The View from the Trailer Park: ‘The House on Willow Street’ – Welcome to the House That Tropes Built
Written by: Daniel McDonald
Yeppers, just my luck. After spending sections from several of my different articles that a growing concern of mine – aside from grrrr – poor to deceptive to non-existent promotion, marketing and financial rather than filmmaker support. From “gotta have franchise potential, or it’s dead and buried” gutless, profit Major Studio whores, another concern was fans and cinema analysts, such as myself sucking the simple joy that a trip to the movies could (and really should) create. It seems that so much of the cinema examination and discussion is concentrating so hard on the CRITICAL aspect of cinematic evaluation, it has gotten a fold your arms negatively, slump down in your – slowly becoming a bark-o-lounger seat, dismissing the pleasure many folks derive from viewing AND BEING ABLE TO HEAR trailers, that practically says “go ahead, try and entertain me, I DARE YA!”
This ever-growing pattern may be a bit melodramatically described here, but check out some of the horror film sites viewers comment sections, the levels of flat-out vituperative toxicity are so ‘un-fan like’ go ahead and read for yourself. I DARE YA! In addition to recognizing, obviously despising and calling “Bullshit!” on elements, situations and characters they had experienced from other films, (tropes) a need to be completely taken off guard (which anyone who sat through a preview showing of Brian DePalma’s 1976 masterpiece CARRIE and remembers one of the most terrified vocal reactions from an audience during the film’s final moment will understand.)
The false – deceptively promised tone, content and focus of a film, thus preying on not only the fan base that wanted to see the film they felt they were promised, but pissing the shit out of both factions for yanking their chain, for a not so inexpensive evening out for filmgoers who would not have, in any way chosen the type of film they got.
I have mentioned it before…the Creature-Feature marketing for IT COMES AT NIGHT (a well-made film for it’s intended audience – but actually caused Boos from crowds during its final credit roll) to IT FOLLOWS – which has a very funny parody on Facebook and if you (like I) thought both it and THE VVITCH had more critical smoke blown up their way too overpraised skirts, you WILL laugh.
Well I guess promotional cinematic karma waited until last night. I had hoped to do a fun what I’d like to see on a marquis at the local drive in on a Friday night, piece based completely on their titles and basic print promotion alone. Believe it or not it happened all the time in the 70a and 80s. So I chose 2 (appropriate? – hell if I knew) movies and settled back for a 3:15 minute trip back to my high school days.
The vault of films that have been reviewed here at A.T.H.M. is becoming so vast that I somehow missed the fact that we had covered (and I totally agreed with in every way), the sophomore project of Australian, Sean Byrnes. His debut feature, THE LOVED ONES was a torturously terrifying festival darling winning independent awards aplenty with it’s over the top CARRIE meets TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE narrative and even with some terrific shock and gore scenes it earned a very rarely achieved whopping 98% on ROTTEN TOMATOS. Sadly, as is far too often the case, it took over two years to find even minor promotion and chances for wide release despite its critical acclaim. Byrne’s sophomore’s title just looked and sounded like it belonged on a Drive-in marquis THE DEVIL’S CANDY.
Not to belabor things, I must say again that I completely concur with the ATHM discussion of the film. An unusual mixture of tortured artist/demonic possession and stalker film, this has made Mr. Byrnes an Artist that falls into the ‘one to watch’ category.
Now onto the film that actually helped me name this piece. Completely unknown to me, THE HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET (I actually had it confused with the Jennifer Lawrence thriller THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET – but that was only the beginning of my problems).
Remembering that I’m the dude who has gone to the mat (the Matt?) literally using the fact that a trope is a trope because it worked, and worked well enough to be used repeatedly. I felt there have been a few times (well actually more than a few) where I think ANY similarity (due to time of budget restraints, technical issues, talent contractual obligations) a project simply MUST go to plan B. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it’s do-able but ehhh… and then sometimes…
This goes out to all you fine folks who told me I was bat**** crazy for being the NOT EVERYTHING TROPE-ISH IS TERRIBLE GUY.
First close your eyes and think about the films in our genre and what they have had in common with each other, now see if THIS wonderfully photographed with solid FX, very good creature creations with solid, grounded performances betrayed by… well you tell me…
We open on a small group of criminals, only THIS time it’s one featured female and three thug boys of differing but easy to detect types. They are planning their one big heist – to break into a man’s house, kidnap his daughter and hold her for a fortune in diamonds – the dad is a jeweler. The head Jane Le… sorry, chick notices that the girl has unremovable wrist and neck cuffs while Ken doll thug finds some creepy satanic carvings on the back of the kidnapee’s dresser. I think it translates to EVIL DEA….OOOPS I did it again – I really am sorry… no… really. After returning to kidnapees home… never removing her ancient looking cuffs or neck brace, things really pick up speed (cause seriously you look at your watch at the 60 minute point and could SWEAR it coulda/shoulda/woulda been two hours) so much of lights going on and off, shadowy shapes appearing in doorways when the lights are off that disappear, when they are back on blackout times when walking a normal looking home from the outside seems to have more shadowy hallways and they’re using a single flashlight… why, it’s like only a BLIND man can see they duh duh duuuhhh… VIDEOTAPE the ransom demands holding her in a chair with a gun to her head. When they cannot reach her family by phone they return to the unlocked front door ajar house (I know, right?)
Look gang, you get the point, it’s a possessed by the Devil, passed from person to person by lizard tongued French kisses, with Linda Blair action (why the hell not?) and since there was an upside-down vehicle in the EVIL DEAD reboot-whoopsie daisy!
But as I said before the levity began, the film is technically solid and good looking. But I counted at least 15 scripts they had to put in the blender to pour out this willow whose writer should definitely be weeping… I.J.S.
(Overall, skip this clunker… sorry, editor interjection)
This movie pissed me off so much. Even beyond the battery of “borrowed ideas” there were so many plot holes I’m surprised viewers weren’t swallowed alive by the damn things. One of the biggest disappointments for me, in recent memory.