Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the supernatural horror movie THE CHARNEL HOUSE by director Craig Moss. To quickly describe the story, I am going to edit down IMDB’s plot summary a bit:
An architect turns an old slaughterhouse into a high tech new apartment complex. Something from the abattoir’s past infects the systems putting the lives of his family and all who live there in danger.
The teaser of an opening was one of the most effective first scenes I have seen in awhile and it really got my attention. While it seemed like business as usual at first, there was a moment near the climax of this scene that left me trying to figure out the horror roots behind this feature. I have to be honest; it is rare that I have so many questions just from a cold opening, so the feeling of uncertainty was a pleasant change of pace that immediately had me engaged in this film.
After this mysterious opening, we fast forward thirty years to get to know the main players in this movie. There are a few scenes in these earlier moments that very clearly lay out the main family’s relationships with each other and add some believability to their home life. It is because they have a genuine chemistry between them that we begin to care when their dream business begins to take a sideways turn.
Since this family was instrumental in the building of this apartment complex, it seems fair that they get the majority of the attention, but it comes at the cost of the supporting player’s characterizations. That is not to say that their performances are bad (far from it), but we have seen these characters quite a few times before so they feel very familiar. Even though their roles are fairly thin, the actors do a decent job of coming across as sympathetic or endearing before things start spiraling out of control.
I have to admit, I was impressed with the violence in this movie as, for the most part, it was kept out of frame. One particular scene, which resembled something out of FINAL DESTINATION, ended up eliciting an, “Ooh!” from me just because of how expertly it was handled. Granted, not all of the deaths look like that movie; most are related to either stabbing or a ghostly influence, though we never quite see anything grotesque.
In a way, this switching up the kill styles speaks a bit to how this picture seems to be influenced by many different features. Throughout, it is hard not to notice some similarities to be psychological ghost stories of old while also having a bit of a slasher influence. What could feel like too many disparate storylines works thanks to a story that feels familiar, yet adds its own unique twist to the proceedings.
All in all, the chemistry of the family combined with an interesting third act development set this apart from the many features from which it drew inspiration. It was impressive that they were able to weave in so many different horror tropes, yet still have a strong enough plot to stand on their own two feet. I would primarily recommend this to fans of THE SHINING (1980) though fans of horror in general will probably find something to like in this film.
THE CHARNEL HOUSE will be released in select theaters and VOD on November 4, 2016
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