In the realm of exploitation cinema, there aren’t a great number of genres that I don’t delve into from time to time. I think all film geeks with an appreciation for cult cinema have become well versed since the internet went mainstream and introduced so many of us to the works of Jesus Franco, Joe D’Amato and whatever obscure foreign Italian horror filmmaker you may care to list. House of Sin is not a title that lives and breathes via its influences, but there’s a certain amount of attention paid to general sexploitation film history throughout its short running time. Although it is a film with its own faults, one can easily see where director Phillip Gardner was coming from with the film. I most certainly appreciate its attempts at being more than just a surface level skin-flick, but House of Sin attempts being all-things-at-once and ultimately it ends up being a project where the parts work far better than the whole of the film.
Paul (Nik Spencer) is a young man who has become slightly disenfranchised with his own life. He questions the logistics of the "self" and wonders just where his place in life truly is. While wandering through life in search of these answers, Paul finds himself living with The Mage. The Mage is the cult-like leader of his own miniature sexual revolution that revolves around being entirely open with ones own sexual urges and this of course leads to a great deal of fetishism and S&M play. As Paul begins to watch how The Mage treats the random women who stop in to be abused, he begins to wonder if these people have actually found freedom or if they are simply replacing one prison (regular mundane society) with that of another (sexual infatuations and fetishism). Will The Mage continue to rule over these lost souls or will Paul eventually step up and encourage them to find their own version of happiness? If you’re going to try and picture House of Sin within your mind, my best advice for you would be to listen to some form of bluesy riff-heavy music and then watch several girls dressed in leather attire rub upon one another, kissing and then stripping. If that sounds enticing, and chances are if you’re a heterosexual male it probably does, then perhaps House of Sin will hold a great deal of interest for you as a viewer. The erotic nature of the film can be a mixed bag for the most part. Although there is no short supply of sexuality in the film, the success levels on delivery-techniques is highly debatable. There are a multitude of scenes that essentially revolve around several girls stripping and dancing for the camera, using the guise that within the context of the story they are stripping for The Mage, but how erotic you will find these scenes will be wholly dependent on the viewer. Does a girl simply stripping for the camera and rubbing her assets do it for you, or do you prefer some semblance of eroticism in your sex films? Sometimes less can prove to be more when it comes to sexploitation, and having a girl simply strip down to her thong might seem like a sexy idea but it removes a lot of the anticipation when it comes to wrapping the audience up in a tither.
My biggest gripe when watching, and the only performance I felt really caused a detriment to the film, came on behalf of The Mage. While I generally enjoyed the character of Paul and Nick Spencer’s performance, I felt that John Symes as The Mage was horribly miscast. This is a role that would seem to call for an enigmatic, personable and extremely charismatic performance. While I thought Symes did some interesting things, his sullen and withdrawn personality doesn’t lend itself to being seen as a cult-leader. There is even a sequence during the film where this character greets a local Christian leader at his door, but reduces the religious lady to a voyeuristic lesbian after merely a few trite words. The sequence solidifies the character as a Jim Jones-esque leader in his ability to quickly take control of his followers, but it is hard to actually take the scene seriously because The Mage simply comes off as a snooty and pompous blowhard who espouses cheap pseudo-intellectual psychobabble. Sure, many cult leaders did just that, but the conviction and earnest charisma is what we find to be missing.
Although there are aspects of the movie that utterly drove me up the wall, for the most part House of Sin does remain an interesting cult oddity with potential to draw some fans. Perhaps in the fetish circuit? There’s certainly an audience for any film that features beautiful women stripping nude. However, it is a film I wouldn’t recommend without explicit reservations. A rock & roll sex odyssey, House of Sin generally falls flat but it isn’t for a lack of trying. You can read more about the project yourself via the official Chemical Burn website located at: