Monday, 3 October 2016


Long-time readers of Hickey's House of Horrors may remember that one of the very earliest pre-release reviews I posted here was of Tommy Faircloth's throwback slasher, Dorchester's Revenge: The Return of Crinoline Head. That movie eventually received a UK release under the title Dollface
For those of you who haven't read the review, I said Dollface was 'smart, clever and creepy', before adding 'I cannot wait to see what Tommy and the gang have lined up for us in the future' — well now that wait is over as Tommy has returned with his next genre flick, Family Possessions... and he's brought some familiar (Doll) faces with him!


Dir: Tommy Faircloth
Starring: Leah Wiseman, Jason Vail, Morgan Monnig, Andrew Wicklum, Erika Edwards, Michael David Wilson, Felissa Rose, Elizabeth Mears, Mark Patton

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

Family Possessions opens with the Dunn family: father Steve (House favourite Vail); his wife Sarah (Monnig); teenage daughter Rachael (Wiseman); and younger son Andy (Wicklum), attending a will reading for Steve's deceased elderly mother, Alberta.
The Dunns are shocked when it is revealed that Alberta has left her entire estate to Rachael, including her voluminous mansion and all her earthly belongings. However, this comes with one proviso — Rachael must live in the house, otherwise everything is to be donated to charity.
Needless to say Steve and Sarah are a little put-out, but they respect Albertha's decision and move into the house.
This being a horror movie, I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that the house soon proves pretty creepy, with the two youngsters in particular witness to a number of spooky incidents and subject to some decidedly upsetting nightmares and visions,
Yet Rachael still attempts to make a life for herself in the new town, quickly befriending sweet but unpopular Maggie (Edwards) and getting involved in a burgeoning relationship with local club owner Kevin (Wilson).
However, as the locals are all decidedly wary about the Dunns, Rachael does a little research and reveals the truth behind a disturbing secret about her grandmother... one which could lead to disaster for her and everybody she cares about.

THE BEST BITS (minor spoiler warning): I think it's fair to say that Tommy Faircloth's talents as a director improved and strengthened between Crinoline Head and Dollface. Well, Family Possessions shows that his ability is still getting better and better.
It is a movie that looks incredible, with some spectacular sweeping aerial shots, clever framing and fantastic timing. This is some seriously polished film-making and it's a fine looking picture..
Of course, you need much more than impressive visuals to deliver a good horror flick, and Family Possessions delivers in other departments too.
First, the story (penned by director Faircloth) is very clever indeed. There's a real element of mystery about the plot as you try to work out exactly what is going on around Rachael, and even when the pieces fall into place there's an intelligent bit of subterfuge late on that I'm not afraid to admit totally fooled me. The plot is a tricky little puzzle that remains compelling without ever becoming confusing, convoluted or (heaven forbid) boring. Bravo, Tommy!
The timing for this release is pretty damn perfect, with the sneak release of Adam Wingard's Blair Witch bringing black magic and witchcraft back in fashion with genre fans, and Family Possessions does a great job of incorporating these elements into it's storyline. There's a rich mythos here, hinted at when read from the suitably creepy Book of Shadows that Rachael discovers in the attic. This enriches the story massively, as these details make it so much easier to invest in the events on screen.
Of course, this is an easy job when you've assembled a cast as talented as the one here.
Faircloth brings back some of his standout cast members from his previous efforts. Wiseman (who previously worked with Faircloth in Dollface) is a likeable, natural performer, who shows tremendous potential as a genre leading lady. She reminds me of a younger Sarah Poulson, who I think is a marvellous actress, so this is strong praise indeed. I can't wait to see more of her in the future, she's definitely one to watch.
Also making a return from Dollface AND the excellent short, The Cabin, are the stellar pair of Monnig and Vail. I've waxed lyrical about the always superb Vail plenty of times here before, so let me just say it's always a pleasure to watch Jason in action and he delivers his usual top-notch performance once again. Monnig is also fantastic, with a pretty complex character who has a nice little arc. She's a sterling actress and her outstanding work in this movie shows why Faircloth has worked with her time and again.
Elsewhere supporting player Edwards is also quite the revelation, especially since this is the first acting gig to her name at the IMDB. That is seriously impressive!
Of course, there are two names on this cast list that are going to leap out at genre fans: Felissa 'Sleepaway Camp' Rose and Mark 'A Nightmare on Elm Street II' Patton. These are two names behind a pair of truly iconic genre performances and they utterly deliver the goods here. Rose's sneering, snapping Susan is a trashy monster of a character and Rose is clearly having a ball with the part. Patton's Tyson is a fabulously camp role and, if Rose is having fun with her work, Patton is having an absolute ball with his. Both deliver some of the best lines in the film (yes, I googled 'Blue Waffle' because Ms Rose told me to) and Faircloth must be counting his blessings to have landed such game actors for his movie. 
But for me, much like in Dollface, the most fun comes from the deliciously wicked Mears as queen bitch Tristen. Mears is simply glorious in this movie and with her stunning good-looks, impeccable comic timing and sheer charisma, she is fast becoming another favourite here at The House.
However, as much as I've mentioned the humour in this film, I feel I need to stress that this is a decidedly more serious effort than Dollface. There are moments of genuine horror in Family Possessions, from exquisitely worked jump-scares to legitimately unsettling bathroom scene that had me squirming, by way of some suitably creepy imagery such as an eerie rocking horse motif. Yes, there are laughs scattered throughout the movie, but this is a haunted house movie with a vicious edge. 
In short, Family Possessions delivers fun AND frights. What more do you want from your horror movies?

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Expect this section to be pretty short!
I suppose that, even though Family Possessions is a wonderful looking film, the production values in some areas are probably closer to indies than your ultra-slick, big budget studio movies. If you're more used to the shiny Blumhouse-style horror of Insidious or The Conjuring, there may be a couple of effects shots here that seem a little hokey. The worst of these is possibly the 'ghost' mask, which does look a bit daft in some scenes.
However, I do want to stress that this is DEFINITELY one of the best-looking indie horror flicks I have ever seen and it is head and shoulders above a lot of the movies that come my way.
One problem I did have with the film was that, with such an incredible cast, I just wish all of them could have had even more to do. As amazing as Rose and Patton are, they have a surprisingly small amount of screen time, while I would have liked to see extra scenes with the excellent Vail and Mears (even though they definitely make the most of what they do have). I think I'm just greedy — with characters this well-written and performances of this calibre I just want more, more, more!
Finally, and this is personal taste here, the films clocks in at an hour and 50 mins. If I'm totally honest (and I know this contradicts what I just said about wanting more), with some ruthless editing it would probably be possible to shave a good 15 minutes out of the runtime. I enjoy spending time exploring the world that a director creates for me, especially when that time is spent developing atmosphere and cultivating a decent sense of dread, but fans of taut, high-octane, lean films may have an issue with this more deliberate, patiently paced effort.

THE VERDICT: Well, what a fantastic surprise this movie turned out to be! I want to thank the kind folks at Horse Creek Productions for letting me see it early because Faircloth has delivered a genre flick that is wicked, witty, wildly entertaining and wonderfully intelligent.
Congratulations, Tommy Faircloth, you've done it again!
Family Possessions will be hitting the festival circuit very soon, with its premier at the Nightmares Film Festival in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday 21 October. If it's coming to a screen near you I utterly recommend checking it out ASAP.
Head to the film's official Facebook page here to find out where you can watch it. Give the page a Like while you're there too, this movie deserves it!

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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