Skreem House aka Shackled (2010)
As an Irish horror fan I always find myself unashamedly biased when it comes to home-grown horror, for such a small island nation it's always great to see talented film makers with a love for horror as passionate as my own. Last time I checked IMDB there was around 70 horror films produced in Ireland altogether, a surprisingly large number I thought seeing as less than 20 of these films have probably been heard of by horror fans outside of Ireland. The better known of these films being Boy Eats Girl (2005), Grabbers (2012) and Dead Meat (2004) & Stitches (2012), both directed by Conor McMahon. Dave McCabe is an Irish director who I hadn't heard of before, until I was searching for Irish horror films on IMDB and came across his film Skreem House. It is the only film he has made so far, other than two short films he also directed but I haven't seen yet.
Released on dvd in 2010 as Shackled in the US and as Skreem House in Ireland and The UK (neither titles really fit as there isn't much 'skreeming' and no one is shackled), we are told the first scene in the film is set in "The Past" as we see some sort of cult meeting taking place in a large country mansion. People in masks and black cloaks are gathered in one of the rooms of the mansion, chanting and holding up chalices when a man in a suit charges in opening fire on them. Forwarding on to "The Present" in the next scene we see the police discovering a body on a beach. The body is Brian McDonald who was executed with a bullet to the head. After this we meet Brian's sister Sarah and his childhood friend Michael Grant who decide to try to uncover the truth behind Brian's death. Two shady men are watching the funeral and one of them even enters the house of Brian's foster father Jim during the wake to have a quick search of Brian's bedroom which is cut short as he is interrupted by Jim. The same guy breaks back into the house later that night but is interrupted again, this time by Sarah. Obviously freaked out by this and her brother's murder, Sarah is also having nightmares about a mansion and people in masks. After finding the key to her brother's shed she searches it and finds Brian's journal there. She reads in the journal that he was having the same nightmares about the mansion as she was just before he died. Also she finds out that he was trying to track down their biological mother Margaret Bell who was locked up in an insane asylum and was somehow linked to the mansion that they dreamt about. I could go on but I don’t want to give too much away and spoil the plot, not that there's a lot more to it.
As I said before I’m usually biased towards Irish horror films and as a big fan of low-budget independent horror I’m usually very forgiving. I don't think this is one of those circumstances as I wouldn't really call this a horror film. This was really just a thriller with some horror elements thrown in for good measure, that being the cult sub-plot and Sarah having nightmares. Other than that there was nothing scary or horrific about it. This was more like a Giallo but without the stylish camera work, fast editing, funky music, brutal murders and sexy cast. The covers of both the US and European dvds are misleading and try to sell this off as a supernatural horror, which it is far from also. And as for the twist at end? Well that turned out to be the biggest plot hole in the entire film for me. I found myself struggling through the film as I find myself struggling to write this review now, but I started so I might as well finish. The acting was actually pretty decent and even though I didn't like the story I do think it was well directed. Hopefully next time Dave McCabe picks up a camera it will be after he has put a bit more effort into a decent script.
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