Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Scarehouse Hosts a Night of Torture and Revenge: A Movie Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by D Films.

Director: Gavin Michael Booth.

Writers: Gavin Michael Booth and Sarah Booth.

Cast: Sarah Booth, Kimberly-Sue Murray and Katherine Barrell.

The Scarehouse is a Canadian film from director and writer Gavin Michael Booth (To Hell, with Love). To be released in 2015, The Scarehouse involves a group of sorority sisters and a night of hazing gone very wrong. But, when does hazing ever go right? Elaina (Kimberly-Sue Murray) and Corey (Sarah Booth) are the new recruits and their task involves a lot of drinking and drugging. Their plan goes a little too far. Jail time serves to stir up their feelings of resentment, between the sorority sisters. A tale of revenge and torture, The Scarehouse offers a lot of horror during its female focused runtime.

The film begins simply enough. A group of girls get dressed up for a night on the town. But, they consume a little too much vodka and poor decisions are later made. A hazing plan targets a shallow male character, with Corey and Elaina acting out the sister's plan. A tragedy occurs. Flashforward a couple of years, Elaina and Corey feel they have been sold out by their former sisters, after serving time behind bars, understandably so. They hatch an elaborate plan of their own, which leaves few bloodless. Torture is the theme of the day, with their former friends the target.

The Scarehouse offers several scenes of torture. This film is not for the faint-hearted. Two antagonists use all sorts of elaborate traps to ensnare their quarry. A haunted house is just a ruse, to hide the horrors that lie within. Soon, young women are invited in, tied to boards, or strung up by wire. Lots of dialogue softens these scenes while revealing more of the film's central story. But, many of the characters fare more and more poorly in more and more cruel setups. It would be wise to pick one side in this tale as the other side is soon reduced to a bloody pulp.

The use of so much torture and violence squarely puts the film in the horror genre. Other genres are not mixed together here. Many of the torture scenes create the horror, with the use of gory makeup effects. As well, lighting and settings also help create a horrifying tone. A haunted house acts as the film's central setting. Here, trapdoors and secret walls provide lots of avenues to surprise several unwitting guests. This setting is also lit with black lights, or other dark lighting. Events can be seen clearly. Yet, the film's tone is often creepy and sometimes tense, especially when the sisters confront each other. Indie horror fans will find this film entertaining.

It is unusual to see a horror film focused entirely on female characters. Their is a lot of kitty-cattery (character manipulation, verbal jarring), especially when minor male characters are present. Male characters are relegated to a couple of minor, stereotypical roles. They serve as a focus for hostility and not much else. However, much of the direct conflict comes from the sorority sisters. Much of that conflict comes from the dialogue as the female characters try to humiliate the others with the outing of their sexual promiscuity or lack thereof. The denigration of some of the female characters focuses on beauty, while looking slightly less closely at the behaviours. It would have been more interesting to have seen a couple of more stronger male characters here, or a closer look at the characters poor, past behaviour.

Still, The Scarehouse is a truly horrifying tale. Few characters make it late into the film. Instead, the characters are subjected to a few Saw-like scenarios, involving fights to the death or tasks of endurance. Fans of horror will be disturbed by all of the mayhem. And, film fans can seek this title out, when it releases on Video-on-demand in early 2015. The Scarehouse is a well produced title, which offers many of scenes of dark despair, but motivations could have been developed a little more fully.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10.

Two clips for the film are hosted here:

The Scarehouse Movie Clips on 28DLA

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