The Haunted House on Kirby Road

Truggers channels the 80's while Becca sits on his lap.

The summer in between graduating high school and going on to college can be a strange one. Many grand plans are made for one last adventure with the old gang, but face it — much of the time the old gang ends up hanging around in the usual places doing the usual things until it’s time to say goodbye. For a while, it looks like that’s what’s going to happen in The Haunted House on Kirby Road, with everyone staring at each other until they all fall asleep from sheer lack of excitement.

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The Telephone

Movie poster. Watch out for those calls from "Unknown Caller".

A deep dark woods has always been a popular setting for thriller / horror movies, but I think there’s something even creepier about knowing that you’re in a city, surrounded by people, and yet you’re still entirely on your own when it comes to fighting the supernatural horror or serial killer that’s stalking you. Of course I grew up in the woods and avoid large cities like the plague, so your mileage may vary.

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The House of Salem

Jacob and crew. He really does give a frighteningly good evil clown performance.

There’s quite a skill set involved in being a cult member. Not only do you have to know all the esoteric details of whatever dark lord your group wants to summon / worship, you’ve also got to keep on top of the necessary blood offerings without attracting unwanted attention from the authorities. The evil crew in The House of Salem has the perfect solution to the latter problem, however: they outsource the acquisition of their next sacrificial child to a group of criminals who think they’re just doing a standard kidnapping-for-hire.

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Movie poster. You never know what people online might be thinking.

Technology has made it easier than ever to meet people. A few clicks and a couple of swipes and you can find people looking for friendships, long-term relationships, casual flings — any sort of connection you can think of. These days, everyone can find love! But don’t let the eHarmony ads fool you — it really isn’t that simple. Sometimes all the apps and dating sites in the world won’t let you find ‘the one’. Sometimes that doesn’t happen until you trip over nothing and literally land at the feet of your future significant other in an embarrassing heap.

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The gremlin climbing out. Now would be the time to try to kill it!

Unless you come from a large and unusually close-knit family, there probably aren’t a lot of people in the world that you really, truly love. Which is fine; it makes life easier because there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is. But now imagine that you’re at the mercy of a bizarre, seemingly unstoppable creature that is determined to kill those same loved ones in gruesome ways before your eyes. That’s what the Thatcher family faces in Gremlin, when they run afoul of a cursed item that no GM in their right mind would ever allow in a D&D game because it’s just too mean.

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BnB Hell

Willa explores the B&B. Plenty of code violations there.

A disappearance is such a common plot device it’s easy to forget how dreadful the uncertainty must be. Not knowing a loved one’s fate is the worst sort of limbo, and to make things even harder, the police aren’t always going to have the time or resources to take a given disappearance as seriously as those left behind would like. In BnB Hell Willa (Kimberly Woods) has both those problems, plus the fact that it’s her twin, Stacy, who’s disappeared. Since Stacy was the adventurous twin, the police have decided she was on drugs or otherwise just wandered off on her own, leaving Willa to search herself.

She’s traced her sister as far as an online listing for a bed and breakfast called Mommy’s Hollywood Heaven. And indeed, the owner (Carol Stanzione) does insist everyone call her Mommy, at which point I knew there would be trouble. She claims not to remember Stacy even though it was only a month ago she stayed there, but then, Mommy doesn’t quite seem all there. Neither does the creepy neighbor (Mark Hanau). If it was anyone but Stacy missing Willa might have given up, since Willa is far and away one of the most sensible characters I’ve seen in any horror movie.

This particular B&B isn’t the cleanest nor is it in the best repair, but it does have the gorgeous view promised online, featuring such landmarks as the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory. There’s one other guest at the moment, a grad student named Marco (Rudy Dobrev) who is also remarkably not prone to doing silly things. It’s a miracle the writers were able to move the plot along without resorting to a character who opens all the triple-locked doors and reads books bound in human skin.

After an awkward introduction, Marco begins to help Willa with her search, which includes hunting through various memory cards left behind by former guests. They’re from the camera Mommy provides so that people can leave video reviews for her to post online, though most of what our amateur detectives find has very little to do with discussing the amenities of the house. A tantalizing glimpse of Stacy proves that Willa is on the right track, but there are even more shocking images on the cards. Clearly there’s at least one highly dangerous person around, but it also seems that not all the dangers come from human beings.

I was hoping for nothing more than a decent slasher film, but this film went well beyond that. It is a solid and somewhat traditional slasher, but it also capably weaves in supernatural overtones and as mentioned even shockingly allows its main characters to use their common sense. Willa is the opposite of a damsel in distress and there are generally good performances from all the leads, though I did think that the villains could have been more creepy in some scenes. But the ending was as good as the rest, offering some clever twists, and worth four out of five stars. However bad your AirBnB experience may have been, this movie proves it can always get worse.