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Film Review: House of Whores (2015)

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SYNOPSIS:

Three beauties who would do anything for stardom. Three masked maniacs hellbent for kicks and an insatiable lust for young flesh

REVIEW:

Those wacky fellas over at HM&M Films sure are busy. Since 2013, when they released …And Then You Die!, these guys have been releasing movies at a clip of about two per year. Take into account that these are independently produced, low budget, full-length horror movies made in middle-of-nowhere America (Winamac, Indiana), and that’s quite an impressive feat. Included in their ever-growing filmography is the trilogy House of Whores, featuring a group of sadistic psychopaths decked out in clown masks and black suits that attack at random. All three films do their best to push the boundaries of taste, delving into dark (and darkly humorous) torture and abuse, adding their own wicked flair to the home invasion and slasher subgenres.

Written by Tom Komisar and Daniel Murphy (HM&M Films founders and co-owners) and directed by Komisar, Murphy, Paul Arnone (all three of whom also play the roles of cinematographer), and R.J. Cecott (co-director of Blood Moon River), part one of the House of Whores trilogy opens with Trevor (Cecott, in a role that won him Best Actor at the 2015 Horror Society Awards) interviewing potential actresses for an upcoming movie he’ll be shooting.

At times reminiscent of scenes from Shane Ryan’s Amateur Porn Star Killer trilogy, Trevor shows his sleazy side as he puts Rachel (Maella Cai Vane; Time to Kill), Ashley (Lindsey McIntire; the upcoming Kill Dolly Kill and Death Care), and Kayla (Linda Schrader, aka Nikki Strange; Night of the Dolls, Blood Moon River) through a series of casting couch-style interviews, essentially asking them to star in his porn film for free. About 15 minutes into the movie, this is all interrupted by a loud knocking on the door, which under normal circumstances might have been a good thing…but not this time.

For most of the next 40 or so minutes, Shago (Murphy), Smasho (Arnone), and Slasho (Komisar) put their victims through an absolute living hell. Much of the torture falls into the scatological and/or sado-sexual variety: a cheese grater is applied to Trevor’s sensitive bits, menstruating vaginas are laughed at and then used as weapons (tampons included), and every bodily fluid imaginable is at one point splashed or shot or spattered or otherwise forced into/onto one of the three female victims. And that’s not even including the drill and electric saw that eventually make their appearances. While some of the violence is off-screen, the stuff that the audience does see is pretty brutal, with credit to Arnone and Murphy for their effects work.

The delivery of House of Whores is quite interesting. It starts as a found footage-style film, using Trevor’s interviews as the intro. Well, technically it starts with a Nurse Hatchet “Nymphomercial,” which serves as the classic warning to the viewer that things in the film will be ugly and anyone with a weak constitution should not proceed (Nurse Hatchet being a woman in a nurse’s uniform and a clown mask/makeup who is credited as being played by “Nurse Hatchet”).

Going forward, all of the action is captured by the clowns on the same video camera that Trevor was using, plus assumed additional cameras. The movie takes on the appearance of video that was re-worked and edited by the killer clowns (in reality, edited by Murphy) after the fact, making it more like Video Violence 2 than The Blair Witch Project. And so we have added captions over the interviews as well as carnival music, canned laughter, and cartoonish sound effects throughout; a dance sequence in the style of a silent movie, complete with dialogue cards; a black and white scene of Rachel forced to serve the clowns breakfast, reminiscent of Leave it to Beaver; and an intro, outro, and music video-style intermission featuring Nurse Hatchet stripping and rubbing blood on her parts, spending more time on some than others.

When all is said and done, House of Whores feels like a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, its simple plot of dudes sexually humiliating, torturing, and killing women is hardly anything new, and it feels more like a series of violent acts on film than a cohesive story. Now, these violent acts are truly despicable, and shot convincingly so, in a way that will make most in the audience at least a little uncomfortable.

And if the intention of the filmmakers is to upset and offend with their scatological humor and sexualized violence, then it would be hard to say they’ve failed. But what if it all adds up to something more? What if the fact that the killers are dressed as clowns is metaphorical? And what if the various scenes of stylized violence portrayed as sitcom-like scenarios, complete with studio audience laughter, are saying something about the audience itself, or even America’s choices of entertainment?

And maybe, just maybe, when a toilet brush is shoved into the rectum of one of the characters, and then rubbed on her face, feces and all, it stands for something far bigger than an immature “dirty sanchez” joke. Or maybe it’s just a movie, and the cast and crew had a great time being silly and outrageous. If you like dark humor mixed in with your slasher-esque horror, House of Whores is for you.

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