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When I was asked to review HOUSE OF SIN (coming, along with the zombie flick THE DEFILED, on DVD from Chemical Burn Entertainment March 22), I honestly got a bit excited! But then I found out we weren’t talking about the X-rated 1982 classic staring “Long” Jean Silver and Robert Kerman of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST fame. Nope, we’re talking a 2010 softcore S&M flick staring Sarah “The Slave” Dunn and John Symes of…uhhh…HOUSE OF SIN fame. Oh well.
The titular house is a Victorian hotel in old London Town where seemingly “normal” people come to forget about the monotony of life and partake in their deepest, darkest sexual desires. Now, be warned, these desires range anywhere from: stripping painfully slow on a bed, to dressing in drag while someone gently cuts their thigh with a dagger purchased from the “Fantasy Blades” booth at the flea market, to a nude make-out session followed by sloppily eating a pastry. A mysterious man known only as “The Mage” is in charge and overseer to all this madness. A slightly less mysterious man named Paul is the film’s philosophical narrator. He’s known “The Mage” since childhood and in return for doing paperwork and keeping things in order, he’s permitted a small room in the hotel. At first it’s all fun and games until he starts to realize that absolute freedom is impossible for any human to attain and the ones who patronize the hotel to “get away” are only trapping themselves all over again. One day “The Mage” is stabbed to death by a random jealous boyfriend and Paul inherits everything. He decides to pave a new path for himself and use his newfound power to help people in a way he feels is mentally safer. But how long will it be, and what will happen, when forgotten desires catch up with him?
The overall message of HOUSE OF SIN is that no matter how hard we try, humanity will never truly be free. The point is never ambiguous and is stated many, many, many times by the narrator from start to finish, always worded in different New Age lingo. Visually, the film suffers from poor editing, random pointless digital FX and a severe lack of set design. For such an infamous pleasure zone, the rooms are decorated like your parents’ house. The audio levels are a bit off, given that a good portion of the dialogue is lost in a sea of blaring music. But let’s be honest: the target audience for this film isn’t too worried about wipe transitions and sound design.
HOUSE OF SIN’s formula film is simple: a song starts (sometimes simple-riffed, cheesy bar rock, sometimes “rap star” Dap C), Paul talks about a certain patron who is tired of being held down by the bores of society, that person enters a room of the hotel, the song gets louder, queue montage of that subject acting upon their “wild” fantasy, fade out as the song ends, Paul talks about how they’ll never truly be free, repeat. My favorite segment was a “Christian who came to complain” that The Mage turned into “a voyeuristic lesbian” within a minute of talking to her. “Is it magic or is it a hallucination?” wonders Paul.Special features include a 10-minute making-of featurette where everyone seems to be having a pretty good time and two music videos (one by Dap C and one by No Redemption). So if a cornucopia of breasts is all it takes for you to enjoy a film, this might be your new favorite. However, this critic’s attention was held for about two minutes…until that lady erotically ate that pastry; that was pretty funny.
In serious contrast to HOUSE OF SIN, THE DEFILED is art-house zombie flick shot in digital black & white (kind of sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?). This quasi-silent film is straightforward, human and, for the most part, effective—honestly!Set in a postapocalyptic world where a virus has turned the majority of Earth’s survivors into the living dead, both the uninfected and infected are left with a “kill or be killed” mentality. Brian Shaw plays the lead zombie whose family is killed by eating a corpse that was exposed to radiation. After delivering the baby from the corpse of his pregnant daughter, he inadvertently saves an uninfected, traumatized woman (Kathleen Lawlor) from a pack of fellow flesheaters. Now it’s monsters as humans against humans as monster, and will paternal instincts overcome infestation and hatred for one couple stuck in a world of chaos?
Aside from the primordial grunting of the zombies and some scenery noise, there is no dialogue in THE DEFILED. It’s a bold choice by director Julian Grant, leaving the plot’s progression to the physical emotion expressed by the two leads, more so the female who isn’t playing up the skin-peeling-cannibal-madman angle. And to their credit, they pull it off.
For such an ultra-low-budget feature, Grant keeps it stylish and fresh by adding a cold blue tint over the digital B&W. This also helps to transform some of the crude FX into something far creepier than it would have been in color. It’s a great example of how to use low-rent modern technology to produce a heartfelt, well-executed film, which is reminiscent of the dawn of horror on film.
One of the few gripes is with THE DEFILED’s 100-minute running time. Not so much on a personal level, because I’m a sucker for any excruciatingly slow-paced film, but I can see this one putting many viewers asleep who are more keen on the constant explosions and instant gratification that a lot of modern cinema boasts. In addition, toward the end of the film, a few scenarios start to get a little confusing while others feels too familiar. This would have made an excellent short film, since stretching it to feature length has caused it to become a bit diluted and harder to handle.
This DVD features an entertaining commentary track by the two leads and the director, which gives insight into the film’s culmination while going over the trials and tribulations that come with producing a low-budget film. Other features include a photo gallery and a few trailers. So if you’re in the mood for a painfully slow-paced love letter to the horror films of yesteryear, check out THE DEFILED. I look forward to Grant’s next effort.
HOUSE OF SIN
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