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The Hamiltons

Film Three Stars

I'd heard a little about The Hamiltons before seeing the film, and the feeling gained from those brief write ups was that this was a look at a family of serial killers from the inside. As one of the kids of a family without any parents takes up a school project to film his family at home, the problem is that he films a lot more than the average family would experience.

These write ups made me think I was in for an incredibly tense and scary journey into a mad family, but the film is something quite different, and has some rather amusing moments as well as a very well crafted story that is revealed very well.

TheHamiltons.jpgFirst up we were treated to a special introduction from some of the cast to Dead by Dawn, a nice little skit where they were making raw haggis from some dubious ingredients. It received resounding applause and instantly the audience were onboard with the film - note to other Directors, if you're submitting films for festivals this is a very good ploy. You can see the introduction clip online, the link is at the end of the review.

The story looks at a family who has lost their parents for reasons we never really understand, and they are struggling to stay together as a family with such a diverse range of personalities. The father figure is struggling with himself, never mind the pressures of trying to keep the family together despite their obvious resentment for him.

There are the twins who are the darker personalities of the family, and perhaps the most dangerous, then there's the main character of the film, the youngest member of the family who is struggling with being a teenager without parents, and has decided to film the inner workings of the family for his school project.

However the filming is revealing not only the traditional family problems, but something darker, the reason that they have a soundproofed basement and local women are disappearing, and perhaps what's in the box in that basement.

It was never really scary or horrific, the gore factor is incredibly low, but what the film does incredibly well is take a horror story and look at it from a personal, human level, something that I find tends to make a horror film even scarier. Here though it makes it more interesting and the horror more accessible and real world, and it actually makes the subject less frightening.

What it does show is that the Butcher Brothers, the guys behind this film, have some style in both writing and directing, and it will be interesting to see what they can bring to their next, bigger budget film.

There's not so much of the film handheld through the eyes of the camera as you'd expect, the rest of the filming is pretty unobtrusive allowing the audience to concentrate on the characters and the performances. The initial opening of the film is slightly more cinematical to the rest of the film, and it sets a dark and terrifying mood, a mood that isn't wholly returned to in the rest of the film.

The acting was sometimes a bit hit and miss and it had the feeling that there was a shortage of takes sometimes. Perhaps this was done to budget and/or time constraints, however it was never too bad, just sometimes it felt a little flat or strained.

That said Joseph McKelheer who played one of the twins was perhaps the best, with Samuel Child giving a good performance as the surrogate father of the family trying desperately to keep his inner turmoil in check to present a strong example to the rest of the family.

Mackenzie Firgens also gives a good performance, although she has a few rougher moments. It has to be said she has a stunning look to camera, wicked and also encredibly alluring. On that note there was the surprise of Brittany Daniel, I didn't recognise her at the time, but she was one of the twins on Sweet Valley High...I'm sorry I have seen the show.

I really enjoyed the slower pace of the story development which helped deliver the impact of the reveal of the box (I'll say no more than that), a reveal that wasn't achieved with any specific stylish camera work, just the reveal and the slow story build up throughout the film. It worked really well, and actually felt better without these usual methods.

It is the story and the down to earth look at a well trodden horror topic that is the most alluring about this film. I so often find that horror films, as well as many other genres, are so removed from reality that their impact is lessened. So here it's refreshing to see such a topic that is always so far removed from our personal lives pulled right back into them. It makes it more real, and more accessible, and perhaps that little bit scarier.

I would have perhaps preferred to have had more menace about the characters and their intent though, because of the concentration on the reality of a family situation there is a little bit lost in the scare department.

It's not all like this though, there are some amusing moments and although it never descends into complete comedy and detracts from the dramatic elements of the story.

Overall it's a strong and enjoyable film. I would have like more menace and horror in there, but the way it's done is an incredibly interesting look into a well filmed genre, and one that manages to humanise it and deliver something very new.

This does bode well for the Butcher Brothers. A strong offering that makes you think these guys have more to show us. So it's interesting to find that they are next to attack and old eighties slasher film and bring that to the big screen. What interests me is if they can bring a new look to that film too, as they did here.

Oh, and here's the introduction they gave to Dead by Dawn...unfortunately it isn't in Glasgow, it's in Edinburgh, but there you go, at least they have the Haggis idea right, yes that really is Haggis. That toast for Adele got a huge cheer...but the drunks got a bigger cheer. Watch and enjoy.


Dead by Dawn Horror Festival
UK IMDB Film Details




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