Have you ever found yourself walking around your empty, quiet house and thought to yourself, “I wonder what kind of dark, horrible things have happened here?” Then as you notice some scratch marks on the floor from where you moved furniture you think, “Oh, I bet someone being murdered was dragged across the floor there.” The latter is the case for the home in The Perfect House. The film certainly has a lot of elements being mixed into it, but they are hard to pick up on. For instance, when you pop this sucker in, you probably wouldn’t know it’s an anthology, especially since the synopsis on the back mentions nothing about it. For the first fifteen minutes, you will find yourself confused until you realize what it is.
I would also like to point out (or nitpick) the tagline, “There’s Terror on Every Floor!” Yet the only floor we really explore is the basement. And this is a two story house, so that tagline would be better suited for a skyscraper.
Your typical family comprised of the bickering husband and wife (played by Sleepaway Camp allum Felissa Rose) who are condescending toward one another, their sultry, smartphone addicted daughter and their two sons who always seem to be fighting are headed over to their neighbors house for dinner. What’s on the menu? Dastardly deception and torture! At this point, it’s hard to say what would make a man go crazy and tie up the family next door. They do mention a few times that his neighbor borrowed his weedwhacker and never returned it, then we find out that the dolt threw it away, claiming it to be an old piece of junk. So if there ever was motivation…
It cuts to sometime later as a young couple is looking to buy the home, which is implied has been on the market for sometime. This is when the movie shifts tonial so hard and suddenly you’ll get whiplash, as an erotic real estate agent embodying every fictional aspect of the female sex symbol gives them a tour of the home. As the male of the couple drools over her so comically, I expect him to turn into a cartoon wolf as his tongue rolls on the floor and his eyes pop out of his head. This scene is filled with so much lame sexual-innuendo that even most porns would be embarrassed of. At one point, she asks the couple if they would like to check out the “upstairs,” as she unbuttons her shirt as they walk upstairs to the bedroom where she proceeds to lay on the bed and trace the curves of the body. The husband plays along with the dialogue, while his wife is condescending toward him. The real estate agent then suggests that they check out the “downstairs” (in more ways than one), but warns them the basement is somewhat of a deal breaker. I really hope there is no double meaning to that.
As the couple descends into the basement, we launch into our first segment which takes place sometime in the 60’s (I think), as a husband and wife head into the basement with their two kids seeking shelter from a storm. We quickly see how mean spirited and condescending the wife is toward her family. By now, you are probably noticing two things: That every character is condescending toward each other and that none of the characters have names. While this may work for a single story, it’s going to quickly grow tiresome over the course of this movie. Anyway, during this storm as the light flickers out the parents turn up mutilated, leaving the kids to discover who the murderer is, which is clearly given away during flashbacks of their lives, giving motive to the killer. Also, this is the only segment that has a different theme than the rest. Rather than opting for torture porn, it’s… I dunno, who-dun-it?
This is when you realize this is a messy anthology and that the real estate segments are the narrative part and the first segment we saw is the book ends. So on to the second segment, yeah?
This one is definitely the longest segment (and you will start to feel it drag after a little while) which is most likely due to another Sleepaway Camp veteran, Johnathan Tiersten filling in the role of the cliched philosophical serial killer. I’m assuming this segment takes place during the 90’s due to his Godsmack style look, which was a bad idea even then. This bleach-haired, soul-patched serial killer uses the basement for caging and torturing victims, keeping a girl alive for years so she can watch his “art.” He brings another victim into the basement that she taunts as he cries, telling him he’s going to die in a few days and she knows this because her scheduled rape is the day after. I’m assuming that was supposed to come off as shocking and funny, but it just makes whoever wrote this look insensitive and stupid. I also want to point out that even though the female character does get the male victim to stop screaming by telling him, “Do you think someone that would do something like this is gonna leave us in a place our screams can be heard?” Which is true, but isn’t this house located in the middle of a populated neighborhood? Anyway, this segment is filled with more anal rape jokes as the serial killer dribbles on about how he’s changing society, thinning out the herd, creating art… you’ve heard heard all of this bulls#@t before and it sounds just as trivial now as it did back then. I can’t tell if they were trying to write this character with some depth or just following a list of stereotype serial killers in movies. And as for the woman, I get that she has been trapped for some time and is starting to lose her mind, but it’s her performance that makes her utterly loathable. Sadly, you feel nothing for this character, which is a tremendous feat when the opposing character is a serial killer/rapist. As I said, this portion of the film drags as he tortures these two in the basement, making jokes and you can’t help but ask yourself, “what is so popular about torture porn?” Sometimes it can shocking and gross, but this comes off as offensively wasting your time and insulting. Although this does tend to come off gross at times, like when he peels off a victim’s eyelids and smashes out their teeth with a 2×4, you can’t help but feel like the overall tone is someone is talking down to you.
And finally, we resume what we started with the neighboring families. The psychotic man gone over the edge from a tossed away weedwhacker, has his neighbors tied up and the film ventures into rape territory again as he tells their daughter to make herself pretty, tossing makeup at her and the film recalls her coming home with various boys in the middle of the night, implying she’s a slut and that this is fitting for her? It definitely makes you feel dirty, but only because you can’t help but feel this logic is severely misguided. He then pits the two boys to stab one another in order to save their mother’s life, because they always fought for her attention. Again, severely misguided view. All children fight, especially for mom’s attention and especially when they are about five and ten years old. The mother then has her ankles slashed open and has to rescue the surviving child, who now has a plastic bag over his head, which at this point you have to wonder what the hell the screenwriter was thinking. None of this is about redemption. None of this is about revenge. None of this is about justice or what goes around comes around. It feels like an extreme ends justify the means and a very delusional, poor quality snuff film version of it at that.
And so the film comes to end as three months later, some guy tosses another guy who wanted to look at the house again into the basement, implying that the house has some sort of evil power? Hell, I have no idea. On a final note, I’d like to point at that this film is called A Devil’s Inside in Australia, no doubt trying to name it closely to the found-footage crap fest A Devil Inside. Which when you think about it is rather fitting for this film; A film that misunderstands and poorly represents the genre it’s mimicking naming itself closely to another film that misunderstands and poorly represents the genre it’s mimicking.
All because of a weedwhacker.
When is all said and done, I had a few problems with The Perfect House, the biggest being the filmmakers and writer decided that most of the film would be cliched, tiresome torture porn. As much as I hate that term to describe a movie, I don’t know what else to call it when you spend the majority of your time with a captor doing heinous things to his victims and even with such a simple and pointless sub-genre, it seems to be mishandled. I can’t help but wonder why they would choose this route when an anthology opens up your spectrum of storytelling, allowing you to tell different elements of horror without making your overall story arc seem confusing. All of this makes the end of the film seem mean spirited and doing mean spirited things just for the sake of it. Issues like child murder or rape are handled poorly, almost with disrespect it seems, all of which seems to muddle to tone of the flick. Am I suppose to laugh? Be shocked? Scared? Who knows… not even the filmmakers it seems. Also, they didn’t explore much with the house, since we are stuck in the basement most of the time, but I guess the title ‘The Perfect Basement’ doesn’t sound as good.
That’s not to say that some of the performances are actually pretty solid, most of all by Felissa Rose. She really plays a victim here and brings it everything she has. It’s just too bad none of them have names. Seriously, do you know how hard it was to write this review calling every character “he” or “she”? It wouldn’t have been as difficult either if they all weren’t pretty much the same character being recycled. How many times can I write “husband and wife” while simultaneously be talking about several different people? Can you imagine trying to describe this movie to someone? It gets confusing! If you can come away from the film saying one positive thing, it’s that the practical effects are handled well and at times used effectively. Too bad the same can’t be said about the narrative.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I better go return my neighbors tools before he ties me up and beats me with a garden hose.