Studio: Freestyle Digital Media
Director: Craig Moss
Writer: Chad Israel, Emanuel Isler
Producer: Sandra Siegal, Mark B. Johnson
Stars: Callum Blue, Nadine Velazquez, Makenzie Moss, Erik LaRay Harvey, Danielle Lauder, Andy Favreau, Kate Linder, Neil Thackaberry, Alden Tab
Residents of a high-tech loft are haunted by the building’s history as a serial killer’s slaughterhouse.
“The Charnel House” earns a special kiss of the fingertips for being set in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Although the city is never referenced aloud in dialogue, it does appear in text here and there. Cleveland is underrepresented in films in general, particularly horror, so it’s always nice to see its Midwestern skyline in backgrounds instead of the usual L.A., New York, or other big city setting. With that, I have officially exhausted the list of compliments to be paid to the movie.
Bad things happened at the Fairmont Meat Co. in 1983. Serial killer Thomas Schect used the slaughterhouse as a front for storing victims’ body parts and with police closing in for the capture, Thomas took his own life by jumping from the brick building’s poorly-CGI’ed clock tower. Thomas tried taking his young son Rupert with him. But a strange premonition seemingly split Rupert’s spirit from his body and somehow saved his life that fatefully fatal day.
Flash forward to the “present day.” Much like Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment or Sharon Tate’s house, you’d think the site of gruesome and presumably highly publicized killings would become a macabre Mecca for mass murder and true crime enthusiasts. Apparently not for the Fairmont. Impossibly, one half of the husband and wife architect team responsible for gentrifying the industrial space into state-of-the-art lofts has no idea what went on there in 1983. She will of course find out about it firsthand when the building’s horrible history comes alive in ways that even the world’s worst Kreskin could predict provided s/he has seen just one movie about a cursed/haunted/possessed building before.
Fairmont Lofts mastermind Alex Reaves makes such a fuss about the building’s advanced infrared sensors adapting and responding to a resident’s biorhythms, it initially seems like “The Charnel House” might be a timely cautionary tale for the Alexa age concerning what can happen when automated environments don’t care for their commands. Nah. The intriguing possibilities of a high-tech house haunting its tenants are limited mostly to locking an occasional door or flashing static on TV screens.
The Fairmont Lofts aren’t all that cutting edge anyway, seeing as how everyone has to sound out all five syllables of “voice activation” before every single command. How is having to say, “voice activation, television: turn off this movie” preferable to simply pressing a button?
For all of the hubbub surrounding the building’s reopening, which includes a wine-catered plaque dedication, Fairmont Lofts seemingly boasts only four residents. Two of them are an attractive single woman whose Facetime conversation with a gossipy aunt paints her as romance crazy and a handsome pro hockey player looking to move past a fizzled relationship. (Do you think these two will hook up?) Another is a man whose father worked at the old slaughterhouse and went missing under mysterious circumstances. (Do you think he has another motive for being at the Fairmont?) The fourth is a man vehemently against repurposing a building better left vacant in his eyes, yet he lives there anyway. He has some loose connection to the property’s management or something, though that is the least critical aspect of the story that doesn’t fully connect.
Making the least sense of all is the core plot point of the building’s troubles being related to a doppelganger whose spirit split from its body to save itself from dying. Now its ultimate goal is to reunite with its corporeal half so it can… die as originally intended? If that’s what has to happen, why bother preventing death in the first place?
“The Charnel House” isn’t the least bit original, but that isn’t the main issue. “The Charnel House” isn’t the least bit creepy either, and since it doesn’t go anywhere unique, its slow scenes aren’t worth the wait.
A little girl can see and speak to a ghost yet no one believes her. Someone creeps slowly around a dark cellar asking “hello?” out loud. Backstory is filled in by newspaper clipping research. Lump on the TV movie look with grimace-inducing green screen effects and even those not tired of the tropes will find “The Charnel House” milquetoast.
An improbable twist plus an improbable premise equals an improbable chance of this film finding an appreciative audience. Hey, at least it takes place in Cleveland.
Review Score: 40