CAPSULE: THE HOUSE OF LAST THINGS (2013)

DIRECTED BY: Michael Bartlett

FEATURING: Lindsey Haun, Blake Berris, Micah Nelson, RJ Mitte, Randy Schulman, Diane Dalton

PLOT: A housesitter, her criminal boyfriend, and her slow brother watch the house of a classical music critic and his depressed wife while the couple vacations in Italy; strange things happen.

Still from House of Last Things (2013)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s a competent psychological horror that provides some weird titillation, but doesn’t go far enough to become a masterpiece.

COMMENTS:The opening montage, featuring a golf game between a pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing representative of the 1950s leisure class and a soldier with a nosebleed, seems to have little to do with the rest of the story of House of Last Things. You will see other golf balls, along with apples, balloons, blood drops, and jesters, however, as the movie juggles a collection of recurring images which initially bewilder, but eventually fall into place. The three main characters, one invited and two squatting, exhibit an equally strange range of behavior as they settle into this ordinary suburban home. Jesse may be a jerk and a small-time crook, but what possesses him to suddenly abduct a small child from a parking lot on a whim? Unexplained occurrences contribute to the unhinged atmosphere. In Italy, a harlequin accosts the vacationing critic. Back home, an army of balloons attack a real estate agent. An apple has an unusual core. For most of the film, confusion reigns, although nearly everything is sorted out by the end.

As hot housesitter Kelly, Lindsey Haun shows more depth than her scream queen résumé might suggest; she’s likable despite her character’s almost inexplicably bad taste in men. As the primary object of her character flaw, Blake Berris ably plays the repulsively suave boyfriend as the kind of douchebag you would expect to see offed early in a slasher movie to cheers from the audience (this movie has other plans for him, however). While the two main leads are effective, the rest of the cast is mostly competent, although kid actor Micah Nelson is good enough considering his age and has a deliberate Danny Torrance quality, right down to his haircut and halting delivery. The script wisely avoids the need for elaborate special effects, building unease instead from confusing sequences and recurring symbols. The visual quality is professional, crisp video and simple camerawork, on the level of an accomplished TV movie. The original music, credited to Alessandro Ponti and Andrew Poole Todd, is above average; the quietly menacing themes add mysterious gravity to the somewhat commonplace imagery. Overall, House of Last Things is a budget mindbender that at times gets a little ambitious for its britches, but still rates as 90 minutes of relatively pleasant confusion and resolution. Among straight-to-streaming horrors, it’s a decent spur-of-the-moment pick for weird fans.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…charts its many twisting paths through dreamscapes and nightmares. Characters, at first, act in irrational and manic ways… the feverish deluge of mesmerizing images that make up House Of Last Things take us further and further down a rabbit hole we’re only too happy to lose ourselves in.”–Ben Umstead, Twitch (festival screening)

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