If the name Barry J. Gillis sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because he wrote Things, an absolutely bizarre 1989 Canadian film that’s built up a considerable cult following over the years. He’s been fairly inactive since then, with just two films, Wicked World and The Killing Games, to his credit. Now he’s back as writer and director of House of Many Sorrows.
House of Many Sorrows opens with Arthur Caverly (John Garofalo II) shaving while asking the mirror if it thinks he’s crazy. I think we already know the answer. This is inter-cut with shots of his aged, dying mother (Betty Maxwell). And what seems to be a flashback of Arthur carrying a suspicious-looking object through the fog.
He hires Loni (Samantha Brownlee) to care for his mother so he can deal with the family bed and breakfast. But problem guests such as Jocelyn (Ginger Lynn, Slashlorette Party, New York Ninja, and more porn films than you can shake a dildo at) and an aggressive real estate agent (Jolene Mackenzie) are pushing his sanity past the breaking point.
One of the first things I noticed when I checked House of Many Sorrows out on IMDB was the cast list. It includes Ron Howard, Johnny Cash and Lon Chaney, which made me do a double-take. As it turns out they appear in brief clips on TV. There are however a few familiar names and faces that are part of the actual plot. Laurence R. Harvey (The Human Centipede II & III, BFF Girls) who literally phones it in as Detective Hitchcock. Kim Sønderholm (Vidar the Vampire, Discarnate) as a newscaster and, as mentioned, Ginger Lynn. And, if you’re curious, even at 58 years old she still can’t keep her clothes on.
House of Many Sorrows is a weirdly compelling film. There’s never any doubt who the killer is and all of the characters are shallow and undeveloped. But the stream of conscious voice-overs, bare-bones sets and barely competent cinematography combined to mesmerize me. Add in touches like events from the film suddenly playing on Arthur’s TV and you have an entertaining dose of WTF cinema. And if you’re watching something by somebody associated with Things, I can only assume that’s what you were looking for.
Sadly House of Many Sorrows fumbles literally in the last few seconds. An attempt at being clever turns into a literal non ending that is absolutely frustrating. It doesn’t totally ruin the film, but it does end things on a disappointing note.
House of Many Sorrows is available to pre-order on Amazon. You can get more details on the film’s Facebook page.