Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: Him

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet

Him (aka The Devil’s Warehouse)
Directed by Luis Rodriguez
Wownow Entertainment / Delinquent Films / Blue Diamond Pictures / MVD Visual
85 minutes, 2016 / 2018

Two quick aside musings before I delve in, and that is regarding the relationship between the film and the 2017 release of Stephen King’s IT, which was popular in the cinema recently, not to mention a cultural phenomenon; no, not with the story, but the zeitgeist of it all. This is mostly presumption on my part in that I don’t really know the facts one way or the other, but I’m a-gonna take a stab (pun intended) at it.

This film was originally released in 2016 as The Devil’s Warehouse, before the re-adaptation of the King novel. Rather, I believe Him’s creation was more a combination of the popularity of the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre franchise, and perhaps even a bit of Captain Spaulding in the Rob Zombie House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil’s Rejects (2005) releases, mixed together with all the online videos of weird evil clown sightings all over the U.S.

That being said, I have total belief that the rerelease of this film in 2018, and especially the way it is retitled as Him, is completed related to the popularity of last year’s It. And, y’know what, I don’t have a problem with a reissue jumping on the wagon of a remake, and believe it to be a smart marketing move. Indie films truly need what help they can get!

Presenting a mostly Latino cast (felicitaciones!), the film’s prologue centers around a gringo businessman named Pearson (Paul Westbrook, who also wrote the music), who is definitely not having a good stretch. His home and car are being repossessed, and he’s losing his warehouse, where employees are leaving in droves anyway because of strange noises and laughs heard in darkened corners. In a second prologue that takes place a year later – and two months before the main story – two buxom young women showing mucho grande cleavage as often as possible (thank you) keep finding a Ouija board at the beach (?!). I’m not quite sure what this has to do with the main story, but there ya go.

One thing we quickly learn is that the focus of the haunting of the warehouse is, yes, a clown from (I guess, literally) hell, but this could have been as much based on the Annabelle (2014) franchise as the King book/film(s), due to an army of mysterious dolls that pop in and out, and not to mention a nod to Grave Encounters 2 (2012).

In the main part of the tale, six “paranormal investigators” – purely amateurs, I’m guessing, from their lack of scientific equipment, other than flashlights; though one is perhaps psychic – split evenly between men and women, break into the now long-deserted warehouse, where the sun never shines, but the hand-held LCD lights do. In other words, the film is literally dark, and sometimes hard to see, other than the bouncy spotlights.

Now, I know that the director has made a number of films, both shorts and full-length features over the past decade or so, but this truly looks, feels and practically tastes like a college class film. It may be because the cast has so few credits, but much of the acting is woodenly sketchy too often, and the writing is clumsy (“we’re paranormal in-VES-tigators!” is said more than once).

This sextet are anxious to see anything paranormal (a word that comes up very often), daring whatever spirits are there to make themselves known, but the second a doll shows up, they’re all scared shitless one moment, angry the next, and ready to blame each other for disappearances at the drop of a suggestion of anything actually happening. Yet, when they find a pool of blood after someone goes absent, they discuss what’s going on rather than trying to get the hell outta there. Their reactions are just too inconsistent.

Speaking of blood, etc., there is more cleavage than gore (again, thank you, even though no nudity, even with a shower scene); in fact, there is no real anything happening as far as contact other than grabbing. I’m not sure what this was rated, but I’m guessing PG-13 at best. Georgie’s stump in the opening act of IT has more viscera than anything here. And the languid pace, the darkness, the questionable editing (such as the group describing a body being dragged as it happens, before we get to see it, seemingly added in later), the stilted dialog, and the acting all work at not enticing its audience (i.e., in this case, me). There isn’t even a good jump scare. The clown does look cool, though; however, it does not resemble the box cover at all, which is actually fine as I like them both.

For me the biggest problem though is that I have no idea why the dolls, why the young evil girl, why the clown, etc. There are too many either unanswered or unclarified reasons for the events we are witnessing. In other words, it’s too abstract for clarity.

Now, this could have easily have been a found footage flick, but thankfully, the director chose another direction. For that, I am grateful. The attractive cast is also a plus.

The only extra is the chapter breakdowns, which are text with no images. Speaking of images, the last shot of the clown in the film looks like it was taken from somewhere in the middle, and strategically placed by the distribution company near the end so it can be the last image before the title of the film, again cementing the “we put this out to cash in on the new blockbuster.” But, you know what? Once again, I’m fine with it.

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