Friday, December 11, 2015

The Happy House

A bickering couple vacations at a bed and breakfast, and the microphone strapped to the lead actor's lower back is briefly visible in this horror film. Joe and Wendy, two not-especially interesting New Yorkers, decide to try to salvage their sinking relationship, so Joe books them at a secluded B&B. Wisely, Wendy doesn't want to go.

Honestly, who could blame her? I've spent the night at several allegedly haunted hotels and at least one allegedly haunted mansion. I hang out in cemeteries for fun. I can say with all certainty that there's nothing more terrifying to me than the thought of staying at a B&B. The forced chit-chat, the communal activities, the proximity to strangers, the early morning hours, the quiet, the relaxation, the needlepoint, the doilies. I shudder at the thought.

I once spent the night at an allegedly haunted Shaker village. I guess you could say it was kind of a B&B. Did the ghosts frighten me? No. I almost ran screaming from the hotel foyer from the sight of several people sitting in Shaker rockers crocheting. Later that night, it was darker than any dark I've ever experienced, so quiet my tinnitus nearly deafened me, and I was a stone's throw from livestock. But it was the idyllic crocheting that nearly had me speeding away in a panic. I was hoping ghosts would wander around rattling their chains or whatever to break up the homespun monotony.

Anyway, I'm reviewing a movie. Upon arriving at the charming bed & breakfast, an impossibly cheerful woman named Hildie welcomes Joe and Wendy into her home, and they meet her ax-wielding son and a not-especially Swedish lepidopterist named Hverven. The house is decorated with an overabundance of cuckoo clocks, and they're presented with a lengthy list of House Rules. They're warned not to break the rules three times, because something bad will happen. There's no internet, there's no TV, and no loud music or snacking is allowed.

At this point, I would've fled the scene. I don't trust people who are aggressively polite and good natured. What's their angle? What are they hiding? I don't trust them. Also, I can't follow rules. I'll break every single one of them just to do it. Upon learning that snacking wasn't allowed, I would've driven back to the nearest convenience store for every snack known to mankind and gobbled them in bed out of spite. While I stayed at the Shaker village, the hotel restaurant was closed for the night because it was like, I don't know, either 7 p.m. or the 19th century, so I ate most of a contraband Derby pie in my room. Plus no internet, TV, or music? Might as well hit me over the head with a shovel and bury me out back, Hildie, because it's what you're planning all along anyway. Death by nostalgia. Or a shovel. Whatever. Anyway, I'm on to you, Hildie. Put me out of my internet-free misery.

Back to the review. After a bunch of B&B tedium, including needlepoint, checkers, reading, silence, cuckoo clocks, and blueberry muffins that have a secret ingredient that isn't mentioned in the film again, the police arrive to tell Hildie and the gang that a murderous mental patient has escaped the nearby asylum because of course it is, and he goes by the name of Desmond The Decapitator because of course he does. Seriously, all that peace and quiet would drive anyone crazy. Did I mention there's no TV or internet? For crying out loud. How can someone live that way? I mean, how do people in rural areas watch cat videos? Do they watch actual cats? No thanks. While I stayed at the haunted Shaker village with the crocheting, there was no phone reception, no TV, and it was so quiet I swear I could hear the clacking of those steel crochet needles echoing throughout the building.

Anyway, back again to the review. Suddenly, a stranger knocks on the door. Hildie packs her .44 Magnum because of course she does. Then the movie takes a dark turn, and not a moment too soon, as the house is plunged into darkness, and the cast resorts to candles. They tie bedsheets together, and they unconvincingly scramble down them to escape the terror unfolding within the house, which isn't particularly terrifying, only to be involved in a low-speed chase from an ax-wielding maniac. It's more of a jog, really.

Disappointing as a mystery, and disappointing as a slasher, The Happy House seems like two films iced together like a mismatched layer cake, light and airy at the top, dark and dense below. Unfortunately, pastries are all that Hildie is serving, and something more substantial isn't on the menu.

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