ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE
First off I’d just like to say thank you to Writer and Director, Todd Nunes for allowing me access to an online screener of his Horror film, “All Through The House”. I’ve followed this film for the better part of twelve months so it’s great to finally get an opportunity to see it. All Through The House is a slasher flick set during the jolly Christmas season. A deranged, mask wearing Santa, arrives in Napa, California to wreak havoc on a local town. Rachel Kimmel (played by Ashley Mary Nunes), is a college student home for the holidays and looking for some downtime with her friends Gia and Sarah (played by Natalie Montera and Danica Riner). Rachel’s families uncertain past appears intrinsically linked with their neighbor Mrs Garrett (Melynda Kiring). All hell is about to break loose as the body count rises and twisted secrets come to the surface on this most fateful of nights. The film also stars Jessica Cameron (The Sleeper and Silent Night), Jennifer Wenger (Sharktopus vs Whalewolf and Tales Of Halloween) Jason Schumacher, Johanna Rae, and Cathy Garrett. The problem with waiting for a particular film for so long is that certain expectations build in your mind and you often end up let down. I’m particular about my Christmas themed horror films and I set the bar pretty high, So how does All Through The House compare to some others I like? Such as Steven C Miller’s “Silent Night” as well as the cult classic “Jack Frost”.
Let’s start with the poster, it’s great. Fantastic clear artwork, a real throwback to Slasher films of the 80’s and that particular style of poster. It’s obvious Nunes is an old-school fan of the genre. It shows in his choice to shoot a very specific holiday themed slasher, which of course were all the rage during that time period. The camera framing and editing were both pretty solid. The POV (point of view) shots were the most effective, a clear throwback to some of John Carpenter and Wes Craven’s work. The voyeuristic, killer is watching his victim technique is always beneficial in creating a sense of the unknown. It will remain a timeless and productive method for shooting specific sequences in the genre. I first saw it used in the opening sequence of Carpenter’s “Halloween” and to this day it’s still one of the best uses of it. Mrs Garrett’s house is the key location for most of the film, it can be difficult to maintain engaging visuals in just one place. However, I was impressed with Todd’s ability to implement some interesting aerial shots without using cranes and large equipment. The film is nicely lit too. It’s always a priority in showcasing the aftermath of your action and effects with good lighting. Far to many awesome sequences in Horror can’t be fully appreciated because they’re so dark that you can’t see properly. It was refreshing to see all the dialogue driven scenes lit according to the mood and then adjusted during the “horror” aspect.
All Through The House doesn’t use conventional songs as its source of music, minus a really snazzy introductory theme song. Most of the bass and orchestral sounds are low in the mix and only start to build when its necessary. They are somewhat overshadowed by the startling violins that accompany the handful of jump scares. I thought it enhanced the response so it was enjoyable but it does overpower the score at times. The story takes some cues from the finer points of Wes Craven’s “Scream”. I could definitely see parallels in the fallout of Rachel and the Garrett’s family matters, to Sid’s in the aforementioned film. The exposition and development here is adequate for any given slasher flick but there’s nothing that elevates its standing. Not for nothing but All Through The House is the second or third film I’ve seen lately with a cast made up almost entirely of women and I dig it. We’re all fans of the “final girl” and strong female characters in Horror so why not make more of these? It was nice to see Jessica Cameron pop up in a brief but enjoyable role. In fact, all the secondary cast members characters were likable and looked great. Todd’s sister as the leading lady Rachel (who I remember making a brief appearance in the hidden gem “Redd Inc” aka “Inhuman Resources), puts in an even and direct performance while I was surprised to see the MVP (most valuable player) go to Kiring as the unstable head of the Garrett household. With only a handful of short credits to her name Melynda managed to give off a hint of Betsy Palmer in the original Friday the 13th.
Onto the good stuff shall we? The blood and the gore. Not only does our psychotic Santa-slayer look cool with his peculiar mask, he also has a new weapon of choice in those garden sheers (I’ve never seen them used on-screen before). Todd has done his research in Slasher 101, writing a nasty death sequence at the 6 minute mark of his film, Yes you heard me right… 6 minutes. On top of that there are actually four or five deaths in the opening act of the film (20 minutes). It’s very rare to see modern slashers doing that these days, they waste far too much time on exposition irrelevant to the story. The body count is high and the blood flows heavy as any 80’s inspired Horror film should. They were all well executed using practical effects and the consistency of the blood was good. The deaths were reasonably generic but a fresh weapon made for some interesting impact wounds. I’ll explain later in more detail, some of the choices that could’ve been made to make this aspect even more eventful.
On the technical side, the audio levels were quite low overall. But to be fair I was watching it via computer speakers (which is not ideal), so that could very well be different when played through a home entertainment system. Some of the piano orientated score didn’t have any verve, it just sounded out-of-place. Early camera shots in the opening scenes were taken from the ground or waist height and weren’t really ideal. There’s a few shaky camera movements and focus issues in that first scene as well, I think Todd was just getting his bearings on how things were going to look because it got progressively better as the film went along. Most of the cast put in even performances but there were moments throughout the film where they didn’t quite sell it, especially when things were turned up a notch and it required more emotion. Both Natalie and Danica did the best they could with their extremely bland characters, neither of which possessed any personality or arc within the story. If and when these types of characters are killed off you need to feel the loss, the friendship needs to mean something and there’s never any time spent cluing us in on that bond. Schumacher does enough in his role of Cody, Rachel’s boyfriend/ex-boyfriend (I dunno they had something sort of going on), but I’m not sure he was really needed. It just stood as another plot point that remained an unsolved mystery, no emotional connection behind it.
A few of the other faults lie with the stories predictable nature, its lack of strong characters and its shortcomings with suspense during the final act. Like a lot of slasher films there’s plenty of random deaths in this one that involve people who aren’t from the past or related to the motive of the killer and or killers. There’s a continuity issue involving another neighbor in the beginning of the film. We see Rachel speaking with Mrs Garrett and offering to help her set up for Christmas and then as she leaves, it cuts to a dog walking through someone’s garden and into another yard where said neighbor appears, it was all a little confusing. I was hoping to see some of these girls put up more of a fight to offset the lack of expansion in the writing. Other than one stalk and chase sequence the action happens all to quickly, in turn missing the opportunity to create some much-needed suspense. Todd had no qualms about making this a relatively straight forward story (well to me it was anyways). In the beginning of the story a specific character, who plays a crucial part in important revelations was acting pretty damn crazy, making it easy and predictable to see the turns this was going to make. There’s nothing wrong with a by the books approach but it does curb the re-watch ability factor somewhat. The one thing that could have made me disregard some of these pointers would have been even more gore, or more specifically prosthetics. I saw the opportunity for at least two characters to have body parts lopped off, but alas. There’s a scene involving the gorgeous Jennifer Wenger that could have taken its cues from Eli Roth’s “Hostel”, as well as a bloody neck and head that looked ready to come off but didn’t. Those are refinements that would personally win me over in a film like this.
All Through The House was the first film of Todd Nunes that I’ve seen (I think he’s done one other full length feature) and it was a pretty solid and entertaining Slasher flick. I thought the lighting and editing were great. The clever use of aerial and POV shots (point of view) was the most impressive technical feat, playing to that 80’s nostalgia perfectly. I love the look of the Santa-slayer and it was awesome to see a new and inventive weapon being used for once, I just wished I could have seen it do some more damage (I mean either way people die but yeah, haha). The body count is high and it builds quickly, utilizing plenty of practical blood and gore in fun scenarios in which to do so. To top it all off, Ashley Nunes and Melynda Kiring give pretty impressive performances. The technical stuff could have been a little more polished, along with altering and improving the score. For me to fully invest in All Through The House the writing just needed to be a bit better. The characters needed fleshing out and written so they were more worthy of your support. They were all a bit bland and most of them didn’t give a yelp when their time was up. The predictable nature of most of the stories specifics hurts the result a bit. Even with its shortcomings All Through The House is a solid entry into the slasher genre and I love supporting low-budget independent filmmakers. I’m interested to see what Todd and possibly his sister, get up to in his next film. Well Done!
My rating for “All Through The House” is 6.5/10