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House of Bodies

D: Alex Merkin / 78m

Cast: Terrence Howard, Peter Fonda, Alexz Johnson, Harry Zittel, George Katt, Queen Latifah, Francisco A. Pino, Juliana Harkavy, Elizabeth Brissenden, Karlee Eldridge

Alternating between a police interview with convicted serial killer, Henry Lee Bishop (Fonda) and events taking place in the house he used to live in, House of Bodies plays with notions of what is real and what isn’t and does it in quite a clever manner.  While the interview, carried out by Detective Starks (Howard) moves on, it becomes clear that events in the house are taking place before the interview so we’re treated to a framing device around an ongoing series of flashbacks.  It’s an awkward structure at times, with initial scenes appearing disjointed and confusing.  Once the movie hits its stride though, things become more clearcut, and the reason for the interview is brought into sharper relief.

Bishop’s house is being used as an internet site where members can log on and see recreations of Bishop’s original killings.  Run by Tracy (Brissenden), she employs three other girls, Kelli, Tisha and Ambra (Johnson, Harkavy and Eldridge) to play the victims and Ambra’s boyfriend Darryl (Pino) to play Bishop.  With each murder room set up with a video link and the requisite props, Tracy hopes to make a killing of her own.  On Kelli’s first night it becomes clear someone else is in the house with them; watching online is deaf teenager Kyle (Zittel).  He strikes up an unlikely relationship with Kelli and when he sees what’s happening (by hacking into the live feed – as all teenagers could), he tries to warn her.

House of Bodies - scene

House of Bodies has a neat premise but for a horror movie that sets up its serial killer as a particularly bloodthirsty monster, it’s quite tame when the killings are shown.  There’s very little tension during these sequences, and too much time is spent with Kelli and Kyle while the murders are taking place.  As an executive producer, Latifah adds another string to her bow by popping up a couple of times as Kyle’s online support worker, while Howard and Fonda give the movie a boost by making some very clunky dialogue sound better than it is.  Johnson and Zittel give it their best, but sadly the rest of the cast all seem on auto-pilot.  Merkin directs the interview scenes with confidence but lets himself down when things switch to the house, leaving the viewer stranded and waiting for the interview to resume.

Rating: 5/10 – a movie of two parts, with the worst part taking up too much of the (admittedly) short running time; if you’re new to the horror genre you might enjoy this, but if you’re not, you’ll be quickly disappointed.