Movie Review: HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET (2017)

There’s a tired motif within the horror genre that begs to be distanced from in order to keep things fresh. Fortunately for genre fans, original horror has thrived in recent years, leaving cliches and contrived stories in the background as we jog toward an exciting horror resurgence. Sadly, HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET is a mild sprained ankle suffered in our race, and while not entirely crippling, it remains an aggravating setback.

Directed by Alastair Orr from a script co-written by himself, Catherine Blackman and Jonathan Jordaan, HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET tells the story of four thieves who find trouble while attempting one final heist job. After being discovered by a young woman, the criminals take her captive and realize the danger they’ve put themselves in as they begin to unravel the woman’s dark secret.

Though HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET falters in many ways, it doesn’t go without praise. This film is competently directed by Alastair Orr and the story presents an interesting concept, though its execution is rather poor. The special makeup effects, too, are a resounding highlight, as are (some) of the set designs. The acting, for the most part, is serviceable throughout the film as well, even if the characters aren’t really likable.

In fact, that’s a glaring flaw that HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET presents us with. There isn’t a single character that you find yourself rooting for, even when they are cast into horrific situations. Much of this is due to the especially weak script, which forces these actors to spew unrealistic dialogue and neglects to develop this group of thieves beyond that very detail, all the while checking nearly every box on the list of horror cliches. The fate of each character is predictable, but you likely won’t care about them either way.

In addition to the weak script and reliance on cliches, the musical score in HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET is used as an obnoxious tool that beats us over the head with the different emotions it’s begging for us to feel. Every scene that’s meant to be scary is accompanied by a frantic, loud cue of ominous music, and each scene that hopes to tug at our heartstrings evokes a somber tune. Complaining about the score is typically considered nitpicky, but in the case of HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET, it’s often heavy-handed and distracting.

There’s no doubt in my mind that there will be horror fans who enjoy this film. The makeup effects and the potential of the concept alone will be enough for certain viewers to find enjoyment in HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET. However, fans looking for strong characters and a trace of originality would be better served to take an alternate route.

HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET will be available in select theaters and on VOD March 23rd from IFC Midnight.

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