Thursday, September 7, 2017

Film Review: House on Willow Street (2016)

House on Willow Street (Review)
South Africa/2016
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"I loved some parts of the film, I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the movie, but it just runs out of steam and never finds its footing as a horror movie."

A group of criminals kidnap the daughter of a wealthy business owner, but their plan backfires when they realize the young woman may be hiding a sinister secret...

House on Willow Street is a film with a familiar plot. I think most of us have seen a concept like this in one film or another. The plot follows a group of criminals: Hazel (Sharni Vinson), her boyfriend Ade, Ade's cousin James, and their partner Mark. The group invade a house on Willow Street but find little to no resistance—the security system has already been turned off, too. This, of course, barely bothers them. They kidnap Katherine, the daughter of the owner of diamond chain, then they take her to their hideout. However, upon arriving at their hideout, they realize Katherine is not what she seems. They begin experiencing surreal hallucinations that reveal their inner-demons. I won't spoil anything else, but I bet you'd be able to predict most of the plot. It leads to a silly/cheesy third act and underwhelming ending.

House on Willow Street isn't a bad film, but it is very disappointing. I actually enjoyed the first half of the film, although I knew the concept was cliché. I liked the simple set-up, there was some decent tension, and I enjoyed the surreal visuals. I thought it was working well as a psychological horror film. Then, it just sorta ran out of steam. In terms of horror, the film relies strongly on jump-scares. It actually uses the same jump-scare multiple times. (A long moment of silence, then—boom!—the camera pans to the side to reveal something 'scary' standing next to the character.) Some of the hallucinations are also marred by mediocre special effects. And, by the time it reaches the second half, the plot has also gone off the rails for something cheesy while delivering endless exposition explaining every little thing. It just falls apart.

The acting was mostly okay. I say that because it's not great or horrible. Sharni Vinson is a decent leading lady, but she struggles during the more demanding scenes. The film looks good. The music was mostly forgettable—no standout tracks. Some of the special effects were good, others were mediocre. The screenplay was written by Jonathan Jordaan and Alastair Orr; Orr also serves as director. The writing is inconsistent, especially towards the second half. It feels sloppy and lost, targeting anything and everything. The lack of depth in the characters was also disappointing. Orr performs well as the director, but his direction couldn't save the cheesy final act. He also fails to create any real suspense.

Overall, House on Willow Street is a mediocre film. Like I said, it's not a bad movie, it's just not great or even good. It's stuck in the middle. I loved some parts of the film, I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the movie, but it just runs out of steam and never finds its footing as a horror movie.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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