If you've been paying attention to my horror reviews, then you know that I've been covering an increasingly popular "collective" of largely horror shorts from JABB Pictures going under the title "The Collective." While Horror House is different in scope and intention, it's a similarly entertaining horror collection being distributed by Slater Brothers Enteratinment - The concept is relatively simple. There are five shorts in the collective and all center around the rather horrific stories that have unfolded in one "for sale" house being offered by a rather enthusiastic real estate agent. The real gem of this collective comes in the form of that real estate agent - played by none other than indie horror legend Lloyd Kaufman.
Never Let Go is our first tale, a creepy little story that doesn't really go the way that you're likely expecting, though it is possible for you to catch on before the story itself unfolds. Sarah (Catherine Widell) is your typical suburban housewife/mom, though it appears that the family's under a bit of duress with hubby having recently been kicked out and at least one of the two kids (played by Katelyn and Alyssa Hunter) seemingly having a bit of a challenge adjusting. It's not too long before we catch on that we have a good sister/bad sister scenario going on here, and the bad sister is really getting bad. Director Evan Marlowe does a nice job of building a believable sibling relationship between the two sisters, but also has fun really playing up the sinister suspense. Things aren't what they seem, and screenwriter Kerry Marlowe gives us a nice climax that makes sure we've really been paying attention.
Marlowe herself is in the second short, Be Careful What You Wish For, and it's this piece that may show off the film's highest production values as we come face-to-face with a woman finding out her husband has been killed. Instead of distraught, her reaction is surprisingly timid. Of course, we shouldn't really be surprised about anything here, eh?
In Hot Stuff, Kaden Graves plays a bachelor who could best be described as a player. When he "plays" the wrong woman, however, he finds out the hard way the error of his ways. This story is practically tailor made for the horror genre, and it's probably the short most likely to put a smile on your face - especially if you have a really dark side. Graves keeps you invested in his character, a man whom you're likely to hate but you're also going to be stuck to the screen watching.
As a sexual abuse survivor, I can definitely call Lifelike a "trigger" film. This is a hardcore, honest film that unfolds in a way that's truly dark and intense and unforgettable. Lauren Lakis and Elain Rineheart give wonderful performances and Lifelike, despite freaking the heck out of me, is easily my favorite film from this collection.
The Leapling closes out our collection with a kid-centered monster tale that likely lends itself more easily than the other stories to moving into a full-length scenario. There's very clearly a dynamic story here and it feels a bit incomplete in this format. That said, I enjoyed the cast and the production quality with this film.
Overall, while Horror House occasionally shows its low-budget nature it's also a consistently well done and entertaining horror collective with solid storytelling from Kerry Marlowe and stories that both thread together nicely and stand on their own thanks to Evan Marlowe's solid direction. If you get a chance, check it out.