Studio: Phase 4 Films
Director: David Mun
Writer: Blu de Golyer
Producer: Blu de Golyer, Mark Rickard, Christian Oliver
Stars: Rachel Marie Lewis, Christian Oliver, Jordan Rhodes, Marietta Marich, Rob Neukirch
To repair their marriage, a young couple moves to an isolated home where the wife begins a slow descent into madness.
“House of Good and Evil” is a psychological thriller about one woman’s slow descent into madness that emphasizes the slow while forgetting about the thriller. Meanwhile, the audience begins a descent of their own, although theirs is into narcolepsy. In this case, madness would be preferable, as at least something of interest would be taking place.
Chris Conley is a louse of a husband, seeing as how the first thing he is seen doing is beating his wife, albeit in suggested silhouette. That earns pregnant spouse Maggie some sympathy when she subsequently suffers a miscarriage, though she promptly hands it right back by opting to work things out with her abusive beau instead of dropping him like a hot rock. The couple does what all people looking to be the center of a horror film do, and that is they move to a secluded country home without a phone or electricity, but with a mysterious locked door and strange neighbors that no one has ever seen. It is little surprise that “House of Good and Evil” began life as a 2008 short because what follows in the feature version is five minutes of routine horror story and one hour and forty minutes of filler.
A passion project for writer/producer Blu de Golyer, “House of Good and Evil” may have a more interesting story behind the lens than it does in front of it. Hollywood heavyweight Ron Howard’s younger brother Clint was originally slated to sit in the canvas-backed chair for his directorial debut. Another previous attachment that did not pan out was one-time Hitchcock It Girl Tippi Hedren’s planned appearance in a supporting role. Pleasantly surprising is the fact that the disappointment over Hedren’s absence is quickly forgotten thanks to a nicely understated performance by Marietta Marich in her place, although it is a small plus negated by a hard to ignore minus sign.
Rachel Marie Lewis stars as Maggie in what is essentially a one-woman show. Until the finale, Maggie features in every single scene, the majority of which are simply she by her lonesome wondering if her mind is cracking or if something else is going on in her isolated new house. Lewis is very good in her role, all of the actors are capable of carrying the movie in fact, but their reliable performances have their legs cut from under them by a script characterizing everyone flatly while losing a race against a turtle in the pacing department.
In one scene, Maggie takes a leisurely bike ride to the one spot in the woods where her cell phone has reception for a planned daily check-in with her husband. On the way, the phone falls from Maggie’s sweater pocket. She arrives at her destination, realizes her pocket is empty, worries momentarily, and then retraces her steps to find the phone lying only a few feet away. Perhaps the scene was supposed to more clearly suggest that the incident caused her to miss the scheduled call, but it reads as so pointless that it is a wonder why it was necessary as all.
It is this modus operandi of continuously unnecessary staging that drags everything initially promising about “House of Good and Evil” through a tar pit of tedium and monotony. Cinematography is crisp and competent, but like the actors trapped inside dull personalities, the visual look is caught framing a drab, white-walled setting that has no chance of rewarding professionalism on the technical side. “House of Good and Evil” is so boring in terms of its people, its singular building location, and its laboriously circular path to telling a straight line story that earnest efforts by cast and crew are ultimately futile in service to a screenplay with more empty scenes than scares.
A liberal application of scissors in the editing room and a more present soundtrack to pull the thread tighter might have made a difference. Even then, the story is too minimal and too uninteresting to ever have a real crack at breaking out. Hints of talent can be seen here and there that might have commanded attention had the material been beefier, but “House of Good and Evil” is simply too lackluster for it to even matter in the end.
Review Score: 30