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House Monster (2020) Review

House Monster is set in the early days of the COVID lockdown, twenty-five days after people started hoarding toilet paper to be precise, and Jen (Jennifer Hill, Bad Girls, Bae Wolf) is starting to lose it. She thinks there’s someone in the house with her. Someone who messes with her camera when she’s filming YouTube videos moves her furniture and even locks her out of her house. And worst of all, it’s a sandwich thief.

Through the first part of House, Monster director David Axe (Shed, Azrael) and his co-writer Bradley J. Petit lets us know there’s something in the house. We get to catch a couple of quick glimpses of the creature (Josh Kern) long before Jen does. Mostly, however, the film focuses on Jen trying to stay sane and work on a one-woman play that even she wouldn’t pay to see.

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It sounds like it should be funny, but Axe goes in the other direction and takes a serious look at loneliness and, to a lesser degree, the creative process. It’s interesting in parts, but by the half-hour mark I was really getting impatient for the creature to play a larger part in the proceedings. And, thankfully it does, sort of.

But when all is said and done House Monster is a monster movie where the title creature is really an afterthought in its own movie. It’s really a drama posing as a horror movie and anyone who goes into this expecting one is going to feel as disappointed and annoyed as I do right now. I understand that the filmmakers don’t control the promotional campaign. I’m also quite used to Wild Eye blatantly misrepresenting the movies they release.

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But neither changes the fact I sat down hoping for some of the zero-budget monster goodness the director dealt out in Shed. Instead, I got a film whose scariest moments are Jen’s dementia-afflicted father (Mike Amason, The Theta Girl, Lection) confusing her with her mother and Jen’s claim to be wearing the same yoga pants for twenty-three days.

Maybe if House Monster had been released sooner after it was finished, it would have played better. But making a movie largely by video conference has been done to death in record time. It’s become Found Footage 2.0, and mixing in found footage staples like webcam and security camera footage really doesn’t help. Having some of the scenes play out on a stage as Jen imagines them is a nice touch, but there’s not nearly enough of it.

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On the plus side, Hill does give a solid performance in what is, for the most part, a one-woman show. She’s on-screen for probably ninety-five percent of the film, usually alone, occasionally with her father or a friend (Bradley J. Petit) on the other end of a camera to react to. House Monster also looks and sounds excellent for a film shot for $2,500 under quarantine conditions.

If you know what you’re getting, House Monster will probably be a lot more satisfying to you than it was to me. Given my reaction to the director’s other films, I’ll probably revisit it at some point myself, with more pleasant results. I just feel bad for anyone fooled by the cover art.

House Monster will be available on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing next month. Walmart says on the 6th, Amazon on the other hand says the 21st. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details. Or you could just wait, it’ll most likely turn up on Tubi as most of Wild Eye’s films do.

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