Friday 8 January 2010

Hell House: Book of Samiel

If you've ever taken a gander at the movies I've reviewed or listened to TheAvod, you'll know that I have a pretty high tolerance for crap. Ominous words to begin this review, but I want you to understand something about me: I will sit through almost anything and will work very hard to find something positive to say. I'm not always successful in this endeavor, but at least I try.

I had no idea what to expect when I turned on Hell House: Book of Samiel, but I was not ready for amateur hour at the drive-in. Now, I have no problem with low-budget, shot on video, indie horror but it's got to be something special to really hold my attention.

Paul and Dani, Steve and Sasha spend the night in a haunted house despite being warned away by a psychic. As the night wears on, the evil that pervades the house attacks everyone but Paul. Paul is spared because he's needed to complete a dark ritual in order to bring about hell on earth.

Indeed, a lot more happens, but this is the heart of story. I could talk about the man who may or may not be possessed by a demon who attacks everyone who comes to the house, I might mention the backstory about the numerous people who were killed in the house, or I could say something about either the portal to hell in the basement or the actual book of Samiel.

But I won't, except to say that Hell House: Book of Samiel suffers not from an abundance of story, but a lack of storytelling. The film is so poorly written that it's taxing for the viewer to watch and understand. Moreover, the film's title would suggest the plot revolves around an evil book, but the book itself is never mentioned and only seen twice. I suspect this last offense is due more to marketing than the filmmakers' shortcomings--the title as it appears in the film is simply Hell House. But still, the book is important to the house's motivations but it doesn't get the screen time.

As is the case with a lot of amateur film, the movie lacks a certain technological sophistication and polish. Poor sound mixing makes the whole thing hard to hear, which only adds to the confusion. There is some good camera work, however, some choice editing particularly at the beginning, and the make-up isn't bad. But these are drops in the bucket.

I seriously considered stopping Hell House, but I didn't, if only to write this somewhat self-congratulatory review (go me!). The movie starts off well enough, but quickly succumbs to story problems. Characters are inconsistent in both their behaviours and presence in the movie--people change on a dime, and come and go from the story, almost as if the writers lost track of what was going on. I'm willing to forgive a lot, but once Hell House's plot started spiraling out of control, I lost interest.

I can't say with any certainty that I succeeded this time in finding a kernel of positivity in Hell House: Book of Samiel. But I did make to the end, so that's something, right? Right?!?

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