The House directed by Liang-Chun Lin dares to explore what few others have considered: Which is scarier - the cost of living or living in a house haunted by ghosts?
The film follows Amy who recently moved into a 3-bedroom house with a rent of just $540 a month. This is not where the fantasy ends! This great deal on housing comes with a price, Amy is haunted by just about every spirit there is. These spirits are not terrifying, just annoying. They disrupt Amy’s reading, eat from her bag of chips, and even demand that she spend the $6.99 a month on Hulu because they are “wanting Killing Eve,” as if Amy could afford that! Despite adhering to certain horror movie cliches, Lin’s utilization of comedy to offset expectations keeps the film feeling fresh. While certain aspects of the film’s plot are predictable, Lin’s ability to tell stories, primarily through her usage of the mockumentary style to share Amy’s thoughts, and of variations in sounds and lighting to show mood changes ensures that the film remains engaging throughout its nine-minute run-time.
In terms of cliche, Amy is an obvious culprit. By all intents and purposes, Amy is the stupid character found in every horror movie that ventures deeper and deeper into the haunted house as every viewer screams: “Turn around! Get out of there!” The umbrella that these characters fall under is that they are all unrelatable to the viewer. No viewer watches the “stupid character,” and finds themselves agreeing that they would have acted the same way. However, despite behaving as a “stupid character,” Amy remains relatable. Any viewer can find themselves in Amy’s refusal to leave a house that she found at such a great price, her righteous anger at someone else (even the undead) eating her chips, and even at her most desperate moment when she decides to perform an exorcism, her usage of a low-budget exorcism. Lin also utilizes cliche in her character design, including references to The Ring and Friday the 13th. These elements play a successful homage to the genre she is parodying.
The film successfully straddles its dual identities as a horror and a comedy. This balance is struck through the use of distinct sounds and lighting techniques. The film opens with spooky music playing and a dimly lit scene of the house as Amy describes the spirits that “you can't ignore.” Right as the expectation is set for this film to be a typical horror movie, the music cuts, and the scene switches to a brightly lit room and Amy answering questions in a mockumentary style. Amy’s sweater which just a moment ago seemed to be a drab indistinguishable color is shown to be a bright pink. Her eyes are not gaunt and terror-struck, if anything, they show that she is just a little sleep-deprived. Screen grabs from this first scene to the next would hardly appear to be from the same film, let alone to be occurring within a second of each other. This way of showcasing events and Amy’s tongue-in-cheek responses to all that is happening allows this film to shine as both a horror and a comedy without sacrificing elements of one for the other. This should come as no surprise given the skills of this director; Lin self-describes herself as “specializ[ing] in blending comedy with other genres.” Her skills here are no exception to that.
This film excels at maintaining classic horror and comedy tropes, while simultaneously using them to circumvent the other. Even when this film relies on cliches, it remains fresh and watchable throughout. As for the initial question posed: Which is scarier - the cost of living or living in a house haunted by ghosts? That is something the viewer will have to decide for themselves by checking The House out at the Fall 2022 New Jersey Film Festival.
The House screens at the Fall 2022 New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, September 30 as part of the Shorts Program. It will play Online for 24 Hours and In-Person at 7PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
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For General Info on the Film Festival go here: https://watch.eventive.org/newjerseyfilmfestivalfall2022