A real estate agent trying to raise money to pay for his mother’s hospital bills takes on a property that looks too good to be true, and is.
Horror-comedy is one of the most difficult movie tricks to pull off. Nine times out of ten the film isn’t frightening enough to be a horror and not funny enough to be a comedy, thereby failing on both counts. There are some good comedies that use a horror background , such as SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and one or two good horrors that use humour quite well, such as LAKE PLACID. But in all my years of watching movies there’s only one film that I reckon is truly frightening and truly funny and that’s the classic AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.
THE SELLING, or THE SELLING OF SCARRY MANOR as it’s also known, is very much in the SHAUN OF THE DEAD camp. It tells the story of Richard Scarry (Gabriel Diani) – “like the children’s book author” – a hapless but decent realtor who is passed what looks to be a prime property by his unscrupulous colleague Mary Best (Janet Varney). Desperate to raise money to pay his mother’s hospital bills Scarry takes on the house sight unseen, which proves to be a big mistake because it turns out to be haunted. Not only are the ghosts of victims of a serial killer known as the Nightstalker resident in the attic but the phantom murderer himself is prone to reappear and try to continue his work.
So desperate is he that Scarry even enlists an exorcist (Barry Bostwick) who tries and fails to persuade the ghosts to leave. Lumbered with this potentially unsalable asset, Scarry and his friend Dave Ross (Jonathan Klein) do their best to smarten it up and, in true realtor fashion, try to pull the wool over the eyes of their customers without actually lying. Scarry however is an essentially decent guy and house hunters are soon replaced by ghost hunters as word gets out that this fixer upper comes with en suite spooks. One of the ghoulish voyeurs, Ginger Sparks (Etta Devine), a kooky waitress with an interest in the supernatural, offers to help Scarry and Ross and soon they begin to realise that the ghosts are there for a reason and that the haunting may just be the tip of this phantasmal iceberg.
There’s nothing particularly original about THE SELLING but I have to say that I enjoyed it. It’s funny in a gentle sort of way – no gross out stuff – and it has an amiability about it that probably comes from the fact that it’s basically about good people trying to help each other out. The three central characters are well played and it’s refreshing to watch a film that doesn’t feature a cast who have more looks than talent. That’s a bit of a backwards compliment I know but what I mean is that so many movies these days, especially in the horror field, have casts that seem picked for their looks rather than their acting ability, such as it is. That’s not the case here and it’s good to see.
A lot of the situations these characters get themselves into are well-worn but there is fun to be had from spotting the references to famous haunted house movies. For instance, there are nods to HOUSE and POLTERGEIST as well as a whole slew of references to THE AMITYVILLE HORROR including demonic voices, hordes of insects, bleeding walls and overflowing toilets. Of course it’s all played for laughs so the corniness of many of these moments works to the film’s advantage.
It does run out of steam about twenty minutes before the end when it gets bogged down in some rather ordinary physical comedy but it’s well written, well performed and put together with a lot more finesse than you might expect. A minor triumph.
The Selling (2011)