Studio: Anchor Bay Films
Director: A.D. Calvo
Writer: Nevada Grey, Alyssa Alexandria
Producer: Todd Slater, A.D. Calvo
Stars: Inbar Lavi, Steven Grayhm, Eddie Hassell, Holland Roden, John Lee Ames, Alesandra Assante, Joy Lauren, Nicole Rose Travolta, Justin James Lang, Stephen Spinella
College students exploring a haunted asylum become possessed by former inmates after inhaling the dust of cremated ashes.
“House of Dust” is not a bad movie, just a bland one. Unfortunately titled, since “House of Dust” sounds like a description of where I live as opposed to a truly menacing abode, the downside is that the movie features a rote story framed in a milquetoast production where nothing stands out as noteworthy one way or the other. The upside is that it is a horror film involving college kids in a haunted asylum that is not shot as “found footage” for once.
A title card attempts to add a measure of gravity to the affair with an “inspired by true events” claim. The end credits clarify that the inspiration draws merely from the 2005 discovery of 3,489 unclaimed cremated remains at the Oregon State Hospital and nothing more. That is really all there is to the “true story” angle.
Shot on location in Willimantic, Connecticut, the campus of Eastern Connecticut State University stands in for the fictional Camden College. Kolt is the requisite good guy. Dylan is the requisite bad boy. Gabby is the requisite good girl, while Gabby’s fresh from the psych ward roommate Emma fills the fourth slot as a troubled new student haunted by a past fraught with mental issues. A catty trio of spoiled princesses pads things out, because what roster of stereotyped students would be complete without snidely jealous bitches?
Nearby is the now abandoned Redding House Asylum. Given her condition, it probably is not a smart idea for Emma to tempt fate by traipsing around the hospital’s reportedly haunted grounds. But that is what college kids do in horror movies and so she joins Kolt, Gabby, and Dylan in a post-keg party game of paranormal trespassing.
As Emma experiences nightmarish visions after unwisely splintering off alone, the others knock over a can of discarded ashes in the crematorium and end up possessed by the spirits of three inmates murdered there in 1951. These are not the kind of evil body takeovers that result in 360-degree head spins or pea soup vomiting, however. While the movie takes its time getting to the first present day dropped body, the meanwhile is occupied with out of character behavior for the foursome that includes an obsession with picking up litter, sniffing panties in a laundry basket, and fretting over a lost pet mouse. You know, really scary stuff.
Tasked with having to rate “House of Dust” in one word, I would choose “unremarkable,” not to be mean, but to be matter of fact. The film is professionally shot, edited, and passes as a polished finished feature. Yet there is nothing to its cinematic style besides traditional three-point lighting schemes and a predictable pattern of establishing exterior, two shot, close-up, rinse and repeat. It functions well enough, but it is as basic as can be.
The scare setups appear to be pulled from the same Introduction to Horror Filmmaking textbook. The heroine trips and falls while fleeing a pursuer, she wakes suddenly from a nightmare sequence, and a music sting accompanies a ghastly reflection in the bathroom mirror on two different occasions. Everything the film has to offer has already been seen before. Again, it does not feel amateurish, but it does feel uninspired.
The rest of the runtime is filled with uninteresting scenes and setpieces that are just sort of “there” without adding to the movie. There is a bonfire party, the kids attend class, and one girl walks her dog. These are a lot of things that just happen without ever amounting to anything demanding a vested interest.
“House of Dust” aims for moody ghost thrills instead of bloody slasher kills, which is primarily the only thing distinguishing it from cheaper stabs at pinching out fright films by companies only interested in a quick buck. At least this movie is trying for a more intelligent approach to a traditional ghost story, even if it is an ultimately boring one.
Usually when discussing a film or making a recommendation to someone, it is a simple thing to make mention of the acting, effects, or some other memorable moment that stands out to make a movie unique or worth watching. “House of Dust,” on the other hand, has a much harder time producing a compelling reason for why anyone should seek it out. Unless achieving an audience reaction of, “eh, I guess it was ok” counts as a satisfactory goal.
Review Score: 50