House of Afflictions (2014) Review (Wild Eye Releasing DVD)

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(2014, dir: Anthony M. Winson)

“FEAR THE UNKOWN”

Kate Beckley (Michelle Darkin Price) was once a best selling crime author. That was until her daughter Julia (Eve Mason) went missing. Cut to a few years later and with only grief to occupy her time and her relationship with husband John (Stefan Boehm) on its last legs, Kate decides that she wants to write again. Against the better judgement of her husband, Kate decides that she wants to rent out a house so she can have peace, quiet and creative isolation. She rents the house of Dorothy Giddens (Penelope Butler), an elderly woman who is renting her house because she wants to visit family. Dorothy explains that not only did her own daughter, eerily the same age as Julia disappear, but her son Eric (Karl Brown) had died some years later. As if finding out some uncomfortable and relatable truths about her temporary landlady wasn’t enough, within just a few hours of her tenancy, Kate starts to experience a combination of strange visions, sounds and potential paranormal experiences. As the days go by, things become much worse. No matter how bad it gets, Kate is determined to find out wether there is something sinister afoot or if she is just imagining things. Is her situation somewhat related to Dorothy’s or is just an unfortunate coincidence? More importantly, will she be able to complete her book!? Yeah ok, the book isn’t actually that important considering the situation at hand. What is important is if this film is worth your time.

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In a nutshell, House of Afflictions is a good old fashioned British mystery / thriller in the same vein as something you would see on Tales of the Unexpected or Ghost Stories for Christmas. It’s a simple story that you may have seen before, but there’s enough twists, turns and tension that makes it stand out against some of the Hollywood efforts we seem to be getting inundated with. There are a few jump scares here and there and yes, some aspects are cliched, but there is a genuine sense of foreboding and tension throughout. Winson has written and directed a very solid slow-burner here for sure and with a budget of around £500 (according to good ol’ IMDb), that has to be commended. Unfortunately however, there are aspects of the film that show it has a shoestring budget. I want to be clear beforehand that I don’t mean any disrespect and if the film did indeed cost £500, the money was spent. There are just some aspects of the film that take away from the overall experience. Stylistically, the film looks great. There is some very solid cinematography and it does actually feel cinematic in that regard. My biggest issue would have to be the sound. The score from Brett Montez is very solid and works brilliantly. Unfortunately, there are moments throughout were sound levels change from scene to scene and it does become a little jarring.. Some may be completely put off by this aspect, but taking things in to consideration, you can’t really hold it against the film too much. Acting isn’t bad, but it reminds me of my days at university and using drama students for my own projects. Some lines are delivered awkwardly and Price’s portrayal of the grieving, somewhat unhinged Kate can get grating at some points. Overall, it’s a very solid effort from everyone involved and maybe with a bit of tweaking and a bigger budget, this could have been a spectacular outing indeed. One thing that is for certain is that Winson is a very talented writer / director indeed and I look forward to spending time with his current and future efforts.

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In terms of a release, Wild Eye Releasing have done a good job. Included on the disc are an alternate ending (which is interesting, but thankfully dropped), deleted scenes and a selection of trailers. As far as I am aware, there is currently no UK DVD release so the Wild Eye disc from the States is the only way to view this. I can say that it is not only worth importing, but worth the price tag. Credit is due to Wild Eye Releasing for giving a film like this an audience. It’s great to see homegrown talent getting exposed to an American audience.

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