The House on Pine Street

The House on Pine Street movie poster

Release: Friday, February 27, 2015 (limited) 


Written by: Aaron Keeling; Austin Keeling; Natalie Jones

Directed by: Aaron Keeling; Austin Keeling

This piece is my latest contribution to Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings. As always James, thanks for hooking this one up.

The House on Pine Street is a well-crafted haunted house indie that, while possessing many classic genre traits, overindulges in the familiar to create an experience that frustrates more than it unsettles. Borrowing the psychological fray of The Shining‘s Jack Torrance and instilling the heightened sense of dread brought on by a young woman coping with the stress of pregnancy á la Rosemary’s Baby, the film promises a few compelling directions and for a while it seems to be heading in at least one of them, until it doesn’t.

Jennifer (Emily Goss) and her husband Luke (Taylor Bottles) have just moved back to Jennifer’s Kansas hometown after she suffered an unexpected mental breakdown in Chicago. The film opens with the pair settling into a rental home, a cozy space that mysteriously has all the furniture of its previous inhabitants still in place. It doesn’t take long for Jennifer, who is seemingly under a great deal of stress facing up to the fact she’s soon to be a mother and having to deal with her overbearing mother Meredith (Cathy Barnett), to start picking up on a strange vibe her house is giving her.

The House on Pine Street dedicates much of its time to exploring the psychosis of a young woman struggling to come to terms with her life as it currently is, and not as she’d perhaps like it to be. Soon after experiencing strange bumps in the night Jennifer tries to convince Luke there’s something wrong with the house and that they should move out and head back to Chicago, a decision he does not agree with. He insists she tries to make the best of it here, reminding her of what they have just escaped from having left the big city behind.

As we plod forward, the temperature in the room starts becoming chillier and the tension amplifies with Jennifer unable to ignore (or explain) the increasingly frequent disturbances. One of the more impressive feats of the film is that we can never be sure if what’s going on is a product of her imagination — she spends a lot of time at home alone, sharing in Mia Farrow’s sense of entrapment and isolation —  or if these walls truly harbor a dark and dangerous otherworldly being.

Location scouting affords the film a sturdy foundation: the house is beautiful and creepy all at once, a character unto itself. It also helps that Goss sells the despair of living inside it well. You can’t help but empathize with her as she comes apart at the seams. If we’re not meant to take her side, Bottles makes a strong case for why we certainly shouldn’t root for Luke. His dispassionate response to her claims the house is haunted makes for a chilling character, one that further strands Jennifer from the shores of sanity. Add to that her mother’s grating presence and you are left with a truly no-win situation.

Unfortunately solid acting and an atmosphere dripping with paranoia only go so far in creating a worthwhile watch. Though this generic setup offers nothing we haven’t seen before, it is, more often than not, engrossing. And then the final few scenes happen. The House on Pine Street seems to not only pull out the nails from what has thus far been a piece of solid construction, it also seems content with frustrating viewers with a denouement that makes little sense, one that completely forsakes the reality in which the story is based.

There could have only been two possible outcomes to this little chiller. It’s a pity the least satisfying option was chosen, indicating that perhaps we were never meant to take seriously the film’s mythos to begin with.

Emily Goss, Taylor Bottles and Cathy Barnett in 'The House on Pine Street'

Recommendation: For those looking for a new fix in the haunted house subgenre of horror, The House on Pine Street should work well enough, though it’s nothing an aficionado hasn’t seen many times before. Will it win over skeptics of these types of films? That I’m not so sure. 

Rated: NR

Running Time: 111 mins.

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Some Kind of Hate

Release: Friday, September 18, 2015 (limited)


Written by: Adam Egypt Mortimer; Brian DeLeeuw

Directed by: Adam Egypt Mortimer

This review is my fifth contribution to Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings. A big thanks to James for hooking this one up!

Adam Egypt Mortimer takes a stand against bullying in his feature film debut. The irony is he bullies viewers into sharing in his frustration using a relentlessly clichéd, propagandistic approach to make anyone watching feel really, really bad.

Someone has to do the job of course, because the acting department can’t. The comic book writer and short film director blends elements of real-life horror with a sprinkling of supernaturalism to produce Some Kind of Hate, a brutal and bloody take on the physical and psychological effects on targets of aggressive bullying. The cause is noble, but unfortunately the end product is so in-your-face it has an adverse effect. I found myself, especially circa the blood-soaked climax, cheering on neither said supernatural element nor the good guys, but rather the time marker on the film’s total runtime as it neared the end. Go! Go! Go!

The film starts off on the wrong foot and has to fight an uphill battle over the course of 80 minutes, sending its quietly angry protagonist Lincoln (Ronen Rubinstein) down a gauntlet of seemingly endless taunting and physical confrontation. We first see him getting intimidated by his loser father (Andrew Bryniarski) before leaving for school, where he’ll immediately get bullied by some dude with a tucked-in shirt. A crowd quickly gathers around the scene to make the incident as humiliating as possible. When Lincoln can no longer take it he reacts, rather brutally, which sets up the events of the rest of the movie in a fairly compelling fashion. He’s sent to a reform school in the middle of the desert where the counselors hope to unpack many of their campers’ issues and help them move forward with their lives.

Surprise surprise, Lincoln doesn’t find any sanctuary from his problems here either, as one of the campers takes it upon himself to make the new guy feel ‘welcome.’ It’s not until Lincoln retreats into the basement of one of the facilities that he finds some kind of solace from the hell that has become his life. But there’s something else down there waiting for him, watching him.

Chief among the issues facing this would-be-thriller is the frustrating lack of exposition regarding this reform facility, weirdly named Mind’s Eye Academy. The remote, arid location is certainly foreboding but there’s no lore, no exposition, no explanation. The camp leaders, themselves victimized by various forms of abusive upbringings — Michael Polish’s Jack and Noah Segan’s Krauss — are so vaguely defined that their creepiness comes across as a byproduct of nonexistent character development. Jack appears to enjoy meditating and speaking in hushed tones, while his underling isn’t sure what good the Mind’s Eye Academy is doing for anyone. Quite incidentally, neither are we. All we know is that this place serves one purpose and one purpose only: to stage some bloody scenes of supposedly justifiable revenge.

Some Kind of Hate rams its social commentary down your throat. Not only that, but there comes a point where the message becomes obscured by something more alarming: bullies may be bad but worse are the victims who don’t stand up for themselves. Grace Phipps’ troubled former cheerleader Kaitlin tries to convince Lincoln of this, and though he’s the closest person within earshot it’s evident she’s preaching to us. All of a sudden fellow campers start disappearing. That’s right folks, ‘innocent’ people are getting killed to death. Is it Lincoln? Lincoln seems to be the only one around here with a big enough chip on his shoulder to warrant suspicion.

Look, I’m all for a vicious revenge plot, if it’s executed well. (I admit that may have been a poor choice of words.) Few things are more gratifying than watching the baddies receiving their comeuppance, particularly when it’s been coming to them the entire time. Annoyingly, the film’s latter stages justify little more than the film’s quota of supplying the red gooey stuff. Some Kind of Hate had a message to send, but unfortunately it all gets lost in a production that is some kind of awful.

Recommendation: This B-horror film is certainly aimed at a niched audience. It features gore, unlikable characters and self-harm in almost equal measure. Count me out of that audience. Apart from a few creative and fun kills, there’s really not much to like about Some Kind of Hate as it carries all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face.

Rated: NR

Running Time: 82 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

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