Living in a duplex can be pretty awkward sometimes. It’s not as suffocating as a large apartment building, where you’re immediately surrounded by hundreds of “neighbors,” but in a duplex you only have one person or one family directly adjacent to you – just on the other side of the wall. So you should get to know them, right?
I’ve lived in a duplex for three years and I suck as a neighbor. There’s an old man no less than 15 feet from me at all times and I still don’t know his name. From my office I can hear him singing in the shower, for chrissakes, and I’ve never once introduced myself when we cross paths outside. He looks like Truman Capote and has long fingernails, that’s all I’ve got on him.
House of Good and Evil, the directorial debut from David Mun, is about a couple who moves into a secluded duplex to start fresh following a tragic miscarriage. Maggie (Rachel Marie Lewis) was eight months pregnant when a blowout fight with her husband Chris led to the loss of her unborn. Chris is a mean drunk who likes talking with his fists after a few swigs from the bottle. Why Maggie stays with him after that horrible night is never really addressed, but the psychology of abused women is a complicated maze I’m not qualified to try to solve.
From the get-go, even before anything crazy happens, Lewis is captivating in her role as Maggie. She’s charming, sympathetic, and I wanted to shield her from that abusive prick Chris the entire time. He gets a gig as a firefighter, leaving her at home alone for days at a time. But Maggie isn’t entirely alone, or is she?
The real estate guy tells them there’s an elderly couple living in the other part of the duplex, but once they move out they can knock out the walls and have the whole joint to themselves. There are no phone lines in either apartment, but one day Maggie hears a loud ringing from the elderly couple’s side. And it rings and rings and rings…
Once the ringing starts, House of Good and Evil transforms into a paranoid psychological thriller that contains some disturbing moments of domestic horror. Maggie’s sanity gradually melts away to the point where she’s sleeping with an axe and breaking into her neighbor’s apartment. A duplex in a rural setting creates a pretty damn unique combination of claustrophobic terror and alone-in-the-woods-oh-god-can-somebody-hear-me-type-of-shit.
There are several effective moments where it’s unclear if Maggie is simply paranoid or the walls really are closing in on her. Some of the scenes didn’t really work for me though and failed to hold my interest. There’s a part where Maggie takes off on her bike and freaks out, for example, that felt pointless to me. The movie closes in on two hours and would definitely benefit from some trimming.
Everything builds up to a potent finale that I genuinely didn’t see coming. House of Good and Evil is a creative film that’ll please fans who prefer a slow burn, psychological mind fucking, creepy old people, haunted houses, and some of that good old fashioned ultra violence. Lewis carries this movie very nicely as she covers a gauntlet of emotions. If you like Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby definitely check out House of Good and Evil when it drops on DVD April 1.