• Perfect House, The

    Directed by: Kris Hulbert, Randy Kent
    Released by: Wild Eye Releasing
    Released on: July 22, 2014
    Cast: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, John Philbin
    Purchase from Amazon

    The Movie

    The Perfect House is an anthology horror film from directors Kris Hulbert and Randy Kent, and was the first movie to have its premiere on Facebook via livestreaming.

    The movie opens before the credits with a scene of a family having dinner over at their neighbor's house. The meal is tense, or at least it is supposed to be, and it's clear that the family doesn't have the best relationship with their obviously unhinged neighbor, who has a surprise waiting for them in the basement. This opening scene would be intriguing, but the tone deaf dialogue and choppy editing undermines any attempt by the filmmakers to properly sustain a sense of, well, anything. After the opening credits, which try so hard to be dramatic that it's laughable, the movie transitions to its frame story. Why the movie didn't open with its actual frame story is anyone's guess. Maybe they thought the opening scene was gripping enough to get the viewers interested? They would be wrong.

    Regardless, the frame story opens with a young married couple meeting with a realtor to check out their dream home. The wife Marisol (Andrea Vahl) really wants the house, so much so that she coaches her husband Mike (William A. Robertson) to “be on his best behavior,” and cleans his face with her thumb before going in to meet the realtor. The movie is barely 10 minutes in, and I already hate these characters. The realtor (Monique Parent), looks like a stripper dressed up as a realtor for the sake of her dance routine. Seriously. Her shirt is almost completely unbuttoned and blatantly showing off her bra. She makes a pass at the couple and implies that maybe a threeway would sweeten the deal. Monique is a good-looking woman, and normally in an exploitation film I would be all over this kind of inexplicable sexual behavior, but The Perfect House is trying to be serious, so it just feels pandering and gratuitous. Speaking of gratuitous, the movie flashes to grainy footage of a family being tied up and tortured in the basement every few seconds while the realtor is showing the couple around. I assumed this was the family from the opening (and it is), but the movie never really gives you any indication that's the case. The footage is cut and spliced in with the main action in a way that makes no sense, and there's no reason to cut to them except to create some cheap jump scares before the movie has had a chance to develop any tension.

    The realtor tells the couple that there's something wrong with the basement, and that it tends to be a deal breaker. The couple decides to check out the basement, and the film then cuts to a different family in a flashback that is actually the “first segment” of this anthology—if you're confused by now, you should be. In this segment, a family—possibly in the 1950s, but that's not entirely clear—is hunkered down in their basement during a thunderstorm. The wife does nothing but tell the family how horrible they all are, and the husband and the kids try to console each other. If you can believe it, this segment is even more tone deaf than the previous two. After a bunch of family bickering, the kids wind up butchering their parents (albeit for different reasons). While this could have been a great one room scenario for some real scares and terror, it just ends up being an excuse for some pointless, amateurish gore. The whole segment becomes entirely tasteless when it's revealed that (spoiler alert) the brother killed the father because the father was fucking the daughter, and the daughter killed her mother because her mom was jealous. This kind of incest-inspired double-murder plot could have been handled well by a filmmaker with some talent, but it's just wasted here on a crass, throwaway “twist” ending. The scene isn't executed well enough to be taken seriously, it's not outrageous enough to be effective exploitation, and it's not humorous enough to be considered camp. Even worse, it's seriously boring, and only the first of three segments (none of which are named, unlike most anthology films).

    The second segment stars Jonathan Tiersten (Sleepaway Camp) as a serial killer who kidnaps people, locks them up in cages, and tortures them slowly. All of this occurs in, you guessed it, the evil basement of the house. He keeps one girl alive so that she can be his “audience,” and so he can anally rape her once a week. The second story quickly becomes irritating thanks to an abundance of bad dialogue. This segment begins like it's going to be a Hostel-styled torture scenario, but it ends up as talky as a Kevin Smith film. The torture sequences are poorly framed, and the eye trauma that makes up the major gore scene of this segment is so laughable that it loses all of its intended impact. Jonathan Tiersten is good in the role of a vicious sociopath, but his acting chops are undercut by endless lines of embarrassing dialogue. The second segment takes up nearly half of the film's running time, and it's the only part of it that almost feels like a fleshed out story. Almost.

    The final segment returns to the very beginning of the movie, with the family at the mercy of their maniac neighbor. This segment plays out like a twelve-year-old's reinterpretation of Funny Games. The killer plays games with the various family members, and one by one they die. There are a few good gore scenes but I was too bored to be moved by them. Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) does her best with the small role that she's given here as the mother of the victimized family, but it's a thankless part. Even though she received top billing in the film, she's only in it for maybe five minutes of screen time. The killer's motive is so lazy that even the most diehard gorehounds should be insulted. The whole segment is dull, pointlessly brutal, and barely follows a two-act structure.

    In the hands of a competent filmmaker, the anthology format can be a great way to show off a director's editing and storytelling skills by creating short films that work with their own internal narratives but also complement one another within a larger framework. The narrative frame could be a comic book (George Romero and Stephen King's Creepshow), the events of one night (Trick R' Treat), or even just spooky narration (Boris Karloff in Black Sabbath). A quality anthology film will try to balance different kinds of stories, to give the film a variety of tone, genre and style. This is not that.

    The basic concept of The Perfect House could have worked. A couple are checking out a seemingly perfect house that has a murderous past, the past segments then connect together in some way that brings the past to the present, and a horrifying secret is revealed at the end. Done. If only it played out like that. Each segment in The Perfect House drags on for way too long. They each contain maybe five minutes' worth of an idea, and they each last for much longer than they should. Besides the fact that they all take place in the basement, there's no connecting thread to link these stories together. There's no reason for us to see three flashbacks to the house's history that make up the movie's segments. The frame narrative with the married couple and the realtor goes nowhere. There is no resolution. Even worse, the movie has a tacked-on epilogue that only sets up the potential for another segment (probably to be followed up in the sequel). The ending isn't ironic, or even surprising. The Perfect House doesn't know how to surprise you. That would require some basic understanding of plot structure, or storytelling. The basic concept of the movie has promise: a couple are checking out a seemingly perfect house that has a murderous past. The only surprise you'll get from The Perfect House is a sense of disappointment from its wasted potential.


    The Perfect House arrives on DVD courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing in 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. One of the things that The Perfect House has going for it is that it looks much more professionally made than it plays out onscreen. The movie frequently uses digital color correction to the point where none of the colors in the movie seem natural, and it's really distracting during the first story where the whole picture looks bathed in an unnatural blue tint that looks like greyscale but is too obviously blue to be black and white. The black levels are very shallow and rarely approach true black, which is likely why the filmmakers opted for the blue-grey look in the first story. It looks like the red and yellows were artificially boosted in the second story, but it benefits the grimy look of that sequence much better and appears a bit more natural. There isn't a lot of fine detail, even during closeups. The level of detail and picture quality overall is inconsistent and varies in between segments. For example, the second story has a gritty, grimy aesthetic that is captured very well, and looks like the most professional segment of the whole film. In contrast, the epilogue looks considerably worse than everything that came before it.

    The sound quality of The Perfect House is a mixed bag. The audio presentation is handled by a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and the overall quality is fine, but there are issues mostly related to the audio source. Dialogue is clearly audible and is mixed in with the score and sound effects fairly well, but the quality of the dialogue audio really varies from scene to scene and it seems to be an issue more with how it was recorded on set. Again, it's not that the volume shifts, just that the overall audio quality changes depending on the scene.

    The Perfect House comes loaded with extras. Several brief features (“Tour Teaser,” “Creation of the Perfect House RV” and “On the Road”) all deal with the trials that the crew experienced while taking the movie across the U.S. to promote its official release on Facebook. “Basement Walkthrough” is a shot on video feature looking at the basement featured throughout the movie. Two of the features (“Buffalo: Countdown to Facebook Premiere” and “Buffalo: TV Press”) both deal with the premiere of the movie in Buffalo, NY and its promotion on a local Buffalo TV station.

    The “Original Spec Trailer” is included, giving viewers and early view of what the filmmakers imagined. Some of this trailer features cast members and scenes that never made it into the final film, but the basic outline of the film is there. The “Audience Trailer” is a trailer for the movie featuring a bunch of good reviews from random people coming out of the film combined with good PR from various horror blogs and review sites. The “Q&A Highlight Reel” features an hour and 43 minutes of outtakes from various Q&A sessions held throughout the Perfect House Tour. This feature also includes muscial performances by actor Jonathan Tiersten. In the absence of a feature commentary, this highlight reel answers just about everything question you could think to ask the filmmakers. There is also an alternate ending to the movie presented without the original sound or color correction.

    There are also 5 additional Behind the Scenes featurettes: Meet the Crew, Meet the Crew 2, Meet Monique Parent, Meet Chris Raab, and Meet John Philbin. Each of these features is about a minute or two in length. None of these are especially revealing, but they usually introduce the people involved and then explain how they became involved with the movie.

    Finally, the DVD includes nearly a dozen trailers for other movies from Wild Eye Releasing.

    The Final Word

    The Perfect House is one of the worst new horror movies I've seen in recent memory. The actors are consistently grating. The gore is gratuitous and silly when the movie is trying desperately to be a serious gut-punch to the senses. It pains me to pan an earnest attempt at hardcore low-budget horror like this, but The Perfect House should be condemned.