Winner of the fan favorite award at the Big Bear Horror Film Festival in Fullerton, CA, House of Bad is a tense little chamber film about three sisters struggling with the ghosts of their past (and losing terribly). 95 percent of the film takes place in one location and the filmmakers were able to bleed a lot of potent suspense out of such a condensed space. The pace begins to painfully lag in the middle and the story is predictable, but thankfully the three relatively unknown actresses are decent enough to consistently grab the audience.
Tired of their dead-end lives, three sisters steal a briefcase full of blow from a drug dealer and shack up in their old childhood home until the heat blows over. Sirah (Sadie Katz) is a hooker with a heart of…not really gold. Bronze is probably more accurate. Tieg (Heather L. Tyler) is a hardened ex-con who’s always on the defense. She considers herself to be the brains of the operation, even if she is winging it most of the time. Their younger half-sister Lily (Cheryl Sands) is a junkie who’s gonna have to go cold turkey during their month-long stay in the house.
Locking an addict in a house with a briefcase full of coke for a month – makes perfect sense.
From the sisters’ first night together it’s obvious their old house holds some painful childhood memories. Lily is oblivious to the physical and sexual abuse Sirah and Tieg suffered at the hands of their father, but the two older sisters remain haunted by it. Soon they become literally haunted as the ghosts of their mother and father start making appearances.
The ghosts in House of Bad are visually unfortunate. What is up with ghosts that come in like poor TV reception? Why do filmmakers think that’s a cool or scary thing?! The ones in this film even make the sound of bad reception, which is really distracting and takes you out of the moment. Anyone know why this is a trend? Or why female ghosts can’t brush the hair outta their face? That little girl from The Ring crawled outta the TV and clearly became a fashion icon in the after life. But that was over a decade ago. Can ghosts please move (fashion) forward.
So yeah, the ghosts in the film are pretty lame. That’s my only real complaint. There is some uneven pacing, especially in the middle right before everyone goes nuts, which drags the film down a bit. The story doesn’t pack any surprises, so there’s never any real shock moments. Predictability is fine though as long as the film pulls the story off well. House of Bad certainly does that.
The three leads are sufficient in their roles, with moments of greatness shining through once in a while. Besides being sisters, the three characters don’t have much in common, so being trapped in a house with them is painfully awkward at first. The leads do a nice job conveying that uncomfortableness. Once the supernatural elements kick in, they really get to roll their sleeves up. Despite their flaws they’re likable characters (even that bitch Tieg) so you really wanna root for them when shit turns sour.
While it doesn’t break any new ground, House of Bad is a capable little chamber horror that sports a great cast. It definitely has something to say about how we chose to deal with the skeletons in our closet. We can run from them and hope they don’t catch up. Or we can face them head on and hopefully come out intact. The film is surprisingly good in parts and weak in others, but overall it’s worth a watch. Writer/director Jim Towns is one to keep an eye on for sure.
House of Bad hits home video December 3.