The horror/thriller genre is one that attracts many younger filmmakers or at least filmmakers early on in their career as a means of cutting one's teeth in a popular space that often doesn't require blockbuster-sized budgets. While this is a popular trend, large numbers do not guarantee success as many filmmakers will produce middling to okay content within this space. Thankfully this is not the case with 'The House On Pine Street' (THOPS), a second directorial outing for brothers Aaron and Austin Keeling working on a script they wrote themselves with Natalie Jones.
THOPS is the story of a young married couple with a child on the way played by Emily Goss and Taylor Bottles who move into house that may or may not be haunted. This couple, Jennifer (Goss) and Luke (Bottles), move back to Jennifer's hometown in Kansas after a traumatic event in Chicago that is revealed late into the movie to get their lives in order before their baby is born. Jennifer's "charming" mother Meredith, played by Cathy Barnett, decides to lend a helping hand in this transition period allowing for some of the best type of scene-chewing possible by Barnett.
The Brothers K (Keeling) have some fun within the genre right away bending this movie into a psychological thriller more than anything else. THOPS plays out from Jennifer's point of view and because of this we aren't sure if what she is seeing and experiencing is actually happening or if her friends and family are right, that she's just dealing with the stress of the baby. This is code for crazy by the way. I personally find this style much more entertaining than any gore-driven horror piece you can cut together with a few cameras and scream queens especially since its accomplished successfully. A major reason for this movie's success in addition to the strong directorial vision is its technical proficiency. Everything here is crafted together with a fine touch and attention to detail leading to wonderfully framed shots, a consistent visual tone, fitting score and a sound design that holds it all together. And let's not forget a few wire-based special effects that will leave mouths open.
These accomplishments are highlighted by THOPS's utterly tiny budget. Being able to put together something so complete and proficient with so little is the reason I believe THOPS is almost a proof of concept more than a standalone. A way to shout "Look at what we can do with nothing! Help us out someone!", and hopefully someone with the power to back a larger production hears this cry. With a strong voice and keen eye, any future projects should only increase in success. There are areas other than finance that these brothers could use some assistance however.
THOPS is not a perfect movie by any means and perhaps a larger production with a more hands on producing force could help. There may be moments when a less patient audience will find themselves looking to their watches when THOPS's pace drags slightly. That's not to say that there is much fat here to leave on the cutting room floor, as I can't think of much other than a hallucination scene of sorts that while well crafted does little to add to the story or any of the characters. Perhaps a little outside instruction or consultation could reduce negative aspects like this while not interfering with the positive bits. A more patient audience won't find this too grating however.
For such young filmmakers to craft together something so technically professional, pull performances ranging from good to quite good from equally as young talent and keep a consistent tone and vision throughout with almost no money is quite impressive. I am even more excited by the prospect of what's next than I am by THOPS itself. Hopefully this is read as the compliment that it's meant to be as this as a standalone is something to be enjoyed by any fan of more intelligent thrillers. Fans of 'Hostel' or 'Saw' need not waste their time here as this is aimed towards the 'Rosemary's Baby' crowd. THOPS is currently in the festival circuit and is circling some distribution deals that will likely lead to home-video and streaming options for those who like this idea. Keep an eye out for this and even more so for the next project these folks cook up.