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Having seen a handful of the "After Dark" line of Lionsgate horror titles, I'm beginning to see a lot of seams in the marketing campaign. Trailers and posters dub these flicks as too "extreme" for normal audiences -- and so the movies are released for one weekend only before making their way to the DVD bin. But I've been watching low-budget, indie, and "film festival"-style genre flicks for quite some time now, and I know a clever marketing gimmick when I see one. So far the only After Dark title that's worth half a lick is Mike Mendez's The Gravedancers, and that one's a fairly conventional (albeit perfectly entertaining) chiller flick. Dark Ride is a rather generic slasher, Unrest is a pretty dry medical thriller, and The Hamiltons is a pretty amateurish affair.
It's about a group of four siblings who are just getting over the death of their parents while dabbling in serial murder and cannibalism. (Already I've made the movie sound more exciting than it is.) The oldest brother tries to keep the family moving along without any trouble, but "the twins" are the real troublemakers. Young Francis is beginning to feel the pressures of living in a family obsessed with murder. And then there's a mysterious sibling called Lenny. He's locked deep in the basement and gets fed from the various hitchhikers and transients that the Hamitlon siblings acquire. (Again, it's not nearly as interesting on the screen as it may sound on the page.)
Feeling more like an angsty indie drama than any sort of horrific piece of cinema, the movie is jam-packed with all the things that make "homemade" movies so irritating: Clumsy screenwriting, wooden acting, and a sense of self-importance run rampant throughout The Hamiltons. Not even the few moments of grim humor and bloodletting can salvage the flick's leaden pacing and overbaked narrative.
You could probably describe The Hamiltons as "Party of Five meets a very sedate version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family," but that'd be mostly inaccurate. The Hamiltons feels more like someone took an hour-long After School Special and grafted a few scenes of murder and mayhem into the print. We're supposed to find it endlessly shocking that the four siblings dabble in kidnapping, murder, blood-drinking and (of course) incest, but the material is presented in such dry and formless fashion, it's tough to really care about the few icky parts when they bother to show up. (And the less said about the two mild twists at the end the better, mainly because they're pretty predictable but also because they're just plain silly.)
Audio/Video: Lionsgate delivers the flick in a fine anamorphic widescreen format -- even if the digital video footage doesn't exactly scream for the well-scrubbed treatment. Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DD 2.0. Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
Extras: Actor Cory Knauf and writer/directors "The Butcher Brothers" provide an audio commentary that's probably more interesting than the movie itself. (The "brothers" are actually Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores, and I bet that someday soon they'll wish they used their actual names on the credits instead of a schoolboy-ish "badass" moniker -- especially considering that The Hamiltons is meant to be a somewhat serious movie and not a tongue-in-cheek gorefest.) Also include are several deleted scenes, a blooper reel, the theatrical trailer, and a whole mess of "also from Lionsgate" promos.
The Hamiltons is more of a forgettable little trifle than it is an aggressively rotten movie. Those who are always on the lookout for independent horror flicks may still want to give it a shot. I've got some colleagues who liked the movie quite a bit more than I did, which makes my reaction to the film both annoying and disappointing. Solid (if unoriginal) concept, but a generally slipshod execution.