The Scarehouse (2014/15)

Somewhere lost in one of Dantes levels of hell, there is an alternate script to Mean Girls. One where instead of The Plastics getting their comeuppance in the court of high school public opinion, they are hunted down, tortured, and killed, by all those they had wronged. While that may be a darker and far more sinister a direction than the Lindsey Lohan high school comedy, it makes no less of a compelling film. It's in that specious territory the new film The Scarehouse firmly plants it's revenge film flag - and all you Plastics better look out. This revenge is served in a bold, bloody, stylized, package.

Corey (co-writer Sarah Booth) and Elena (Kimberley-Sue Murray) desperately want to join the sorority they are rushing. However, in true Highlander fashion, "there can be only one." As they lean into their last night as pledges, their would be sisters have one last hazing event for them. When that event goes horribly wrong, resulting in the death of a classmate, Corey and Elenas sisters turn their back on them resulting in lengthy prison sentences for them. Post release, the two wronged, almost sorority sisters seek to extract revenge in the most painful and excruciating ways possible.

Directed/Co-Written/Edited and probably catered by Gavin Michael Booth (lead actress and Co-Writer Sarah Booths husband), The Scarehouse is an amalgam of almost every major trend to hit the horror genre over the last 20 years or so. There is a distinct stylized, "music video" feel to certain parts of the film, reminiscent of post-Scream 90's. Other parts of the film feel like they were cribbed from the notes of films like Saw, Hostel, or any other of the early 2000's torture based cinema. Finally, the flashback sequences in the film are shot on a shaky "found footage" handi-cam like a plethora of popular horror films over the last 5 years.

One might think that melding such seemingly anachronistic genres would spell doom for a low budget, independent film like The Scarehouse. Of course if you thought that, you would be wrong. Booth is able to blend the three distinct feels that the film brings into one cohesive narrative, that while jarring at times (especially early) makes perfect sense. One of the films major strengths is that awhile it toes the line of the different genres, none of the film feels gratuitous or forced. What happens, although shocking and certainly in some parts disturbing, certainly fits the overall feel and narrative of the film.

The other strength of the film is its cast. Booth and Murray are superb as the two scorned women. They carry the film through some it's more clunkier spots and help smooth out some of the films rough edges, of which there are quite a few. The supporting cast, which I had some issues with - but more on that later, was also very good.

I mentioned above how there are some issues with the film. The script, while solid, can be rough at certain points. Some of Corey and Elenas actions are questionable in regards to it's place in the films structure. There are points where it seems like seeds were being laid for Elena to back out of the plan at a certain point. Those plans are seemingly abandoned and reintroduced when it's convenient for the plot. The dialogue is solid but gets caught between sinister and black comedy far too often. There is a comedic element to the film, a rather twisted one, but a comedic element nonetheless. Unfortunately, when the film tries to be funny, it doesn't always work, lading to some cringe worthy punch lines.

The other issue with the film has to do with it's casting. There are certain stereotypes when it comes to casting ensemble films and generally, I oppose anything that's done for simple audience edification. However in this case, I feel it might have benefited the film had they gone a little more through central casting to fill the sorority sister roles for the simple fact that most of the girls look very similar. It can break the tension that the film has worked so hard to build when you are trying to keep track of who is who through two separate timelines.

That being said, The Scarehouse, is a pretty good horror film. It has pock marks, like most films. But the good far outweighs the bad. Stylistically, even though each individual genre we've seen ad nausea, when presented as a whole here, it's great accomplishment. The Scarehouse may not redefine the way you think about horror but there is enough good acting, writing, and gore, to satisfy even the most cynical of horror aficionados. The film hit VOD on January the 13th dial it up and check it out.

*** and a 1/2 stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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