Merry Christmas, Fellow Fans! For the last our our “Five Days Of Christmas”, we wanted to present to you our review of the most recent of holiday horrors, courtesy of Todd Nunes and company!
For all of their formulaic and somewhat repetitive plotlines, slasher films of the 80s will always hold a special place in the hearts of Fellow Fans everywhere. Sure, one always knew that the group of young peeps at the camp/mansion/university were gonna be slowly stalked and slain by a killer in a mask/bunny suit/shadowy hood in creative ways, and we always knew that if the killer’s identity were unknown from the start of the film, they would almost certainly turn out to be a relative/old mentor/lifelong friend of the final girl of the film…to paraphrase a currently popular commercial, if you were a slasher flick, it’s what you did. Still, there’s a certain charm to these old hack ‘n’ slashes from the heyday of the horror film that kept (and keeps, by and large) us coming back for more.
Writer/director Todd Nunes is obviously, like yours truly and many more of us, a fan of those olden days of slasher cinema, and it shows in his feature All Through The House.
Rachel returns to her hometown of Napa on Christmas Eve after she had abruptly left some time ago. Checking in with her sassy grandmother, she receives a note from the town recluse, Mrs. Garrett, asking her if she would mind helping with her decorations. Although a little weirded out by the request — after all, Mrs. Garrett had the rep in town as the “strange” lady, and she’d never let her daughter, Jamie, come out to play with the other girls — in the spirit of the season, Rachel agrees.
Of course, little Jamie Garrett’s kidnapping 15 years ago may have contributed to some of the old lady’s weirdness, and the soft-hearted Rachel visits with her, promising to come back in a couple hours after reconnecting with some people. Meeting up with old friends Gia and Mandy, she does some shopping and catching up (and even meets back up with old flame Cody, somewhat awkwardly) before talking her pals into helping her out with Mrs. Garrett’s house. But as they become more and more aware of the strangeness of the home and find out more dark secrets about its owner, her long-missing daughter, and their connection to Rachel’s past, the trio find out the hard way that some secrets can be deadly — you see, Rachel isn’t the only one who’s come to Napa for the holidays, but this other visitor, with their spooky Santa garb and trusty garden shears, isn’t into the spirit of giving…more the spirit of taking…
This film is chock full o’ homages and nods to slasher flicks of old. You’ve got the immediate visuals that make you think of Silent Night, Deadly Night, some subtle winks to Carpenter’s Halloween, and as you move forward in the story you can catch some similarities to other films, like The Burning (garden shears as a primary weapon — although there’s more to that choice than you’d think!), Black Christmas, and Sleepaway Camp. Of course, I’ve only had the one viewing, and I’m sure there are more smiling references to other films from the glory days of the ’80s — but before you go off thinking this flick is just a rehash of old idea, let me explain myself a bit better: these homages, while a very nice salute to the old days and a wink and a grin to us old-timers, are not all that this film brings to the table. Nunes’ script has some very clever turns to it, and although it stays mostly in the lines of the “slasher formula”, it still stands on its own as a modern slasher through and through, and the visual of the killer in his twisted Santa mask is one that oughtta be around a while (there was actually a lot of creepy Santa imagery in the flick — something for a new tradition for horror fans?).
While borrowing from the past, Nunes’ idea is still a pretty original one, with a new twist on an old trope that I myself have never seen before. Performance-wise, although the main focus is on Rachel, Gia, Mandy, and Mrs. Garrett, the other actors and actresses, despite short screen times (wonder why that is? heh heh) acquit themselves well, giving some meat to the story despite being merely psycho-fodder. As for the leads, Nunes’ sister, the lovely Ashley Mary Nunes, does very well in her role of Rachel; though the character seems a little stilted at the beginning, she more than comes into her own as the story unfolds. Natalie Montera and Danica Riner, as Gia and Mandy respectively, are convincing in their portrayals, and provide great characters for the film. It’s Melynda Kiring as Mrs. Garrett, however, that stole the show for me — although over the top from time to time, she provides a character of both whimsy and trepidation, a wild card that kept me guessing until a certain point, and even had a couple of surprises after that point. Toss in genre fave Jessica Cameron in a short but memorable role, and you have a pretty damned fine horror cast.
Of course, one of the biggest stars of any slasher is the special effects, and gore-hounds won’t be disappointed here — there’s blood, impalements, slashed throats, gouged eyes — you want blood, you got it! The practical make-up artistry of Tommy Pietch and Josh McCarron is spot-on fantastic here.
One bit about those said effects: I feel it only fair to warn you that there’s enough emasculations in this flick to remind you of Cannibal Holocaust and/or Cannibal Ferox — that said, there is a pretty twisted and compelling reason in the plot for this, but I thought I’d put that out front so that the less hardcore of you Fellow Fans out there wouldn’t be blindsided. =)
Though it may not reinvent the genre, I found All Through The House to be a fun, entertaining flick, bringing back all the things I enjoy about slasher films, and putting it in a package with a great story, good performances, and some real technical flair. Like any other flick, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but in my humble opinion, it’s one to watch.
My two-tenths of a dime.