Friday, 13 February 2015


After I reviewed the wonderfully fun Tickle (which you can read, right here) the director of that film, Corey Norman, asked if I’d be interested in taking a look at his feature-length picture The Hanover House.
I had such a great time with Tickle that I leapt at that chance to see what else this talented film-maker had in store for audiences. However, I was shocked to see that this one had been billed as a very different type of flick, far less fun and much darker in tone.
Could Norman succeed at a very different ballgame? Read on…


Dir: Corey Norman
Starring: Brian Chamberlain, Casey Turner, Anne Bobby, Daniel Noel, David J. Shaffer, Erik Moody, Shannon Campbell, Matthew Delamater, Jenny Anastasoff

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

Robert Foster (Chamberlain) is a man who is haunted by his past, not least the broken relationship he has with his estranged parents. His long-suffering wife Shannon (Turner) shows patience and support, even when Robert's behaviour leaves a little to be desired. Things finally come to a head when, after a phonecall out of the blue informing him of his father's sudden death, Robert clashes with his mother (Bobby) and vile uncle Frank (Shaffer) at the funeral.
Leaving abruptly and with his emotions already running high, Robert accidentally hits a young girl with his car. Frantic and desperate for help, Robert heads to a nearby farmhouse in search of assistance. However the building is not what it seems and soon the metaphorical phantoms of his past become all too real and set about waging a very real war on his senses. 
Will he and Shannon survive the night? What does the House want from them... And will it claim its toll?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Much like Jennifer Kent's The Babadook, this is a film very much about grief. It is no coincidence that the ghosts of Robert's past re-emerge in the wake of a personal bereavement. The water torture of the house's tricks, slowly but surely dissolving his mental defences one drip at a time, strikes exactly the way in which the death of a loved one does, hitting you with memories long since forgotten, forcing you to re-examine the past for, as far as that relationship goes, there will be no future.
It feels like an intensely personal movie, and that is arguably its strongest point. The characters are realistic, to a fault in fact, as both Robert and Shannon have moments in which they display human fallibility. They are written well and so is the story by director Corey Norman and co-writer Haley Norman, even if the steady wave of depressing and grim events from the leads' past does veer perilously close to unrealistic at times.
The cast are also excellent, more than up to the emotional rigours of their characters' roles.
Chamberlain is given the most eye-catching work, portraying an emotionally wrecked man even before the story can start to torture him. At times the character he plays is unlikeable, an individual whose issues make him angry and without patience, yet Chamberlain is able to portray the character with enough of a hint of vulnerability that we still feel sympathy for him. As the movie progresses and the house starts to consume Robert, Chamberlain is then able to add enough menace and seething intensity to the role to crank up the scares. With a resemblance to Lost's Matthew Fox and a great acting range, I expect we will see plenty more from him.
Turner too is fantastic. At first she seems as if might be a little wishy-washy, a weak victim a la Shelley Duvall in The Shining, included to scream, look scared and plead with whichever menace she has to deal with at that time. But as the movie progresses she becomes so much more, playing an active role in unlocking the house's mysteries and given a far more complex part than mere victim. It's impressive work from a very talented actress.
Also bringing great performances to the movie are Bobby, Noel and Shaffer.
Genre veteran Bobby (who will be familiar to readers from Nightbreed and for her voice work in the Bioshock video game series) is as awesome as ever as Robert's unkind, self-centred mother. This is an actress who has built a well-deserved reputation for quality and her work in The Hanover House demonstrates exactly what she can contribute to a movie. 
Shaffer has a string of horror credits to his name and plays the sleazy uncle Frank perfectly. He doesn't have a lot of screentime but he makes the most of what he does have, including one truly stomach-churning scene.
Finally Noel impresses as the apparition of Robert's father. Ranging from benevolent and kindly to sinister and murderous, Noel needs to bring a lot to this performance and he is more than up to the task.
I mentioned The Shining earlier and I think it is no coincidence that at times this movie feels a lot like Kubrick's masterpiece and other haunted house classics such as The Amityville Horror and the Poltergeist movies. Norman is clearly a fan of the genre (as displayed in the note-perfect era feel of Tickle) and for the most part these subtle nods feel more like loving homage than plagiarism.
With creepy phonecalls, possession, black-eyed spirits, crackling radios, swarms of flies, disembodied voices and reality warping hallucinations, The Hanover House brings the full haunting box of tricks to the table and they are fantastically brought to life (well, undeath) by Norman's assured and accomplished direction. He clearly has a strong vision and movie oozes with a clammy, brooding atmosphere because of it. I especially admired his use of low camera angles and shadow to add a palpable sense of tension to proceedings. 
Furthermore, the house itself is a superb location. Norman shot the film in a purported real haunted house. After seeing what Norman was able to do with the setting, it is very easy to imagine how this reputation has been built.
This is not a fun Eighties creature flick like Tickle, instead this feels like a classic and disturbing Seventies haunted house movie. Knowing the genre highs that this type of movie reached during that period, perhaps there are no greater compliments than that.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): As I mentioned before, the grim and depressing events of The Hanover House mount up in unrelenting fashion. This is not a feel-good film, there is not a single moment of levity throughout its short, sharp 73min runtime. I know that is kind of the point, but it does start to feel a little oppressive after a while. Then again, some readers may think that’s a good thing?
I praised the actors in the movie, and for good reason, but a couple of the supporting parts didn’t quite hit the highs of the stand-out stars. I know that with a low budget flick such as this there are bound to be some less experienced cast members so I suppose this is only to be expected. Luckily these are few and far between and don't much affect your enjoyment of the movie.
I‘ve mentioned the budget and, while the film did a great job with what it had, sometimes the restrictions that it caused did raise some problems. There were a couple of decidedly iffy effects moments, most notably during the latter stages of the movie. This is a real shame, but for the most part, the effects up until that point are pretty good, so it definitely isn't a total bust.
Finally, while I was discussing the various nods to other successful haunted house flicks earlier, I mentioned that it usually felt like homage. However, there were a couple of instances in which I felt as if a haunted house movie checklist had been used during the filming process. I understand that there is bound to be a lot of crossover — every genre has its tropes, that is how we are able to categorise them after all — but at a couple of points the film drifted dangerously close to derivative. It wasn’t just a case of ‘seen this before’, when the budgetary constraints were taken into account, a couple of times it became ‘seen this before… and better'.

THE VERDICT: I’m going to recommend The Hanover House. It’s a good, if not great, addition to the haunted house sub-genre. It is a well-crafted, well-shot and far richer viewing experience than many of you may be used to from an indie horror. It has several deeper themes, some fantastically well-rounded characters and doesn’t forget to bring the scares either. It’s well worth your time and, if you’re a fan of more psychological horror movies, you really should check it out.
Until then, be sure to check out the film’s official Facebook page too. It offers plenty of updates and news on the movie, plus it gives you all the chance to show your appreciation with a Like. So you probably should!

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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