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House of Dust (2013)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 5/20/2014
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/12/2014
Many, many times in the past, I've discussed the odd glut of horror movies which we get that take place in an abandoned mental hospital which just happens to be haunted. If one were to learn about our society only through movies, then you would assume that landscape is simply cluttered with these ghost-ridden asylums. Movies likeGreystone Park, Crazy Eights, The Sickhouse, The Devil's Chair, Grave Encounters 2 and, of course, Asylum, have all explored this idea in one way or another. At this point, to say that this idea has been exhausted would be an understatement. Thus, if a movie attempted to do something different with this notion, as does House of Dust, it would have to be good. Right?
House of Dust opens in a mental hospital (here we go...), where a psychiatrist (Stephen Spinella) is experimenting on a group of patients, which includes the very dangerous Levius (John Lee Ames). Levius escapes from his restraints and attacks the doctor, resulting in several deaths. The orderlies put the bodies in the crematorium and burn them. The action then leaps forward to the present, where we meet Emma (Inbar Lavi), who has just arrived at college. She meets her roommate, Gabby (Holland Roden), and two friendly neighbors, Kolt (Steven Grayhm) and Dylan (Eddie Hassell). Gabby convinces the somewhat shy Emma to join the group at a bonfire party. Once there, Emma finds herself drawn to the abandoned mental hospital. Her friends follow her and they soon discover the crematorium, beside which the ashes of those burned inside are stored. The ash containers are disturbed and the ashes fill the air. Upon returning to campus, Emma begins to notice that her new friends are acting strange. Does she simply not know them very well, or did something occur at the asylum?
I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but I'll spell out here what I only hinted at in the above synopsis. When the cans holding the ashes are knocked over, Gabby, Kolt, and Dylan inhale the ashes and they are then possessed by the spirits of the deceased patients. OK, that's a different sort of idea. And, only two scenes, save for the opening, take place in the old mental hospital, so this separates House of Dust from all of the other movies where characters get trapped inside of an abandoned building. Right? If we're going to find a silver lining with House of Dust, it's that it tried to break free of the mold of the standard "haunted hospital" movie.
Unfortunately, it doesn't go much further than that. To put it mildly, this movie is incredibly boring. There is some action (and I use that word lightly) at the beginning and the end, but not much in between. As stated, the movie is not set in the hospital. Instead, we get shot after shot of the characters either sitting in dorm rooms, or walking dormitory hallways. Once the "possessions" start, the action doesn't pick up. There is one murder and it takes place off-screen. House of Dust can't even make the mistake of having dull dialogue scenes, as the bulk of the story takes place overnight when people are trying to sleep.
As for the story, I really feel like I missed something. We are treated to the old cliche where Emma has a history of vague mental problems, so she can't help but wonder if everything which is happening isn't simply in her head. Levius is portrayed as a ghost who wanders the hospital and appears to and speaks to Emma, but he didn't possess anyone...I don't think. Those who are possessed take on the personas of the dead patients, but as two of them were non-violent, that's not very scary. The result is a lot of shameless overacting, combined with many shots of people either lying in bed or walking around.
It appears that Director A.D. Calvo has access to some interesting locations, so it's awful that he didn't have much of a story with which to work. And, when you note that it took four people (including Calvo) to "write" said "story", it's even sadder. Again, the notion of unsuspecting victims taking the ghosts outside of the hospital is an intriguing one. But, when you are left with bad acting, little story, and no character development, it's difficult for the viewer to remain committed (pun intended).
House of Dust could have used some Pledge wipes on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing only a tough of grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fine, but the picture is a little bit dark at times, which does affect the level of detail. The picture is fairly stable, although some shots look soft. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track does show off some nice stereo and surround effects when Emma is hearing the ghosts around her. These effects are nicely separated and clearly emanate from the various channels. We also get notable subwoofer effects during the “jump” moments.
The House of Dust DVD contains no special features.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long