Horror Movie Review

Camp Death III in 2D!

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Camp Crystal Meph has developed a bit of a reputation. After a crazed woman going on a killing spree, then her murderous son returning to exact revenge, many have died on the property. When an overly-optimistic man decides to reopen the camp as a rehab center for mentally ill adults, it doesn’t take long for the body count to rise. Has the killer returned, or is there a copycat on the loose?

Camp Death III in 2D! is a horror comedy written and directed by Matt Frame (GGG: One Night Stab). It is an intentionally outlandish and campy spoof of Friday the 13th Part III in 3D. The film even begins in a similar fashion to the F13 films where the first few minutes recap the previous film, although in this case it is a film that doesn’t really exist. There are other similar plot points connecting Camp Death to the F13 films in fun and creative ways. That being said, this film is intentionally out there, campy with ridiculous effects and acting, and can be a bit abrasive at times. This is all on purpose. Some of the taglines for the film read “This movie is stupid,” “This movie is super stupid,” and “The most horrible movie ever made!” It clearly caters to a specific group of horror fans that not only enjoy the F13 franchise, but also loves the ridiculous, low-budget B-movie style the film has.

While it’s not the most horrible movie I’ve ever seen, despite what the taglines suggest, it definitely isn’t my cup of tea. I appreciated the nods it gave not only to F13, but other popular films as well. There is one scene specifically that I got a kick out of that is a hilarious nod to the Star Wars films. There is also a bit with a squirrel utilized in a few scenes throughout the film that I found very entertaining, and part of that is because of how ridiculous and low-budget it looks. There were times the jokes leaned a bit towards the offensive side. The laughs are centered around gross-out humor, sexual humor, and jokes that are aimed at the mentally ill campers. There are definitely people who will find these jokes funny, but it is not the kind of humor that I am entertained by.

This is the kind of film that is incredibly hard to accurately critique various elements. Acting is one of those elements. The performances in Camp Death III in 2D! are intentionally over the top, ludicrous, and just plain bad. If you take into consideration the fact that bad acting was the goal of the film, then in that respect the entire cast actually did a fantastic job. There is a lot of humorous overacting and some that is less humorous, but just as overacted. This also makes it more difficult for me to pinpoint any single performance because of how “bad” everyone was (even though that was the point). Instead I will throw nods to some of the performances I enjoyed watching even with the insanity. I will send shout outs to Dave Peniuk (The Coroner: I Speak For the Dead), Angela Galanopoulos (Michelle’s), and Katherine Alpen (Cubicle the Musical) for all being ridiculous yet still fun to watch.

As with the acting, the effects from Camp Death III in 2D! are incredibly hard to critique. The bizarre mash-up of CGI, practical effects, puppetry, green screen, close-up fisheye camera work, and interesting color choices will definitely grab your attention. The problem is that it might not grab your attention in a good way. Most of the effects are rather cringe-worthy in how poorly done they are, but as I’ve said multiple times in this review that low-budget look is intentional. Each of these different effects and tricks used have different levels of success. The scene I mentioned previously that relates to Star Wars is surprisingly well done. Most of the puppetry is also good for a laugh. This includes the scenes with the squirrel, which may have once just been a stuffed animal. Much of the CGI is hard to look at and even many of the practical effects are laughable, which is most likely on purpose.

There is definitely a subset of horror film fans who will get a lot of enjoyment out of Camp Death III in 2D! I simply was not one of those horror fans. The filmmakers are very successful in the sense that they created the outlandishly insane and cheesy film they set out to make. It ticks all the boxes for a low-budget B horror film, especially ones from the 80’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if this film eventually gained a cult following in the way that films like Troll 2 did over the years. Will I watch it again? Probably not, but it was definitely a memorable hour and 20 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 2/10

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The Golem

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A remote Jewish village is threatened by a plague and dangerous outsiders. While the men of the village believe prayer is the best course of action, one woman believes the village has to stand up for itself and fight. She performs a ritual to bring forth an ancient being that can protect those she loves. Yet this entity is something that cannot be controlled.

Brotherly directing duo Doron and Yoav Paz (Jerusalem) take the intriguing script by Ariel Cohen (Take Mama) and turn The Golem into a stunning film. The plot focuses on Hanna, a woman ahead of her time in this small Jewish village. She is a unique character because she is very independent and eager to learn more about her religion from books women are not allowed to read. As the film progresses it becomes clear she wants to read these texts as a way to grieve her deceased son. Her grief, independence, and unwillingness to have another child for fear of losing them drives her actions throughout the film. When the people she loves are threatened by outsiders bringing in the plague, she takes what she learns from those texts to bring forth an ancient entity known as a golem. These plot elements allow the filmmakers to create an external conflict (the outsiders and the plague) as well as an internal conflict (grief over the loss of a child).

From the moment Hanna creates the golem there is a sense of impending doom. The feeling of dread is carried out through to the end of the film. As a result, audiences know things are not going to end well, but it is the way events play out that keeps them interested in what happens next. There is an opening scene that sets the tone of the film, but there is one instance in this opening that doesn’t quite match the mythology established later in the film. It can lead to a bit of confusion regarding the rules surrounding the golem’s existence. The end of the film also leaves me with some unanswered questions, specifically about the fates of certain smaller characters, which are never resolved. These issues are subtle, making them easier to overlook, but I still believe they are worth pointing out.

As far as the performances go, the entire cast blew me away. Hani Furstenberg (The Loneliest Planet) is absolutely extraordinary as Hanna. There are many layers to Hanna that Furstenberg stunningly conveys. She shows the audience how Hanna finds strength in her grief in order to do the impossible, yet that grief may also be her downfall. Furstenberg commands your attention every time she is on screen. Another standout performance comes from Ishai Golan (Prisoners of War) as Benjamin, Hanna’s husband. Benjamin is very supportive of Hanna, despite what others think about her and their relationship. When things go from bad to worse in the village, Golan’s performance really shines and shows his character’s depth. The pair have great onscreen chemistry, and they are a joy to watch. I also want to give a special shoutout to Alex Tritenko (When the Dawn Comes) who plays the film’s villain in a way that makes you loathe him while also empathizing with his character.

Artistically, there are highs and lows throughout the film. The best bit of artistry in the film is the cinematography. Many shots are framed and lit in such a way that draws the audience’s eye and creates stunning imagery. Along with the cinematography, the set and costume design is fantastic. Not only do these elements add to the beauty of the film, but they also transport you back in time.

One of the less successful elements of The Golem is the special effects. The filmmakers implement practical effects which are enhanced by CGI. The problem arises in some of the bloodier scenes where the effects take on a Tarantino-esque level of blood spewing into the air. It looks quite out of place with the overall look of the rest of the film. Similarly, the score by Tal Yardeni (Noble Savage) doesn’t mesh well with the film’s somber look and feel. The score itself is very nice and is especially beautiful in the more melancholy scenes. Yet the score in the thrilling scenes stands out for all the wrong reasons. To my ears, the music in these scenes sounds more like what one would hear in a suspenseful action movie, not a gloomy horror film. Unfortunately, the music in these scenes takes me out of the moment because of how mismatched it sounds.

The Golem delivers a unique story rooted in Jewish tradition that is both beautiful and disturbing. The internal and external conflicts Hanna experiences provide a dynamic and intriguing plot for audiences. Furstenberg’s portrayal of Hanna drives the film while giving it a lot of heart, and the entire ensemble cast shines. The Golem is quite gorgeous to look at. Even the visual and musical elements that detract from the film are well done, they just don’t go along with the overall tone of the film. If you’re looking for a horror film that doesn’t center around Catholicism, demons, and the devil, then The Golem will be the breath of fresh air you won’t want to miss.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

 

Dry Blood

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Brian is an addict. After a particularly rough night, he decides it’s time to get clean. He travels to his remote mountain cabin in the hopes of detoxing himself in seclusion. Brian’s stay at the cabin forces him to face withdrawals, hallucinations, possible ghosts, and a bizarrely sinister cop. He has to discover what is real and what is fantasy, or else he might just lose his sanity.

Dry Blood is written by Clint Carney and directed by Kelton Jones. While the two have plenty of credits to their name, this is the first feature film in their respective roles as writer and director. The plot woven throughout the film is quite intricate. Every turn seems to add a new layer of mystery and intrigue, forcing the audience to follow different clues. The plot becomes more and more complicated, leading up to the shocking final act. For a first feature film, Jones and Carney deliver a compelling story that takes some brain power to figure out. There is a ton of potential here, but it there is a high likelihood it will leave audiences unclear about certain aspects. There are times when it is obvious that Brian is hallucinating, and other times where he could be seeing ghosts. By the end of the film there is one big reveal that allows the audience to have a sort of “aha” moment. It allows the audience to make certain deductions about what they have witnessed, but there are still too many unanswered questions because of how many layers there are to the mystery.

Brian’s reasoning for going to the cabin in the first place is clear enough, yet things get quite complicated for him almost immediately. It starts with an odd cop who either has sinister motives or is really obsessive about being Brian’s friend. This leads to some conversations that are simultaneously creepy and humorous. There is one schtick that happens in practically every conversation between these two that manages to make me laugh while also being somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Aside from these interactions, the film has a very dark tone in both content and style. The dramatic themes of addiction, mental illness, and death run rampant. It creates a very haunting tale as Brian’s hallucinations (or ghosts) become more prevalent, making his road to recovering more and more difficult.

Not only did Jones direct and Carney write Dry Blood, but they also starred in the film. Carney takes the leading role as Brian, this also being his first acting role in a feature film. For the most part Carney excels in his performance. There are a few more dramatic moments when Brian is particularly terrified and Carney’s portrayal turns a bit towards caricature. Jones also makes his feature film acting debut in this film as the cop. The cop is this ominous presence always looming over Brian, and Jones does a great job playing him. Between his odd behavior and the sometimes comical conversations, the cop is a character audiences will remember. Yet another feature film acting debut comes in the form of Jaymie Valentine as Brian’s friend, Anna. Anna comes to the cabin to try to help Brian get over his addiction. Unfortunately, I found Anna’s character and Valentine’s performance distracting. Valentine comes across as monotone and doesn’t really show any strong emotions, even when her character is in the face of danger. For some reason Anna’s character also wore a disastrous wig. While this is not the actor’s fault and it doesn’t have anything to do with her performance, the wig was so dreadful it took my attention away from the film itself.

Aside from the wig, the various visuals are actually the strongest aspect of the film. There are some fantastic practical effects that really bring terror to the audience. Most of these are used to create what could be hallucinations or they could be ghosts. These entities are created primarily with stunning practical effects, but they are enhanced with some exceptionally well done CGI work. The result is brutal, haunting, and stunning imagery. After finishing the film these effects are what is likely to stand out in your mind.

Jones and Carney create a complex, chilling tale with Dry Blood that shows the filmmakers’ potential, but it falls just short of being truly successful. The film has wonderful special effects, especially for a low-budget indie film, and weaves an interesting plot that will keep you guessing. Unfortunately, the film ends with too many unanswered questions, and the performances deliver a mixture of results from successful to monotone. If nothing else, I would recommend this film for the effects. Either way, the film displays Jones and Carney have the building blocks to create something special as filmmakers and I look forward to seeing what they do in the future.

OVERALL RATING: 5.5/10

Lifechanger

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A shapeshifter has the ability to transform into another person, but only at the expense of that person’s life. After existing in different forms for decades, the bodies he takes over are decaying at a much more rapid rate. This shapeshifter’s time is running out. Yet he goes through body after body in an attempt to reconnect with the woman he loves.

Writer and director Justin McConnell (Broken Mile, Collapsed) brings audiences an interesting take on shapeshifters, love, and morality in Lifechanger. There have been films in the past about shapeshifters and things that need to take over the body/life of another human in order to survive. There are aspects of this plot that help to differentiate it from those other films. One way is that the plot is told from the point of view of the shapeshifter, giving us a more empathetic look into the mind and life of this being. The shapeshifter has to kill in order to live, and there is a moral question nagging at the audience as to whether or not he should continue living. Another way this film is different is that the shapeshifting itself isn’t the focus of the story. It does play a very important role, but the film is more about the shapeshifter’s loneliness and desire to be with the one he loves. This plays into the morality issue as well. Is what he does okay because he is doing it for love?

In the third act the film takes a bit of a turn. Without giving too many details, this act changes your perspective of the shapeshifter a bit and makes the audience realize his motives might not be quite what we are lead to believe. I have mixed feelings about how the final moments of this film plays out. Part of me loves it because the end left me with a feeling similar to how the end of The Mist left me. Whether you enjoyed the end of that film or not, you have to admit it packed quite a punch that stuck with you long after the film ended, and Lifechanger ends with a similar impact. It won’t appeal to all viewers, but it is at least thought-provoking. On the other hand, I found the last half of the film, including the final act, almost romanticizes stalking and abusive relationships. I don’t think this was intentional on the part of the filmmakers, but it stands out in my mind when I think about some of the shapeshifter’s actions throughout the film.

Considering how many different actors played the shapeshifter in Lifechanger, there are a number of great performances in this film. While each actor did a great job as the shapeshifter, the standout performances come from Rachel VanDuzer  in her first feature film and Jack Foley (Fugue). We spend the most time with the shapeshifter in these bodies, and both VanDuzer and Foley portray the character in a way that is a combination of cold, lonely, loving, and frightening. The character is able to take on the memories of its victims when he transforms so the portrayals are meant to be a mix of who the person was and who the shapeshifter is. My one qualm is that I wish there had been some personality trait or tick that made a more obvious connection between all the actors playing the shapeshifter. There is an internal voice the audience hears, the love he feels for a woman, and a marble we see him play with in a few scenes. While those help to connected the different actors, they feel external or separate. Another great performance comes from Lora Burke (Poor Agnes) as the love interest, Julia. Burke portrays Julia in a way that she comes across as broken yet extremely personable. She is someone who could become a best friend overnight. It makes it easy to see why the shapeshifter fell in love with her.

There are many interesting visuals throughout the film. The opening sequence has some gorgeous cinematography. There are many scenes shot beautifully, but the opening stands out the most. The filmmakers opted to use primarily practical effects. This works very well and gives the film a timeless look. The effects themselves are used to create the bodies of the shapeshifter’s victims. They go through a bizarre transformation that is somewhat grotesque, but it is also quite eye-catching. The cinematography and the effects work well together in a way that shows the filmmakers took care to make sure the film had quite a bit of visual interest. They also help set the bleak tone of the film.

Lifechanger is a film that holds nothing back as it takes the audience on an unexpected journey with a shapeshifter. The stunning cinematography and the practical effects help to build the dreary reality of a very unique character. Compelling performances from an array of actors allow the audience to understand the shapeshifter on a more human level with an equally compelling performance from Burke as the love interest. Lifechanger has a fascinating plot with a few rough patches, but the only aspect that truly bothers me is the way stalking is used in the film. An element of the unknown will leave some things unanswered in a way that works well. This is a thought-provoking film that is definitely worth checking out.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

Mandao of the Dead

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Jay lives a simple life, but that all changes in the days around Halloween when the veil between worlds is thinnest. A series of strange events leads him down an unbelievable road. Jay discovers he can astral project, and he inadvertently witnesses his nephew Jackson’s ex-girlfriend murder a man. Because of Jay’s newfound abilities, he is able to see and speak to the ghost of the murdered man. The clock is running out of time for Jay to save the man – and his own sanity.

The masterful Scott Dunn (Schlep) not only wrote the screenplay for Mandao of the Dead, but he also directed and starred in the film. At first glance, this film looks like any other low-budget indie horror movie that might have a few laughs, but is overall a crass and forgettable film. Yet Dunn’s film actually has an intricate and compelling plot, hilarious characters, and more than a few heart-felt moments. The film ends up being a strange mix of elements that end up working well together. It’s one-part supernatural horror, one-part vampire movie, one-part murder mystery, and one-part buddy comedy. Somehow, all of these elements work well together.

One of the aspects of the plot that works surprisingly well is the lack of explanations. We don’t know why Jay is suddenly able to astral project, except for a few hints here and there. It is suggested that Jackson’s ex-girlfriend is a vampire, but it’s a bit ambiguous as to whether she just think she’s a vampire or she actually is a vampire. It leaves the viewers as ignorant to the truth as the characters, which works well in this film. It also forces the audience to simply accept things as being the way they are. This is important in how the film tends to go through different dimensions and different timelines. If you simply accept these parts of the plot as being this way, without further question, it makes for a humorous adventure.

Each character – and the actors playing the characters – manage to make me laugh in this film. Dunn shines wearing one of his many hats as the star of the film, Jay. He is probably the most practical and pragmatic character, which leads to some humorous interactions when he discovers his new abilities. It is amazing to see Dunn perform so well in the role that he also wrote and directed. Sean McBride (Schlep) offers an interesting juxtaposition to Dunn’s performance as Jay’s adult nephew, Jackson. Jack is a loser who sleeps in a tent in Jay’s living room, and he is only Jay’s nephew in the loosest sense of the word. McBride gives a hilarious, dimwitted, yet likeable portrayal of this goofy character. These two actors play off each other in a way that makes the film even more entertaining. Other equally entertaining performances can be found in Gina Gomez (Schlep), David Gallegos (2-Headed Shark Attack), Marisa Hood (The Post Relationship), and Sean Liang (2Survive).

For the most part, the visual effects in Mandao of the Dead are reserved for the scenes when Jay is astral projecting. There are three methods used to create a distinct look: lighting, distorted sound, and the use of haze or smoke. When Jay is astral projecting the world loses a lot of its color, resulting in a grey, monotone look. The only time more vibrant colors are used in these scenes is through neon lighting – or when the point of view switches to the real world. Not only does this add a lot of visual interest to the film, but it also ensures the viewers can tell the difference between the real world and the dream-like world where ghosts and astral forms dwell.

Mandao of the Dead is a surprisingly well-made indie horror comedy that has heart and delivers plenty of laughs. Dunn proves with this film that he can excel at any role, whether it be director, writer, or actor. The intricate and humorous story he creates gives viewers something that will keep them entertained from start to finish. It has its cheesier and over-the-top moments, but they work quite well with the overall tone of the film. The performances, the plot, and the visuals all lend themselves to a fun flick. While you should catch this film as soon as you can, I would wager it will end up on many horror fans’ “31 Days of Horror” film lists this year.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

Bird Box

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It has been five years since dangerous unseen beings arrived. One look shows the viewers their worst fears, leading to that person committing suicide. Malorie, along with two children, managed to survive this long. Now they have to make a treacherous journey completely blindfolded in order to find a new place to stay safe.

Before I dive into this film, I’m going to address the elephant in the room. As soon as trailers hit for Bird Box there were immediately noticeable parallels between this film and A Quiet Place. Just know, this film was adapted from a novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, which came out back in 2014. So please stop all the talk about Bird Box being a ripoff of A Quiet Place. There are similarities, but they are two distinct films.

Director Susanne Bier (In a Better World, Brothers) and screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Lights Out, Arrival) did an excellent job adapting this story into film form. As Bird Box begins, viewers are thrown into the desolate, post-apocalyptic world five years after the beings arrived. Immediately we are introduced to the protagonist, Malorie, as a harsh survivor about to embark on a dangerous journey in the hopes of finding a safe place for herself and the children she cares for. The plot is interwoven between her current journey and her experiences from when the beings first appeared. Through this method the viewer is able to learn more about the beings as well as Malorie (and why she makes the decisions she does to survive this perilous new world). The format lends to some excellent character development not just for Malorie, but for the other survivors she encounters when the world first falls apart.

A truly fascinating aspect of this plot is the entities that bring about the end of humanity. Each person who sets eyes on these things sees something different; it can be their worst fear, their greatest regret, or something else. The brilliant thing is that we, as the viewers, never see what these entities truly look like, or even what people see just before they commit suicide. It not only makes things a bit more frightening, because it is almost impossible to know if one of the beings is near you, but it also makes sense from a financial standpoint, as there was no need for elaborate practical effects or CGI. There are some people who are effected differently when they look upon these beings, which leads to some very fascinating and intense moments. The entire concept is unique and brilliantly executed.

This film has a star-studded cast who all shine in their individual roles. Sandra Bullock (Practical Magic, Ocean’s Eight) delivers one of her most powerful performances as the star of the film, Malorie. There is a rigidness about Malorie that sometimes makes her less than likeable, but as more is revealed about the character it is easier to understand why she is the way she is. Bullock’s portrayal of Malorie perfectly shows that rigid nature, while also allowing some more tender moments to break through her hardened outer shell. Another outstanding performance comes from Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, The Predator) as Tom. This character is the polar opposite of Malorie, instead being exceptionally warm and caring. It is the perfect role for Rhodes, and the juxtaposition of his portrayal of Tom with Bullock’s portrayal of Malorie makes for great chemistry and a number of touching scenes. Other great performances can be found in John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), and Danielle Macdonald (Dumplin’).

Bird Box is a tense, emotional, and even frightening film with a unique plot and deeply emotional core. Bier and Heisserer do a fantastic job bringing Malerman’s novel to life. The simple idea of an entity that traumatizes a person to the point where they commit suicide allows for great suspense. It also brings an element of mystery as the viewer never sees what the victims see. An intriguing plot and fantastic performances from the likes of Bullock and Rhodes result in a must-see film with a lot of heart. Bird Box gives the horror genre a strong end to 2018 that you won’t want to miss.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

The House That Jack Built

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Jack is a serial killer. As he reminisces about some of the kills that stand out most in his mind, we learn more about this meticulous and highly intelligent man. He isn’t your typical serial killer, and each victim reveals something different about Jack. After twelve years and countless victims, has his reign of terror finally come to an end, or is it just the beginning?

Writer and director Lars von Trier (Antichrist, Melancholia) brings audiences a fascinating character study with The House That Jack Built. Often times, audiences don’t want to know the backstory behind the serial killer, but in von Trier’s film this is the basis of the entire plot. By examining five specific murders, the audience learns important aspects of Jack: who he is, why he kills, and his other eccentricities. The main difference between von Trier’s film and similar works is that he doesn’t teach the audience about Jack with the intent of gaining sympathy for the character. If anything, as we learn more about Jack, he becomes a continually more loathsome character. He is truly a horrible person; and yet, somehow, the more you come to hate this man the more fascinating he is to watch at work.

The plot is broken up into segments, each one featuring a specific murder that was significant in Jack’s life. Some of these segments also include further flashbacks in order to add more context to Jack’s actions. While this is very interesting to watch and offers an in-depth look into the mind of a sociopathic serial killer, the part of the film that stands out the most is the fact that Jack has OCD. He is obsessively compelled to clean which can be a bit troublesome for a serial killer, especially when murders get messy. In one scene, after completing a murder and cleaning up the evidence, Jack keeps imagining he has missed a spot of blood somewhere in the crime scene. It forces him to go back inside over and over and over again to clean and make sure he didn’t miss a single spot. The scene is both humorous and entirely nerve-wracking, as the longer he stays at the scene of the crime the more likely he’ll be caught. This kind of morbidly dark humor is sprinkled throughout the plot and is usually intertwined with the most tense moments, breaking up the otherwise gloomy story with an occasional laugh.

There are two potentially controversial aspects of this fill, aside from the fact that it’s about a serial killer. First, the film is built upon several instances of brutal violence towards women. It can be triggering for people, and many audience members will likely leave the film thinking von Trier is a woman-hating monster, just like Jack. While that may or may not be true, the violence towards women also feels authentic to the plot. Serial killers tend to commit unspeakable acts, and they tend to carry out those acts on one sex more than the other; just look at the Green River Killer and Ted Bundy. It adds an authenticity to the film, but it will undoubtedly still make some people despise it. The other controversial or polarizing aspect of the film is the climax. I won’t go into too much detail to avoid spoilers, but the climax takes quite a turn from the rest of the film. It moves towards a more fantastical, less realistic style that viewers will either love or hate.

The House That Jack Built is packed full of stellar performances from the entire cast. What really brings the film to an elevated state is the portrayal of the titular Jack by Matt Dillon (Wild Things, Crash). Jack is calm and collected when he isn’t experiencing one of his obsessive compulsive cleaning fits, yet he is absolutely disturbed at the same time. Dillon is entirely believable as this deranged serial killer. His performance is especially chilling when he goes from his usual stoic state to abruptly enraged and frightening when things don’t go quite the way he had planned (which happens much more than he would probably like). Other memorable performances come from the unfortunate women playing his victims including Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Men in Black, Funny Games), Sofie Gråbøl (The Killing, Flickering Lights), and Riley Keough (It Comes at Night, Mad Max: Fury Road).

One aspect of the film that adds beauty and gore to the experience is the practical effects. The effects start out relatively small, though still displaying a high level of brutality. It lends itself to the authentic feel of the murders. However, as Jack’s kills becomes more elaborate and more disturbed, so do the effects. The gore becomes more and more maniacal leading up to the shocking final act. From here the practical effects take on a strange and surreal tone, but they are still quite unsettling to look at.  The gore, the plot, and even Jack himself become more and more bizarre right up until the end.

The House That Jack Built is all at once a stunning and unhinged character study of a serial killer. The plot snowballs from a relatively simple tale into something much different by the time we see Jack’s fate. The practical effects are used in a way that moves the audience through this journey from raw and real to fantastical and absurd. Dillon’s performance is one of his strongest yet as he brings Jack to life. This film will no doubt polarize audiences for a number of reasons, including the violence towards women and the strange turn the film takes at the end. I’m even unsure of how I truly feel about the film, despite being able to appreciate its artistic attributes. Whichever side you will land on, the film is definitely worth watching at least once.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10