THE LAST HOUSE (2013)
aka HOUSE OF LAST THINGS
Written and directed by Michael Bartlett
Available from Amazon
After his wife Sarah comes home from hospital after being admitted with depression, Alan decides they should go on a vacation to Italy to give themselves a fresh start. Alan employs the services of young woman Kelly to look after the house whilst they’re gone. Kelly dutifully takes on the challenge but all looks to be disrupted when her troublesome boyfriend Jesse pops by. With Jesse and her dependent brother Tim now living with her at the house, she struggles to keep the home in order. Things don’t look like they could get any worse when her boyfriend starts to act weird and brings home a little boy named Adam from the supermarket. Disgusted at Jesse for kidnapping the child, Kelly urges him to return Adam to his family but Adam seems rather comfortable living with his new guardians. Surreal visions in the house of disturbing scenes and the travelling owners of the home leave Kelly and her brother perplexed. Slowly but surely, everything around them begins to unravel as it does for Alan and Sarah in Italy.
THE LAST HOUSE, also known as House of Last Things, is a surreal American indie thriller that is quite a visual feast to watch. Golf balls and yellow balloons become quite iconic symbols within the movie as the action slips from real life to hallucination and then somewhere inbetween. What initially starts off as an easy to follow thriller soon becomes disjointed and dreamlike, possibly echoing the mental breakdown of a person who’s been under a lot of stress and tragedy in their life, much like it has with homeowner Sarah. The reasons behind Sarah’s breakdown become fully clear by the end of the movie, but that doesn’t exactly clarify the events happening at their home, as life changes dramatically for Kelly and Jesse.
Shot in Oregon, most of the film plays out in the home of Sarah and Alan. Staying in the location of a home makes the viewer feel intense isolation, particularly when the temporary occupants seem to lose all concept of reality. In many cases, it’s quite intriguing and beautiful to watch, if a little creepy at the same time. Full marks to the cast of Lindsey Haun, Blake Berris, RJ Mitte and young Micah Nelson who develop this family-type bond under odd circumstances. They all bounce off each other quite well, with Blake Berris leading the way playing two different personalities within the film.
It’s hard to totally decipher a film like this, but even though I cannot answer every question that this film serves up, I can say I enjoyed every minute, even if it is incoherant and jumbled at times. The sections with Alan and Sarah are the clearest, with Diane Dalton’s Sarah wearing her heart on her sleeve, plagued by the emotion and memories that she dare not leave behind. Randy Schulman’s Alan seems to struggle with his wife’s illness, losing hope and wallowing in despair at an uncertain future together.
Beautifully shot and with an eye for detail and creative symbolism, THE LAST HOUSE is definitely worth checking out, even if the mysterious elements are never explained.