From a House on Willow Street (2016)

From a House on Willow Street

FromaHouseonWillowStreet 158x300 - From a House on Willow Street (2016)Starring Carlyn Burchell, Zino Ventura, Sharni Vinson, Steven John Ward

Directed by Alastair Orr

Screened at FrightFest 2016


Fuckin’ rich people, man. Always wreckin’ other people’s lives. That’s why the core gang in Alastair Orr’s From a House on Willow Street plan to kidnap and ransom the daughter of a super-wealthy couple and make enough money to disappear for the rest of their days.

Leading the charge is the whip-smart Hazel (the impressive Sharni Vinson), a kick-ass chick who’s the through-and-through criminal professional we’ve come to expect from heist gangs – smooth-talking and calm, but not afraid to smack you upside the mouth if you get out of line or refuse to comply.

Sadly, things this night are not to go well for the gang. With the abduction going relatively smoothly, they soon find it impossible to make contact with the parents of the kidnapped Katherine (Burchell). This prompts another visit to her home by two members of the gang… where a gruesome discovery is found.

Meanwhile, the remaining criminals back at the secluded industrial facility they’re holed up in begin to suffer horrific hallucinations centred on their deepest fears and regrets.

Yep, you’ve guessed it… there’s a demon in the house – and it’s inside poor Katherine.

This “people tormented by demon-inspired visions of their pasts” approach is nothing new, but From a House on Willow Street does manage to inject some new life into the premise. The setup is intriguing and nicely paced, dedicating enough time to the central gang to make even the most apparently brutish of them a well-rounded character with enough to sympathise with.

Demon-infested Katherine, on the other hand, never feels like more than an antagonist. There’s a brief attempt to humanise her – to promote the notion that perhaps she’s capable of being saved – but ultimately the film abandons such notions in favour of shotgun blasts and people hanging in mid-air.

The approach isn’t a million miles away from something like 2007’s Whisper, for example, but Orr’s midnight movie angle soon pops the cork with a cavalcade of grisly deaths, icky demon tentacles emerging from throats and even a cadre of possessed, zombie-like monsters.

Yet, that’s also one of the biggest problems with From a House on Willow Street – when the schlock takes over, the brain flies out, circles back around, re-enters and flies right back out again… just to reclaim any pieces of grey matter that may have remained. Orr appears to be throwing just about everything he can at the wall and merely praying that something sticks. Hell, there’s even an impending apocalypse and ghostly elements to the story. Why not, eh?!

Problem is: With attempted scare after attempted scare being chucked at the audience in lieu of greater substance, the film treads water for much of the build-up. Interest wanes, and with little but cheap scares to be had in between the popping in and out of the hideout, it soon becomes an exercise in tedium. Some much-needed life is injected via the late-game craziness, but with no brain and little remaining will, it simply isn’t enough to keep it afloat.

From a House on Willow Street is obviously intended to be a claustrophobic horror that opens up into action, but it never really feels particularly cramped or oppressive. The complex that the majority of it takes place in is relatively airy with little spatial sense given to the audience in terms of layout. When the scares are confined to Katherine’s house, the film fares much better in terms of atmosphere, those scenes providing the best injections of actual fear and dread to be found throughout.

A good setup, a majority of solid characters (and cast) and some balls-out demon action in the final stretch manages to ensure From a House on Willow Street provides enough entertainment to see you through to the end… but only just.

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User Rating 3.44 (9 votes)
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