Do you ever get those emails sent to your inbox from Netflix saying “we’ve added a new movie to our instant streaming lineup that we think you’ll like”? Yeah, I do, too. And do you usually blow them off? Yup, same here. But have you ever opened one — just one — and followed the link, and actually watched the suggested film just for the sheer novelty of proving to yourself how little they truly know about their customers?
No need to raise your hands all at once, let me break the uncomfortable “no way, I’m too cool for that” silence by admitting that’s precisely what I did last night on a whim and that, dear friends, is how I found myself plunked down on the sofa watching the newly-released (as in it’s not even out on Blu-ray and DVD yet and its IMDB listing has a production date of 2015) British (well, okay, Welsh if you wanna be specific about it) indie horror The Last House On Cemetery Lane.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for any and all “Last House” flicks, simply because I love a rip-off so cheap and cheesy that the producers know damn well the public isn’t going to be stupid enough to think their flick has anything to do with Wes Craven’s seminal 1972 masterwork The Last House On The Left, but they go ahead and do it anyway. It’s almost like they’re saying “we’re not that dumb — and you’re not that dumb — and we know you’re not that dumb — and you know that we know that you’re not that dumb — but damn, give us a break here, you probably aren’t gonna see this thing regardless, but without that “Last House” in there, you definitely won’t.”
Besides, if you don’t give ’em all a go, you never know — you might miss out on some real gems. Is there anyone, for instance, who’s seen Roger Watkins’ The Last House On Dead End Street who doesn’t think it’s one of the most visceral, nihilistic, uncompromising, and frankly unforgettable horror films of all time? And how many of us would ever have seen it in the first place if it bore Watkins’ original title, The Cuckoo Clocks Of Hell? I rest my case.
All that being said, I definitely should have deleted this less-than-helpful recommendation email from Netflix, or at least had the good sense to turn this flick off early on, because writer/director Andrew Jones’ low-budget effort is a complete waste of time in every sense. About the only thing I can say in its favor is that at 75 minutes or so at least it’s not a waste of that much time, but that’s what we would-be/armchair critics (and even the pros, come to think of it) refer to as “damning with faint praise.”
Here are the particulars, for those of you who absolutely must know : tired of the London hustle-bustle, supposedly semi-successful screenwriter John Davies (Lee Bane), retreats to the Welsh countryside to search for inspiration for his next project, and takes up as a lodger in a quaint-but-rickety old house owned by an aging blind woman named Mrs. Connelly (Tessa Wood). Things start going bump in the night reasonably early on and it’s clear the house has something of a past, but rather than high-tail it the fuck out of there, John decides to explore the haunted manor’s secrets and attempt to kick up a romance with his reasonably fetching next-door neighbor, Cassie Konrad (Georgina Blackwood), while he’s at it. Oh, and there’s another quasi-creepy old woman named Agnes (Vivien Bridson) who might know more about the house than the landlady is willing to divulge.
Or maybe Agnes is the blind landlady and Mrs. Connelly is the other quasi-creepy old woman. I honestly can’t remember — and as I said, I just watched this last night. Some movies just make a lasting impression that you can’t ignore, I guess.
Anyway, as things get weirder, John’s grip on sanity begins to fray, and — oh, fuck it, doesn’t this all sound familiar enough already? As you’ve no doubt been able to surmise by now, despite the “Last House” title, this flick is pure Amityville Horror rip-off all the way, with a dash of cut-rate influence from The Shining thrown in for less-than-good measure. And now I’ve gotta get brutal for a second, so bear with me.
I’m not one to try to dissuade young (at least I hope he’s young, otherwise there’s no excuse) filmmakers from pursuing their dreams, but unless Andrew Jones goes back to film school (assuming he ever went in the first place) for some remedial crash-courses at night, he needs to think about fast food, selling power tools, janitorial work, or manual labor as serious career options, because literally everything on offer here is just plain bad, from the acting to the story to the cinematography to the not-so-special effects. All that we see here literally screams “been there, done that, and it was better the first 50 times.” I’m trying really hard here to think about something I liked about this movie just to avoid “piling on,” but ya know what? It ain’t happening, struggle as I might.
Still, for all its flaws (and it has nothing but those), The Last House On Cemetery Lane did manage to implant one idea in my mind that’s going to be damn hard to shake — barring a miracle, this will definitely be the last of these “Last House” films that I’ll be bothering with.