‘A House on Willow Street’: Film Review

Kidnappers get more than they bargained for in ‘A House on Willow Street,’ Alastair Orr’s creature-laden horror film.

It’s a wonder there are any kidnappings at all these days. After all, anyone who routinely watches genre movies knows that they never turn out well. Unfortunately for them, the hapless villains in the new horror film by Alastair Orr (Indigenous) apparently aren’t cinephiles, and they’ve made a serious mistake choosing their victim who resides at the titular abode in A House on Willow Street.

It isn’t long after the opening credits have rolled that a gang consisting of Hazel (Sharni Vinson), her boyfriend Ade (Steven Ward), Mark (Zino Ventura) and James (Gustav Gerderner) abduct Katherine (Carlyn Burchell), the daughter of a rich diamond dealer. Nor does it take long for things to start going seriously wrong, especially when they transport their seemingly harmless hostage to an abandoned warehouse.

The Bottom Line

Ingenious creature designs compensate for the rudimentary storyline.

It turns out that their would-be victim is not someone to be taken lightly, especially when she transforms into a demonic figure intent on exacting revenge. And a very personal revenge it turns out to be, since all of the criminals harbor secrets from their past that the monster — who assumes various forms, all of them seriously gross — proves capable of exploiting. And yes, at one point the lights go out, necessitating a trip to the basement to find the fuse box. We all know how that’s going to turn out.

That’s about it in terms of plotting, with the film largely consisting of one horrific episode after another in which the gore and jump scares are ratcheted up to extreme proportions. What the repetitive film lacks in narrative drive and compelling dialogue it makes up for in technical prowess, with director/editor Orr orchestrating the outrageously violent mayhem with admirable proficiency. The creatures are particularly imaginative, often sporting grotesque tentacles that will effectively curb any appetite you have for calamari.

While the actors don’t really have much to work with character-wise, Vinson, who proved her horror movie chops in You’re Next, here proves just as forceful and charismatic a villain, albeit a reasonably sympathetic one, as she was a victim. This film, incidentally, was made in South Africa, not that there’s anything to indicate it.

Production: Darkside, Fat Cigar Productions
Distributor: IFC Midnight
Cast: Sharni Vinson, Carlyn Burchell, Steven Ward, Gustav Gerderner, Zino Ventura
Director/editor: Alastair Orr
Screenwriters: Jonathan Jordaan, Alastair Orr
Producers: Zino Ventura, Mirell Lerm Ventura, Alastair Orr
Executive producers: Zino Ventura, Ryan Haidarian, Simon Ratcliffe, Richard West
Director of photography: Brendan Barnes
Production designer: Flo Ballack
Costume designer: Pierre Vinnings
Composer: Andries Smit
86 minutes