In a fairly gross exaggeration, the cover art for House Of Fallen offers up some intriguingly ominous imagery, the kind that draws in horror fans looking for a few good scares, maybe some tension, some shocks, some bloodshed, maybe even some suspense - you know, all those things that add up to make a good horror movie just that. There's a hint of mystery to that cover art, you don't quite know what the movie is about by looking at it but hey, it's piqued your curiosity and now you want to learn more, right?
Don't bother. While the movie has a few interesting ideas, the end result is boring and padded. What's that? You want more? Fair enough.
The movie opens with a text screen that fills us in on thousands of years of history in about a minute. It seems that when God created the world he sent down a bunch of angels to keep tabs on mankind but that this backfired and those angels introduced sin to the world. Eventually some of these angels were obliterated in a flood but a few survived and became known as The Grigori and the roam the Earth pretending to be regular folk just like you and me. The movie then goes on to tell us three different stories revolving around The Grigori.
Our first stories follows a priest who is having second thoughts about his chosen profession. Like so many priests in so many other horror movies, he's let his faith start to weaken and he just doesn't feel cut out for the gig anymore. This changes when his church asks him to perform an exorcism on a person who just so happens to be possessed by one of those pesky aforementioned Grigori types. The second story follows a gang of thieves who hide out in an old abandoned house after getting away with a robbery we never witness. Well, it sucks to be them because this house is haunted by a Grigori who is going to reveal to them the true nature of their sins. Last but not least, the third story follows a mortal man recruited to join the fight against The Grigori who in turn learns much of their secret history - whether he wants to or not.
While pulling in supernatural elements and elements of various religious and theological ideologies can and often does make for interesting horror movie fodder (what greater fear has plagued mankind for as long as the fear of eternal damnation has?), here the concepts never quite catch on and the end result is dry and slow. All three stories seem to be trying to pull us in and to get us thinking about the existence of a group referred to only as 'The Twelve' who are out to keep tabs on The Grigori, but this concept is dangled in front of the viewers like a carrot only to... not really matter so much in the end, and it does take us almost to the end of the film before their importance becomes any sort of point whatsoever.
As far as the performances go, the acting isn't bad. The presence of C. Thomas Howell and Corbin Bernson in key supporting roles helps out as both have done good work in the past and don't do half bad work here either, but on the flip side of that coin is the fact that the performances are merely good, not great - you're not going to walk away from this one with much of an impression. The film also looks fine, though it should be said that it's overly dark at times and what probably seemed like a way to build atmosphere and tension and generate a spooky vibe winds up feeling like a convenient way to bury the backgrounds and not have to worry so much about production values. Sadly, the film gets bogged down in dialogue that never really turns out to mean anything and is almost entirely devoid of anything interesting aside from some minor bloodshed and one or two equally minor jump scares.
House Of Fallen looks okay on DVD in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. You have to take into account the fact that the movie appears to have been shot with an intentionally dark style, so colors aren't really going to leap off the screen when they aren't there in the first place. The image is clear and fairly detailed, however and the disc is authored well enough that there aren't any problems with compression artifacts to complain about, even if there is some fairly obvious crush in some of the darker scenes.
English audio options are supplied in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with the 5.1 track sounding a bit more interesting than the stereo offering. There are some good directional effects here in a few spots though surround usage isn't constant. Dialogue is clean, clear and well balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion worth nothing. All in all, the movie sounds just fine.
Aside from a few previews that play before the main menu loads, we get chapter selection and... that's it. This release is pretty much a barebones affair.
House Of Fallen isn't very good. It's not scary, it's not interesting and it's not especially well made. Phase 4's DVD looks and sounds alright and offers up the film in nice shape, but there are no extras to speak of, which is just as well, as you probably wouldn't want to bother with them anyway. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.