Home Movie – Review
In the remote woods of Upstate New York, David and Clare Poe are attempting to live an idyllic life. However, their twin children's bizarre behavior might just tear the family apart.
It’s a new week and a new entry into our Fall Themed Horror series. Today we are taking a look at Christopher Denham’s found footage chiller “Home Movie” from 2008. Home Movie is the story of a couple trying to deal with their seriously messed up kids. Exhibiting increasingly bizarre behaviour. It quickly becomes obvious that something is not right with the troublesome twins. Filmed in a found footage style, Home Movie has received some pretty mixed reviews over the years. What do we think? Let’s find out.
So, I am attempting to subvert expectation a little when it comes to this fall feature. This means I am having to be pretty broad with my criteria. Finding movies that are set entirely in autumn is difficult. I am wanting to avoid putting out the same old shit. You know, the stuff we have already seen in lists a million times. Clearly, there is going to be some cross over. Creating an exclusive list in this modern age of the internet is impossible. Home Movie kicks off around Halloween and spends at least the first third of the film in autumn. I think it counts. As always, I will give a quick spoiler free breakdown of the movie which you can skip if you like.
November is Fall Themed Horror month. We will be reviewing a few movies every week that feature an autumn setting. The criteria is pretty broad here as the fall setting is rarely pivotal to the plot of a movie. It’s more of a coincidence than anything. Fallen leaves and orange hues are a must, however. When Fall Themed Horror month is over, we move onto December and Awful Advent. 25 days of Christmas themed horror reviews leading up to the big day. Definitely keep an eye out for that.
Home Movie – Synopsis
Home Movie follows the story of David and Clare Poe, played by Adrian Pasdar and Cady McClain. David has recently acquired a camcorder and has become somewhat obsessed with filimg his family. The couple’s young children, Emily and Jack, seem less than enthusiastic. Played by Amber Joy Williams and Austin Williams, the children are almost mute. David’s overbearing antics amuse his wife but seem to frustrate the children. He insists on filming everything and rarely takes anything seriously.
David, a pastor, and Clare, a psychologist, are recording themselves playing ball with Jack. David asks him to pitch the ball but Jack, instead, pitches a rock. Shocked, David makes Jack rake leaves as a punishment. Moving on, it’s anniversary night. David and Clare have been taking a shower together when they hear noises from upstairs. They go up to the kids bedroom and the pair are now sharing a bed. Clare thinks this is strange but the more passive David believes it is cute.
Thanksgiving comes around and the kids are about to head off to school. Jack is holding a bag, apparently, containing his lunch. Clare asks to see what he has made. It turns out to be the family goldfish in between two slices of bread. I guess PB&J didn’t contain enough protein and gills. At thanks giving dinner, David wants to pray before eating. The children refuse causing an argument. Later, David is teaching the children how to pick a lock and how to tie an inescapable knot. While in the shed, Emily crushes her pet frog in a vice. It is now very clear to David and Clare that the kids have a serious problem. They need to solve it before something terrible happens.
Found Footage Psychological Horror
Home Movie is part of the Found Footage horror wave of the 2000s. It also represents the directorial debut of actor Christopher Denham. Despite being a newish site, we have covered quite a few found footage movies. The genre was undeniably huge for awhile there. Plenty of people absolutely hated the shaky cam laden, low budget nature of these movies. Others loved it. The genre was incredibly accessible for both fans and movie makers alike. The DIY nature meant that any director could try their hand with minimal monetary input. We recently reviewed The Collingswood Story. Check it out for a perfect example of how DIY these movies can be.
Focusing on the lives of one small family, Home Movie is a simple concept. David, the patriarch of the family, does most of the filming. Clare, the mother, takes more of a back seat. She does occasionally uses the camera for her psychology work, however. We see most events through the perspective of the parents. Exposition comes by way of conversations and Clare’s psychological analysis of her children. The story starts in a pretty mundane manner but develops quickly. Things start going wrong almost straight away and escalate rapidly.
Denham attempts to build layer upon layer of tension and atmosphere. Not what you would call jump scare horror. We do have a few moments here that may provoke something of an animated reaction from the viewer. The film, despite this, relies on the slow unravelling of the mystery to unsettle. David is a positive guy and is reluctant to believe there is something wrong. Clare is more analytical and wants to approach the situation in a clinical manner. The conflicting responses cause clashes between the two making for some interesting twists.
Scary Kids Scaring Adults
Horror movies have been tapping into the scariness of children for a long time. Films like Children of the Corn, The Omen and Cheaper by the Dozen have been trying to warn us for years. Kids can be horrible little bastards that will ruin your life. I am sure some people have positive experiences with raising families. These movies make it obvious, however, that it is best to exercise caution. I was a little shit when I was a kid. My late younger brother was even worse. He woke me up from a deep sleep once by farting into a bottle and placing it under my nose. As unbridled joy lit up his face, I realised one undeniable fact. Kids can be truly evil.
With this in mind, Home Movie has the perfect antagonists. Two horrible little arseholes. They barely speak, they have invented their own language and they hate animals. The fact that David and Clare are bound to protect the little buggers only adds to their dilemma. Emily and Jake are horribly cruel and, frankly, a bit weird. Their defiance of their parents escalates and the tension grows. The pair are legitimately quite creepy.
Young, Impulsive, and Well Equipped
Jack and Emily are incredibly well suited to their specific type of mayhem. Apparently completely lacking any conscience. The pair seem to care only about each other. The fact that the children are, supposedly, twins reinforces this silent bond. Their seeming lack of any kind of motive makes them all the more sinister. Hell, the devilish duo even have a little base of operations in the woods.
The twins are looking to cause mayhem and pain. The reasons for this are never very apparent. They are well equipped in their pursuit of evil, as well. Their idiot of a dad, in a seeming lack of foresight, has taught them how to pick locks. He also teaches them how to tie knots…. Knots that you cannot escape from! I will hasten to add that this is after the kids have shown troubling signs. Indeed, we are to believe that these signs have been appearing for some time. Even prior to the events of the movie. The children’s parents believed a move would help rid them of the issue. Naturally, they want to fix the kids and get back to having a quiet life.
It is easy to understand how conflicted David and Clare must feel. They want to protect their children. Nobody wants to believe a child they raised is capable of horrible cruelty. While initially full of denial. Seeing the adolescent pair grow more and more violent. It becomes impossible for David to keep ignoring what is happening. Like the parents of Ezra Miller, they have to admit that they have created something truly evil. Clare believes she can fix the problems with medication. David thinks the family needs God. The reality is that they need a very deep hole in the ground to throw the kids into. With all that being said. Having two young children as antagonists is a great move. It lays the groundwork for some interesting scares and also offers a little extra depth.
Fairly Tense but Incredibly Messy
Home Movie manages to build up some nice tension and atmosphere. Not lingering on early scene setting, things start to go wrong pretty quickly. You never really know what the kids will do next. Clare and David don’t feel particularly vulnerable. The parents aren’t the main victims, though. The twins would prefer to pick on things that can’t defend themselves. Animals, fellow students, each other; everything is fair game. The actions of the kids continues to escalate. They become more and more cruel as their crimes become more severe. This constant one upping of the previous events works to keep the viewer guessing.
The fact that the movie drops the ball in so many areas is quite a shame. There are tremendous plot holes throughout. There is one particularly glaring example of this. Clare is a psychologist. She begins to treat her children like patients. She diagnoses them and prescribes medication. This is beyond silly. For one, psychologists can’t prescribe drugs. That is the job of psychiatrists. For two, a doctor cannot diagnose and treat her own children. That is an enormous conflict of interests. This is only one example of the sloppy writing that is the main factor holding Home Movie back.
A Ridiculous Ending
There is a distinct lack of attention to detail in this movie. Many events go completely unexplained. The children do things that we are never given a reason for. Stuff happens that feels disconnected. Above all of this, however, is the final part of the movie. The events that lead up to the ending are totally unbelievable. I won’t spoil it but something happens to set up the final scenes. It will literally have you face palming with how completely silly it is. I genuinely despair if this is the best the writer and director could come up with. This would literally never happen. It completely undermines the last part of the movie. As it stands, the ending is pretty shit anyway so it doesn’t turn out to be a big deal.
The movie struggles to decide whether it is a supernatural or a psychological horror. It is as if the writer had decided he was going to make a movie about evil children. He knew what he would like to happen but hadn’t decided why the children were evil. It is painfully underdeveloped. The parent’s denial of the issues with their children extends to a ridiculous degree, as well. These kids should have been in therapy from the very get go. The fact that the parents continue to act like the family is normal is ludicrous. The plot quickly descends into farce.
An Annoying Character
David, played by Adrian Pasdar, for me, makes this movie a bit of a chore. He is horribly annoying. I am not sure whether this was scripted but David is insanely overbearing. He attempts to steal every scene and fails miserably.
We are forced to listen to him putting on terrible accents as he attempts to entertain the kids. The guy narrates himself punishing his child. He dances like a prick while wearing a Santa costume. Oh and let’s not forget him running around in a pink bunny suit throwing eggs. Looking like a twisted version of Ralphie from Christmas Story. David also takes cheese into the bathroom while his wife is showering and drinks Jack Daniels neat. He is just awful in general. At least grab a decent bourbon.
By about 30 minutes in to the movie, I understood why the kids were so messed up. Imagine living with this guy! The poor bastards seem almost rational when viewed in the context of being raised by this dude. The strange thing is, Pasdar can actually act. He has had a prolific career in Hollywood. The character is much better when expressing sadness and fear later in the movie. For much of the film, however, I found David unbearable. I can imagine some people absolutely loving the silliness of his performance. It was not for me, though, and bugged me both times I watched. Other characters are generally fine and well acted. The kids don’t really have to do much and rarely speak. They are suitable creepy, however.
Suspicious Ratings and Upsetting Themes
Home Movie features a lot of violence towards animals. I am sure it is all special effects but it is still likely to upset certain viewers. Animal cruelty is depicted graphically and repeatedly. It’s a cheap way of unsettling viewers and typically a sign of a lazy writer. I get it, disturbed children harm animals. That is a fact so I understand the context here. Home Movie super sizes this. It is to the point where it is almost the main theme of the film.
I will point out, as well, that I am not sure animal care standards were up to scratch on this set. Two large goldfish in a tiny bowl is fairly cruel. Knowing filming durations, they probably spent hours in that bowl. Poorly oxygenated, ammonia rich environments are not a fish’s best friend. The family dog is clearly startled on a couple of occasions and appears to be limping in one scene. The cat is held against its will at one point and is visibly very upset. Using animals for scares in horror movies sucks anyway. When care levels are substandard it’s even worse.
This movie has been hammered with ridiculously positive user reviews. Said reviews rarely go into any detail and are clustered around the movie’s release. I can’t help but find this suspicious. Claims about it being the scariest movie people have ever seen are pretty ridiculous. I especially raise an eyebrow when reviewers go out of their way to insult people who dislike it. It’s an okay movie. To say it is nigh on perfect is farcical.
Still Fairly Watchable
Despite all its flaws, this is still a fairly watchable movie. It toddles along at a nice pace and doesn’t wear out its welcome at only 77 minutes. The kids are creepy and it is easy to buy into the story. You will likely want to know what will happen next and what is causing the bizarre behaviour. Camera work is fine, it is rarely too shaky or intrusive. We have different characters in control of the camera at different times. This helps keeps things interesting.
There is always a bit of an expectation with found footage that standards will be lower. Fans are more likely to accept flaws. The DIY nature of production means there is greater room for errors. Home Movie has a lot of them but it is still quite fun. The unusual antagonists feel a bit different from standard horror fare. The contrasting attitudes and reactions of the parents make for an intriguing set up. Just don’t go in expecting a perfect movie. It is watchable. Some may love it, others will hate it. It is short enough that you can take a chance. Oh, and it can be found on Youtube for free. Win win!
Is it a Knockout?
Home Movie is a found footage horror movie focusing on the struggles of parents David and Clare as they try to cope with their increasingly strange children. Starting as a simple attempt by David to capture family life, things begin to go wrong quickly as the kids grow more and more demented. The children harm animals, defy their parents, and refuse to communicate. The situation escalates rapidly as David and Clare attempt to find a solution.
Fairly engaging and decently paced, Home Movie delivers on the tension and atmosphere. The kids are suitably creepy and there is rarely a long period of time with nothing happening. Acting is decent but David, for me, was utterly intolerable overacting and basically being a complete imbecile. Tons of plot holes and unexplained occurrences mar the overall plot. The movie feels generally underdeveloped and one huge plot point near the end is completely and utterly ridiculous. It is still a watchable movie, however, and the first third is set in the autumn so is fitting for Fall horror viewing.