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The Bottom Shelf #152

03.20.2008

People don't believe me when I tell them that I really do have an eclectic taste in movies. I don't stick to one genre, although I do have a tendency to fawn over particular actors/actresses/directors/writers and such. Luckily for me, it looks like fawning over the work by Mitchell Altieri is going to provide me with a variety of genre styles, if these two films have anything to prove in that regard.

THE HAMILTONS (2006)
Directed: Mitchell Altieri, Phil Flores (The Butcher Brothers)
Starring: Cory Knauf, Samuel Child

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I'm a sucker for a good vampire flick. (Cue the Fozzy the Bear, "Wokka Wokka" noise.) While I was never a big fan of the more traditional vampire tales, as spun by the newly reborn Anne Rice, I tended to seek out stories that made vampires seem a little more real to me. Combine that with the fact that I love surprises, am an indie-lover like a mutha and the fact that this is one of the best low-budget flicks I've seen in a long time which straddles multiple film genres and you've got one happy Zara. I wasn't sure what to expect going into this movie, mostly checking it out because I liked director Alitieri's LURKING IN SUBURBIA so much, but what I found ended up being even better.

A family consisting of an uptight eldest brother, two sadist fraternal twins and an emotionally adrift teen brother, the Hamiltons are more than meets the eye. The film starts off looking like it's going to attempt to recreate the torture porn trend that movies like SAW brought into popularity, showing a grief-stricken young woman tearing at the walls of a room dangling with devious devices. But after the opening credits start to roll, it begins to play out like a warped version of how Paul Dano's character in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE must have seen his family. The teen brother carries around a digital video camera, trying to make sense of his bizarre siblings, longing for the parents who died under suspect circumstances, and shouldering the burden that comes with his family bringing home people with which to harvest blood and organs from.

There is a door to a level of mystery that the directors crack open only so much. You're allowed to figure out pretty much for yourself what is going on with the family (that they're blood-suckers) but to leave it at just that would be a huge disservice to the movie as a whole. The acting is superior to most every other indie I've seen in at least the last 2 years, the direction and editing is tight and purposeful, the look of the film is one that evenly balances the tension of horror and the banality of every day normal family life. This is a horror movie which just as evenly nails the drama of adolescent growth as it does twist your nipple on subtly terrorizing you with that feeling of not knowing what's about to emerge around the corner. I would like to say that The Butcher Brothers should end up getting gold statues at some point down in their careers, but at the same time, I worry that Hollywood-zation might taint what they quite clearly have already perfected for a bargain basement rate. Solid, intelligent, thoughtful and really, really good filmmaking.

Favorite Scene:

Watching a fraternal twins make out. But don't get too excited, boys. It's a brother and sister.

Favorite Line:

"I don't have time for this hulabaloo..."

Trivia Tidbit:

The Butcher Brothers made their first movie after finding a camera near a car accident, according to the promotional website for this film.

See if you liked:

INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, THE CRAFT, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

LURKING IN SUBURBIA (2006)
Directed by: Mitchell Altieri
Starring: Joe Egender, Ari Zagaris

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

Growing up is hard to do. It's a subject which has been covered at all of the different life cycles, from being a kid to being a pre-teen, to high school angst, to passing through your twenties into "adulthood" to how much "adulthood" sucks to what you do when you've decided that you're too old to be relevant anymore. This film falls into a category which I feel is a newer one. That of the 30 year old males who were coddled by the parents who were hippies and had put up with enough shit that they wanted to shield their kids from anything difficult and indulged them in every light-hearted whim that came to their budding minds. More or less, we've created a generation whose adolescence lasts for a couple of decades.

Starting off in a narrative, Conrad ("Connie") wakes up on the day of his 30th birthday. He's the last of his buddies to turn 30 and lets us know that he's still hurting over his first girlfriend (who he had at 14) cheating on him. He's gone to college, has a degree, is supposed to be a writer and yet is living in "that" house. You know the one, the house where the guy who owns it really isn't a friend of most of the people hanging out in it (the one here is "Lip," a Mexican dude who has never learned English). The party house where there are always people crashing, no one seems to pay rent, bashes are constantly being thrown but never get broken up and no one is really sure what the age of the girl banging your buddy on the couch is, just that there's a very good chance that age isn't legal.

By the end of the flick, it's the next day and we've been introduced to everyone that Connie knows, including a very awkward and unnecessary reunion with the first girlfriend (who, ever NOT so quaintly has named one of her children "Conrad" so that she can remember to respect what's most important in life), and it gives you the eternally happy ending that most 30-somethings are never going to get these days. But what I do like about the movie is that it is unabashed in delivering the stereotypes so solidly. That it mocks its characters for their incapacity to say no to debauchery and while accepting that these people are flourishing out there in society, also teaches the lesson that it's much better if you choose to grow up, even if it's the type of "adulthood" that our previous generation would have found appalling.

Favorite Scene:

When Connie sees a little kid playing PSP in the parking lot, asks him what game he's playing and the kid responds with "Pac-Man." Watching Connie get that slight look of memorabilia excitement and then have the kid shake his head at him like he's a douche is fantastic.

Favorite Line:

"So I did what any 14 year old would do... built an emotional vault around myself and became a writer."

OR:

"At least I don't leech off four guys using my pussy as collateral."

Trivia Tidbit:

Writer/Director Mitchell Altieri is one half of a partnership known as "The Butcher Brothers" with Phil Flores. The two also collaborated on an upcoming direct-to-DVD title APRIL FOOL'S DAY, starring members of the cast of this film as well.

See if you liked:

SINGLES, REALITY BITES, HIGH FIDELITY

Oh, and if you've already watched THE HAMILTONS (or after you run out and watch it based on my recommendation, be sure to check out this fan video as well. Oh, and Gustopher. Because I said so.

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