Directed by The Butcher Brothers
The first time I heard of The Hamiltons I was intrigued, mainly because so little information was out there about it. All I knew was it’s about a family living in suburbia that does horrible things to other people, keeping them in their basement.
The truth of the matter is that The Hamiltons, while having a foot firmly in the horror door, has a lot more elements of melodrama than anything else offered up by this past weekend’s After Dark HorrorFest. Whether or not that’s something that’ll bug you really depends on your tolerance for tortured characters with all manner of moral dilemmas, but ultimately The Hamiltons is still a damn solid film.
Somewhere in San Francisco a group of four siblings are dealing with the loss of their parents by trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy despite their insatiable lust for blood. Wendell (McKellheer) is the violent one. Not only does he have rage issues to spare, he’s also got an uncomfortably close relationship with his twin sister, Darlene (Firgens). He’s the one out picking up new girls, seducing them, and bringing them back to the house, where he and Darlene like to toy with them or hunt them down for fun. Ultimately the victims are kept chained in the basement so a fresh supply of the warm red stuff will always be on hand.
David (Child) is the oldest so feels it’s his duty to keep the family together despite their lack of parents. You can tell they were a very close family before their folks died, and all David wants is for them to be that way again. Of course Wendell’s methods are questionable as he takes too many risks, forcing them to move from town to town left and right, and David is less that approving. I think Child has the most interesting character of the whole group, an incredibly suppressed lame duck parental figure who’s full of a boiling rage just under the surface of his normal veneer. Throughout the length of the film he looks on the verge of snapping.
But the heart of The Hamiltons is Francis (Knauf), the angsty teen who’s getting into that really annoying phase of his life in which he wants nothing to do with his family, wishing to keep as far away from what they do as he can. Some who have seen it have cried “emo kid,” a summation that, while not entirely accurate, does seem appropriate when discussing Francis. We pretty much stick with him for the length of the film as he attempts to come to terms with what he is and what his family has to do to survive. As much as he may want to help the pretty young thing hanging in his basement, be it for reasons of heroics or because he’s never been with a woman or just because he feels it’s the right thing to do, he has some serious choices to make when he decides what he’s going to do with her in the end.
Oh, and we can’t forget about Lenny, the youngest sibling who is kept in a box in the basement, tearing apart anything that comes anywhere near it. He’s not a very nice creature, and the filmmakers chose to keep him hidden away till the very end. His reveal might be a bit of a letdown depending on your expectations, but by then the truth of what The Hamiltons are has been revealed, and you just might be fuming about it like I was when it happened, so that you don’t notice. I won’t go too much more into it as The Hamiltons works better when you can make the emotional journey with Francis; I just hope you take it better than I did.
Despite that setback, The Hamiltons was definitely one of the more interesting films of the festival; some have even called it their favorite, though I won’t go that far. The Butcher Brothers really wanted to make something different that was an amalgamation of genres and have pulled it off admirably with The Hamiltons, mixing the plight of trying to fit in in American suburbia with the rather unique drama that’s involved with keeping live women chained in your basement Certainly not an easy task at all.
The biggest complaint outside of the family’s true nature was the twins, Wendell and Darlene. Though they’re supposed to represent the “bad element” in the family, from their abuse of Francis to their incestuous relationship, both characters came off as more than a little trite. Wendell played up the “crazy guy” act in almost every scene so you never really get to see a side of him that makes you care about him, and Darlene is just an uber bitch from start to finish. That’s problematic when your principal cast only consists of four people; if two are almost entirely unlikable, you’re not left with much to work with. Personally I think Chilld’s turn as David is what holds the whole show together because, while not as polished as I’m sure some would like, you could tell he was very serious about the role and committed himself to this whole world of bizarre dichotomies.
The Hamiltons is a tough movie to categorize. Though horror is its most obvious place setting, the other elements that are mixed in help to give it a unique voice. Ultimately it’s a question of whether you want some more subtly in your horror as well because The Hamiltons is virtually gore free aside from a few key shots. Just keep an open mind when/if you decide to check it out and hope the revelation doesn’t piss you off the way it did me because outside of that you’ll likely have a good time with it.
3 1/2 out of 5
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