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Black House (DVD)

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Black House DVD review (click for larger imageReviewed by Andrew Kasch

Starring Kang Shin-il, Hwang Jeong-min, Kim Seo-hyeong, Yu Seon

Directed by Shin Tae-ra

Distributed by Genius Products


There’s no place like home … TO DIE!

That’s the actual tagline on the DVD of Black House, which tries to pass this South Korean import off as some sort of blood-soaked killer house movie. Nope. Not at all. What we’re left with is something far more terrifying: The horrors of home insurance.

Jun-oh (Jeong-min Hwang) is a geeky insurance investigator who answers a call to a family’s dilapidated home where he discovers the young son hanged in his room. Immediately following the tragedy, the boy’s insane father begins stalking Jun-oh at all hours, begging for the insurance money. The police barely suspect foul play, even though the man shows several telltale signs of a mentally-unstable person, like leaving dead animals on doorsteps and biting his own finger off in public. Desperate for answers, Jun-oh eventually meets with a university professor which leads to the following conversation:

Black House DVD review (click for larger imageProfessor: “Ever hear of psychopaths?
Jun-oh: “No.

The professor then launches into a detailed explanation about psychos, as if they’re mystical wood-nymphs that no one knows about. Just in case you’re still not sure what an actual psychopath is, don’t worry, there’s another long research montage where our hero dives into several more psych textbooks, one of which boldly states “These people don’t have hearts.” Literally?

At about the hour mark, there’s a twist that turns Black House into a completely different movie. It’s impossible to explain the absurdity without divulging spoilers, so be warned: As it turns out, it’s all the wife’s doing, not her psycho hubby. In fact, she’s had a history of collecting insurance money from her previous dead husbands and at no time did the authorities ever take this into account. What starts out as a painfully slow psychological mystery randomly switches gears to a frenetic slasher film and no cliché is left untouched.

Black House DVD review (click for larger imageThe last twenty minutes – featuring more endings than The Lord of the Rings – involves Jun-oh making every stupid and cowardly decision to ensure that his ass gets repeatedly handed to him by a knife-wielding woman half his size. To be fair, there’s a cool Clive Barker inspired set-piece and some graphic bloody shocks tossed in, but every great moment is followed up with something laughable. There’s also a half-baked plot point involving Jun-oh’s tragic past which appears in the first act and is never again addressed until somewhere around the story’s second twist ending.

Still not sure what a psychopath is? Well, you’ll learn plenty more from the cast and crew on the DVD featurette, The Truth About Psychopaths which is your average fly-on-the-wall making-of documentary. More superfluous is The Secrets of Black House which talks about the production design – an odd choice, given that most of the film takes place in boring office buildings. Over twenty minutes of deleted/extended scenes round out the disc and you’ll thank the makers for cutting each and every frame.

Somewhere around the third ending, I ultimately lost track of what message the filmmakers of Black House were trying to feed us, so I’ll just go with one of Jun-oh’s brilliant observations: ”I never knew insurance could kill people.” Hopefully we’ll get a sequel where the killer turns out to be the lizard from Geico.

Special Features

  • The Truth About Psychopaths
  • The Secrets of Black House
  • Deleted / xxtended scenes

    Film:

    2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    2 1/2 out of 5

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    American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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    Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

    Directed by Colin Bemis


    Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

    The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

    As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

    Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

    Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

    In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

    On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

    In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

    Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

    • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
    3.5

    Summary

    Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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    Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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    We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

    In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

    Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

    If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

    The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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    Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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    Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

    Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


    Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

    17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

    What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

    • Film
    2.0

    Summary

    Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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