Houses of Pain

Unless you're paying stalker-like attention to my lonely little blog, you probably haven't noticed that this week's postings have had an unofficial theme that I call Homegrown Horror.  In the interest of cleaning house, so to speak, I'm going to hit and run on a few stupid home-based movies that it's my own damn fault for thinking they wouldn't be.

And yet, rich white people keep buying country houses

I'm just going to get this out of the way now because it applies to all 3 of the following movies.  It's just bad writing when the only back story that characters have -- indeed, the only character that characters have -- are the things that will suddenly become convenient to their survival when the unlikely and unpredictable happens to them.

Those creepy rednecks you ordered are here!

The Last House on the Left - 2009
Written by Adam Alleca & Carl Ellsworth
based on the 1972 Film by Wes Craven
Directed by Dennis Iliadis

This is more or less a home invasion horror crossed with a straight-up revenge flick.  A photogenic, rich white family heads up to their lake house to get away from the pressures of being so damn pretty, but Mom remains a worrying fussbudget anyway.  Teen Daughter needs a break so heads into town to visit an old friend.  Nervous Mom continues to worry.  The girls cross paths with an escaped convict and his trashy family.  Teen Daughter gets raped.  Teen Daughter's Teen Friend gets murdered.  Teen Daughter runs away and dives into the lake, swimming for freedom.  She takes a bullet and is left for dead.

Whoa, that wine went straight to my head!
Trashy criminals stagger to the nearest house for help (car crashed in the girls' escape attempt) which just so happens to be photogenic rich white family's lake house.  They get patched up and once the rains starts, are invited to stay in the guest house despite Nervous Mom's misgivings.  Thanks to Teen Daughter's established swimming skills, she's able to limp home, except, you know, the swimming version of limping.  Thanks to Doctor Dad's skills, he's able to patch her up.  Nervous Mom and Doctor Dad kill off Escaped Convict's Trashy Family, except for his Soulful Teen Son who totally switches teams.  The Money Shots are Aaron "Jesse Pinkman" Paul getting his hand shredded in a garbage disposal and Garret "The dad on Raising Hope" Dillahunt gratuitously getting his head 'sploded in a microwave.  The End.

Particular Set of Skills: Teen Daughter's championship swimming.  Doctor Dad's doctoring.  Nervous Mom's mistrust.


I'm not saying I would...

It's a family affa-a-air, It's a family affair
The Loved Ones - 2009
Written & Directed by Sean Byrne

Out of curiosity, I looked up what the Australian equivalent of the word "redneck" might be, and evidently the most popular response is "bogan."  I mention this because, had The Loved Ones been made in America, it would have been set somewhere where the suburban verges on the rural (Texas, Indiana, West Penn, etc) and the villains would have been rednecks.  But it's a Australian film, so the key differences are the accents and that the Big Dance is called the "End of School Dance" rather than "The Prom."

The Loved Ones opens with Rocker Dude and his Dad getting into the car accident that will takes Dad's life.  While the events that will befall Rocker Dude six months later are unrelated to this event, it's entirely responsible for creating his Particular Set of Skills that come to bear later in the story.

Who knew Judas Priest could save your life one day?
Bam, six months later and without introduction, Odd Girl asks Rocker Dude to the Big Dance.  He declines, as he has plans to attend with Girlfriend.  Because Rocker Dude's Dad died, he's having emotional issues that he won't discuss (because dude), and channels his stifled feelings into cutting (with the rocker-appropriate razor blade necklace he wears) and going out to walk his dog and rock climb to have his feelings in an acceptably masculine way.  Then he's knocked unconscious by an out-of-focus man.  Fade to black.

I'm not sure why the movie bothers to hide the identity of his captor from us, since we don't know him yet and they go ahead and show us before Rocker Dude regains consciousness anyway.

Still less creepy than those Father/Daughter Purity Dances
These are details that are not understood by people who paint by numbers.  The captor is the Creepy Daddy of Odd Girl, and in addition to a date, he's brought her a new dress for her own very special End of School Dance.  Cue incestuous overtones.

Rocker Dude awakens at the Formica dinner table with Odd Girl, Creepy Daddy and what I can only assume is Mommy Who Tried to Leave and Got a Homemade Lobotomy for her Troubles; otherwise known as Bright Eyes.  Torture, torture, torture.  Incestuous overtone become incestuous overtures. 

It's a good thing that Rocker Dude has A) a high tolerance for pain brought about by cutting, and 2) a razor blade necklace.  Cuts ropes, fights back, shoves Creepy Daddy into cannibal pit of former victims before surprisingly conscious Odd Girl shoves him in too.

Have you guys seen The People Under the Stairs?
Subplot Cop shows up to open the cannibal pit before being added to it himself, giving Rocker Dude enough bodies to stack so he can get a handhold and pull himself out (remember the rock climbing?).  Rocker Dude and Girlfriend kill Odd Girl with Subplot Cop's car.  The End.

Playing mix and match with things you've seen in other horror movies is not strictly the same thing as having an original thought, and equipping a character with no more than he needs to survive your implausible situation isn't anything like good writing.

Particular Set of Skills: Rocker Dude's resistance to pain, rock climbing ability and razor blade necklace.  Girlfriend's knowledge of Odd Girl's invitation.  Subplot Cop's missing son.


We just HAD to choose the forest with Klieg lights...

Just hangin', how 'bout you?
Treehouse - 2014
Written by Alex Child & Miles Harrington
Directed by Michael Bartlett

In this Ozark-set survival horror, even the good guys are rednecks, which I guess makes the bad guys hillbillies.

After a teenage girl and her young brother are abducted from their home in a nearby town, the kids are sent home early from school and the big festival is canceled.  That won't stop Cool Brother and a reluctant Weenie Brother from setting off fireworks with friends deep enough in the woods to avoid attention.  When their friends don't show up, they decide to set them off anyway, illuminating a treehouse built high up in the trees, and clearly not a place for fun-loving childish hijinks.  In the treehouse, they discover the missing girl, hurt and exhausted.  Cool Brother takes off to find help while Weenie Brother stays to take care of Missing Girl.  Almost as soon as he's gone, he stops responding to his walkie-talkie.

I can't believe he made that hanging joke either.
When the walkie-talkie does finally chirp up, it's the friends who were late meeting them.  The snuffling and branch-rattling noises outside the treehouse disappear, and soon after the radio bleats with the sounds of their terror, only to fall silent again.  By morning's light, Weenie Brother and Missing Girl discover the bodies of Cool Brother's friends dangling from the trees and something watching them from nearby.  It could be aliens or bigfoots... bigfeet... Sasquatches, but really it's just hillbillies, because why else would you set a movie in the Ozarks if it's not going to be hillbillies?

The young 'uns sneak out under cover of the night and try to make their way out of the woods.  A close call with a bear trap convinces them to stay put until the sun comes up.  It turns out they've been spittin' distance from a house the whole time.

BBQ! SUPERSTAR! Who in the world do you think you are?
Seeking aid at the house reveals that it's the home of the same hillbillies who've been hunting them, complete with Dead Mama in the bed and the suggestion of inbreeding in their unglamorous physical appearance.  The house is scattered with Polaroids of them with various victims, including Cool Brother and Missing Kid.

Thanks to Weenie Brother's history with the now-deceased Redneck Soldier Daddy, he knows how to throw a knife and fire a gun, and doing so not only helps his to survive and escape Homicidal Hillbillies, but redeems him to the memory of his hard-assed and abusive father.  Lucky him.

Make sure to empty the clip!  There's another one coming!
After causing a sheriff's truck to swerve off the road, possibly fatally, Weenie Brother and Missing Girl become Weenie MAN and Missing WOMAN when they find they have access to a couple of semi-automatic rifles (Dear gun nuts, I don't give half a shit what they're really called. That ain't my kink, son).  They start spouting hyper-masculine non-sequiturs like they're John Mc-fucking-Clane and head off to exact some "Second Amendment Solutions" on the final Homicidal Hillbilly (who already has a sucking chest wound).  So make sure to arm up, America!  You never know when you might accidentally kill your rescuer.  The End.

Particular Set of Skills: Weenie Brother's knowledge of knife-throwing & shooting and his desperate desire to prove himself to his dead abusive father & dead protective brother.


I am officially done giving chances to these kinds of movies.

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