What do you do when your father inherits a house from relatives he didn’t even know he had, and in the process of fixing it up, finds a book under the floorboards that looks very much like a book of the dead, which he then starts reading obsessively, whch leads to him hearing voices, which leads to him becoming more and more obsessed with the house, which leads to abusive behavior toward his wife, which leads to him going berzerk one night in the local bar and killing numerous people in a very brutal and psychotic way before he’s finally brought down, leaving his wife alone with a son and pregnant with a second child, and no husband to support them?
How’s that for a run on sentence? Just sayin’…
Anyway, that’s the back story. The story actually starts out in the present day, with a sheriff getting called to the old house because a couple of punk kids are daring their friend to go up to the house to look inside. This sheriff was there when all the bad stuff went down during the main body of the story.
Jacob’s mother Edith (Krystn Caldwell) had re-married someone who abused her both mentally and physically. He was a drunk and a loser…and the sheriff deputy’s brother, even though they couldn’t have been more different. The sheriff’s deputy was basically a decent guy, and his brother was just scum. Anyway, he was massively drunk one night and being super abusive to his wife Edith, when Jacob (Dylan Horne) stepped in and stopped him. By stopping him, I really mean damn near choking him to death against a wall. Jacob grew up big, bald and basically autistic, but also insanely strong. The only one who can control him is his little sister Sissy (Grace Powell), who he loves dearly. Jacob never speaks, but he has a penchant for killing things and is constantly hearing voices telling him to do bad things, like his father had heard. Sissy hears the voices too, but she tells her brother not to listen to them, that they lie, and she does her best to keep him under control though and hide the fact that he does these things.
After their step father gets out of jail, gets all liquored up again and manages to get back home, he goes chasing after Sissy, causing her to fall and bash her head on a rock, which killed her. He then pulled off his belt and beat her body with it. Later, when Jacob found her, he went back and found the guy in the house, and didn’t just kill him, but painted the walls with him…literally. Now there’s a big manhunt for Jacob, but Jacob’s not going to go along quietly, and as the body count rises, you’ll start to wonder if anyone will be able to stop him.
Ok, that’s enough description. There’s more little side stuff I could get into, but you get the idea. Now for the review.
This film with leave you with two things when it’s over. First, Grace Powell is a phenomenal young actress who far and away put in the best performance in this film, and second, you’ll totally have a whole new understanding, and perhaps even an appreciation of domestic violence. GASP! How could he say that??? Believe me, if you watch this film, there’s going to be at least one point, if not more, where you’re going to want to reach through the screen and slap their mother yourself. I know I’m going to get hated on for saying that, but my god….
I don’t even know where to begin with this. I guess I’ll start out by saying that despite all the negative comments about the film that I’m about to make, it’s really not that bad, and worth seeing at least once just to see it. That said…
I think that rather than getting into an in depth discussion about the negatives of this film, I’m just going to put it into a list format.
1. The whole aspect of the evil book and the voices and all of that is never really explored or explained. There’s an "old" woman who also has a book like that who seems to know what’s going on, but like I said, it’s never explained.
2. I put "old" in quotation marks because both in the present day scenes where the sheriff is made up to look old, and in the old lady who was made up to look old in the stuff from thirty years ago, they’re obviously being played by younger people in age make-up. Unfortunately, the age make-up looks totally fake. I know of one make-up artist who’s done lots of age make-up demos that look miles better than what’s in this film. That, plus if you’re going to have the old lady look old, even in the scenes from thirty years earlier, then just get an old lady to play the part. Why use a younger girl to play it and spend all that time and effort putting her in age make-up?
3. Jacob was boring when he wasn’t killing people. He never speaks, walks around looking more like a bald, overweight, autistic guy with depression than a killer.
4. There was some brutal killing in this film, but one thing just went over the top into the physically impossible. When he kills one of the sheriffs, he stabs him with a machete and then ganks it up hard and splits the guy in two from the stomach up. That’s not physically possible for a human, I don’t care how strong you are. It would have to cut through all the bones and everything. About all it would really accomplish is to dig the blade up into the guy’s ribs and lift him off the ground. It was a cool visual, but totally unrealistic.
5. The mother being all defensive of her abusive husband was just irritating beyond belief.
There were a few other things, but I’m not going to get too into it, as the other stuff wasn’t as detrimental to the story or the film in general.
Now, again I want to say that the negative stuff I just mentioned doesn’t make this a bad film. The film itself is actually pretty decent for the most part. As I said it has some great violence and gore, and the acting overall, while not perfect, was pretty decent as well, with the one exception being Grace Powell, who just stole the show and nailed it.
The settings in the film were also really just perfect for the story. The creepy old house, the local bar, the diner, the run down home where Jacob and his sister lived with their mother and step-father, etc…. There’s even a graveyard where Jacob carries the body of his dead sister and so he can lay her on their father’s grave. There was obviously thought put into the locations and the set design, as they really not only complimented the story, but really sort of set the feel for the whole thing.
The visual and make-up effects were also quite well done. There’s lots of blood and gore to be found here, and for the most part, it all looks great. Even the sheriff getting split up the middle looks visually cool, even if it is physically impossible.
For special features, this release includes a director and cinematographer’s commentary track, an actors’ commentary track, deleted and extended scenes, storyboard to screen, a behind the scenes featurette, an interview from the Montreal Comic Con, a screen test featurette and trailers.
So what we end up with is a pretty decent horror film with some decent acting, decent gore, a decent story, albeit one that’s lacking in some essential details, and is just in general, not a bad flick. Could it be better? Sure, but the stuff that’s good about this film outweighs any other drawbacks it may have, and it’s definitely worth checking out.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out it’s page on the Kino Lorber website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.