Anything goes in Hollywood, California and anybody can be a star. Just ask amateur filmmakers Ed and Susan, an average middle class married couple, who are searching the streets, scouting for their three actors to star in Ed and Susan’s Red Studios produced snuff film. Ed is hellbent on making his next film a never before seen triple feature – three kills in one night. After days of scouting the streets and coming up with no potential stars, Ed and Susan finally happen upon three homeless youths and offer them $500 each to star in, what the believe to be, just a harmless porno film. Things don’t go as planned as what was suppose to be Ed’s perfect triple feature night turns to be a nightmare for all parties involved. The story is told through Ed’s staged house cameras and the cameras have a night of death to tell.
I’ve only experienced one other Jay Lee directed movie prior to “The House with 100 Eyes” and that was with “Zombie Strippers!” starring Robert Englund and Jenna Jameson and while I solely purchased that title for personal entertainment and didn’t write up a review, I remember “Zombie Strippers!” being ridiculously gory. Jay Lee hasn’t strayed too far from his element with “The House with 100 Eyes” and teams up with co-director and lead actor Jim Roof (who had a part in “Zombie Strippers!”) to bring gore and shock to a mockumentary about creating a snuff film.
Unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, “The House with 100 Eyes” labels itself as horror-comedy, but in reality, the overtone deems itself more factual about the human condition. Married couple Ed and Susan couldn’t be any more realistically different; Ed is a sadistic psychopath who gets off on his addiction of suffering and murder while Susan’s more organized, structured, and satisfies her desires through death by poisoning. Not much information is explicitly given about Ed or Susan except tidbits shared by each character through self interview commentary; Ed grew up torturing animals and watching their reactions through the results of his torment while Susan went through a string of abusive husbands and her torment feels more man-made. Now while I’ve just described two very disturbed individuals, their marriage couldn’t be any more comically stereotypical; small marital spouts, sexual frustrations, “happy homemaker” wife, etc. Ed and Susan even have a pet – a young female victim named Maddie who had all her limbs severed and is probably going through Stockholm Syndrome with Ed and Susan. The comedy element is their marriage as it’s actually not a facade for making a horrific snuff film.
The gore brings the viewer back to the subject matter of the film and the effects couldn’t be anymore gut wrenching. Ed’s torture chair has to be the most frightful part of story, strapping in his victims and just going to town on them with whatever tool inspires him. Ed slices, dices, breaks, guts, hammers, and chisel aways until the very last breath and his merciless demeanor, conveyed very well by Jim Roof, sells icy cold-heartiness. While Jay Lee didn’t linger too much on the gory scenes, Lee’s ability to inflict the anguish of the quick shots by implementing screeching audio interference from one of Ed’s stand cams, heightening the reflection of pain of torture. Ed is well complimented by his wife Susan, portrayed by Shannon Malone, who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Susan might be pleasant and even tempered when compared to Ed, but once the sweet kiss of death reaches near her nostrils, she can’t help herself to take it upon herself to inject a vicious, blood-vomit inducing poison into her prey. This makes Susan just as deadly, if not more so, than Ed.
Now while I might be putting “The House with 100 Eyes” on a tall pedestal, I’m not too pleased with the intentional censorship of nudity. The purpose of Ed’s snuff film is for sexual gratification; he wants the double whammy of dirty sex and grisly murder. When the two lovers, Clutch and Jamie, remove their clothing, their privates are censored by close up framing or blurring out techniques. The censorship practice puts a damper on the film’s ugly subject matter, dumbing down and unbalancing the violence and the nudity. The way the filmmakers worked around this was a heed before the presentation that Ed’s tapes were all made public to expose, which the authorities thought were a hoax, the atrocities of Ed and Susan but the victim’s humility was to be kept intact.
Another miscue for me was the open ending, leaving the conclusion up for interpretation. I’m usually one for open endings, but the way “The House with 100 Eyes” set itself up in the beginning with the “public release” should have forcibly led to a closed ending, wrapped in a nice little red bow. The ending considers the audience to be left frightened or wondering if their support for the victims will be justified, but the ending was more of an abrupt cut away from what could have been a more effective, plot defining ending.
The Artsploitation Films DVD release runs an unrated 76 minute feature presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer through many digital cameras accompanied by 5.1 surround mix. The film looked sharp and clear with only minor digital noise interference during some of the more darker scenes. The well-placed screeching audio was a nice touch for fear effect, but does become a bit ear-stiffening after prolonged use. On the inside of the DVD casing, a note from the directors Jay Lee and Jim Roof give you a bit of insight on what to expect and don’t sugar coat about the dark comedy. It’s purely a film about absolute evil.
Overall, Jim Lee and Jay Roof along with a solid cast deliver a cringe-worthy found footage mockumentary that mind behind the eyes of the malevolent and being very happy to do so with a evil smirk on their faces. Make sure you send your kids to be early before viewing the Artsploitation Films’ release of “The House with 100 Eyes.”