US (dir. The Butcher Brothers)
Cast: Cory Knauf, Samuel Child, Joseph McKelheer, Mackenzie Firgens, Rebekah Hoyle
Synopsis: David, Wendell, Darlene and Francis Hamilton are siblings who have recently moved to a quaint town in Northern California. They are struggling to settle in and adjust to the new area, while still grieving the recent death of their parents. David, the oldest, has taken it upon his shoulders to pick up the responsibility for the orphaned family. The twins, Wendell and Darlene, seem to have their own dark agenda and share an eerie connection that keeps them apart from the family. Francis, the youngest and most sensitive of the family, has recently found an old video camera that belonged to his deceased parents, and he’s using it to work on a school project about his family. It’s through Francis’ eyes that we soon get to know the Hamiltons and realize that there are more disturbing elements lurking below their “ordinary” household. Once the other siblings realize that Francis’ project may put their dark secrets in jeopardy, Francis faces the toughest decisions of his life–to become a cold-blooded killer like his older siblings–or turn to the only people who have ever truly loved him, and spare the lives of his family’s latest victims.
Review: “The Hamiltons” is the ultimate “meh” film. I’m almost entirely indifferent to it. It’s certainly not horrible, but it’s not that fantastic either. It falls somewhere in the middle ground between bad and good, essentially entering it into the realm of horror movie purgatory. As an independent film and one of the very first entries into the After Dark Horrorfest, I wasn’t really expecting much. It’s better than the average independent horror movie crap that’s unfortunately out there, but it’s just not that enjoyable to watch.
The film starts off kind of awkwardly with a young woman trapped in a torture porn movie-ready basement trying to escape before being eaten (?) by some unknown creature trapped in a closet. I say awkwardly because this scene cuts to some footage of a family recorded on camcorder with a voice over, courtesy of what will presumably be the main character, explaining how his family fell on to some difficulties after the (unexplained) deaths of both his parents. From here we learn that the majorly emo Francis is in the midst of a school project about his family, and is collecting video footage of his rather bizarre family as part of the project. Based on the opening scenes alone, you can pretty much guess where this film will be going. The fact that there is some sort of creature locked in the Hamilton family’s basement is one clue, and the fact that the unborn baby is not ever mentioned after the first scene is another. Also, Francis spends a lot of time examining his teeth… a further clue as to the “twist” that is yet to be revealed.
Apparently, the Hamiltons participate in the kidnapping and blood draining of young women. Francis, the youngest in the family, isn’t really a part of this – but he captures a lot of what goes on in the family’s basement on film. You aren’t ever explained why this goes on, but the blood draining is another clue as to who or what the Hamiltons really are. The entire film is devoted to convincing you there is some sort of monster in the basement closet that the family is feeding and keeping alive with fresh blood, but by paying attention to all those fairly obvious clues given away early on in the movie, you are pretty much able to figure out the monster is the baby we saw the mother pregnant with in the beginning of the film. I’m not intentionally trying to spoil the film for you, it’s just that obvious.
The film is mainly about Francis’ coming of age, so to speak. He learns the family’s habits and tries to find his own place within the family. According to the weird cycle of vampirism in this movie (yes, the Hamiltons are vampires, and yes, that’s the twist – although calling something that you can figure out on your own within a half hour of watching the movie is hardly a twist) vampires are born from other vampires, spend several years as vicious blood thirsty monsters, become normal teenagers, and then become 20 something year old vampires. Apparently, it’s also more than okay to make out with, and presumably have ongoing sex with, your twin brother or sister.
It’s also perfectly okay to go out in the daylight if you are a vampire in this movie. See, that’s what ruins this movie supposed “twist”. It can’t be a twist if the audience can figure out what that twist is going to be early on in the movie, and it can’t be a twist if it breaks all the rules of what the twist is revealed to be. As is the case in this movie, it’s difficult for the whole “the Hamiltons are vampires” twist to be believable because they don’t follow the conventional “rules” of vampires: i.e., they age, they go out during daylight, they can have children, they temporarily stop being vampires during their teenage years etc. This is why the twist sucks, and it’s one of the big reasons the movie isn’t fantastic.
Other problems with this movie include Samuel Child’s acting, the torture porn feel of the camera angles and the lighting, and the fact that there is not a single explanation about the Hamiltons’ back story other than snippets of information given to us from Francis like: “Wendell just got out of jail for biting some guy’s ear off at a Cheesy Chucks pizza parlour up North”. Wow, they even give us the name of the pizza parlour? How about something fucking relevant? It’s also the first time I’ve seen a horror movie victim in fairly great shape despite being bound, gagged, possibly starved, mildly tortured and left in a basement for what was seemingly over a week.
The only thing that seems to work well in this movie is Francis’ camera footage and a few moments where his voice overs talk about his family’s dark secret. Otherwise, there is nothing spectacular about this film. As an independent horror movie it’s neither good nor bad, and as a vampire film it just plain sucks.