Best Feature award at the NYC Horror Film Festival. I knew I needed to check it out and after a quick and pleasant chat with the thoroughly lovely people behind this smash hit, I found myself well and truly accommodated. Is there room in Hickey’s House for The Scarehouse? Read on...

The Scarehouse (2014)



Dir: Gavin Michael Booth
Starring: Sarah Booth, Kimberly-Sue Murray, Katherine Barrell, Jennifer Miller, Teagan Vincze, Emily Alatalo, Dani Barker, Ivana Stojanovic, Brad Everett, Jack Ettlinger

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, but read on at your own risk.

The film opens with two young women, Corey (Booth) and Elaina (Murray), setting up a seasonal scarehouse for Devil’s Night. One door is for paying members of the public, the other acts as a private entrance to which a slow-but-steady stream of sorority sisters arrives for access to a special, invitation only party.
However, as soon becomes clear, the sorority girls have been tricked into attending a deadly reunion, one that Corey and Elaina have painstakingly planned with one clear motive: REVENGE.
As the girls, including the acidic Katrina (Alatalo), wholesome Jaqueline (Barrell) and tough-as-nails Lisa (Miller) find themselves the victims of some Saw-like personalised torments, we are shown a series of flashbacks to a fateful night two years ago, one in which a hazing prank goes terribly awry and sets each of these young women on a very bloody path…


BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): 
Part graphic revenge thriller, part torture p0rn, but with a vein of the very blackest humour running throughout, one of The Scarehouse’s greatest strengths is the way in which the story zigs and zags, eschewing familiarity to keep the viewer permanently off-balance as to where it will go next. It combines quick (but not erratic or jarring) changes in tone with some clever plot twists and reveals throughout. Gavin Michael Booth has managed that rare but wonderful thing: a clever and twisting plot that never becomes convoluted. 
This intelligent and witty writing carries over into the dialogue, the catty, cutting putdowns, one-liners and hilariously barbed quips practically whistle through the air like mortar shells. In fact, if it was not for the terrific, wince-inducing graphic gore scenes, I might even go so far as to call this film Meaner Girls.
And what gore scenes they are! Showing a fantastically twisted imagination and a flair for Argento-esque cruelty, The Scarehouse offers more than enough blood and guts to keep fans of spilled viscera happy. What’s more, it seemed to me that all the effects were practical, which is always a winner here at The House!
If that weren’t enough, I feel that special credit should be given to the fantastic sets and the lighting throughout. The Scarehouse itself was brilliant — I wanted to buy a ticket! A lot of this undoubtedly came from the assured and artistic cinematography, so my compliments go to Booth and cinematographer Ian Macmillan. Well done, guys!
Of course, gore and style can only go so far if the performances are sub-par — and thankfully, in The Scarehouse they most definitely are not. I honestly cannot think of another genre film in which EVERY role is played so well. The cast is superb across the board — although if I were to have to single out anybody from the cast for special praise I’d pick our deranged leads, Booth and Murray. Each took their part as a sympathetic monster and completely made it their own.
It was this characterisation that really lifts The Scarehouse above most similar efforts in the genre. Much like Shannon Lark’s role in I Am Monster, this film gives us new types of role for women in horror. Not just in the sadly sympathetic and terrifyingly flawed leads, but in the sorority sisters they were once so keen to join. Yes, the film has a couple of squealing victims, but others fight back with everything they have: whether it be devastating words or, in one case, a flurry of punches, kicks and elbows that would put Jean Claude Van Damme to shame!  
Finally, The Scarehouse has an absolutely awesome soundtrack. Really! Ranging from hip modern tracks to brilliant 80s throwbacks, this is the coolest soundtrack I’ve heard since Drive. If there is a CD coming, I’ll be buying!



WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): 
There’s really very little here. I suppose from a plot standpoint I couldn’t see what purpose having half the Scarehouse open to the general public served. It didn’t contribute to the main plot in anyway, instead serving as a built-in flaw to the girls’ plan. They were both smart girls, yet at a couple of times this really quite dunderheaded decision nearly cost them dearly. Perhaps it was to add authenticity to the setting to draw their victims in? I’ll go with that and let it slide.
Speaking of the Scarehouse, I would have liked to see more of it. That’s just me being greedy though, I just liked the Scarehouse sets we got so much I’d have loved a couple more!
As much as I thought the modern day Scarehouse scenes were great (as well as the majority of the flashback scenes) I did think that the slow reveal of what happened to spark this all off lasted a little too long. Once the tragedy that sparked this situation is revealed we get a couple more flashbacks that don’t give us much more than we already knew. However, I’m all for fleshing out a story, so any attempts at giving us some more backstory to go with the buckets of blood should be heralded as a good thing, I suppose.
While we are on the subject of the gore scenes, the placement of them seems a little off. We get some of the finest and most splattery moments early on in the film, before some of the later kills become less imaginative and a little more haphazard. I get that this was to reflect the plan spinning out of the girls’ control, but after the first couple of scenes I expected a little more — although thankfully one particularly hideous one that was teased did not come to fruition. That one could have been a bit much, even for me!
Finally as well written and rounded as the girls are, the men in this film are universally stupid, boorish oafs. Okay, they’re college boys, so there’s a few more of that sort neanderthal there, plus they mainly work in the film to show us exactly how strong and in control our tough, brilliant female leads are, but even so, we aren’t all like that guys!
It’s just most of us that are J.


VERDICTThe Scarehouse is an award-winner for a reason. Smart, cool, clever, disturbing and generally brilliant all-round, you need to check this out ASAP. Great filmmaking + great performances + great direction = one great horror movie! It’s doing the rounds of festivals right now (and doing fantastically!) but there are release dates lined up both sides of the Atlantic early next year. If you miss it, you are a fool!
While you wait, why not head over to the film’s official Facebook page and hit it with a Like. It really does deserve your support, so show these supremely talented people some love.    

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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