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Hell House: Book of Samiel

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Release Date: 
Brain Damage
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Jason D. Morris
Michael Anthony Carlisi
Sheila Kraics
Geof Libby
William Martin
Bottom Line: 

Another release from Brain Damage Films, specialists in low-priced indie Horror DVD -- "Hell House: Book of Samiel" actually looks astonishingly professional at first, with an opening sequence full of night-time aerial shots, CGI-based camera trickery (a camera pulls back from the scene, travels straight through a car window and out the other side) and some fairly sophisticated editing, inter-cutting between several different sequences. However, it's not long before the whole thing falls apart. Basically, the film's troubles both begin and end with its very confused storytelling. So utterly taken is director Jason D. Morris with showcasing his film-making expertise, and constantly finding outlets to demonstrate it, that what should really have been a bog standard haunted house tale, quickly gets contorted and cluttered until it becomes just a rather tedious concoction of half-baked ideas, limply held together by forced, illogical narrative development and some poorly rendered and wholly unsympathetic characters.
The film begins with a group of local TV news reporters who are filming a story on location at the home of a family who's father unaccountably went mad and killed his wife and daughter several years previously. Legends and ghost stories have since accumulated about the site as you'd expect, and the reporters are running a story on the place because of this. Despite some initial problems with the cameraman's monitor, the assignment seems to go off without any real hitches. Once they get back to their hotel rooms, though, things go downhill very quickly. The two male and female reporters go back to the same room for a quick sexual assignation, but the cameraman, stuck on his own in his own room (sad git), seems to have become possessed by a demon during the evening's proceedings, his face having been puffed up with rubbery 1980s make-up effects. Entering his colleagues' room with an axe, he quickly dispatches them. Meanwhile, a group of four teenagers -- two annoying, dopey males and their fairly silly girlfriends -- decide to spend a night at the said house. One of the more sensible of the girls isn't too keen on this idea, perhaps because (as her boyfriend knows full well) her sadistic drunkard of a father regularly beats her up and -- well, the prospect of spending a night at a house where the father of the family once shot his daughter and her boyfriend through the head and then set fire to them, and who chopped up his wife in the kitchen with an axe, probably isn't really likely to do a whole lot to help remedy her fears and hang ups!
You'd think she might think twice about continuing going out with a fella who proposed such a site as a dandy spot to enjoy a weekend getaway as well, but what do I know about kids today!
Anyway, the four idiots turn up at the place and quickly have an encounter with a local witch who just happens to live across the road. She basically tells them to clear off (in rather fruity language for a New Agey type), spouting the usual veiled threats about what might befall those who insist on dabbling with forces beyond their (admittedly rather limited) ken, and suchlike. Ignoring this, they settle down for a night in what is really just one big dilapidated, run-down Health & Safety hazard. While the blokes wander aimlessly around the house "investigating" the empty, musty, paint-peeled rooms with vacant looks on their faces, the two girls conform to standard teen slasher flick procedure and, suddenly, on the spur of the moment, decide to "les up for the lads" (the lads watching the film, that is -- their crap boyfriends are too busy exploring the house). Later, the more attractive of the pair strips off (slowly) for a bath (the bath is already pre-filled with soapy water!) and ends up pleasuring herself with the vibrator that she's thoughtfully brought along with her, presumably to pep up what she must have predicted would otherwise have been a pretty uninspiring evening spent in the cold, damp, darkened, festering ruins of a former murder site with two witless lunk-heads for male company.
Just when the viewer thinks the film has turned into a paradise of soft porn, all that tedious slasher Horror business intrudes on our time again! There is a mad axe-man roaming the house; he seems to be the father who previously murdered his family -- but frankly, by this stage it's quite difficult to tell what is going on, so confused has the story become. The plot is something of an 'everything, including the kitchen sink' affair, pitched somewhere between "The Shining", "The Evil Dead" and crazy Italian gore flick "Demons". Basically, it all turns out to be something to do with that standard supernatural flick standby, the gateway to Hell in the cellar, through which all the demons will be let loose after a suitable virgin is found to be sacrificed. Or something like that. To be honest, Gawd knows: your guess is as good as mine! The only amusing point to all this is that the only virgin to be found among the four teens apparently is one of the males who looks like he's in his mid-thirties! 
There is more than enough evidence on display here to show that Jason D. Miller is technically a talented film maker. There's some good shot composition, some nice weird angles to make the house look creepy and unsettling, and the demonic madness at the end is shot with plenty of dynamism and energy. But poor and confused story construction, badly written dialogue and thinly written characters mean that it still all becomes one huge chore to sit through, not withstanding the prolonged (and unashamedly gratuitous) nudity in the middle section. The verdict on this one has to be a firm 'could have done better'.

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