Judge Daryl Loomis has huffed the dust of plenty of corpses, but the only thing he's ever felt is sick.
Evil never dies.
I always have high hopes when I get an insane asylum horror movie for review. Between the real-life crazy experiments that once went on in the name of "curing" inmates and the amount of death that occurred in these facilities, there is plenty of potential for effective ghost work. Plus, because so many of the buildings that once housed these people have been abandoned to be overtaken by nature means that indie filmmakers get the double dose of creepy atmosphere and cheap, realistic locations to get them going. They aren't all grand successes, of course, but there is a fairly strong new example of it in House of Dust. It's not great, necessarily, but it works for what it's trying to accomplish.
Emma (Inbar Lavi, For the Love of Money) is new to the psych program at her new college. Her new friends and roommate don't know it yet, but she has a secret history with schizophrenia. So, when they all decide to head over and have some fun in the abandoned mental hospital, she's understandably apprehensive. While inside, she gets separated from the group and the rest wind up in the basement crematorium, where they accidentally break some jars of the ashes of dead inmates. The ashes still contain their souls, apparently, because they all start acting really weird and, suddenly, students start disappearing.
The most disappointing thing about House of Dust is the almost complete lack of suspense in the story. That's not the worst thing in the world, but it does mean that what appears to be happening is exactly what's happening, even though it isn't explained very well during the course of the story. It's four people, three of whom have gone crazy and one who once was, running around a college campus for ninety minutes. There really isn't much more to it than that, but even if that doesn't make for a surprising and tense film, that simplicity does a lot to ensure that the story, such as it is, can work under its budget.
Director A.D. Calvo (The Midnight Game) does well with this, delivering plenty of atmosphere with little actually occurring. The asylum scenes, brief as they are, are well shot, making the place seem a lot more menacing than it likely is, and doing well with shooting in near total darkness. There's little gore, but the bits of violence are well done, while the moments of ghostly presence are short and sweet.
The big draw here, though, is the performances, all of which are more than acceptable for a movie of this level. Inbar Lavi is a charming lead who comes across with strength in a very difficult situation, while her friends, who include Holland Roden (MTV's Teen Wolf), Steven Grayhm (The Boy Who Cried Werewolf), and Eddie Hassell (Jobs), all come across as real humans, even if they trip over the same horror tropes everyone does in every genre film. They're professional and not hateable, which is more than I can say for many entries that I've seen. Overall, House of Dust is an above average indie horror movie that I'll have no problem recommending to genre fans.
House of Dust comes to DVD from Anchor Bay. The release is fine but, like the movie, nothing special. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer looks solid for an indie feature; maybe a little soft, but the colors feel pretty natural and black levels are solid. The Dolby surround track doesn't do as much as it could, but there is some action in the rear channels and the dialog is always perfectly clear. There are no extras on the disc.
House of Dust isn't blowing anybody away with scares or gore, but A.D. Calvo directs the action well and gets good performances from actors lacking much experience. It's no classic, but if you're a fan of independent horror or the potential that exists in nuthouse movies, then this one should do the trick.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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