House of Good and Evil (2013)

Having spent much of his career on the production side of things in projects as diverse as D.E.B.S (2004), and the TV show Sons of Anarchy (2008), David Mun steps into the director’s chair for this psychological horror film which was shot on a tight budget of $150,000.

The movie opens with a traumatic moment for our featured couple Maggie (Lewis) and Chris (Oliver) Conley as during a mad dash to the local hospital it becomes obvious that Maggie is enduring a miscarriage. The film swiftly moves on to a lighter scene as following their tragedy we discover the couple are on their way to their new house. They’ve bought a property in a rather secluded location, and with no telephone or electricity it really is a case of going back to basics.

The house is split into two at the moment, the other section being home to an old couple by the name of Mr and Mrs Anderson (Rhodes and Marich). Their tenancy expires soon and the real estate guy explains that they intend to leave the property at that point. During their first night they have a few drinks to celebrate, but as Chris downs a cocktail of beverages his wife mentions to him nervously “you know what happens when you mix your drinks”. There is something sinister hidden in their past here, and as Chris invites Maggie to join him in bed she replies “no, I’m not ready” in an uneasy and timid manner.

The next morning Chris heads out for the day leaving Maggie to set about getting the house in order, but strange things begin to happen and she ends up being locked in a room all day after the door slams itself shut. Maggie feels a genuine sense of unease about the house, and during a stroll in the middle of the night she hears the neighbouring tenants arguing with Mr Anderson being verbally abusive to his wife – it seems to be an issue that resonates with her. Has Chris been abusive to his wife? What role does that play in Maggie’s unsettled behaviour? Does the house genuinely have a supernatural history or has the trauma of Maggie’s recent years lead to a psychological meltdown?

A lot of questions dominate the narrative of House of Good and Evil – which in the main is no bad thing, but the speed in which they’re answered makes the movie a bit of a chore to get through. Added to that is the problem that all of these questions draw a level of intrigue that is not too dissimilar to that of how many cornflakes are left in the cereal box. You want to know – but deep down, you don’t really care. This reaches a peak when Maggie is left alone in the house for a few days, and frustratingly I found the character lacking in the depth necessary to find her situation interesting or to have the ability to create the empathy that was needed.

It’s a shame, I really don’t like to be negative about any independent feature especially one where you can see that a great deal of creative energy has gone into it. For me though it just needed something more, like more time in the editing room as I felt it could easily lose 25 minutes off the running time. Plaudits are due though for it being well shot and for having a suitably jarring soundtrack. The actors too perform well, and I don’t for a second think they’re miscast – it’s just not a great movie, sad but simple.

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