If you don’t like horror movies, you should probably just skip to Eat & Run this week.

Me, I love horror movies. Apart from sublime dread seemingly vibrating the primeval center of my brain (from the great ones), or the squirmy kicks of sneaking in what your parents don’t want you to see (the sleazy, gory ones), one of my chief joys in watching horror movies is in finding something worthwhile on the fringes.

Horror films deal in extremes and that means they take chances. Sure, most of the time, they fail miserably (since, frankly, the field doesn’t attract the best and the brightest), but they’re out there, on the raggedy edge, and when something succeeds there it resonates. (There are moments in movies as undeniably crappy as “Day of the Dead” or “Exorcist III” that I’ll remember forever, while competent Hollywood entertainments like “The English Patient” are just a polite blur.) Even in the worst horror flicks, I can usually find something to recommend.

Which brings me to local horror film “The Wrong House” (playing at the Nickelodeon tonight).

Made in Limerick by writer/director/star Shawn French, “The Wrong House” is an admirably ambitious piece of amateurism, populated with a game-but-over-their-heads nonprofessional cast, and infested with genre cliches (two words: “evil clown”). The setup is serviceable — a quintet of mostly-agreeable stoner friends steal drugs from the titular secluded house only to face the wrath of the married serial killers who live there.

However, there’s a serious lack of scares, zero atmosphere (partly due to the deadening ordinariness of digital video), and pedestrian storytelling, which makes the 83-minute movie seem downright poky at times.

As for those fringe benefits:

• “The Wrong House” is refreshingly unafraid to, as they say, “go there.” No Hollywood PG-13 product this, French’s film is filled with blood, torture, ball gags, hallucinogens, and even some Dick Cheney-approved waterboarding, among its adventurously-gory delights. While not really scary (at all), it’s aggressively offensive, and I can respect that.

• French, as the male half of the murderous couple, has genuine presence. The torture-happy plot resembles Rob Zombie’s “House of 1,000 Corpses” and French himself resembles Zombie’s go-to leading villain Bill Moseley with his stringy hair, sharky teeth and the rational, articulate way he explains the horrible things he’s about to do. He’s unnerving.

• Unlike most low-budget gore fests, the film uses its bloody effects judiciously, relying on skillful quick edits and suggestion rather than trying to impress us with gruesome geysers (for the most part). It’s one aspect of the film that suggests French’s filmmaking instincts have promise.


Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.



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