The Hamiltons Review
With so many copycat American mainstream horror films slashing victims left right and centre or focusing on scenes of torture rather than story, leave it to the indie scene to provide a dark and disturbing tale of a dysfunctional family harbouring a secret. Filmed more like a regular drama featuring four teenage siblings who live alone following the death of their parents, it is apparent all is not well from an opening sequence of a girl locked in their basement. But to find out the truth behind their strange behaviour we see slices of home life via a video diary, visits from a social worker, troubles at school and dangerous games of double dare with friends. Choosing to go down the path of fleshing out central characters rather than ripping them apart, writer/directors The Butcher Brothers, AKA Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores, avoid the cliches of psycho killers or limp explanations in favour of injecting life into their subjects.
So who are the Hamiltons? The eldest brother David (Child) has taken up the role of head of the family following the death of their parents, but is in no way keeping them all under control. The younger more rebellious twins Wendall (McKelheer) and Darlene (Firgens) are becoming increasingly conniving, pushing the boundaries of friendships in a more twisted way than the mind games of Cruel Intentions. Meanwhile, Francis (Knauf), the youngest and most sensitive, is the only one who seems to be normal and trying to complete a school project by filming the daily exploits of them all; something hard to do when there is two local girls bound and gagged in the basement.
The Butcher Brothers provide The Hamiltons with a surprisingly real tone despite all the crazed nastiness, helped along by the nods to The Blair Witch Project with the use of a video camera. As Francis ponders the meaning of families and the sense of belonging they can bring, it is with a wry sense of humour said family torture their captives and syphon off their blood. The Butcher Brothers know how traumatic our teenage years can be and mix it in with unsettling moments to give us a chilling tale similar to Ginger Snaps in the way Francis must face up to his unnatural maturity by the end. As they all try to sort out their own problems with only a social worker who cannot possibly understand them to act as parental guidance, you’ll want to know why they are so screwed up.
Although the Hamiltons are hardly the most likable family with the twins pushing their friend Kitty (Hunt) into joining them for unsettling games that threaten to get out of hand, its grim mood gives way to brighter prospects for them all for an oddly uplifting final reel. There is a lot of coldness about The Hamiltons due to a dryness of delivery that hardly welcomes you to watch, however this offers an element of ghoulish black comedy and with an unseen monster lurking locked up in their basement, at times you’ll not know whether to laugh or shiver. The Hamiltons take on the American family won’t suit all sensibilities, but fans of 70s and 80s kitsch horror will definitely be amused.
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