THE LAST HOUSE (2015)
If this sounds like a strange title, well it’s because it is. The film is actually a 2010 feature originally called Breath of Hate, but as far as I can tell it was never released outside of festival screenings. Now with a fresh coat of paint, perhaps to garner some new interest with a vaguely Wes Craven sounding name after finding a distributor, it’s back on digital services. I didn’t dig too much into the history but to try and describe the film itself raises some of the problems that might have caused the re-branding or what got it shelved at the time. An escort trying to get out of the business takes one last job with two other women, but little do they know that the house they go to party at is a vacant letting which three maniacs have taken over by killing the estate agent. It’s a simple set-up but the film-makers have far more convoluted and poorly conceived ideas in mind to try and tell this story.
After falling for the super charismatic Ned (Jason Mewes) and deciding to quit the working girl business, Love (Lauren Walsh) finds that she can’t walk out on her pimp so easily and is pressured into backing down by his over acting. The characters are all pretty bland or obnoxious whether they’re supposed to be average Joes or seedy crooks which doesn’t bode well, even for a story where you are basically waiting for the body count to start rising. The romantic melodrama is never convincing, and the dialogue which includes jokes about Myspace and other pop culture artefacts doesn’t help. One thinks she’s an actress, the other is trying to save her pennies, and their boss cares more about his pet turtle than any of them. Their destination happens to be a terrible party even before the blood starts pouring, since their guests seem to think sitting in silence with one crate of beer between six people is a good time. But their attempts at debating philosophy are where things really start to heat up.
This signals one of two big problems here. Firstly the endless amount of banal dialogue. You have the ramblings of crazy people coupled with the pseudo-intellectual sound bites of the central character in an attempt to portray her as someone who is destined for more than this in life. Hate (Ezra Buzzington) leads the crackpot brigade, and comes off as a low rent Stephen Lang, often talking to himself in the dark and waving a knife. Yes, the characters are called Love and Hate, I don’t know why either – it was meant to be. He spends almost the entire film blabbering about destiny, religion, revolution and new realms of perception. Now perhaps this might have worked if he was just a Southern preacher cliché which is what seems to be the idea early on in his first appearance sat with a makeshift pulpit, but it soon degenerates into total nonsense. According to the released synopsis he’s actually an escaped mental patient along with his friends, but the movie won’t tell you that – unless you read deeply enough into the vague flashing images of brain scans used in the intro credits. The performances of his cohorts are less effective, which is saying something; with Cleb (Ricardo Gray) as the least sane of the three and Selma (Monique Parent) as the sadomasochist of the trio. There are no genuine horror moments to be found if you’re expecting any real psycho outbursts besides a brief neck biting moment. What you end up with is 5 minute sequence of Cleb having sex with fruit, and a lot of scenes of foreplay filler with the various escorts. Seedy or unintentionally funny? I can’t decide.
But secondly and more importantly the structure of the narrative is a huge mess as it jumps from one future moment to flashbacks and repeated scenes. Non-linear storytelling is still a thing I suppose, but here they used it to show how things turn out in some of the earliest scenes. Wondering which of these expendable idiots will make it out alive? Oh they showed it already. Anticipating some bloody retribution at the hands of her captors? Oh she’s escaped… and got caught… and taken revenge already. With 30 minutes to go. I know this is just a dumb, sleazy horror picture under all the pretentious babbling, and so this is all the same predictable tropes you’d be expecting, but they could have at least tried to achieve a small amount of drama or suspense. Almost every key moment is shown ahead of time and it’s terrible. Eventually all the waiting comes to a head and the story starts to reach feature length, so we can get past these random strip club conversations and the rest of the padding, and make a run for the credits.
At this point however… some kind of supernatural element appears out of nowhere, where either the dead girls appear as ghosts or the spirit of Hate rises up to take his endless rambling beyond the grave, not before helping Love regain consciousness. I think. I don’t know, it’s hard to say. Flashbacks showing Love trying to move on and get a job as a councillor are shown in a last ditch effort to gain sympathy points but they arrive way too late, which is odd since in a serious drama they might have worked. Finally this all comes to an end with Ned coming to the rescue far too late, and they somehow escape to their new lives; probably. It’s not funny-bad, it barely counts as entertainment, and it’s certainly a film that should have stayed canned. One to be avoided.