The House with 100 Eyes DVD Review
Written by ZigZag
DVD released by Artsploitation Films
Directed by Jay Lee and Jim Roof
Written by Jim Roof
2013, Region A, 75 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on June 16th, 2015
Jim Roof as Ed
Shannon Malone as Susan
Larissa Lynch as Jamie
Liz Burghdorf as Crystal
Andrew Hopper as Clutch
Lauren Lakis as Maddie
Ed and Susan are a happily married pair of serial killers who like to entertain their underground fan base with snuff movies of their exploits. Always looking to up the ante on the next big show, Ed has concocted a plan for a triple-header: three murders in one night. Ed and Susan troll the streets of Hollywood in search of unsuspecting stars to bring back to their sound-proofed murder house and eventually locate three willing participants. The evening is scheduled to begin with a friendly on-camera ménage à trois starring the newfound talent, before moving on to the more painful surprise section of the program. Art can be elusive, and creating a cinematic snuff masterpiece will present several challenges for this loving couple.
I am not a fan of “torture porn” or “found footage” movies. I don’t care for lazy remakes or lima beans either, but I understand that as long as a market for these things continues to exist, people will keep peddling them. While three of these four appear on the decline (curse you, lima beans), I was surprised by the arrival of The House with 100 Eyes, in part because it was so incredibly late to the party, but more than that, because I actually kind of like it. This is not a film that is easy to recommend to friends given the subject matter, but the simple fact that I didn’t loathe every minute speaks volumes. The movie succeeds by humanizing the monsters in a way that makes me want to see Ed and Susan reach their triple-header goal. It also works as a dark parody of the two genres it emulates, as the filmmakers appear to be very aware of the type of movie they are making.
Directors Jay Lee and Jim Roof make some interesting choices with the content, starting with the look of the picture. Lee’s camerawork is refreshingly solid in a subgenre that typically settles for nausea-inducing jerky handheld efforts. Also of merit, this exploitation film has zero interest in nudity and optically blurs out every offensive frame. Although there are quite a few nasty moments of violence, there is relatively little bloodshed, and what gore appears onscreen is effective. The majority of the horror is delivered through dialogue. Ed introduces himself with a monologue fondly reflecting on acts of animal cruelty, ensuring nobody watching will empathize with him. Susan is a serial poisoner and has apparently left a trail of bodies in her wake, but has such a sunny demeanor that she remains likeable throughout. The script, written by Roof, falters on a few occasions, chief among them when everything stops for Ed to masturbate to a video of some previous criminal activity. The premise of this movie is that the footage was recovered from the crime scene and later edited down, so it is hard to believe the assigned crew would respectfully blur out nudity, but linger while this guy rubs one out.
The cast keeps things lively, particularly Shannon Malone (Gutter Slut) as Susan, who keeps a world of unhappiness just under the surface and knows she must follow a well-practiced routine in order to remain functional. Jim Roof (Zombie Strippers) is Ed, the friendly neighborhood sociopath, not necessarily as dangerous as his wife, but far more skeezy. His chemistry with Malone is wonderful and as I stated before, viewers will find their behavior reprehensible but root for them to succeed. Each of the trio of potential victims, led by Larissa Lynch (Invitation to Darkness) as Jamie, is equally believable in the role of opportunistic naïve youth. Lynch is eye-catching and an immediate contender for the role of protagonist. Liz Burghdorf (Getting That Girl) is Crystal, the unsure girl who has a change of heart. She backs out of the group sex movie deal, but ends up starring in her own solo performance piece. Andrew Hopper (Everlasting) is only serviceable as Clutch, through no fault of his own as an actor; it is just a dead-end character that is the least interesting in the group. A fun addition to the cast is the mysterious Maddie (Lauren Lakis, Witch's Brew) who doesn’t seem to mind being part of the fun at all. Lakis is playfully disturbing in the role and a nice addition to the material.
Not everything works in the film. There are some elements that drag (the aforementioned masturbation snooze-fest) and the ending is unnecessarily abrupt, leaving at least one crucial question unanswered. The House with 100 Eyes is a nice variation on the subgenres it combines and makes the despicable villains the protagonists in a way that feels wrong on a basic level, but the cast pulls it off. Despite having said many nice things about this movie, at the end of the day it remains just another entry in the “found footage” and “torture porn” library and viewers should check their expectations accordingly.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the picture is crisp and clear, except where deliberately distressed. There are no problems to speak of, as any shortcomings are likely deliberate.
The disc offers both a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a Dolby Digital 2.0 track and each handles things nicely, though you may want to ride the volume, as there is quite a bit of screaming. The static bursts are a bit ear-splitting, but otherwise the audio is a perfect match to the video counterpart.
Co-directors Roof and Lay have recorded an audio commentary track that is surprisingly informative. They reveal a lot of the thought process that went into the design of this film as a riff on the “torture porn” subgenre. There is a lot of good stuff here and the tone resembles a laid-back, friendly discussion.
Ed’s Studio Red Gag Reel (8 minutes) is a collection of mistakes and goofs that occurred within the found footage. Not so much a blooper reel of the feature, but things that Ed found silly while filming.
Ed’s Studio Red Sizzle Reel (2 minutes) is a promo piece for the fans who might be searching for the best place to find a good murder caught on tape. The only odd thing here is that Ed and Susan appear without disguise, suggesting the masks are intended to scare the victims rather than protect Ed’s identity. Perhaps the clips were assembled without too much thought about this. Either way, it’s a bit of a highlights reel.
The original theatrical trailer is also included for your viewing pleasure.