Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Hamiltons (2006)

A young American family, The Hamiltons, find themselves adrift after their parents die. The eldest son David tries to fulfil the role of the father, but the twins Wendell and Darlene continually rebel against all his attempts to establish authority and the teenage son Francis, who narrates the movie, feels that he doesn't belong at all. Meanwhile, they are kidnapping people and chaining them up in the basement, where they also keep something fierce that they refer to only as Lenny locked in a box.

I like it when horror movies cross genres or subgenres, when they pull the rug out from under the audience with a mid-movie surprise and when they make an effort to create interesting characters and put them at the heart of the story. The Hamiltons does all of these things, and I applaud the filmmakers for attempting to do something different within the genre. Unfortunately it does all of these things badly, so I can't really recommend it.

 Spoilers ahoy from this point.

The Hamiltons comes on as if it's about a cannibal family along similar lines to those in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes, but the big reveal two-thirds of the way through is that they are actually a family of vampires. Many hints along the way make a lot more sense after this is revealed,like David's amusingly inept attempts at cooking food that nobody wants to eat. They just want to fit in like a real family but their need to drink an awful lot of blood makes this difficult. The creature in the basement turns out to be, rather than some kind of hideous mutant, just a small boy who is not mature enough to restrain his bloodlust yet.

The characters deal with their vampiric nature in different ways. The twins revel in their nature and indulge in predatory games and incest. David straitjackets himself with repression - his entire stance and his hair are obvious indicators of this - and resorts to gay pick-ups for his meals. The women chained in the basement are being farmed for blood like meat kept in a refrigerator, just because it'll last longer if they're kept alive for a while.

Unfortunately the performances are mostly flat and affectless in a particularly amateurish kind of way, the one standout being Joseph McKelheer as Wendell, whose relish at frightening his victims is palpable. The script is poorly structured, despite having a number of good ideas, and the movie completely lacks atmosphere. If any one element had been better, the whole movie could have been elevated as there are certainly enough good ideas present.

I have to give the filmmakers credit for doing something different. This isn't just another cannibal family movie or just another vampire movie. I hope that as they go on, they develop the filmmaking skills to match their ambition.

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