I admire anyone who can create something out of nothing.
Truer words are rarely spoken within a film than in this case. Fear House looks like it was made for next to nothing, yet its script and a creepy performance by its lead - Aleece Jones - help elevate this film into something that at least passes the time entertainingly for fans of fright house ghost flicks.
After an introductory scene - mixed in with the movie's credits - where two horny kids are dispatched within an old house in the middle of nowhere, Fear House begins with successful horror novelist Samantha Ballard (played by the aforementioned Aleece Jones) purchasing said house from an elderly agent. She views it as a great place to write her next book.
Nine months pass by and no one hears from her - or the agent for that matter. Thus, one night, Samantha's hemophiliac brother and her literary agent, along with two women including the real estate agent's daughter, arrive to check up on her. Conveniently, it's the very same night at the very same time that Samantha's estranged husband and his new lover show up to get her to sign divorce papers.
Why they all have to do this in the middle of the night is never explained. I guess it wouldn't be a horror movie otherwise.
In any case, the six characters break into the spooky old house. There, they find Samantha clearly deranged and discover that they cannot leave the house without facing their greatest fears and being killed by them. Apparently, a young girl named Anna Lisa was imprisoned by her abusive father 100 years ago at this very house, and her spirit is still causing mischief along with the spirit of Mondrique, a servant who cared for her and was killed for his troubles. Ah, but are these malevolent specters truly to blame? Time will tell - precisely 86 minutes, the runtime of this movie.
I watched Fear House wanting to like it despite its warts. Some of the acting is really over-the-top atrocious - though the two worst actors play characters who get killed straightaway so it's not a long-running nuisance. It's the lack of a special effects budget that ultimately takes away from the shocks of the film. Towards the film's climax, for example, a nearly laughable beheading scene followed by an equally shoddy looking death-by-giant-fireball really undercut the tension developed by the movie.
The script isn't bad, though, and offers a fairly standard haunted house scenario. Aleece Jones is both creepy and engaging as the prescient, haunted novelist who seems to be in sympathy with the dark forces that surround the house. The obsessive horror hounds out there who simply must see everything made in this genre could certainly do worse than spending an hour and a half with this movie.
Fear House is described on the cover art as "16/9 Letterbox." The image is grainy and lacking in detail. Since most of the movie occurs in a dimly-lit setting, though, I didn't find this to be particularly distracting.
Fear House provides two sound options: Dolby Surround 5.1 and Stereo 2.0. The default seems to be the Dolby Surround 5.1 and thus the option I listened to. I wasn't all that impressed with the mix, which didn't seem particularly dynamic. It seemed like a stereo mix, in other words. But, the dialogue was always clear - if a bit bass-heavy - and certainly serviceable.
Neither subtitle nor foreign language options appeared to be available.
Life Size Entertainment provides a surprisingly generous helping of extras for this movie. The only quibble I have is with the extras menu - and this is a minor quibble. The extras menu is on a continuous loop with a short effects shot from the film preceding the extras options. This means that the options come and go every 10 seconds or so. It's not a big deal, but it's a little unusual and annoying. The set up menu was on a similarly styled loop, but the options didn't disappear for a considerable length of time on each playback cycle.
In any case, the extras include a trailer and actor rehearsal footage shot in Los Angeles. The trailer is widescreen while the rehearsal footage is full-frame and presented as if it were a series of short outtakes.
There's also an actual Outtakes section that's mostly a hodgepodge of bloopers and on-set clowning around.
The most significant extra, of course, is a commentary track with director Michael R. Morris, and actors Aleece Jones and Matthew Stiller. They're enthusiastic about the production and speak continuously through the film.
Fear House offers a compelling spin on the haunted house genre; unfortunately, its shoestring budget hampers the effectiveness of many of its scares. Life Size Entertainment provides a lot of extras for this movie compared to other films of its ilk, which compels me to go with a Rent It recommendation for the fright flick crowd.