Monday 24 February 2014

The House of Him - Glasgow Film Festival review

The House of Him
Director: Robert Florence
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Writer and comedian Robert Florence pulls off an astonishing sleight of hand with his debut feature, The House of Him, an eviscerating commentary on the scourge of domestic violence disguised as a slasher movie.

Filmed entirely in his mother's Glasgow home for £900, it may be confined and small of scale, but that lack of expansiveness is more than made up for with the thematic ambition and depth brought to it by Florence’s impassioned script.

It’s the house of a serial killer (Richard Rankin) who has been murdering young women there for years, and has just lured his latest victims, Sophie (Kirsty Strain) and Anna (Louise Stewart). At first it seems as though Anna will be the conventional “final girl”, chased around the house by Him. But it quickly becomes clear Florence has more on his mind.

Leaving the slasher antics aside for long spells, it becomes essentially a two-hander as the pair talk of Anna’s powerlessness to escape her plight. The analogy is a potent one, as their conversations delve into all the insidious ways abusers operate.

And in case you think this might sound preachy, it also works just fine as a horror film. The location never becomes limiting, imaginative and atmospheric ways are found to film it, and there are a bunch of decent jolts. A terrific, Carpenter-infused score helps considerably too.

The actors are assured and controlled, even overcoming that thing where hearing Scottish accents on screen can be like getting slapped on the ear. Rankin oozes quiet menace, while Stewart gets to display a wide emotional range, and their interactions never fail to compel.

As the film progresses, radio reports suggest what's going inside this house is happening the world over. Secret things, bad things in all the houses. And that plague is men. It's a pungent metaphor that entreats us to wake up to everyday misogyny and make us look long and accusingly at a world full of monsters.

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