Hell House: Book of Samiel Movie Review
Written by Jennifer Brugman, William Martin and Jason Morris
2009, Region 1 (NTSC), 79 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on September 8th, 2009
UK DVD: Region 2 (NTSC), 79 minutes, Rated 18
DVD released on October 12th, 2009
Michael Carlisi as Paul
Sheila Kraics as Dani
Jessica Marie as Sasha
Geof Libby as Steve
Kari Wishingrad as Theadora
The Shivery family home is known as Hell House, due to a series of murders committed there ten years ago. The house is attractive to both ambitious news crews and bored teenagers. As the anniversary of the crimes approaches, local news media prepare a segment before falling victim to the supernatural curse and ending up as the latest victims of the demon filled house.
A group of local teens decides to spend the night in Hell House in order to escape tedium and to investigate the rumors that surround the house. They wisely choose to consult Theadora (Kari Wishingrad), the town psychic before breaking and entering. She knows the house is host to demonic forces vying to cross into our world, but instead of giving a proper warning, simply tells the kids to get lost. They drive to Hell House and are immediately thrown into a series of confusing plot points. Here, dimensions are patrolled by a gatekeeper demon named Adam (writer William Martin), who manages to occupy both worlds simultaneously. He's invisible to the other characters until the script needs him to make physical contact, and then he is free to push people around and cause their deaths.
Our "heroes" are a group of one-dimensional gasbags that try to convince the audience they are friends, but spend the majority of the film bickering and breaking any sense of harmony. Paul (Mike Carlisi) is trying to help his girlfriend Dani (Sheila Kraics) forget how much her father beats her by taking her to spend the night at a house where a man murdered his wife and daughter. Steve (Geof Libby) is Paul's best friend who goes out of his way to humiliate Dani before they even get inside the house. Rounding out the group is Steve's girlfriend Sasha (Jessica Marie), who is a laid back bisexual black beauty. She spends the majority of the film finding different locations in which to take off her clothes, and she jumps at the chance to take a bath in Hell House upon finding a tub partially filled with soapy water.
Hell House: Book of Samiel offers a tired story of kids going into a haunted house and not coming back. There are some tepid variations among the mounting clichés, but nothing is fully explored beyond the creepy house setup. The secondary characters are more interesting, but they are either ignored or wasted with early death scenes. The rules of the house change from one scenario to the next, but ultimately the story is flat and the audience is left feeling as bored as the kids in the movie.
Director Jason Morris follows the recipe from the "Low Budget Haunted House Ghetto Movie" cookbook without contributing anything to the mix. In the supplemental interviews, he comes across as a determined and skilled filmmaker on a budget, but his efforts are undermined by a script that would have benefitted from additional re-writes.
The screener disc offers a murky picture that makes it difficult to follow a lot of the action, but this will hopefully be addressed before release. Similar issues plagued the Brain Damage release Attack of the Giant Leeches, but were apparently corrected before wide release.
Video and Audio:
Not reviewed as this is a screener.
There is a surprising amount of material presented here. Two behind-the-scenes featurettes — one with the cast (25 minutes), the other with crew (34 minutes) — are quite informative. Storyboards (3 minutes) and deleted scenes (9 minutes) are on tap, along with two disappointing short films, as are a set of production stills and a music video. The bonus is rounded out with one of the worst commentary tracks ever. The participants talk to each other about the production without keeping the audience entertained. It's a shame, considering how entertaining they are in the interview segments.
Hell House is a generic haunted house picture that revels in mediocrity. Jason Morris and the gang at Digital Shadow Films succeed only at reaching for the average.
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