The Scarehouse (Movie Review)

The Scarehouse (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: On the night of their annual haunted-house Halloween bash, a harem of sadistic sorority sisters invite a series of single ladies, only to subject them to wildly violent hazing rituals. Welcome to The Scarehouse!

REVIEW: Ever the adorer of sexy sorority-slasher flicks, I can't help but think that Gavin Michael Booth's THE SCAREHOUSE - a rather intoxicating and unpredictable fun-filled elixir of blood, guts and estrogen - would have benefited far greater if it had been released a month ago, right in time for Halloween. With its ornate haunted-house regalia and seasonal neon-lit atmosphere, not to mention its deft tonal blend of horror and humor, this is the perfect kind of flick to get down with during the Halloween season. As it is however, the flick is poised to debut in the U.S. on January 13, 2015...which may, in my opinion, hamper its overall memorability. Nevertheless, if you dig fine-ass-yet-feisty nubile chicks in various states of distress (and undress), then no question, you can visit a lot of places less accommodating than THE SCAREHOUSE!

So we open with an absolute drool-dripper. A smoldering gaggle of about eight panty-clad college hotties sit around a dorm-room, gossiping, getting dressed. Instant standouts include Sarah Booth (who not only co-wrote the flick, but is married to director Gavin Michael Booth), our hilariously tongued and androgynously dressed female lead...who seems to be channeling Dumas from DREAM A LITTLE DREAM...right down to the pair of overall shorts she's rocking (love that shite!) I'll tell you right now, without the magnetic turn of Booth, I don't think the movie would work very well at all. She's great in the movie, not too serious, not too campy...yet always believable. She's funny without being annoying, and scary without being phony. Well done, Sarah!

Now on to the plot. So our sexy-sadistic sorority sisters - an even icier combination of MEAN GIRLS and HEATHERS - are in the midst of organizing their annual Halloween party. Cue up The Scarehouse, a spookily decorative haunted-house attraction that the sisters use to scare the piss out of new pledges each year. And this year is no different. Get this. The two head sisters, Corey (Booth) and Elaina (Kimberly-Sue Murray), put a plan in place which sees them invite single ladies to the party, one by one, before abducting their cute little asses from The Scarehouse and subjecting them to various methods of torturous hazing. Shit gets grisly! I'm talking about Jigsaw style contraptions...rope and pulley stretch-jobs and blow-dryer in the bathtub type of shit! And why, you may ask, are they doing this? Well, let's just say Revenge is a Bitch best served Bold! However, when a riff between complicit sisters begins to tear the entire hazing ritual apart...an unforeseen twist of fate ensues. Seriously, even if it bogs down with over-exposition in the second half, THE SCAREHOUSE amounts to more than just a predictable slasher joint. I truly doubt you'll see the ending coming!

But more than that, because frankly, with that lack of predictability comes bit of confusion (at least in the final reel), what I really liked most about THE SCAREHOUSE was the sheer entertainment value. I never once felt bored, in large part due to the not-too-serious tone and fun sense of humor that was sustained throughout. Look, the worst thing for a low-budget horror flick is to take itself too seriously, and that includes the actors. Aside from a cringe-inducing dramatic tantrum here and there, THE SCAREHOUSE knows that its likeability resides in its characters, and as a result, the brutal bouts of butchery are tempered by some pretty witty banter in between kills. In fact, I get the feeling, just by the nature of the ensemble, that a lot of the dialogue was improvised. It feels real, the girls' interactions feel authentic, which goes a long way in conjuring sympathy by the time the blade is indeed dropped. Again, Booth is the major standout in this regard, which makes sense since she, as a co-writer, had all but full authorship over how to play the character. And not only does it show, it pays!

As for gripes, the main one I had in terms of the narrative is just how muddled some of the intentions get toward the end. No joke, this is a twisty little plot, and keeping the narrative strands untangled proved, to me at least, to be a bit of a chore at times. I actually had to go back and watch the flick a second time from the halfway point or so (or 45 minutes in) just to try to make heads or tails of what it was I actually just witnessed. That's never a good sign, but neither is being so thoroughly unchallenged to the point of predictable boredom. I can safely say THE SCAREHOUSE never tipped too far in that latter direction, even if the tradeoff yielded a bit of a head-scratch. So in regards to clear-cut storytelling, I'd say the first half of the flick is the stronger one, with the second half more viscerally involving (through its carnage).

All in all, if you like serpentine-sorority-slasher flicks, I'd certainly give THE SCAREHOUSE a tour. It by no means reinvents the wheel, but so what, the highly entertaining tonal balance of horror and humor is executed well enough for you to enjoy yourself throughout. For the most part, I had a good time...largely due to the spot-on performance of Sarah Booth. She, like the film, mostly strikes a perfect balance between campy kitsch and sadistic solemnity. Now, granted, I do think this is a movie that would be enjoyed far more immensely if it had been released around Halloween time. It just feels like one of those movies. That said, don't let the otherwise dumping date of January 13th deter you, go out and give THE SCAREHOUSE a walkthrough!

Extra Tidbit: THE SCAREHOUSE is slated to hit U.S. theaters on January 13, 2015.



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