The Shunned House review by The Grim Ringler

I have never found it particularly clever in a review when they use the name of the film to be-little it because they didnt dig it so I will spare you the name-jokes. I am very disappointed in this film though and my disappointment goes well past the borders of this little filmic failure, but ah, I shall get to all that.

Shunned House is an Italian film, which purports to adapt (I prefer to say interpret) three of writer H.P. Lovecrafts works, which is not an easy task. They have chosen three tales though (all linked inexplicably to one location a haunted house) which are not known for their monsters as much as for their more subtle dread. The story here such as it is follows a young couple as they tour the house and document its ruined insides in the hopes of using their findings for a book the man is working on (which all sounds very Kalifornia to me). While there the woman begins to encounter hallucinations of people and events that occurred in the house and her grip on sanity begins to waver. Intercut with scenes of the couple (who couldnt have less chemistry or reality in their performances) are the tales that were inspired by Lovecraft one being about a young woman who plays a violin to keep unseen monsters at bay and another which tells the tale of a man who fears the angles of the room he is in and believes they are forcing him to hallucinate and to slip into another dimension while he sleeps. Sadly, none of this makes sense and did little more than aggravate and confuse my friend and I as I watched. None of the three stories is connected aside from the fact that they all occur in the same house which is haunted, but we dont know why, and which has lots of weird horror scenes which dont do more than make you go oh, someones been playing Silent Hill again. Its not a good sign when the people watching the movie are more interested in the co-stars cleavage than they are in the plot. And plot? What plot? We get the vague idea that the violin girl is afraid of invisible monsters but we never learn what they are, why she fears them, and why her kooky fiddling can keep them at bay. We never really learn the truth of the strange room and its kooky disappearing inhabitant. And the main story? They go to a house with a dark past and take pictures and crash there butwhat did they think theyd find? I never heard them say that hey, if we stay here this place will scare us and give us a book, not once. And when the end arrives, you could care less. The story with the main couple ends, with no rhyme or reason, then we get a second ending, which means nothing, then we get another, and finally, one last one which makes the movie come full circle so it eats its own tail. Umm, great?

I wish I liked this film. I had read another review and they had dug it so I wanted to give it a chance. Its shot on video and looks like it but I still think that, despite their non-budget, this coulda been a good film. The hell of it that none of this film means anything. None of it. They took three pretty well written, suspenseful stories, and adapted them without even getting close to the heart of these stories. It seems as if they liked Lovecrafts name more than they liked his stories. I would like to write a better description of the story but, honest to god, its as simple as I wrote it. The tale is told mostly through visuals, which is an interesting way to take the story, but when handling something like this you need dialogue so you know who all these people are that pop up and disappear in the story. The acting is serviceable, though the dubbing is awful, but its the writing and story that are to blame. The director isnt necessarily bad, as far as his technique, but man, you have to know when you have a turkey and try to make it better. Or at least give it some gravy.

What bothers me more than anything is that dammit, why is Lovecraft so difficult to adapt? Yes, some things you cant adapt being that there are creatures that are not described or are just too vast (we are talking demi-gods after all) to be able to do on the cheap. But there are stories you can adapt. He was very good at creating a sense of fear and dread and, though he was no great character writer, he did write some effective stuff. I cant get why no one gets that if you cant adapt something massive that doesnt mean you cant make a good film from someone (Lovecrafts) work. Ugh! I am hoping that director Guillermo Del Toros Lovecraft film he is working on will do justice to our unsung hero of the creeping supernatural.

The Shunned House is the perfect example of a good idea with a poor realization. There are some very effective scenes and images in this film but none of them belong to the source material and just create more confusion for the viewers. What hurts the home video horror market are movies like this (though I dont want to damn this film completely because I really think they made this film with the best intentions in mind but just didnt have the talent to pull it off) because it makes people believe that low budget movies cannot be done well, which is crap. Too many times a movie is released just because it is connected to a name (an actor, writer, director, whomever) and that hides an abysmal film beneath the name. This is one of those times. As a Lovecraft fan I am yet again heartbroken, but as a horror fan, this is nothing new at all.


3 out of 10 Jackasses
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