- Director: Dustin Ferguson
- Written by: Dustin Ferguson
- Running Time: 30 minutes
- Language: English
- MPAA Rating: UNRATED
- Cast: Jill Carr, Bryan McClure, Jamie Nelson, Jacob Hostetler, Nick Ferguson
Dustin Ferguson is a true revisionist horror fan, often taking clunky stinkers from yesteryear and a few modern classics and reworking them to his liking, and then offering them on his personal website for free -- calling them fan-edits. He does it as a hobby and considering how much work he puts into each title, it's clear that it isn’t about money it’s about passion. He’s done it with everything from “Last House on Dead End Street” to "Silent Night, Deadly Night 2" to “Friday the 13th 3” and about two dozen other flicks in between, and judging from the fan response, it is much appreciated. Dustin is a guy that loves the genre, and is attempting to make his mark on it in ways that might not be deemed conventional. I wonder what the original filmmakers of these films might think of Ferguson’s alternate versions of their films.
Not content to just edit other people’s films, Dustin Ferguson has also dipped his big toe into the directing arena, shooting an unofficial sequel to Fred Olen Ray’s 1983 cult classic “Scalps” in 2007. The film, “Scalps 2: The Return of DJ”, released across the internet, was considered a minor hit – mainly because of the way it remained true to its parent material. So I guess it’s hardly a surprise that Ferguson, fuelled by the praise garnered from “Scalps 2”, would choose to get back in the ring, shooting his second movie “Horror House”, a film that the director claims is a cross pollination of Richard Casey’s obscure 1985 gem “Horror House on Highway Five” and Charles B. Pierce’s classic “The Town That Dreaded Sundown”. Having finally gotten my hands on a copy of “Horror House”, a film I’ve been eagerly anticipating, I couldn’t wait to see what kind of homage-genre-stew Ferguson’s mind would generate.
"Horror House” opens with a panicky young woman (Jamie Nelson) venturing through a forest at night, making her way towards an old gloomy barely-lit house. Hardly a shocker, a psycho in a Nixon mask springs out of the house and offs her with the help of a large butcher knife. The film jumps to the next day as a young couple, Louise (although I thought her name was Lisa) played by Jill Carr and her pot smoking boyfriend, Jeffery played by Bryan McClure, are chugging down some arbitrary rural road, the kind we all know and love. Their relationship is apparently in trouble; Louise wants to start over, while Jeffrey is happy to point out why they broke up in the first place. As dusk nears, the couple decide to pull off and set up a makeshift camp in an open field. Jeffery wants to light up some fireworks, kick back and have fun, while Louise seems intent on repairing their relationship. She won’t get the chance, as Jeffrey wanders off into the woods and stumbles upon a bloodied corpse. Terrified, the pair attempts to get help, only to realize that their car won’t start. That’s when Jeffrey decides to walk up the road to a nearby house looking for a telephone. Bad move. It isn’t long before things are degenerating into a cat and mouse game as Louise, representing the final girl, attempts to escape the Nixon-masked maniac.
Granted, “Horror House” is loaded with the usual genre chestnuts; isolated house on a rural road, cars that won’t start, stranded couples, psychotic hillbillies, final girl etc. but that’s what I loved about it. Ferguson adheres to the source material almost to a tee -- to the genre as a whole and to specifically to the film’s that inspired him, including having his killer donning a Nixon mask – a pure reference to “Horror House on Highway 5”. Like so many early 70s grindhouse features, there is an attempt by Dustin to include scratches, pops and nicks, giving the movie a kind of grungy distorted 8mm film quality of which, on the exterior, only adds to the creepy atmoshpere. As a horror piece, the film does generate a few scares, namely the scene where the killer crawls into the car trying to kill Louise. Is there anything scarier than seeing Nixon’s ugly mug jumping into frame? The final sequence is surprising, however, fans of the genre will know what to expect. The music is also used well here to heighten some of the jump scares and create a mood, however, I doubt the rights holders of said songs would be very pleased.
Jill Carr (2008’s "Ulterior Motives”) and Bryan McClure (2008’s "April Showers") as the unfortunate couple on the run from a psycho are okay however neither would be considered a good actor by any stretch of the imagination. To be fair, they take instruction well and offer up the best performance that they can. Jill Carr is probably the better of the two, but since most of her screen time is spent running and yelling bloody murder, it’s hard to get a good sense of her ability. Jacob Hostetler (2007’s "Scalps 2: The Return of DJ") credited as "The Nixon Killer" gives Christopher Allen Nelson’s stoic Reagan killer in 2006’s “The Tripper” a run for his money in the psychotic ex-Pres department. Nick Ferguson, a guy that I’m guessing is probably a relative of Dustins, hams it up quite a bit but it is in keeping with the cinematic crazed hillbilliy-types we all remember.
My only probelm with the picture is that there isn't more of it. Hey Dustin, how about shooting a feature length film. It will increase your chances of having it reviewed on more sites because, sadly, some of my felllow reviewers will only look at films with a 70 plus minute runtime. In my unwanted opinion, Ferguson should have chosen to include the deleted scenes, some of which appear in the DVDs extras, in the main film. Overall, I hope he continues to churn them out. “Horror House” is a vast improvement over “Scalps 2: The Return of DJ” and I can only imagine that they will continue to get better as he continues to make them. To download a free copy of the Full-DVD, which includes deleted scenes, a behind the scenes feature and a bunch of trailers, check out Dustin’s website retro-horror website.