It's always an interesting experience to discover an indie film late in its journey after all of the indie press hounds have either managed to get their hands on it or decided to completely ignore it. While I try to avoid reviews prior to documenting my own, I must confess that I was debating whether or not I should even mess with House of Good and Evil after it arrived in my e-mail having not particularly followed by well posted submission requirements.
I say that not to be bitchy, but to acknowledge that as someone who works a full-time gig on top of The Independent Critic I'm admittedly partial to those who follow the guidelines. If you don't, you'll likely find your submission at the bottom of my pile, completely ignored, or reviewed when I have the time I need to actually research the film.
I must also admit that I fancy myself a fan of indie distributor Phase 4 Films and was more than a little excited when I saw a trio of films from their new releases come my way including this film. House of Good and Evil is one of those films almost destined to get wildly mixed reviewed and, indeed, it has gotten everything across the spectrum of criticism as feedback.
The truth is somewhere in the middle.
House of Good and Evil isn't a masterpiece by any means, but neither is it the complete disaster that some have proclaimed it to be. The film is pretty much carried by the stand-out performance of Rachel Marie Lewis as Maggie, a woman who finds herself starting over with her firefighter husband (Christian Oliver) following multiple tribulations in their city life including a domestic violence episode, the loss of their unborn child, and a general state of discontent between Maggie and her alcoholic husband.
I've never quite figured out how living in the country is supposed to fix all of that, but it seems like Hollywood and the Hollywood outsiders would have us believe that such is true. The two move to a duplex, though they only have access to one side of it (I actually thought that's how duplexes typically worked) until the older couple next door leave. The couple, played by Marietta Marich and Jordan Rhodes, are a rather mysterious couple whose presence doesn't help Maggie's sense of safety and security. As you might expect, odd things start happening such as a phone ringing in the older couple's side even though Maggie was told no phone lines existed. It goes on and gets stranger from there.
The crux of House of Good and Evil is whether or not Maggie is losing her mind and what exactly is going on as hubby leaves for days at a time to fight forest fires.
No silly, he's not Smokey the Bear.
House of Good and Evil isn't a bad film, though it's definitely a tad too long at 108 minutes. Director David Mun could have stood to tighten things up a bit, but he wisely uses his modest budget to focus on psychological thrills rather than trying to impress with special effects. Blu de Golyer's script is for the most part an old school psychological horror flick, though it's all definitely amped up in the film's last 10-15 minutes that are by far the most effective in the film.
Lewis is the true gem here. She portrays a wealth of emotions and convinces across the board. In fact, I could have easily stood to have simply spent 90 minutes watching her and been completely happy. She was also rock solid in last year's Transatlantic Coffee, also reviewed by The Independent Critic, and one can only hope she continues to build her filmography.
House of Good and Evil has been picked up by Phase 4 Films for a VOD/DVD distribution arrangement and you can check it out for yourself right from this page. With a devotion to more old school thrills than contemporary chills, House of Good and Evil may not be the best horror film you'll see this year but it's worth watching for the terrific performance of Rachel Marie Lewis and those last 10-15 minutes that will either tick you off or blow you away.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic