Thursday, December 1, 2016

All Through the House (2015) review


Ashley Mary Nunes (Rachel Kimmel), Jessica Cameron (Sheila), Melynda Kiring (Ms. Garrett), Lito Velasco (Killer), Natalie Montera (Gia Wilson), Danica Riner (Sarah Hayes)

Directed by Todd Nunes

The Short Version: The Night He Came Home... For Christmas. A new seasonal slasher is coming to town in the form of this meagerly financed, but effective little stocking stuffer that homages slashers and other horrors of Christmas past. The acting is mostly weak, but the production is uniformly strong everywhere else; including an impressive score by Irving Victoria. For genre fans, it's a gift you'll likely not be returning. There are some shocking surprises in this HOUSE if only you'd go inside. 

Ms. Garrett, a seemingly nice but noticeably disturbed woman, keeps an effigy in her house of her daughter Jaime, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances years earlier. Rachel Kimmel is Ms. Garrett's neighbor, a lovely young lady who was Jaime's only childhood friend. On Christmas Eve, Ms. Garrett asks Rachel if she would mind helping to decorate her house while she's out for the evening. Unknown to Rachel, she has a twisted connection with the Garrett family. Meanwhile, a maniac in a Santa Claus suit is stalking the streets.

Director Todd Nunes is dreaming of a blood-red Christmas just like the one's he used to know; wrapping up some shocking surprises to go with the familiar material. If you're looking for an overtly sleazy holiday horror antidote for last year's big budgeted, dark, but PG13 KRAMPUS (2015), look no further than this return to 1980s style slashers.... only not the slashers of the early 80s, but the cut-priced carvers of the mid-80s onward.

ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE is, in many ways, extremely well made for a film that looks like it was financed by a bucket of quarters obtained by a jingle bell-carrying employee of the Salvation Army while greeting patrons at Wal Mart. Compared with other independently made horrors of today, Nunes does a phenomenal job with very little resources at his disposal.

Astonishingly, for such a low budget picture, the technical aspects have the same level of polish as you'd find on a bigger budgeted production. There have been many financially emaciated genre features over the years that failed to display even a modicum of the talent on display here. About the worst that can be said is that some of the performances aren't very convincing.

The director's sister, the absolutely stunning Ashley Mary Nunes, is the main star. She fares better in some scenes than in others; yet I could watch her walk around a house for two hours and would be entertained. A beautiful actress who hopefully has many more opportunities in her future.

Melynda Kiring is the film's ace in the hole. Akin to receiving a surprise Christmas gift you didn't expect to get, Ms. Kiring is the Grinch Who Stole the Christmas Horror Movie. She's fantastic as the loony Ms. Garrett, a reclusive headcase with a fondness for mannequins. From her first few scenes you know she is clearly not the stable type. Is she the killer? You'll have to watch and find out. A few surprises await inside this HOUSE.

This being the type of film it is, it's a given you'll have people who do incredibly stupid things. The Ten Commandments of Slasher Movies are broken in ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE. Thou Shalt Not Stand Against A Door Whilst Being Chased By A Killer Bearing Bladed Implements; Thou Shalt Not Stick Thy Head Out From Under A Bed With Thine Enemy In the Room; Thou Shalt Not Remain In Household Where Electricity Doth Not Worketh; Thou Shalt Not Stand Naked Before Thine Enemy Ready To Clip Thy Manhood.... and so on and so forth. Additionally, a minor misstep of off-timing occurs during the end fight that gives the impression there wasn't a lot of time for re-takes. Now, with the deficiencies out of the way....

There are some clever editing and camera segues that belies any of the negatives the film possesses. The look of the picture captures the spirit of the holiday to such a large degree, it would seem a generous chunk of the budget may have went to decorations and Christmas lights. The sheer number of December-centric paraphernalia is enough to fully stock the Christmas section of any of your finer big chain stores; it's even more remarkable that the filmmakers shot the movie in July. The same can be said for the art decor, lighting and soundtrack. The villain's lair, for example, is so rich in atmospheric creativity, I couldn't help but think Robert Burns was an influence.

Additionally, Nunes and his crew are able to build some surprisingly potent suspense--due in no small part to a surprisingly powerful score by Irving Victoria. One of the best of these sequences is when a victim-to-be is taking items out of a refrigerator, the camera following her moves as she places sandwich items on a table where a pair of garden shears sits patiently... waiting for its owner to pick it up as soon as the camera motions back towards the fridge. Over 30 years on, these instances are now easily telegraphed, but it's fun watching the filmmakers do them with a degree of seriousness as opposed to the nauseating winking of so many of today's horror entries. There's some black humor now and then, but it never overpowers the accent towards terror.

The crew have a deep affection for the material that is undeniable. Nunes (who also wrote the script) has obviously seen HALLOWEEN (1978) and FRIDAY THE 13th (1980) a number of times--sprinkling a number of well placed "Look out! He's right behind you!" moments that recall the ingenuity of that 1978 classic; and a major plot point that references the latter splatter favorite... the film arguably (and largely) responsible for the slasher wave of the 1980s. There are many other instances in ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE--whether intended or not--that bring to mind various greats from yesteryear....

Every time Ms. Garrett was onscreen (from her look to her wardrobe) I couldn't help but be reminded of Ms. Mac from Bob Clark's seminal seasonal slasher, BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974); There's a fantastic homage to the holiday horror segment of TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972); a nighttime chase sequence resembles the one in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974); the killer's mask looks similar to the one worn by the killer at the end of TERROR TRAIN (1980) only it's painted in a darker shade of charcoal; Ms. Garrett's mannequin fetish brings MANIAC (1981) to mind; elsewhere, a scene on a bed is tipping its hat to ALONE IN THE DARK from 1982; further, the lovely lady on the bed is reading a novelization of the twisted classick from 1982, BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER (see insert).

Naturally, there's a passing resemblance to the notorious SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984); not the first killer Santa movie, but the most controversial. That film received an unnecessary, and atrocious, remake in 2012 under the simplified title of SILENT NIGHT. ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE, on the other hand, aims to sleaze, ending up the superior Santa slasher successor.

One other area where this movie shines as bright as Rudolph's red nose is in the gore department. There's an abundance of it. It's all practical. There is no CGI in sight. There's a mean-spiritedness to the brutality that echoes the slow, lingering deaths of the middle-tiered slasher from 1981, THE PROWLER. Our killer Santa's favorite weapon of choice are garden shears (like those clippers used by Cropsy in THE BURNING from 1981); although he does indulge in other methods of dispatch.

Covering all the slasher basics, and doing it well with impoverished means, it will be interesting to see what director Todd Nunes comes up with next... possibly a story of Halloween? A definite surprise for horror fans, ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE is at times unsettling, and often visually satisfying. The makers of this movie have definitely put a lot of effort into a small Christmas package filled with gore, T&A, and a lot of love. Low budget 80s horror was, in many instances, very special... and this holiday inspired tribute holds up that tradition.

This review is representative of the FilmRise DVD. Specs and Extras: 16x9 anamorphic 1:85.1 widescreen; filmmaker/cast commentary; trailer; running time: 01:28:18

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