Studio: Wild Eye Releasing
Director: Kris Hulbert, Randy Kent
Writer: Kris Hulbert
Producer: Andrea Vahl, Randy Kent, Hans Hernke
Stars: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, John Philbin, Dustin Stevens, Monique Parent, Andrea Vahl, William Robertson, Kris Smith, Timothy Dugan, Alex Markousis, Michael Wagner, Holly Greene, Hans Hernke, Becky Friedman, Jamie Lee Baker
Three tales of murder and madness are linked to a suburban home with an irresistible allure for prospective homeowners.
It is both a cheat and a cliché to call an anthology film a “mixed bag.” Of course it is. That’s the point of an anthology. But “The Perfect House” does some things right and some things wrong, has performances that work and some that don’t, and makes moments that entertain while others land with a thud. And if that can’t be summarized best by two simple words like “mixed bag,” then I don’t know what else qualifies for the definition.
Monique Parent plays the sultriest realtor this side of Century 21. While she shows an unassuming suburban home to an interested couple while dropping come hither innuendos along the way, three tales unfold about the house’s murderous history. Tale #1 recounts a night in the cellar when family secrets turn into spiteful decapitations while waiting out a raging storm. Tale #2 features a sadistic serial killer and his captive in a cage. And tale #3 tells the story of how a homicidal neighbor exacts revenge on the family next door after the man of that house neglects to return a weed whacker in a timely manner.
More than merely sharing a ghost host, but less than putting the same cursed object in everyone’s eager hand, the connective tissue of a simple house in common is a fair enough thread to link stories thematically while leaving room to move freely in where each segment goes. It is in this latter goal of exploring different storytelling spaces that “The Perfect House” jumbles its juggled pins by staying pretty much in the same room of copious bloodshed and physical carnage.
The first story, “The Storm,” comes closet to evoking that traditional EC Comics or “Tales from the Darkside” sensibility where 22 minutes builds towards a “things aren’t what they seem” punchline. The second story, “Chick-en,” similarly follows suit with a “turn the tables” twist that is basically another long way to climb for a grisly payoff, although that too is in keeping with the pattern of how such horror anthology tales are generally structured.
The third tale is where things wobble off the rail and fall into the mire. “The Dinner Guest” is not so much a story as it is a platform to be as gruesome as possible. “The Perfect House” is already not for the faint of heart as it features slashed Achilles heels, torn off fingernails, and eyelids sliced from a face full of bulging ocular orbs. In other words, the trifecta of visual violence always guaranteed to make an audience squirm, hiss, and clasp their own eyelids tightly shut.
But more than any other piece in the film, “The Dinner Guest” is fodder for anyone who wants to accuse “The Perfect House” of overindulgence in cinematic brutality for the sake of being shockingly gory, storytelling be damned. I’d be inclined to agree had I not felt that the first two segments at least had a spark of wicked imagination. A crotchety wife berating her loser husband and a tormenting mass murderer are nothing new, but I confess that some of the dialogue was unexpectedly amusing.
Personally, I find it annoying when movie characters either answer the door just seconds after a knock, or someone rings the bell again when mere moments go by without a response, since absolutely no one does either of these things in real life. So even in the context of an ultimately pointless scene, I can’t help but laugh when the onscreen sociopath points out the lack of logic in why anyone would behave this way. Or when a captive yells to her screaming companion to finally, “shut the f*ck up! Do you think someone that would do something like this is gonna leave us in a place our screams can be heard?”
Small wisecracking touches like these are littered throughout the film. And the snarkiness makes “The Storm” and “Chick-en” just different enough to have a twisted appeal in places where a dash of spirited personality is needed most.
Unfortunately, the true reason why “The Perfect House” resorts to as much torture-related sadism as it does is because there isn’t enough content to otherwise fill out the runtime. The movie becomes particularly sloppy in the latter half and then ends lazily by failing to give its wraparound a proper resolution.
After the tales are told, one of the prospective buyers bumps his head and suddenly has to leave. That’s it. He, his wife, and the realtor disappear completely, as if the writers gave up or lost interest. In their place, the film concludes on a lame duck epilogue with an “actor” who I’m certain was only included as a favor to someone or as an inside joke, and a predictable sting that would be impossible to deliver any more limply.
Add in the confusing editing choice to start the movie with the first part of story #3 instead of with the wraparound, and I can buy into a suspicion that maybe the filmmakers really weren’t trying as hard as they should have been to produce a thoroughly though-out horror film. Tighten up existing tales by trimming the plentiful fat, like the scene of the serial killer conversing with his victim’s mother for example, add in a fourth story to bring it back up to feature length, and “The Perfect House” would have had a better shot at more favorable reviews.
No matter what, there’s no arguing that insinuations of incest, child on child murder, rape, forcible imprisonment, and vile torture scenes ensure that viewers need to carefully consider beforehand if “The Perfect House” is a fit for their personal tastes. Even then, viewers still have to prepare for a middling horror anthology that is at least better than “Creepshow 3” (review here), but still leagues below top tier efforts like “V/H/S/2” (review here).
NOTE: “The Perfect House” was released in Australia as “A Devil’s Inside.”
Review Score: 50