HOUSE MONSTER **** USA 2020 Dir: David Axe. 70 mins
Co-writer (with Bradley J. Petit) / director / editor / cinematographer David Axe is building a filmography of technically modest but thematically rich and timely horror films. HOUSE MONSTER follows THE THETA GIRL, SHED and LECTION and, like a handful of other significant recent genre films, was shot during the 2020 spell of our world-changing pandemic – in this case, largely without a conventional crew.
The title and opening p.o.v. shots of said “monster” invading the “house” suggest a movie that doesn’t transpire. In sunny Columbia, South Carolina, unemployed stage actor Jennifer Hill has a one-woman play to write and hasn’t touched another human for 23 days. The pandemic arrived 45 days ago. Like many of us, she has hoarded toilet paper, Netflix watch lists and 21st century electronic devices for company, while blessed with a fuckwit neighbour who thinks it’s all a liberal hoax. She’s also barely holding it together – filming an honest version of her YouTube show (for her three subscribers) before generating a usable brave-face / humourous version. When she becomes aware of Something in her house, she also sets up multiple cameras and discusses the issue with whoever is available.
“If there’s someone in your house, at least you got company…” Jennifer Hill boldly captures the experiences of many in this bittersweet study of isolation – from the slightly queasy humour of annotating the remaining food in her cupboards to poignant late-night calls with a parent who is honest and self-aware about his dementia. Axe plays on our familiarity with found-footage horror movies in which characters explore potentially haunted / perilous homes but is more concerned with the human cost of the post-Covid world: a world where nature thrives (a lovely moment ponders over the quandary of whether animals get lonely) but, when you need them, the authorities are all dealing with sick people.
As the movie goes on, the fleetingly glimpsed monster transitions from a threat to a comical nuisance (“It’s been eating my sandwiches and reading my books!”) and, finally, something else entirely. A bold closing scene finds unexpected tenderness between what should, it seems, be mortal enemies. But none of us are immune to the harsh truths explored en route: as the film’s signature line puts it – “Stop recording yourself and be fucking alone”.
Review by Steven West