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'From a House on Willow Street' Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: Terror's new address is a fixer-upper

October 21, 2016Ben MK

A movie about a kidnapping gone supernaturally wrong, From a House on Willow Street takes the concept of a siege picture and turns it into a battle for survival on the part of the attackers, not the would-be victim. But while the film may find its fans among the same demographic who enjoyed this past summer's Don't Breathe, most moviegoers will find this bland horror outing rather uninspired.

Sharni Vinson (best known for her role in the 2013 slasher hit You're Next) headlines the movie as the no-nonsense Hazel, one of four enterprising criminals who kidnap a filthy rich businessman's daughter and plan to hold her for ransom. Their target, the wispy Katherine (Carlyn Burchell), however, proves to be infinitely more trouble than they bargained for, as she also happens to be possessed by a powerful, centuries-old demonic entity.

Of course, it doesn't take long for Katherine to turn the tables on her four unwitting captors, who snatch her from her house on Willow Street and bring her to an abandoned industrial facility that, conveniently enough, serves as the perfect locale for a terror-filled night. And from there, Hazel and her cohorts begin to fall victim to ghastly visions from their pasts, as the entity sets into motion its own sordid scheme to consume each of their souls.

Written and directed by Alastair Orr and co-written by Catherine Blackman and Jonathan Jordaan, From a House on Willow Street attempts to capitalize on the brand recognition of A Nightmare on Elm Street, while seeking to replicate the tone of Hellraiser and Evil Dead. In execution, though, the movie rarely achieves a level of consistency that's more than the sum of its parts, opting instead for half-baked jump scares and copycat visuals.

It's not that From a House on Willow Street lacks the production values that would make it a convincingly terrifying genre entry. On the contrary, the film's gruesome practical and special effects are top-notch. But between the clunky script, the ho-hum performances and the clich├ęd dialogue that horror fans will be all too familiar with, the result fails to gel in any substantial way, leading to a decidedly less-than-engaging overall experience.

As for Vinson's turn as the movie's feisty heroine, it fails to resonate nearly as effectively as her rousing performance in You're Next; and even when it comes time for her character to deliver what ought to be the film's most applause-worthy line of dialogue, the climactic moment mostly falls flat. Still, Vinson is the best thing about From a House on Willow Street; although the result, for the most part, is a fixer-upper.

From a House on Willow Street is receiving its North American premiere at Toronto After Dark 2016. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 30 Mins.

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