Note: This late posting was intended for the week of January 25, 2009. Sorry!
Welcome to the Bad Movie of the Week. [See the Archive.] We had a large crowd this week — Will, Boy Jesse, Girl Jessie, Sarah, Leah, Megan, and myself. In honor of architect-Jessie’s birthday, we chose two horror movies involving houses: Burnt Offerings and Homewrecker. I’m going with condensed reviews again, but the full format will return soon.
Burnt Offerings (1976)
Plot: The story centers on a wholesome family of four who rent a large, mansion for the summer. They begin to have strange experiences, and the father becomes increasingly desperate to convince the family to leave. The movie builds up a great deal of psychological suspense and yet, except for a few pretty intense scenes, never quite does anything with it. We predicted everything that was going to happen before it did, and could never quite believe that that was all there was to it.
Read on for the final rating and our second feature, “Homewrecker”:
Final score: 5 (6 is worst). The makers were clearly going for deep, psychological horror (or so the absence of any real, physical horror would suggest), and — to some extent — it is successful; the father in particular is tortured by his wife’s transformation, his inexplicable urge to murder his son, and flashbacks to his mother’s funeral involving an eerily smiling chauffeur (above). His wife goes from creepy-wife to creepy-wife-possessed-by-house, his cougarish aunt ages at a ghoulish pace, and his son is traumatized by his parents’ strange behavior and their repeated attempts on his life. And yet this potential is mostly squandered. The chauffeur is easily the scariest character in the movie, but it’s never explained why he keeps appearing. Other interesting characters — the house’s owners, the Allerdyces, and their dimwitted handyman — leave after the beginning of the movie and are never seen again. The story’s slow pace becomes agonizing once you’ve figured out the premise (about 10 minutes in), but the last 20 minutes are worth sticking around for.
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Plot: Fired by the Defense Department after his intelligent supercomputer malfunctions and shoots down a private plane, computer scientist David Whitson installs a modified version of the system in his house for companionship and assistance. As “Lucy” becomes more self-aware, she develops a fascination with David that turns to violent anger when he begins to reconnect with his ex-wife
Best quote: (Lucy) “David, what is love?”
Final score: 2½ (6 is worst). Homewrecker is bad, sure — a low-budget straight-to-TV production — but, after watching Burnt Offerings, we were appreciative of a movie that gets straight to the point. The movie is only 88 minutes long, and the plot ticks along nicely, if predictably. Sure, the main character is insufferable, the romance is cheesy, and the action barely earns its PG-13 rating, but — well, I’m not quite sure why it’s enjoyable, but it was.