With the awards season now in full swing, the chances are we’re going to see a lot of “Hollywood’s most normal woman” (ahem), Jennifer Lawrence, in a slinky dress, strolling down the red carpet. So it’s only right we have a belated look at the Hunger Games star’s foray into scream-queen territory, House At The End Of The Street.
With a name evoking classic and not-so classic video nasties of the eighties, though surprisingly not a remake of any, this 15-rated ‘creepy house where no-one goes’ thriller skimps on the gore but ends up doing something far more interesting with the format. Lawrence plays a high school student who moves to a new town with her newly-divorced mother. Next door is a house where the sole surviving member of a massacred family, a conveniently handsome young loner played by Max Thieriot, lives alone, persecuted by the judgmental locals.
Needless to say, there is more to this this than meets the eye. Terminator 3 director Jonathan Mostow’s intelligent script playfully and skilfully meddles with audience expectations, though sadly, director Mark Tonderai doesn’t quite provide the requisite thrills to push this above the level of ‘interesting, with potential’. Still, if you fancy watching it, you can rent it from (or hiding behind) your own sofa now on online streaming providers.
Offering less of a post-modern, or even modern, spin on familiar themes is the inexplicably Sam Raimi-produced The Possession. Based on a true story (aren’t they all?), this Exorcist-with-a-Rabbi tale of demonic possession offers absolutely nothing new to the sub-genre other than its association with Judaism rather than Catholicism. Watchmen’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan does his best as a dull, stoic father (seriously, the horror genre needs to start writing better roles for parents) dealing with his daughter’s very naughty behaviour, but with nothing to work with, The Possession proves forgettable.
The surprise success in this batch of films, and sadly, least likely to succeed commercially, compared with the Hollywood budgets of the others, is the debut feature from Canadian director Evan Kelly. Shot in snowy Nova Scotia, The Corridor follows a group of five old school friends who gather for a weekend at a log cabin to support their recently-bereaved buddy, Tyler (Stephen Chambers). Tyler has been hospitalized with mental health issues, so it’s down to his friends to help him return to normality. This is, of course, until he discovers a weird, cross-dimensional corridor in the woods, as you do.
Now, just as with any other holiday in the woods, this strange portal starts to play havoc with the minds of the group, who inevitably start taking things out on (and chunks out of) each other, leading to a series of revelations as our mentally-troubled Tyler is the only one able to try and save the day. With the male-hitting-thirties malaise a great premise for mental collapse in an isolated setting, this study of friendship and family deserves a much greater audience than it’s likely to get.
Not likely to suffer from that problem is our last film for February, the Soska sisters’ American Mary. Already a bit of a cult hit with all the ingredients (Ginger Snaps’ Katharine Isabelle, industrial rock soundtrack, lots of people wearing black) for that money-spinning goth-tastic audience, this thriller follows a medical student (the titular Mary) who turns to body modification for revenge after she is sexually assaulted.
Much has been written about the Soskas’ film being a kind of feminist tract; certainly, there is a lot to be said for the commentary on the cosmetic surgery industry and our protagonists’ increasingly brutal methodology. Isabelle, reliably tough as ever, plays a memorable Mary (and a doll-like Tristan Risk as a Betty Boop-like nutcase steals the show), though the film fails in that it doesn’t quite go far enough in its pursuit of savage satire. Body modification is an interesting slant for body horror, though (maybe I’m desensitized here) more gruesome detail would have really hammered the point home.
Still, despite the irritatingly preening “look at me, I’m a goth” stylings and abrupt, unsatisfying ending, American Mary has enough beneath the surface to make it a superior entry to this genre.
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