02nd Oct2013

Grimmfest 2013 Review: ‘Home Sweet Home’

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Marty Adams, Shaun Benson, Meghan Heffern,  Adam MacDonald | Written and Directed by David Morlet

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French director David Morlet, here billed under the anglicised David Morley, heads back behind the camera for Home Sweet Home, his first film since his feature debut (which, like this movie, he also wrote and directed), 2009′s superb zombie movie Mutants. Whilst that film didn’t reinvent the zombie genre, Morlet showed that straight zombie movies – and not just zombie comedies – can be great, outshining the majority of modern US-lensed zombie flick and easily putting Romero’s recent work to shame.

Home Sweet Home has the simplest of plots: A young married couple comes home from a date night to discover that they are imprisoned in their own house with a methodical killer inside. That’s it. But as well all know, from small acorns do big oak trees grow – so it’s safe to say I had my fingers crossed.

It doesn’t help that i’m a huge, and I mean huge, fan of Morlet’s Mutants, which meant I was very excited to see his latest feature, especially given that he had so much success with his first foray into genre cinema. Having, at least in my eyes, conquered the zombie flick, Home Sweet Home sees Morlet tackles a whole new genre: the stalk and slash flick. In fact a very particular subset of slasher movie – the “hider in the house” home invasion tale. However this time round there is more than one obstacle in the directors way – not only does this film see Morlet working in a new [sub] genre, it also marks his first English-language feature. And we all know how those can go… To be honest all I was hoping for was that the magic Morlet worked on the zombie genre would be carried across into his take on the slasher movie. And it has.

Sort of.

Whilst the zombie movie has often been used as social commentary (see Romero’s Night and Dawn of the Dead), the slasher movie is more known for being the subject of social commentary – from the era of the video nasties to the Child’s Play 3 furore of the early 90s. And given the rise in the more extreme aspects of horror, namely the badly-monikered “torture porn” of the likes of Saw and Hostel, it would seem the director David Morlet has his work cut out to bring anything new to the slasher table. Which is where the film sadly fall down and my (admittedly high) expectations fell down.

Unlike Mutants, which managed to breath new life into a much-maligned and much overused storytelling stereotype, Home Sweet Home does nothing of the sort. Instead it perpetrates more of the same slasher cliches, all the while apeing Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers by way of the aforementioned Saw – revelling more in the gore and the torture than I expected.

Yet Home Sweet Home isn’t a bad movie, not by any standards. Morlet knows how to amp up the tension and put the audience on edge but at the same time he doesn’t know when to trim scenes – or even cut whole ones out. The cat and mouse game between the masked killer and our heroine (played by Meghan Heffern) is dragged out for way too long, especially given the cramped locale the film is set in and there are a number of times I wished Morlet would just get on with the action instead of focusing on the sobbing Heffern.

But then there are times, in particular a scene featuring a mini basketball set, which are REALLY effective in building the edge-of-the-seat tension. It almost feels as if the film is being directed by a schizophrenic, at times it’s sheer genius and at others decidedly average. Which, to be honest, for a fan of Morlet’s previous work, is incredibly frustrating. Of course then Morlet’s killer throws out one line, one measly line, at the end of the film which, along with the downbeat (almost ethereal) ending, redeemed the entire movie for me!

In the end Home Sweet Home is an average home invasion movie, with moments of genius and an ending which completely saved the day. Make of that what you will. The film screens tomorrow at 1.00pm, as part of Grimmfest 2013, at the Lass O’Gowrie.

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