Reviews: The House With 100 Eyes

Artsploitation Films continues their upward trend of great horror fare. 

"'Hello. Care for a shag?"
Falling somewhere between the found-footage serial killer shockers August Underground and the still yet-to-be-released The Poughkeepsie Tapes is The House with 100 Eyes, a flawed but surprisingly effective little flick that packs quite the unexpected punch in the third act.  Opening on a Blair Witch Project set of title cards informing the viewer what we’re about to see was found before being edited into what we’re about to see, the film follows a well-to-do married couple, Ed (Jim Roff) and Susan (Shannon Malone), living happily in a quiet suburban home whose favorite pastime is to practice murder in front of the camera and sell it off as snuff. 

Going into The House with 100 Eyes, my expectations weren’t very high as we’ve seen this story done to death both in standard features and the new lowbrow found footage trend.  One of the most distracting shortcomings of the found footage film outside of the shaky camera is the distortion of the footage.  Why is it that so many found footage flicks shot in this era of DVD/Blu-Ray have to use VHS wobbling or suddenly have scratchy sound in key dramatic moments?  It was a huge problem with Grave Encounters and is likely the reason The Poughkeepsie Tapes remains without a distributor.  It almost feels like the aesthetic is trying too hard to make the film edgier and it’s simply disengaging every time it occurs, which is a shame because when The House with 100 Eyes isn’t veering into overused clich├ęs of the subgenre including but not limited to the surgical mask and doctor’s outfit, it’s an otherwise taut and unexpected little gem with some really exciting detours.

"Is that comfy?"
For one, the performances by the sociopathic couple are really good for how ordinary they seem.  Take for instance a scene where Jim Roff explains to the camera what tools he intends to use for his bloodletting. Equally strong, if not stronger, is Shannon Malone whose polite and friendly demeanor mask her deadlier intentions.  Scenes of Shannon standing completely silent and still behind her victims for long periods of time can’t help but unnerve, looking not unlike a demonically possessed person.  Most surprising are the film’s moments of extreme violence, which are achieved so realistically they rival some of the more disturbing moments of August Underground: Mordum or even the outright nastiness of Murder-Set-Pieces.  The makeup department must have been working overtime to create the dismemberments and copious bloodletting which ensues.

While not all of it works and there are some continuity errors you can’t look around, overall The House with 100 Eyes has enough surprises and elements in it that work so well you find yourself not caring once the roller coaster ride begins.  Yes the found footage tropes drove me crazy and the story itself is genre fodder and it wears its influences all over its sleeve, but in the end there was enough here that took me completely by surprise and for those reasons I have to recommend it.  What could have been another forgettable genre flick bore its fangs and took chances as it went for the kill in the third act.  Gore-hounds and fans of extreme underground horror most certainly will not be disappointed!

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-Andrew Kotwicki