This house is not a home.
House of Last Things is an ambitious film written and directed by Michael Bartlett. I could see what Bartlett was attempting with this story of a house holding on to some bad mojo, then tormenting any occupant that ends up residing there, I just wish he hadn’t taken the scenic route to get there. Look, I really, really wanted to like this film. I heard about it a year ago, and was looking forward to the DVD release. Bartlett’s ideas here are good, the execution of them are not.
House of Last Things stars Lindsey Haun as Kelly, a young girl hired to house sit for Alan (Randy Schulman, Grimm) and Sarah (Diane Dalton), a couple whose marriage is on the rocks after they experience a great tragedy. Now, you’re probably asking yourself, ‘Why doesn’t she just say what the darned tragedy is?’ Because it will give away a pretty big plot point, and I won’t do that in case you decide to check out the film.
Sarah has a mental breakdown, and when she’s well enough, Alan plans a trip for the two of them to Italy. Sounds nice huh? Not so much, Alan is a jerk who has a more sinister reason to get his wife out of the country. Kelly is hired to house sit while they are away, and invites her young wayward brother Tim, played by RJ Mitte, straight off his stint as Walter Jr. in the AMC series Breaking Bad, to stay with her. Her loser boyfriend Jesse (Blake Berris) shows up uninvited, ready to take advantage of the couple’s lovely home. Immediately, the house begins playing with their heads, and at the same time screwing with Alan and Sarah, who are thousands of miles away in Europe. There’s a connection that the house has to Sarah and Alan, but it also latches on to Kelly and her crew too. The answers to this mystery may lie in the appearance of a mysterious little boy named Adam (Micah Nelson).
The film initially focuses on Alan and Sarah showing the obvious tension in their relationship. Just as we’re getting a sense of who they are, Bartlett whisks them off to Italy, and things turn to Kelly, Tim, and Jesse. This is where the film starts to show some cracks in the foundation, and never really recovers. It begins to feel like two separate films, with a lot of story shoved into just a few short hours; and because of this, it goes right off the rails into the land of confusion.
Editing is Bartlett’s main problem. He needed someone to pair down his ambitious effort into bite size pieces. As it is, the throw it all in approach is just too much, making the storyline hard to follow, particularly in the last third of the movie. Another drawback with House of Last Things is the relationship between Kelly and Tim. Not for one moment is it believable that they are brother and sister. They had zero chemistry, and their scenes together felt awkward and unnatural. As appealing as Mitte is in Breaking Bad, in House of Last Things Bartlett doesn’t seem to know what to do with him. He has some mental issues, and some kind of sensitivity to the house, but none of it is ever explored past a cursory level, so Tim wanders in and out of the film with no real purpose. However, the weakest of all the weak links is Blake Berris in the role of Jesse. He is supposed to be this boozing, tough guy, loser boyfriend that comes and gums up the works for Kelly and Tim. However, Berris’ efforts are labored and frenetic, so instead of tough, Jesse is spastic, hardly the bad boy he is intended to be. Then the house overtakes him for some reason, turns Jesse into a younger version of Alan, while Kelly inexplicably morphs into June Cleaver and neither is convincing in either role.
House of Last Things is a 1.78:1 anamorphic presentation brought to us by Revolver Entertainment. It’s a decent enough transfer with clear images, nice lighting, and crisp colors. The 5.1 Dolby audio soundtrack makes for easy to hear dialogue. There are no special features available. This is definitely a film that can learn from the age old adage that less is more.
It’s always disappointing when you’re looking forward to a film that turns out to be a wholly muddled and confusing mess. House of Last Things had some real potential to be a fantastic film, but its bloated script, and lack of editing makes it a chore to sit through.
House of Last Things (DVD) 2015, Revolver Entertainment, 110 minutes, NR (2013)
VIDEO: 1.78:1 AUDIO: Dolby 5.1 Surround (English), Dolby 2.0 Stereo (English)
SUBTITLES: None EXTRAS: None ACCOMPLICES: IMDB