Monday, December 28, 2009

The Hamiltons (2006)

Totally spoiler heavy.
Sorry, but I'm blowing this thing wide open.

My local film rental place is closing. It's sad but I'm a LOVEFiLMer, so it's partly my fault. Anyway, they are selling off all their stock, so I managed to pick up two films I was interested in seeing. The Hamiltons was one of them.

Slipped inside the case was a piece of paper, with this typed on it:
"Michael Recommends:
A rare beast this, with first-time directing team the 'Butcher Brothers' shedding new light on an old legend in a smart, uncompromising fashion.
While it's not exactly terrifying it is definitely original and unerringly brutal. Leagues ahead of 'gorno' pics like SAW and HOSTEL, this entwines its inherent nastiness with a web of American-indie smarts. The results are both surprising and strangely satisfying."

I don't know who Michael is - presumably an employee. What I do know, is that he's talking bollocks.

Having not paid attention when reading the above, the "new light on an old legend" went over my pretty lil' head. Therefore, I went into this assuming it was about a family of fucked-up homicidal teenagers - and this is how it is played, until the final reveal.

Before dealing with that however, let's talk about the film generally.

Four young adults - and whatever it is they keep locked in the basement - have to fend for themselves in a new town after both parents die (we aren't told how). David, the eldest, seems to have needlessly adopted a ridiculous side-parting in his hair since becoming the man of the house. The twins Wendell and Darlene, have an incestuous relationship which is only marginally more disconcerting than the girl's complete lack of acting ability. The youngest sibling, Francis, sees what is going on in his home and hates it, spending most of the film wandering around or laying on his bed looking tortured.

All of them know, if not are directly involved with the family's pastime of picking up people who won't be missed, taking them home and killing them.

However, within the household there are varying degrees of comfort with this arrangement. Francis wants to help the girls he finds strung up in the basement, David reluctantly goes about his murders with a sense of duty and the twins make their kills into games, enjoying and getting off on them.

This sounds like ample fodder, right? Wrong. The plot is paper thin, with nothing much of anything happening. The closest we get to tension is when Francis seems on the brink of going to the authorities... but then doesn't. Ah well!

And the closest we get to the "unerringly brutal" of which Michael speaks, is this shot:

I don't know about you, but that doesn't do an awful lot for me.

A lot of the worst crimes are committed off screen - which is fine, it's an indie film and the FX budget wasn't huge, I can understand that. Yet in order to make hidden atrocities work, the viewer needs to (a) care about what was happening, and (b) care about who it is happening to. Apologies, the Butcher Brothers, but this just wasn't the case here. It's not brutal, it's a series of faintly grisly scenes which punctuate an otherwise dull, poorly acted 86 minutes.

The most interesting thing about The Hamiltons, is the twist. Interesting in the sense that it made me yell: "WHAT?! Fucking vampires?!" as this happened...

Yup. They are a family of vamps. Or... humans with some kind of vamp/blood related disease. They aren't mindless killers man, they're just trying to survive. Oh jesus.

The big unveiling of "Lenny"? The thing that's been screaming and rattling the bars of its cage underneath the house for the entire movie? Well, judging by the heavily pregnant mother in early footage of the family, we assume it's the infant in some form. In what form though? I was hoping for some fucked up mutated foetus thing, some gooey effects if we're lucky. What did we actually get?

Aw, his little blood soaked bedroom.

Build build build aaaaaand...

Yeah, that's Lenny. I literally wrote "LOL @ Lenny" in my notes, which about sums it up I think.

So on a re-watch (NB: I wouldn't have bothered if I didn't have to cap it), the viewer picks up on Francis running his tongue across his teeth, being off his food and zoning out in a restaurant when faced with rare, bloody meat. Whereas previously we'd assumed he was in some kind of shock from the knowledge of what his family are up to, in hindsight it's clear he is undergoing a change.

Something like the vampire equivalent of puberty? I don't know, they don't tell us, we don't ultimately care.

By the end of the film Francis seems all of sudden fine with what he is, though. He's friends with his siblings again and they all pack up and move town. The last line is David greeting their new neighbours and introducing the clan as "the Thompsons". Please god don't let that be a set up for a sequel.



    I am psychologically ruined.

  2. It's what dead skin looks like in cheap horror mivies...!

    It's the right hue for a Dawn zombie. They should have explored that methinks.

  3. ps: I don't know what a "mivie" is.