House of Forbidden Secrets (2013)
Directed by: Todd Sheets
Written by: Todd Sheets
Starring: Antwoine Steele, Bryan David, Dyanne Thorne, George Hardy, Howard Maurer, Lew Temple, Lloyd Kaufman, Nicole Santorella
THE HOUSE OF FORBIDDEN SECRETS (2013)
Written and directed by Todd Sheets
Director Todd Sheets has brought the movie loving public a haunted house homage to Italian horror and exploitation films of the past. The low budget HOUSE OF FORBIDDEN SECRETS is brimming with filmmaking passion, with Sheets and his cast taking on multiple roles behind the camera. A disturbingly lively night of terror awaits for the viewer as a group of individuals find themselves battling for survival against the flesh-eating undead demons, a psychotic priest and a horn nippled monster! Sounds crazy, right? Well, you’re in for a treat as both the occupants of Shadowview Manor and the viewer are taken on a journey where they’ll experience evils and secrets that have laid dormant for years.
Fans of Italian horror, such as the works of Dario Argento, will appreciate the use of coloured lighting throughout the movie. Though it isn’t as strong as the likes of Suspiria, it does give the film a dramatic tone reminiscent of the 70’s and 80’s films. The score by renowned Italian horror composer Fabio Frizzi complements the film well, creating an extra dimension to the film to give it that classic edge. The score is rather subtle in places but provides the tension and excitement when necessary. A hint of the score can be heard in the trailer above.
What I love about HOUSE OF FORBIDDEN SECRETS is that Todd Sheets and his crew have stuck with good ol’ practical effects. That’s not to say CGI isn’t used, but it is done so sparingly, whilst the majority of the FX are created using prosthetics, make up and buckets of blood. There’s blood-drenched boobies, flesh being torn from skulls and intestines wrapped around someone’s neck like an offal necklace. This is only scraping the surface of what horrors lay within the manor.
The characters in the film are quite varied, with each having a particular purpose as to why they’re in the manor and unique personalities to match. Antwoine Steele as security guard Jacob just wants to do the job he was paid for and is itching to keep out of harms way, whilst Nicole Santorella as medium Cassie is quite headstrong and takes charge of the frightening situation they’ve found themselves in. A hilarious cameo from Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman as Cassie’s alcoholic father, who’s looking after her daughter whilst she’s working, has to be seen. He even manages to treat his granddaughter to a viewing of The Toxic Avenger, which film fans will get a laugh out of. Stealing the show, however, are a group of actors who’s presence in the film will be one of the reasons to watch. The Walking Dead actor Lew Temple is quietly terrifying as the Irish priest, Father Elias, who’s prayer recitals will send shivers down your spine. His particular role sees him visit a brothel run by Greta and Klaus, played by Ilsa stars Dyanne Thorne and Howard Maurer respectively. The conversation between Elias and Greta is incredible to watch, with Dyanne playing such a shrewd madam that is a force to be reckoned with. A softer side to Greta can be seen between her and Klaus as they overlook their girls at work. The chemistry between Dyanne and Howard is heartwarming, echoing their off-screen relationship as well as on-screen.
The scenes at the brothel are one of the film’s highlights, not just due to the intense performances. All sorts of debauched antics are displayed, with a guy riding a naked woman across the floor, whipping her with a riding crop, to two ladies feeding a large naked guy cake, whilst a guy sat next to him is casually being given oral sex. It kind of reminds me of the Tinto Brass films mixed with exploitation of the 70s, which has been missing from our screens for so very long that it felt quite refreshing to see.
There never seems a dull moment in HOUSE OF FORBIDDEN SECRETS, with something happening at each and every turn of the corridor. Like true haunted house fashion, the characters are picked off one by one as they traipse around the manor. The claustrophobic feeling is amplified due to the narrow corridors of the manor, which helps build the tension throughout.
HOUSE OF FORBIDDEN SECRETS is one for fans of genre films. The performances vary in quality, but do not hamper the appeal of the low budget style of the movie. The film itself feels like a VHS, with slight imperfections that were synonymous with the old format, which works extremely well for the type of film Todd Sheets has created. There’s blood, guts, naked bodies, horror and a splash of tongue-in-cheek humour which will appeal to the right audience. What is evident about this movie though is the effort that has gone in to create something reminscent of a beloved genre. That passion is undeniably throughout the movie and for that, I salute Todd Sheets, his cast and crew.
With some plot twists and surprises and glorious use of practical effects, HOUSE OF FORBIDDEN SECRETS is a fun-filled, enjoyable hark back to exploitation horror.