Never Open The Door (2014) Review

notd1Never Open the Door (2014)
Starring: Jessica Sonneborn, Deborah Venegas, Kristina Page
Writers: Christopher Maltauro & Vito Trabucco
Director: Vito Trabucco

Out Now – On Demand & DVD / BluRay in North America

Three happy couples enjoy the holidays in a cozy secluded cabin in the woods when they are suddenly interrupted by an unprecedented event that will forever change their lives.

I have to disagree with the synopsis above. The three couples are not happy. And they don’t appear to be enjoying their holiday. In the opening scenes they are presented as bitter and argumentative. They are the sort of people who you hope will suffer miserably before the end of the movie. Fortunately, something malicious is rushing toward the house and we keep our fingers crossed that its malevolent intentions will be wrought upon the aforementioned not-so-happy couples. We see the world from this entity’s feral perspective and we know, whatever it is, it means business.

So, we have the ‘cabin in the woods’ format of a horror story, with a cast of repellent disposables and a burgeoning (but as yet unidentified) threat. However, whilst this may sound like something that’s been done a million times before, Never Open the Door manages to throw out some wonderful surprises and it’s a movie that is well worth investigating.

notd4I’ll offer a couple of caveats before I continue. I didn’t think the dialogue was particularly strong. Verbal exchanges between main characters repeatedly fall into shouted and unimaginative repetition. However, whilst I think this is a valid criticism of the film, I should also add, if I was ever suffering through a real-life ‘cabin in the woods’ horror, I suspect my dialogue would likely be shouted, unimaginative and repetitive. I’m also tempted to say the acting was a little wooden but that interpretation could have been a knock-on effect caused by the previously mentioned script/dialogue issues.

The opening scene is dominated by Luke (Mike Wood, Chupacabra Territory, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp and Vamps in the City). Boorish Luke sits at the head of the table, shouting over other conversationalists and genuinely making things uncomfortable for his wife, Maria (Deborah Venegas, The Haunting of Alice D, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp and What Goes On). He also makes things uncomfortable for Angel (Kristina Page, The Haunting of Alice D, Piranha Sharks and Crack Whore) and Isaac (Matthew Aidan, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, Pain is Beautiful and Dead Season). Meanwhile, at the same table, Terrance (George Troester, No Ordinary BJ, Crack Whore and Rock in a Hard Place) is making things uncomfortable for Tess (Jessica Sonneborn, One Night of Fear, Dog Eat Dog and The Haunting of Alice D). It’s all delightfully uncomfortable and a guilty part of me is gleefully hoping that some (or all) of these unlikeables are going to meet the nasty and grim conclusion they deserve.

notd3And so, when someone knocks at the door, and Tess goes to answer it, the story immediately goes into full-horror mode. Clearly Tess hasn’t read the title of the movie (Never Open the Door), because she opens the door. And, after the initial shock of a stranger arriving and inciting mayhem amongst the sextet, the story moves away from the predictable and begins to explore some new and very interesting territory. Never Open the Door is filmed in black and white and, at 64 minutes running time, it is longer than a short but shorter than a feature. And all of this works for the movie. The brevity allows it to have a swift pace and leave the audience breathless. The absence of colour allows for Vito Trabuco’s direction (Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, Slices and Watch the Pretty Girls Suffer) to play with light and darkness to profound and unsettling effect.

Because of its brevity, I won’t say anything more about the plot or the surprises that populate the narrative. What I will say is, Never Open the Door has some genuinely unsettling moments and a plot twist that I’m still trying to comprehend two days after watching. If you want to see something different from the ‘cabin in the woods’ format, you need to watch Never Open the Door: 8/10.

The Haunting of Alice D (2014) Review

aliced1The Haunting of Alice D (2014)

Director: Jessica Sonneborn

Starring: Juan Reidinger, Aaron Massey, Megan Hensley, Kristina Page, Jessica Sonneborn, Kane Hodder

On VOD now!!

“Not here, I want a nicer room.”

Joe Davenport (Reidinger) gathers his high school friends for a party at the old family manor, a restored brothel that’s been in the family since the days of Sir Davenport ( played in flashbacks by Kane Hodder), a ruthless pimp who drove one of his girls to suicide. The prostitute Alice D. now haunts the old brothel where she took her life. Party boy Joe hires a trio of prostitutes for the evening’s entertainment in his old family den of iniquity. As the party heats up so too does the ghostly happenings.

The Haunting of Alice D is a mixed bag. The acting is rough. Watching awkward conversations poorly acted is about seventy percent of the film. The sexism and misogyny is laid on pretty thick as well, making some scenes almost unbearable when coupled with the poor delivery. There is a decent thirty percent of pretty tolerable acting rounding it out.

aliced2But the haunting part is actually pretty cool. I’ll admit the movie even made me jump three times. Yes that’s an exact number. All three were jump scares, but very good ones and not cheesy fake-outs. So, if you can somehow settle in, and NOT turn Alice off in the first twenty minutes it turns into a pretty good haunted house movie with a nice array practical effects. Director Sonneborn uses some nice shadow work, moving objects, and an increasing sense of dread and violence. If only better actors had been cast this would have been a great ghost story. Unfortunately some of the acting drags it down.

A few other problems were the sound, and setting. The back ground noise and music drowns out the dialogue a lot of the time, which with this calibre of acting is a mixed blessing. And the setting, well, there were hypothetically two. The movie opens in a strip club that looked like the set of a Rococo period piece complete with fancy wallpaper, full daylight, and a couch. Then the film detours for one scene with unimportant characters in their crummy one room apartment before shifting to the Davenport Manor. Which, kudos, was pretty damn fine. I don’t know where this house was but it was impressive. As many of the characters themselves comment upon before giving info-dumps about the history of the Davenport brothel and the sad tale of Alice D. Also included are several flashbacks to the 1890s which do a creditable job of building character and don’t look half bad.

aliced3Now, the lighting… The lighting was bright. Really bright in a lot of the film, as if a floodlight were the lighting rig of choice. It’s certainly not the usual horror movie murk. And Sonneborn never met a lens flare she didn’t like. But somehow it works MOST of the time. That’s a pretty hefty most, because when the lighting isn’t working it sticks out painfully.

The ending is confused and two characters the audience has forgotten about by then show up to confuse things further. But there is a hint of an alternate ending, at least that’s what I got out of it. Sadly my theory can’t be discussed without spoilers.

Alice D somehow manages what most poorly acted ghost stories don’t, and that’s to be just the tiniest bit scary and relatively enjoyable. Though take that with a grain of salt. This movie won’t be for everyone, but haunted house aficionados might want to give it a try. If nothing else you can make fun of the acting.

aliced4Kudos for: Worst strip club ever

Lesson Learned: NOTHING good ever came from under the bed

Rating: 6/10