I would do anything for love……but I won’t do that.
Directed by: Erik L. Wilson
Stars: Aimee Bello, Michael Shepherd Jordan, Janet Gawrys, Brad Egger
The short film format can be tricky to pull off. More so than with feature-length films, there must be an efficiency and an economy to the storytelling and the filmmaking. You have a limited amount of time to establish the characters and tell the story. Additionally, in the case of the horror short, you must also allot time to build suspense and pay off with scares. It is a difficult task for anyone to accomplish. Here at Truly Disturbing Horror, we have been given the unique opportunity to review a short horror film, HOUSE CALL, from Chicago filmmaker, Erik L. Wilson. Can it overcome the limitations of the form and deliver a short burst of horror?
HOUSE CALL tells the tale of a young woman, Janice, who kills her abusive husband in order to be with her lover, Steve, whom she has been seeing on the side. The dead man’s mother, a woman with occultish leanings, utilizes supernatural means to exact vengeance upon the new couple on their one-year anniversary.
Unfortunately, the story is not told very well. The exposition and character work is almost exclusively handled via forced and awkward dialogue, which in turn is mostly delivered off-screen. Thus, the most pertinent information is poorly communicated and is never connected directly to the characters. We are not given the chance to register the emotions on their faces, and instead must rely on their facial expressions outside of these crucial moments. For example, we are told through dialogue that Janice is a battered woman. However, we never witness the abuse nor are we witness to her emotions concerning the abuse. Based purely on the scenes we witness with her, Janice comes off as a conniving, scheming murderer. This disconnects the character from the audience, and makes it difficult to be afraid for her when she is being terrorized later.
This isn’t the only time that the dialogue and the visuals are at odds with one another. There is a scene where Janice exits her home for a quick breath of fresh air outside. As she walks forward, the audience is shown the mother lurking in the background, staring at the girl. When Janice turns her gaze in the mother’s direction, the mother is suddenly gone. Immediately afterwards, and delivered off-screen, Janice says to Steve that this is the third day in a row she’s seen the mother around the house. The images told us one story, then the dialogue told us a story that completely contradicts it. This creates another type of disconnect with the audience. You can’t engage with a story that is out of touch with itself.
Moving on to the production side of things, there are good qualities along with some bad ones. Outside of a few nice shots, the directing doesn’t particularly distinguish itself. The lighting and picture quality is quite good, though, so kudos to the Director of Photography, Mike Bove. The acting overall leaves much to be desired. The best of the group is Janet Gawrys, who is suitably creepy at times as the mother. The special make-up and gore effects by Tony Wash are exceptionally well-done. The music by Aaron Dlugasch also deserves a mention as it is very effective.
When all is said and done, HOUSE CALL simply fails to deliver as a suitable short horror film. It doesn’t provide sympathetic characters for the audience to latch onto, and it muddies the story with inconsistencies which prohibit the audience from surrendering for the ride. There is quality work from several departments, but they cannot save the film from floundering under it’s own inadequacies.
HOUSE CALL is not available to the general public at this time. The filmmakers are currently submitting it to various film festivals. You can follow it’s progress at their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/HouseCallmovie . In it’s current state, the film cannot be recommended by this critic.
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