CAPSULE: SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT THE DOOR (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Chad Ferrin

FEATURING: , Andrea Renda, Jon Budinoff, Ricardo Gray, Silvia Spross, Ezzra [sic] Buzzington, Elina Madison

PLOT: The spirits of two possessed serial killers who rape their victims to death stalk drug

Still from Someone's Knocking at the Door (2008)

abusing medical students.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  If you want unlikeable, unbelievable characters and prosthetic mutant penises, this is your movie; if you want something scary or meaningfully weird, however, look elsewhere.

COMMENTS: The strangest thing about Someone’s Knocking at the Door isn’t the variety of killer genitalia on display, but the bed-hopping, skin-popping residents of what has to rank as the Princeton Review’s number one medical party school.  Besides engaging in frequently fatal kinky sex, these medicos in training spend most of their time taking speed, booze, ecstasy, nicotine, Xanax, Oxycontin, nitrous oxide, and attending Halloween parties where the students egg each other on with cries of “chug! chug! chug!”  Fortunately for the kids, when one of their compatriots is killed via graphic demonic anal rape, the school’s hippie chancellor gives them the week off to grieve at the kegger of their choice.  The students also get high off of vials of experimental psychiatric drugs, while listening to snuff audiotapes so they can catch up on the back story.  (Only after shooting up do they think to look up the drug’s side effects, which include increased sexual appetite, hallucinations, and possible coma.  Oops!)  In a stroke of good luck for the audience, the kids are all perfectly detestable human beings, which means we don’t mind much when possessed serial killers from the 1970s somehow show up to rape them to death.  Jon Budinoff, in particular, never says a kind or sincere word and punches his dates when they don’t put out; he’s so loathsome it’s impossible to believe he could have any friends at all.  On the other hand we recognize as the film’s moral conscience when he objects after finding his socially inept buddy groping a half-nude, comatose female partier who may have stopped breathing (although he’s not so judgmental as to try to stop him).  Knocking is a movie that would love to be offensive, but it keeps tripping over its own silliness.  Ridiculous plot and lack of characterization aside, the movie is technically competent, and director Chad Ferris does put some interesting and occasionally very weird ideas up on the screen.  All of the backgrounds are earth tones or sickly avocados; the film has the color scheme of a 1977 kitchenette.  The genital prosthetics are genuinely nightmarish (the film focuses on the phallus, but the other sex gets its moment to, er, shine as well).  Psychotic episodes are effectively conveyed through stuttering editing that mixes alternate views of the present with brief hallucinations, scored to eerie electronic noises.  At one point, the sound effects even mimic a malfunctioning dial-up modem, a scarier effect than you might think.  And, look closely at the funeral procession for an unexpectedly bizarre surprise.  Other odd moments include a fleeing female who falls a modern record seven times (!) while covering a mere ten feet as she’s chased by a shambling but sure-footed killer.  (In her defense, she may have been thrown off by the fact that the soundtrack was blaring an upbeat indie rock tune instead of the expected shrieking violins).  Add a twist ending you’ve seen before and a strong moral against injecting experimental psychiatric medications for kicks, and you have a strange, if uneven, modern exploitation horror.  If grindhouses existed today, this is what would be playing there.  A mixture of time-tested horror clichés, careless scriptwriting, and mucho grotesquerie, Knocking features enough sex, violence and general outrageousness to save it from being boring, and enough stylistic innovation to (mostly) camouflage its derivative slasher story.  Fans of modern disgusto horror will open up gleefully for Someone’s Knocking at the Door, but others will want to turn off all the lights and pretend no one’s home.

A title credit sequence featuring a vintage shower of pharmaceuticals cut with grainy 1960s home movies announces that this is a movie aimed squarely at the horror/stoner crowd, the genre’s largest unacknowledged demographic.  In a clever exploitation-style marketing move, the poster and DVD cover features black censor bars not only over exposed naughty bits, but also over the actors’ and actresses’ eyes, giving the movie an extra aura of pornographic depravity.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…eschews the standards of the youth-horror genre, opting instead for something more hallucinatory.”–Michael Gingold, Fangoria (DVD)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.