April 10, 2018 House on Elm Lake (Movie Review)
As if Elm Street was not bad enough, now not even lakeside homes are safe any more, as Wildeye Releasing’s House on Elm Lake hits VOD on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. It was primarily Written by Shannon Holiday (Darker Shades of Elise 2017, Bride of Scarecrow 2018), with Director James Klass (Mother Krampus 2017, Mandy the Doll 2018) as associate writer.
House on Elm Lake is about Eric Jones (Andrew Hollingworth: The Haunted Hotel 2017, Suicide Club 2018), his partner Hayley (Becca Hirani: Fox Trap 2016, Unhinged 2017) and their daughter Penny (Faye Goodwin: Lucifer’s Night 2014, Mandy the Doll 2018) moving into a new lakeside house which think they are lucky to get for a such good price. Of course, there’s an excellent reason for this fact: the previous owner (Tony Manders: The Antwerp Dolls 2015, My Bloody Banjo 2015) killed his family in a ritual murder inside the house. While that sort of thing helps with lowering the house’s price, it may cost the Jones more than they realize!
Interesting fact: this is actually a remake of a fairly-recent film. 2014’s Lucifer’s Night told largely the same story, and featured many of the same actors, including Hirani and Goodwin. The difference here is that Lucifer’s Night was shot across 4 days with 20-hour shifts on an estimated $2,000 budget. Meanwhile, three years later, Holiday and Klass would rewrite the script, rename it House on Elm Lake, and shoot it across 8-days on a $3,000 budget. The original Lucifer’s Night director Henry W. Smith (The Cup 2008, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 2017) does not appear on the cast or crew credits here, however he did get to play the title role in Klass’ Mother Krampus.
That said, the rewrites and the extra $1,000 do not exactly help this production to feel fresh; its plot is a little too familiar. It is also compared to 2013’s The Conjuring, and both are at least somewhat inspired by the (urban) legendary house in Amityville. That infamous, spooky home in the otherwise plain but upscale New York village has received its own fair share of movie adaptations, be it 1979’s The Amityville Horror with Margot Kidder, its 1982 sequel Amityville II: The Possession, its 2005 remake with Ryan Reynolds, or 2017’s Amityville: The Awakening with Jennifer Jason Leigh (Single White Female 1992, The Hateful Eight 2015.) Invariably, it is hard to stand-out when your subject matter has been trodden upon, and this is very well-trodden ground indeed.
Elements from 1980’s The Shining and 1982’s The Evil Dead appear too, but they feel more like thrown-in tropes than homages like in 2018’s Ghost Stories. That film utilised elements from the aforementioned films to produce something different, while it all feels like more of the same here. That is not to say that House on Elm Lake is without merit, as it does pull off some creepy moments with its soundtrack and camera tricks. While the film does not always hit the mark, it certainly puts in a good effort. On the positive, the camera quality is crisp and clean, pulling off some pretty shots in places and some pretty gruesome ones as well.
However, the acting is uneven. Hirani puts on the strongest performance, coming off as the most convincing. Hollingworth also does well, though he pulls off some scenes better than others. Goodwin is rather shaky, though she is not too bad for a child actor. Although, it just does not help that the Penny character seems like she should be much younger than Goodwin. She does have some good chemistry with Hirani though, which is a plus. Manders does derangement well, yet he does not completely nail-down being intimidating; he starts off fearsome enough but later he seems kind of silly.
Unfortunately, this is how a lot of the scares play out. While the film sports mostly good makeup and effects, and starts out strong, these effects generally work better when they are either just out-of-sight or just out-of-focus. Once the figures come into clear view, they lose that mystique. The tension picks up a bit for the final act, though it is not exactly blood-chilling; climactic yes, but it is unlikely to keep people up during the night.
That sums up House on Elm Lake pretty well. There are some nice, spooky moments, some good scenes here and there, and it even builds up a good level of tension at points. Unfortunately, it also manages to burst these positive bubbles with some truly silly sequences. The story is derivative, and Hirani and Hollingsworth carry most of the acting. So, while this film has more blood and guts than its Amityville forebears, the red stuff alone cannot save this offering. Ultimately, House on Elm Lake is an okay effort but it does not make the grade. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives this film 2 out of 5 stars.