Along with basically needing to settle on one title, House of Horrors: The Gates of Hell has a great basic premise that is marred by too many irrelevant side stories that water down some pretty damn good scares.
Basic story: a haunted house attraction is cursed by an evil demonic force that brings its freaky killer props to life. There are some fantastic slasher sequences here that are over-the-top gory and make you jump out of your skin. There’s also some deliciously tasteless horror humor, both during the kills and in a segment in which hopeful haunters audition, including this fabulous gay goth….
Plus, the atmosphere in the horror house is uber creepy, and the props are top notch terrifying. I wish real haunted house attractions were this authentic. There’s also a seeming montage to Evil Dead in the way the demonic presence is presented from the camera POV. Very cool.
However, the movie doesn’t stick with that simple formula. There’s a psychic chick on the crew who suddenly ends up at a cabin in the woods talking to a gnarly demon witch. After several scenes involving some priest-turned-author out doing a book tour, two of the horror house guys go to talk to him at one of his signings. There are even confusing hints that maybe the people running the haunted attraction are somehow involved in all the chaos, but it never pans out clearly, leaving us with a bunch of convoluted exposition. On top of that, there are several totally unnecessary hellish fire scenes using horrible CGI. These terrible effects negate the love put into all the amazing props in the house of horrors.
There ends up being some vague suggestion that a piece of furniture in the house of horrors is linked to the curse. And right there is the story that could have been. The antique piece is delivered to the house and the delivery man or men become victims in an intro kill.
Props begin coming to life and members of the crew are offed by the very horrors they created. A mysterious character shows up at the house of horrors, spouting about a curse and knowing how to stop it, because it turns out the piece of furniture is a key passed from haunted attraction to haunted attraction to open the gates of hell for just one night. Hell, if they wanted to keep that creepy witch from the woods, the psychic could have just had her trance-like confrontation with the witch in one of the rooms in the house instead of randomly roaming the woods and admitting that she had no idea how she got there. What I’m saying is that everything should have just been contained to the dang house of horrors because it was so awesome!
If only House of Horrors: The Gates of Hell had been that focused, it would be an indie winner. But despite its flaws, it’s still worth a watch at your Halloween party. Oh, and one last thing….
This guy should have gotten naked. Don’t worry. I’d figure out a way to write it into the script so it would be integral to the plot.