House on Willow Street (South Africa, 2016)

A band of kidnappers looking for major score gets the tables turned on them in more ways than one in this great horror film from the director of Triggered.

Hazel has planned something major as the petty crook is looking for a major score in order to retire and put her shady life behind her. Along with boyfriend Ade and fellow criminals Mark and James, they find a perfect idea. They decide to kidnap Katherine, the daughter of a diamond distributor, in hopes to get a major ransom in diamonds. When they find Katherine, they lock her into the basement of her parents’ home on Willow Street. However, this is where things get to become insane.

As Ade, James, and Mark begin to surface the house, Ade comes across a shocking discovery. He finds Katherine’s parents along with two priests viciously killed. Coming across a videotape, the crew slowly finds that Katherine knows of the history of the house, which has caused death. Katherine has become possessed by a powerful entity known as Transguul. As Transguul has fully consumed Katherine’s body and soul, the group of criminals must do what they can to escape or find themselves dead.

Alastair Orr continues to show his love of the horror genre. For his fourth outing as director, he re-teams with scripter Jonathan Jordaan (Expiration) and crafts a film that meshes elements of The Exorcist along with haunted house films. The film is spearheaded by breakout Australian star Sharni Vinson of You’re Next fame and Canadian actress Carlyn Burchell, who plays our scared antagonist, who becomes fully possessed by the demonic Transguul.

The film moves at a fast pace as the opening shows the planning of the executed kidnapping and flash forwards six weeks later when they do the deed. In an interesting reversal role, we see Vinson go from tough to scared as she went from scared to tough in You’re Next. Upon first view of Burchill, you can tell right away something doesn’t add up. Kudos goes to Steven Ward (who would reunite with director Orr for Triggered), Zino Ventura, and Gustav Gerdener for rounding out the cast as Hazel’s boyfriend and cohorts who, especially the last two, have demons they must contend with both literally and figuratively.

There are quite a few jump scares in the film and did they make me jump. Some come out of nowhere while some give a bit of slow tension before the jump. There are also some graphic gory sequences and scenes that are pretty cringeworthy. But that’s why we watch horror films, for a good scare. During the third act, there is something that may wonder ‘how is this happening’ and it may cause a bit of confusion. However, it is just like Orr to bring this little twist to the story to keep the viewer engaged in the manic finale.

House on Willow Street is a very insane film where we have no real good guys, but desperation that leads to the scares. Alastair Orr has himself a winning cast here and some great scares here.

WFG RATING: A-

IFC Midnight presents a Fat Cigar Films production in association with The Darkside. Director: Alastair Orr. Producers: Alastair Orr, Zino Ventura, and Mirell Ventura. Writers: Alastair Orr and Jonathan Jordaan. Cinematography: Brendan Barnes. Editing: Alastair Orr.

Cast: Sharni Vinson, Carlyn Burchell, Steven Ward, Zino Ventura, Gustav Gardener, Gina Shmukler, Ter Hollmann.

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