Hamiltons, The (UK - DVD R2)
Reviewer Scott McKenzie finds it difficult to enjoy another recent horror movie...
After the death of their parents, four siblings have to learn to look after themselves. If that didn’t make growing up hard enough for young Francis Hamilton, his brothers and sister are don’t make it any easier with their psychopathic behaviour. The Hamiltons tracks the story of Francis as he deals with his dysfunctional family and we follow him as he is forced to make a choice of whether to follow them down the mysterious dark path they have chosen. And what is the creature living in the basement?
After enjoying the by-the-numbers horror of Fragile, Lionsgate’s other recent release, I hoped that The Hamiltons would be another straight-to-DVD movie with high production values, this time challenging the might of the Saw franchise. The quotes on the DVD case set me up to believe this. However, the reality is unfortunately much different. I have two good things to say about this movie but neither of them are really enough to save The Hamiltons.
First of all, the movie begins well. In the pre-credits sequence we get a dirty and sweaty Brittany Daniel in distress, captured and trying to escape from some seriously evil types. This scene contains just the right amounts of horror and suspense that we expect from the opening to a scary movie, including decent cinematography and sound. The only problem is that this scene belongs in a completely different movie. Once we get the obligatory cut from screams to a black screen and the credits begin, the movie changes from a high-tension slasher picture to a very dull and amateur-looking study of a boy coming of age in a house full of nutters.
The second thing that The Hamiltons has going for it is the central idea. There is a twist in the tale that is quite clever and makes you think that this kind of story hasn’t really been told before. I worked out the twist earlier in the movie but then discarded the idea because I just didn’t think the filmmakers were that clever. After all, in a movie where the screenplay is lacking in any real excitement, the actions of some of the characters are either inexplicable or fulfil the fantasy of the writer and the acting so uninspiring, why should I think there could be an interesting twist at the end? On that point I was wrong but about everything else in the movie, I’m confident in saying I’m right.
The main problem I have with The Hamiltons is that there is no real narrative drive. Two girls are captured by the family early on but no one seems to be looking for them. It’s only when another girl goes missing later on that something starts to happen. The story is told through the eyes of Francis Hamilton but it would surely have been more successful at drawing the audience in if it focused on the girls who are held captive, because it’s not until the twist at the end that we truly know why Francis does nothing at all to help them. Instead of a decent damsel-in-distress torture movie, we get a boring, slow-moving psycho soap opera.
To enjoy The Hamiltons you really have to buy into the characters and want to find out what happens to them. I didn’t and it was one of the longest eighty-minute movies I’ve ever watched. The central idea is great and probably would have made an interesting episode of The X-Files or The Outer Limits, but as a stand-alone movie there’s not enough for me to recommend it.
‘More grain than Kellogg’s’ is a quote that will never make it onto the DVD cover, but is sadly appropriate to the video quality of this release. As you can see from some of these screenshots, the dark scenes suffer quite badly and the low key lighting only serves to make it worse. The colours are muted as well, which makes this a generally uninspiring movie to look at. At least the picture is anamorphic I suppose.
The only audio option is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. There are no real problems here but aside from the opening sequence, there’s not too much to impress either. Once we get into teen angst mode (the last seventy-five minutes or so), there’s not a lot going on in the audio track to give your surround speakers a work out. At least the dialogue’s clear I suppose.
The disc loads with trailers of Fragile, See No Evil, Edison Force and Employee of the Month, but it is possible to skip past them. The highlight of the package is the commentary track by the directors and the actor who played Francis. They have a lot of energy and are obviously enthusiastic about The Hamiltons, going into details about how they got Brittany Daniel on board and how they worked with the more inexperienced cast. By the way they talk I still think they must have been watching a different movie to the one I watched though. There are a handful of deleted scenes available as well, but in my opinion they were rightly left out as they would have only served to give away the twist earlier or make the movie longer.
With their first movie, the self-dubbed Butcher Brothers fancy themselves as horror auteurs, but I’m of the opinion that nicknames should be earned rather than invented and they’ll have to improve significantly with the upcoming April Fool’s Day to deserve the publicity The Hamiltons is getting. The extras are slim but worth checking out if you enjoyed the movie but the picture quality is a stumbling block to recommending this release to even the most hardcore fans.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 2nd July 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Filmmakers' Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: The Butcher Brothers
Cast: Cory Knauf, Samuel Child, Joseph McKelheer, Brittany Daniel
Genre: Drama and Horror
Length: 87 minutes
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