When two friends open a Halloween fun house on Devil’s Night it is all fun and games until their former sorority sisters begin to arrive. These six sisters are confronted by their past as the night spins out of control.
It all begins with the two main protagonists, Elaina (Kimberly Sue-Murray) & Corey (Sarah Booth), preparing up the titular setting. Intercut with this are shots of a old video featuring a group of sorority girls (in varying states of undress), preparing for a party. It all feels very innocuous for a few minutes, and then WHAMMO! – we’re treated to a really wet gore scene!
Welcome dear acolytes, to The Scarehouse…
The Scarehouse itself is a haunted house attraction with which Elaina & Corey use to frighten new pledges to their sorority. But they’ve also invited certain women there in order to subject them to some extremely grisly torture. Exactly why they’ve set out to torture (& murder) these women is for you to find out, but the poster art pretty much says it all. The torture itself is indeed quite violent and definitely not what you might be expecting, it ventures into the realm of torture P*rn quite frankly. But despite the gruesome goings on, I must admit that I was completely invested in what was going on and more importantly, why it was going on. As the film plays on, something of a difference of opinion comes up between our two slaughtering sisters, and the film takes a decidedly unexpected turn – one that I didn’t see coming.
Written & Directed by Gavin Michael Booth (Co-written with Sarah Booth – who just happens to be his wife), The Scarehouse is a hell of a treat. It combines a sense of humor with a generous dollop of gore and some very natural sounding dialogue to create a really intense little shocker. The plot itself does begin to get a bit too much on the convoluted side in its second half, but since it features more than a few surprises, I can give that issue a pass. But I will admit to getting more than a little confused after a little while. So much so, that I decided to rewatch it immediately after it was finished. This might sound kind of odd, especially since it doesn’t look/sound like it’s the kind of movie that’s trying to make its audience think. But the plot here has a few twists & turns that threw me for a loop.
Since she co-wrote it, it makes sense that Sarah Booth has a lot of great lines here, but the script offers a lot of good material to nearly everyone involved. The cast is mostly comprised of women as well. There are a few roles for men here, but they feel very rote. Luckily, the men aren’t on screen long enough for any of that to really matter. There’s a wonderful sense of (Dare I say it?) wit to The Scarehouse that sets it apart from similarly themed flicks. The film goes out of its way to keep the viewer ever so slightly confused, and it spreads the twists evenly throughout its running time. In that sense, it’s a far more ambitious film than you might expect. Although Booth is the standout here, everyone involved performs admirably – tossing their lines back & forth to each other in a most natural manner. It feels like the entire cast grew up together at times.
The cinematography (By Ian Macmillan) is also quite admirable. A lot of it looks & feels like something out of an Argento film from the 70’s, with garish green and red hues illuminating the interior scenes. The makeup FX are also really effective & about as gory as those of you who dig that sort of thing could want. Even better, it all looks like practical makeup was used throughout – little to no CGI in use that I could see. In my (Not so humble) opinion, practical FX have it all over CGI FX, and The Scarehouse proves that point. It looks a lot like a good 80’s slasher flick thanks to the excellent makeup (By Carly Nicodemo, Jo Primeau & Taylor Vigneux).
My biggest problem with the film isn’t anything with the actual film itself. It’s the really dull poster art that drags it down for me. It looks like a really bad (& cheap) 80’s knockoff flick thanks to the derivative poster image. So much so, that if I hadn’t seen the film prior to its release, and just saw the poster art – I’d have passed over it. It really does nothing to make anyone want to see it, hopefully that’ll change before its scheduled January 13th, 2015 release.
But even if it doesn’t, don’t let any of that dissuade you from giving The Scarehouse a shot. It’s an extremely witty, funny, gory & surprisingly literate flick that’s so much fun that it easily makes my “Top 10” list for 2014 (Despite its official release not coming till next year). It’s got everything you could possibly want from a horror flick, and a bunch of extras that’ll make you think about other films that walk the same road – but go nowhere near as far as this one does. After all, it won the “Best Picture” award at the venerated NYC Horror Film Festival this year for a reason…
The Scarehouse – 4.5 out of 5 shrouds.