Saturday, June 14, 2014

House of Dust Recycles a Few Uninspired Ideas: A Movie Review

*full disclosure: a DVD copy of this title was won in a contest from the horror website

Director: A.D. Calvo.

Writers: Alyssa Alexander, A.D. Calvo, Nevada Grey and Scott Kittredge.

Cast: Inbar Lavi, Steven Grayhm, Eddie Hassell, Holland Roden and John Lee Ames.

This viewer has seen a number of Argentinian director A.D. Calvo's works. From The Other Side of the Tracks (2008) to the Melancholy Fantastic (2011), this director has had an up and down career, in this critic's opinion. His latest is a haunted asylum thriller, titled House of Dust. Taking a page from Brad Anderson's Session 9 (2001) or the more recent Psych: 9 (2009), several characters find murder in a mental institution. However, this incarnation is nowhere near as interesting as the other two titles mentioned. Instead, House of Dust is a trivial affair and the film is full of filler, in both the story and shooting department. There is little reason to see this horror outing.

Full of unoriginal ideas, House of Dust begins with a trio of mentally challenged college students. Gabby (Holland Roden), Dylan (Eddie Hassell) and Kolt (Steven Grayhm) welcome a newcomer into their group, the much troubled Emma (Inbar Levi). Emma is struggling with schizophrenia and she must take medications to keep the voices at bay. Together, this foursome sets out to explore a nearby abandoned mental institution. Three of the more idiotic characters knock over some cremains and they become possessed by spirits from this locale. Emma escapes possession, but she cannot escape the voices in her head. The film then sets out on an uneventful path, which leads to a grueling and mundane viewing experience.

There are so many wasteful scenes in House of Dust. One begins to feel as if the filmmakers do not value the viewer's time, with the inclusion of so much fluff. For instance, there is a late scene of Emma entering the psychiatric hospital's basement. She has a flashlight in hand and the setting is very dark. So, Emma shuffles along very slowly to an offscreen shelf. This scene lasts for a couple of minutes. Why does nothing happen in this scene? And, why is the scene so long? This viewer does not have any answers to these questions, but this reviewer does know that this scene was very uninteresting to watch. In an earlier scene, Emma is captured by a portly security guard on the grounds of the hospital. She is picked up and then whisked away by the guard, only for Emma to return several scenes later. What was the point of this scene? And, how did this scene move the plot forward? Again, there are no good answers, nor rhyme or reason for the inclusion of this very wasteful scene. The viewer's time is also wasted by the inclusion of so many purposeless shots.

A critique of this film could be summed up by a couple of phrases: is this film almost over? and please be over soon! These are the two primary thoughts this film fan had, while watching House of Dust. Thankfully, the film has a relatively short runtime of ninety minutes. In the meantime, there are few thrills to be found in this horror outing. Actions scenes are minimized to one or two scenes in the climax. Still, shots of Emma running from locale to locale slow these action scenes down, considerably. Pacing is an issue and so is the film's tone. The tone is one of tedium or boredom. Character's talking to dogs or bickering in a psychology class do not create any sense of excitement, nor intrigue. Instead, one might look at the film's runtime as more of a countdown and it is not a countdown to terror; House of Dust is a very subdued affair.

A.D. Calvo continues to struggle with finding a voice in the horror genre. Melancholy Fantastic was another tepid outing. Calvo seems to lack the ability to include compelling action, interaction and conflict, in some of his outings. House of Dust continues an uninspiring run and this horror film fan hopes that Calvo's upcoming feature, The Midnight Game, is much better. Because, House of Dust is easily forgotten and best avoided by fans of the genre.

Overall: 5.75 out of 10 (a horror film must- be - at the very least - exciting!, acting is so-so, characters are mostly cliches, very bland).

A trailer for the film is availble here:

The House of Dust Trailer on 28DLA

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