House of the Witchdoctor
‘House of the Witchdoctor’ is the kind of horror flick we used to watch midnight showings at one was prone to find somewhere in the Greenwich Village area. The dominant demographic for the audience was guys in high school or perhaps freshman in college. Aside from the movie, one of the attractions of the venue like this was girlfriend would be prone to hide her face against her shoulder during the numerous scary scenes. Just a note to the youth of today, back when we watch these movies relationships took a rather long time to develop, unlike accelerated pace, not uncommon today. This film would have fit in perfectly with the catalog of movies appearing on the marquee in front of the theater. We obviously didn’t go for cinematic excellence for the proven track record of actors or directors. We went to forget about the pressures of school, and for guys graduation looming before us. That was a time of the draft lottery with your birthday was picked, you received a trip to Southeast Asia care of the American government. In light of the prospect of going to a war anything depicted on the screen could be readily laughed at. The point of the film was escapism, some laughs and frights a little more. These adjusted expectations persisted as we grew up so that when we come across a movie like ‘House of the Witchdoctor’, pretend that concentrates more on the nostalgia in any issues we might have the quality of the presentation. I mention this in the spirit of full disclosure, that although I greatly enjoy the piece of finely crafted cinematic artistry, a movie like this is a reminder that sometimes you just want to have fun for couple of hours and not be concerned with the examination of technique.
The writer/director for this offering is Devon Mikolas, a young filmmaker who is concerned with being born about the time we were buying tickets for movies like this. We must’ve become a devotee of that particular niche of movies, most of his film credits are representative of films from this time and place. He has acted in several of these films that this is the first time he has written and directed a feature-length project. Considering his age and that he’s on the start of his learning curve, he demonstrates a lot of potential for retrospective point of view, at least. The movie opens with a person running through the woods in desperation. Chasing him is a menacing figure with a burlap bag over his head, never a good sign any time, but particularly while strolling through the woods at night. The first of many twists, there will be applied to the story is the fact that the running potential victim’s male. The person occupying this archetype, particularly in the opening of a horror movie, is almost inevitably a female, usually one who appears to not have much in the way of wardrobe. What sets Mr. Mikolas apart from and distinctively above, so many of his fellow independent horror directors is he is not at all obliged to honor the tenants of this genre. Ever become extremely evident as the film progresses, Mikolas appears to enjoy arriving at the twisted his film by straying off the horror flick playbook and venturing into the elements of various different types of film. The more I got into the movie, the more I came to the realization that this was a significant cut above those midnight flicks, even if they bring back strong memories of them.
Present get to meet what appear to be the most likely candidates for the films antagonists, Cliff Rifton (Allan Kayser), and his redneck buddy appropriately named, Buzz (David Willis). As it turns out, Cliff was recently incarcerated for various unnamed crimes, although it seems highly probable that they involved violence. Buzz, is always up for good time, which typically involves a lot of pain and death for anyone they happen upon. Buzz welcomes his friend back to freedom by taking him to a drug dealer to obtain a supply of methamphetamine. The transaction does not go well for the dealer considering Cliff and Buzz they depart with both their money and the drugs. As a demonstration the depths of their depravity, the out-of-control pair rape to the dealer’s woman before torturing him to death. While this is going on, the audience is finally shown the requisite female elements to the movie. The alpha female of this pack of coeds is Leslie (Callie Stephens), who was accompanied by a cadre of friends including; Rose (Dyanne Thorne), Regina (Emily Bennett),Jossie (Steffie Grote) and Patty, portrayed by Summer Bills, known through the Internet for her appearances in YouTube’s ‘YouStar: Road to Fame’. Less they were bringing hope friends to meet her parents; Peter (Bill Moseley) and Irene Van Hooten.
The speed freak duo is in the mood for a group of coeds satisfy their lustful need for rape and pillaging. Little do they know, that the house and middle age on his are not exactly what it appears to be on the surface. There are a couple of guys tagging along with the girls, but as expected. Their purpose is little more than fodder for the killers in a means by which to include a little gratuitous sex that is always prominently featured in such a film, Tom (Danny Miller) and Thad (Jonathan Helvey). After an initial attack, they are wanted by Sheriff Gooden (David Andreiw), that a pair violet man are on the loose, but the group declines submitting a report wanted to just put the whole thing behind them. The parents on their way to pick up an elderly relative to bring her back for a special family function. As soon as they are shown to their rooms, Tom and Regina revoked their clothes and jump on the bed. In true Winehouse form, the camera lingers on the beautiful redhead during the scene. There always has to be at least one actress less constrained by modesty than the others. Naturally, there’s a shower scene featuring Leslie, and one of the other girls. Patty, is intent on remaining a virgin until the wedding night much of the chagrin of her boyfriend. Of course, once Cliff and Buzz get a hold of her that option disappears completely.
One of the most notable twists infused into the story is the spirit of the familiar trope, the survivor girl, is diffused throughout the group. The boys and most of the girls are more than willing and able to fight back with Tom: on his belly like a worm to the kitchen where he can burn off his bindings on the stove and obtain a knife. The closeness group is inflicted with a lot of pain and death, but they managed to strike a few blows against their captors. One thing about the choice of having Cliff and Buzz as tweaked out mortals is they are not subject to the unstoppable rampage of the supernatural ability, such as Freddy or Jason. They can be hurt, bleed and die, which provides a somewhat level playing field for the gruesome events within the house. At this point, many viewers may be wondering about the title. The house is obviously the one they are in the meth heads off far from being witch doctors. That didn’t reveal is ideally placed towards the end of the film, not as a dénouement but in a better placed as the introduction into the third act. Mr. Mikolas is developing quite a flare for pacing that is very unusual for an indie horror filmmaker in his freshman opus. Adding to the potential for his talent is keen eye imagery. I look forward to his subsequent work to see how this ability develops. Sinister of darkness of the woods is nicely contrasted to the well-lit house. This develops an intriguing contradiction between setting and situation. The woods are relatively safe place compared to the pleasant family-style home that becomes the location of a desperate try for survival.
The combination of several well-crafted plot twists and the filmmaker’s perchance to playing loose with the defining aspects of a number of genres, the film a look and even feel of those midnight features from long ago, but I have to admit it is a distinctive improvement. In any case, this is one director whose career. I will be closely watching. For those interested in such surprising little gems keep an eye out for other DVD releases by the distributor here, ‘Breaking Glass Pictures’. They are noy the conventional purveyor of movies; their catalog contains some of the most intriguing offerings in the world of independent cinema.