New Horror Releases: House of Forbidden Secrets (2013) – Reviewed

After watching director Todd Sheets recent film Dreaming Purple Neon, I had a chance to visit what was considered his return to cinema in 2013 with House of Forbidden Secrets. For those unfamiliar with the director and his work, he is considered a legend in the shot-on-video (SOV) subgenre. The SOV was born out of the VHS rental boom, which brought about a new breed of low budget filmmakers in the early 1980’s that shot films on VHS with little to no budget. Sheets hadn’t released a movie since 2005 and was essentially retired, until suffering a heart attack. Surviving that event led to a comeback in life and filmmaking with House of Forbidden Secrets, a story about an overnight security officer that gets caught up in the occult and some deadly forces from another dimension. He ends up delivering an enjoyable low budget mixture of 1970’s and 1980’s occult cinema that features humor, gore, and multiple geek out moments from the collection of guest appearances.

The story basically involves a group of individuals trapped in a building that has an occult past, where they must band together in order to survive. For a low budget or microbudget production, the subplot involving the historical events that occurred in the building are thoroughly fleshed out. The main baddie religious leader Elias Solomon is an interesting character, one that I could envision being revisited. There is a great deal of in-jokes, dialogue, and fun horror movie references peppered in that are related to the guest appearances. Most horror fans should be able to spot them and be pleased. Some of the dialogue seemed unnecessary or overdone at times and several scenes may have been more effective by simply using the characters reactions to the events.

As with most low budget pictures, the acting is a mixed bag of performances that range from being fun, to average, and then great. What makes this production so much exciting is all of the wonderful guest appearances from various horror and exploitation cinema icons. There is Ari Lehman (the first Jason Voorhees), George Hardy (Trolls 2), the amusing Allan Kayser (Night of the Creeps), the outrageous grandpa played by Lloyd Kaufman (Troma!!), and the amazing duo of Howard Maurer and Dyane Thorne (Ilsa and other Nazisploitation flicks). There is also Lew Temple (The Walking Dead and so much more) who is simply gold in his portrayal of Elias Solomon. Nicole Santorella and Michaela Paxton Tarbell both did a respectable job in their respective roles. Antoine Sheets played the lead protagonist and while he performed admirably, I enjoyed his character in Dreaming Purple Neon far more than this one.

The directing by Sheets is superb especially considering the low production budget, smartly being able to make the picture appear to have a far larger budget than what was available. As with his most recent film, he shows a great deal of experience and is able to deliver some good close ups, decent camera placement, and some interesting lighting sequences. The score was partially composed by the iconic Italian composer Fabio Frizzi, with some additional music provided by Japanese composer Toshiyuki Hiraoka. It results in an impressive combination that adds another dimension of suspense and is a mixture of both classic Italian and the more modern horror music.

The practical effects are what typically drive this type of movie and they bring it, with enough violence, nudity, gross out gore, spraying blood, and kill scenes to satiate hardcore horror fans.

I'm not always this bubbly

While personally not as wildly entertaining as Dreaming Purple Neon, Sheets return to cinema is still a triumphant success. It brings more than enough of what horror fans crave in order to keep them engaged and craving more.

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