Set inside the conflict of World War II, a strayed former SS lieutenant and a German paratrooper must band together and escort a Norwegian captive through the snow covered forest of the frigid Norwegian mountains. Venturing through the cold and soulless landscape, the lieutenant is baffled by his bearings as his map doesn’t correlate with his surroundings, the sun is positioned at the opposite direction, and their compass points in the wrong direction. Faced with the possibility of gangrene and hypothermia, the lost combatants are forced to take up camp in a seemingly abandoned house that fly’s a hoisted Norwegian flag and has a pot of stew left simmering on a stove burner. Their already puzzling arrival into the residence is also met with unexplainable occurrences that place the extremely cold and weary soldiers even more so on an overwrought edge as they continuously search the house of presence telling life signs. Shadows and sounds trick their senses, soon realizing that the cozy confines are an inhospitable prison and with the deadly cold nipping at the doorstep, the soldiers are left with no choice but to face a sinister absence of time inside a hostile house that toys with their psyche and questions their own mortal existence.
Quickly becoming Norway’s prominent horror filmmaker, Reinert Kiil found success with his controversial and provocative “Whore” films and had a well-received review at Its Bloggin’ Evil for his cheerfully grisly, holiday slasher classic, “Christmas Blood.” Artsploitation Films continues to wholeheartedly support the Norway born director with his next venture, the supernaturally-charged possession of a home-sweet-home feature entitled simply “The House’ or “Huset” as titled in the original tongue. Kiil typically trends with shock horror, but with “The House,” there is an expansion upon his range as a filmmaker while remaining in a field he’s finds most endearing, pulling inspiration from his childhood memory vault of B-movie horror schlock and nostalgia grandeur, and dapples with replacing his guts and gory showmanship with slowly developing and instilling fear, especially with fear of the unknown and fear of change. Audiences are going to be attached to the hip and entrenched with the German soldiers, clueless to their predicament and anxious for them with the house’s uncanny and perplexing animosity, and Kiil doesn’t show much right away, slowly simmering the taut chills lined meticulously in the story.
Paratrooper Andres Fleiss is introduced in the preface attempting to save his mortally wounded friend and brother in arms, Max. Fleiss’s passion greatly motivates him as he jump out of a plane first rather than assess whether he has a parachute on first, willing to assign blame and kill Rune, Norwegian captive, right away without any provocation as instant relief and gratification. You see, Rune didn’t kill Max and, in fact, no exposition is provided about how the three men arrived at preface’s point in time, standing on a snowy side of a mountain just on the outskirts of a forest edge. Frederik von Luttichau (“A Room to Die For”) incites the paratrooper’s sense of duty and sense of irrationality. Luttichau’s able to quickly switch gears from confident combatant to a frightened bumbling idiot whose trapped inside a complete mind scramble of a situation. Fleiss is juxtaposed against the cooler head of a commissioned officer, Lieutenant Jurgen Kreiner. The former architect from Munich uses his SS training to tranquil the anxiety; so much so that Kreiner has a strange habit of protecting Rune from expiring much to the displeasure of Fleiss. Mats Reinhardt, in his sophomore film, is a juggernaut of emotional suppression. The rigid actor perfectly suits Kreiner’s stoic rationality toward not only the malevolent shelter, but also to Fleiss’s thin patience. Both characters’ melancholy is confounding as you start to feel for these Nazi soldiers stuck in a state of limbo and Kiil writes their roles down a personal level that expresses guilt, sadness, and shame that lets you know that they’re human too, humans who have done terrible things that have become their undoing. The Norway solider, Rune, is an important piece to the puzzlement. With his background unexplained and role in the house’s occurrences, Rune becomes an integrated symbol of subtle vengeance; even Rune, in the origin sense of the word, is defined as a secret mystery. Rune, or Runes, can also imply a set of symbols in archaic German languages much like the ones used on the closet door in the house or at the title screen. The mysterious Norwegian is subjected to being always hurt, whether a bout with gangrene or being shot, Rune ceases to cease. “Christman Blood’s” Sondre Krogtoft Larsen perforates the two opposes forces as a well-executed deceitful key to the mystery and though Rune doesn’t fully explain the entirety of the house’s backstory, Larsen simply quantifies the a potential reason with his the character’s simplicity role in it all. Other character flow in and out of the story as either a flashback or a vision and they include performances from Evy Kasseth Rosten (“Dead Snow”), Sigmund Saeverud (“Christmas Blood”), Ingvild Flikkerud, and Espen Edvartsen (“Dead Snow 2”).
There are other “House” reviews that compare Kiil’s film to the likes of “The Exorcist” or an exorcist type film and while the German soldier’s narrative is spliced with a flashback sub-story of a priest performance the rites of exorcism on a young girl inside the “House,” labeling the film as such warrants a rebranding. These flashback scenes, that are not consecutive, sluggishly rolls out a bit piece in the house’s backstory that almost predates the 20th century (the trailer suggests 1901), but doesn’t, in my opinion, obviously explain all that’s happening to the soldiers forty years later. Fleiss said it best during a frantic moment when the paratrooper comes to a full realization that the reason their stuck in an unescapable phenomena is because he and Lt. Kreiner are dead. Sometimes the more blatant reason is perhaps the more conclusive as Kiil offers a breadcrumb trail to point out these two Nazi soldiers are in oblivion of atonement. From the very beginning, the three men couldn’t explain how they came together, every facet of direction is obscured, time ceases to exist, their most inner desires and offenses bubble to the surface, and even Fleiss mentions the soup, the one simmer on the burner upon their arrive, is bland to the taste for the dead have no need for senses. In short, the momentary exorcist scenes are fathomable, perhaps in-depth more with the dated slideshow series of events in the Scandes, but, in context, cheapens the film slightly and could go easily as “The House” is inherently soul crushing and effectively atmospheric.
Artsploitation Films and Reel Suspects presents Rinert Kiil’s “House,” a product of Sanctum Films, onto DVD home video. The release is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, shot digitally that idyllically compositions Norway’s Norefjell snowy mountain range of the Scandes. The opening title sequence has some image instability with faint pixel fluttery in the compression, but doesn’t seem to go beyond the barely visible stage. “House” isn’t a flashy conceived concept that renders a lot of texture or detail warranted scenes, but darker scenes are overly rich with black that interpreting the visuals more difficult and as a note on one of Kiil’s visional techniques on being outside in or at night, like when Fleiss is hoisting the Nazi flag, the obvious tinted lens isn’t a reasonable substitute for dusk, dawn, and night. Skin tones are a pleasantly raw in appearance and, hey, the lighting in the snow is great for obvious reasons. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is hands down the past technical feature with an engrossing atmosphere track that has depth and range to send the audible senses hiding in fear underneath the comfy blanket. The intertwining German, Norwegian, and English language tracks holds strong and upfront with clear and precise synchronization of paralleling subtitles, offered solely in English, and Kim Berg and and Levi Gawrock Troite’s powerful score portrays a film bigger than it’s budget. Bonus features include a behind-the-scenes segment, an interview with Reinert Kiil who discusses his trek through Norway film and delves a little in each of his projects, a commentary track with Kiil, a short film by the director entitled “The Voice of One’s Conscience” (aka “Samvittighetens Rost”), and Artsploitation trailers. Reinert Kiil’s “The House” is non-exuberant horror diverging toward exploring the filmmaker’s unlimited possibilities and with “The House’s” diabolical descent into invigorating terror, Norway cinema has an abundance of sheer promise for the future of horror.
Unorthodox exorcist and hobby writer Richard Vanuk lives a depressing and humble life full of endless booze and filthy altruism. Driven by the need for alcohol and an underline desire to help possessed strangers for a small fee, Vanuk barely maintains his own sustainability. With each challenging case of demonic inhabitance, the poor full time exorcist, and part time writer, expels demons from their misfortunate hosts into his own wretched soul, draining his self-respecting humanity out of him one demon-expulsion job at a time. The deeper Vanuk spirals downward into nihilism and the deeper he goes into severe debt, the choice to withdrawal from the toll of exorcising demons becomes no longer an option, but a fruitlessly fateful venture to just surviving in a world that’s scarce of good people.
My second undertaking into a Daniel Falicki horror film has the “Awaken The Devil” director batting a solid hundred percent on the ever honest critique block, going a strong two-for-two with his latest film, 2016’s “Accidental Exorcist,” that’s drenched with a despair atmosphere that swallows the intentionally pathetic character who is granted only a glimmer of unattainable hope for a good life. The writer-director has a keen eye for developing horror in various comedic, dramatic, and absurdly berserk formatted segments, delicately defining details to capture memorable moments. Falicki also stars as his own character, Richard Vanuk, and Falicki charms the audience by creating a likable anti-protagonist whose cavalier about demonic possessions and begrudged by a “corporate” employer who pays very little for the precision of demon banishment; this same company performs a stigmata on him after every exhausting job, discarding his limp, unconscious body in a different snow covered park afterwards.
Falicki drowns Vanuk in vices and addictions. Aside from the obvious alcohol and constant inebriation, Vanuk needs the pain of performing exorcisms as much as he loathes the process and the people who employs him. The character can’t reform, can’t function properly in normality, as witnessed when his successful brother offers Richard a once-in-a-lifetime position at his mundane company of pigmentation for sports equipment. When the exorcism well runs dry, Vanuk goes into full blown, borderline psychotic detox as he’s cut off from his, one and only, natural born skill and the ceasing of his per diem position sends him into frantically gulping down bottles of cold medicine to get a soothing fix. Falicki punishes the audience beloved, unconventional exorcist by having Vanuk fall to the bottom by not being unlucky or plotted against, but by simply self destruction and having God turn his back on his loyal servant when the promise, or a test, of a favorable outlook reveals itself.
The casting couldn’t be much more perfect with a cast of talented b-movie stars such as Jason Roth (“Awaken The Devil”), Chris Kotcher, and Jeffrey Goodrich to quickly name a few. Falicki owns Richard Vanuk, embodying the character so brilliantly that I would have a hard time relinquishing Richard Vanuk from Daniel Falicki’s face. Falicki pulls out all the stops by putting every once of degradation the director can muster into the downtrodden exorcist with a performance that sells his hapless nature and spew-filled gigs. Every client Vanuk attends to is portrayed honestly and earnestly from Sherryl Despress’s role of a desperate mother turned possessed super sewer to Patrick Hendren’s blind and levitating demonic being who goes on to have a heart-to-heart with Vanuk after an exorcism recovery.
“Accidental Exorcist” is unapologetic and shameless; a real nasty bitch to love unconditionally. The fun soars above the summit and the ingrained heart bursts beyond the restrictive seams of the reel. The film is nothing I’ve ever scene before; yet, still manages to homage legendary films that “Accidental Exorcist” built it’s bones upon. Similarities to, of course, the iconic William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” are apparent throughout with the almost beautifully grim and isolated atmospheric exterior scenes of foreboding destiny. Falicki’s film contains special effects so convincing by leaps and bounds when compared to other modern independent horror, portraying Vanuk so well within the confines of his dank and dejected existence that it’s as if he’s sharing his grime and his loneliness with us that’ll result with a quick shower when the credits roll.
Sector 5 Films and Rotomation Studios courtesy produces “Accidental Exorcist,” that’s not related to the Joshua Graham novel, but the audio and video will not be critically reviewed since I received and viewed a press screener and the film has yet to be released onto a home entertainment platform. However, make no mistake that “Accidental Exorcist” strides cockily into the first half of 2016 horror season, flying unnoticed, under the radar, as sleeper agent dangerous to demonic possession film competitors. Director Daniel Falicki is on the up and coming watch list like a high target terrorist, striking the heart of modern day horror and putting fear, and comedy, into a cynical cauldron.