SHUDDER AND SHRIEK: bad things happening at isolated houses

Chipping away at my current “Shudder originals” list, so here are my thoughts on four films set in houses and cabins.

REVENGE (2017)

I finally got around to watching this one, and I did only because it caught my attention several years ago when it was being promoted with pix of the hot lead guy naked and covered in blood. No, it’s not Zack Ward.

Personally, rape/revenge flicks aren’t my thing, and this is just an update of the I Spit On Your Grave concept…which has already been updated in an unneeded franchise of films in recent years.

A married hottie is banging a babe in his isolated home in a desert that apparently can only be reached by helicopter. His two sleazy buddies show up to up hunt, although I don’t know what they’re hunting in a fricking lifeless desert.

Following some metaphorical imagery covering toxic masculinity and female temptation, the babe sexy dances with them, and then gets raped. Sigh. Where’s Jodie Foster when you need her?

Facing the conundrum of what to do with her, the guys make things simple; they push her off a cliff and go hunting.

This is where the movie falls apart for me. The way in which they think she should have died…should have killed her. But no, she’s still alive and manages to escape…in a way that should have killed her. And yet she’s strong enough to start kicking man ass.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but with the film running 110 minutes long and there being only three guys, this shit starts to drag. Just when I was wondering how the filmmakers didn’t see how boring it was getting with nothing happening, they seemed to realize It, so they threw in an obligatory, super long horror nightmare sequence of a dream within a dream within a dream to keep us interested. And a hot guy shower scene…

At least the last 20 minutes or so are filled with chase scenes, violence, gore, and the naked guy.

INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND (2018)

The director of the original Martyrs manages to bring us another disturbing film about two bonded young women, this time sisters.

They move with their mom into a house they inherited and are quite quickly victims of a violent and terrifying home invasion by a big bald goon and a creepy looking woman.

Years later, one sister, played by Crystal Reed of Teen Wolf, is a lover of a Lovecraft and a horror author herself. She returns home to help her mother deal with the sister, who has essentially lost her mind and is convinced the goon and woman are still after her.

And then, Crystal begins to experience weird shit, too.

The film breaks into a horrific game of cat and mouse as the girls are once again terrorized by the baddies, who dress them up like dolls to add to their collection of freaky as fuck dolls.

But what’s most disturbing about the film is its dark, brutal, emotional portrayal of PTSD and the different ways in which people cope with the same experience. The number of gut-wrenching screams and sobs of the two sisters went right through me.

As for the horror, the film is like a much grittier version of standard films in which the characters are terrorized and tortured by weirdos, but with a much more in depth (and more realistic) focus on the impact it has on the characters.

The only other thing I’ll mention, and don’t read on if you haven’t seen it yet, ***SPOILERS*** is that the woman, whose face is mostly obscured through the film, is played by a man, which I detected right away. For the entire film I wasn’t sure if we were meant to figure that out, but his wig comes off at the very last second in the film to let us know it was a man. However it is never addressed. We don’t get inside the heads of the baddies, so there isn’t a Dressed to Kill or Norman Bates explanation for it. Was he a gay drag queen? A heterosexual transvestite? Trans? We’ll never know, and we’ll never know if his gender identity is what pushed him to be a psycho.

LAKE OF DEATH (2019)

This Norwegian film is a whodunit (or whatdunit) at a cabin by the lake. Thing is, I can’t imagine anyone not guessing exactly what’s going on right from the start.

A young woman’s brother disappeared in the woods and she blames herself for his death.

Sooooo…she goes back to the cabin with her friends to get closure.

There’s lots of talk about myths and legends, one guy prank scaring everyone, cheap faux scares, weird things happening, like the sister sleepwalking and having visions of her friends drooling black goo from their mouths.

The group also makes plenty of references to horror movies, like when they find a trap door to a basement in which there is a mysterious book. See, it’s okay to rip-off Evil Dead if a character says “it’s just like Evil Dead!”

Things finally pick up a little in the final act, but don’t expect a body count. This is mostly a film about a girl being haunted by the ghost of her grief.

THE BEACH HOUSE (2020)

This one was getting so much pre-hype I just knew it was going to totally disappoint me. It’s one of those films that drags even when something is finally happening. For me, the attempt at building a slow burning sense of dread just didn’t work at all. I wasn’t scared or on edge.

I was thrilled that it stars Liana Liberato of the Hulu show Light as a Feather, who is teamed with a James Le Gros’s very pretty son.

They’re at a beach house alone when an older couple shows up thinking they have the house for the weekend. So the four decide to just hang together.

It all seems fishy, but…nothing ever comes of that.

Then comes the big red flag for me. They eat edibles and get high, which told me that in the end we’re not going to know if anything that transpires is real and it’s not going to make sense because they’re all tripping

Anyway, after 52 minutes of talking, things finally start happening down by the water.

It almost seems like an Invasion of the Body Snatchers thing, only coming from the water, but we’ll never know because we don’t know if any of it really happened.

There are some cool, gross special effects and the second half of the film at least delivers some entertaining horror moments, but even the continuous chase scene in the final act didn’t have me biting my nails.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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