The Hoarder, from director/writer Matt Winn, is the story of Mischa Barton's paranoid and distrusting fiancée and her so-called crazy friend Molly - who obnoxiously, repeatedly says fuck (thus confirming her wild-child, craziness) - who decide to break into Barton's fiance's storage locker to see if he's cheating on her.
Ok, there's been weaker premises for better horror films, I'll go with it.
Once at the storage facility, to cut a fairly cumbersome story-line short, there's some sort of skinny monster with his lips stapled shut and, also, a possible slasher villain picking off a group of strangers that band together in order to survive but, instead, end up being picked off one-by-one because they all let their fear and egos get in the way.
We've seen it before but, really, this is 2016, we've pretty much seen everything before. There's a film called Cowboys Vs. Dinosaurs for Pete's sake! so let's not hold its unoriginal premise against it. Like I have said, plenty has been done with an unoriginal premise by a good director with a strong script.
Sadly, The Hoarder, is not one of those films.
I really wish it was though, as it had so much potential, and that is one of my main frustrations with the film.
Any independent or low budget director/producer/writer worth their organic, gluten-free salt should tell you that the script is everything. Have a good script and people will forgive you production values, acting, an original score, creative lighting etc. because the story will draw them in. It also helps, on these occasions where money is an issue, to have an inventive and visionary director who can do a lot with very little. Think Tobe Hooper with A Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Sam Raimi with the Evil Dead, John Carpenter with Halloween and so on and so on...
Well, sadly and massively annoyingly, money doesn't seem to be an issue for Matt Winn and his crew, the script, however, does.
The Hoarder has great sets/locations, an ok, if somewhat shambolic and hammy cast, good lighting, strong un-shaky camera work and, even, some decent, special make up effects. What it lacks though, is a good script and a director who knows anything about tension, horror or suspense. That's not to say it doesn't have good ideas in it because it really does. The trouble is those ideas are buried under such a huge, wobbly pile of rushed and idiotic dialogue that by the time those ideas become apparent you've all but done rolling your eyes at the screen or gnawing your own foot off in boredom that you can't muster more than a faint 'meh that wasn't so bad, I suppose' when one of these ok ideas rears their average head.
Its biggest failing as a horror movie/horror comedy movie (it kind of wants to be both so it can excuse itself for being neither) is that it isn't scary and it isn't funny. It thinks it is of course, it ladles on the flashing lights, the grimy walls, the weird looking make up and the claustrophobic setting but for a reason that I can't quite put my finger on, it all falls horribly flat. There wasn't even a passible jump scare in the thing! There's all this production value, lighting, crashing music and c-list TV actors flapping around like a wounded pigeon but none of it lands.
I tried desperately to transport myself back to a time where watching this at 1 a.m., alone, in a strange, dark house MIGHT have made me tremble a little but it was either just that I had seen these tropes so many times before OR that the people re-using these tropes didn't really understand how they work. Like a kid telling a knock knock joke but without the happy accident that it might just be abstract enough to make you chuckle at the surrealism of it.
A personal gripe, that might not bother others as much, was the use of Non-American actors. There were establishing shots, rather nice establishing shots as it happens, that placed the story in New York City - not that there was any need to do so whatsoever - but it was filmed and clearly cast in London. Mischa Barton, who, although born in the UK, was raised in New York can't do a convincing American accent to save her career and neither can any of the "what were they doing? standing around outside the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts scratching their bum" cast. Even Robert Knepper, who IS American, doesn't seem to be doing a credible accent in this.
Although I couched that complaint as a personal gripe, it does come back to another failing in the script. What does Robert Rodriguez say about making low budget movies? Look around at what you have access to and use it. Although I fail to believe there were no American actors slumming it around London looking for a little weekend money and a ham sandwich, if you can't get any then don't set your film in New York. Apart from the briefest glimpse of a gun, there was absolutely no story benefit to doing it, so don't do it. You could've taken what you would save on flights to NYC - to get pretty car footage on the Queensboro Bridge - to enroll in script writing lessons or the collected works of Hitchcock so you could learn what suspense was.
Lastly on this subject, and again I realise this comes from the position of a British Ex-Pat who's lived in America, and specifically New York, for the best part of a decade but while Americans may speak English their word usage, colloquialisms, speech patterns and pronunciations are quite quite different. At a point in the script when one of the characters called the other 'maudlin' I wondered if anyone involved in that scene had ever even been to America and scratched my head as to why the bloody hell (gosh darn) the film had been set there.
Ok so you may be thinking at this point - you didn't like it because it wasn't scary to you (it may be to others) and you had some absurd gripe about accents that is clearly a personal issue, why don't you shut up you pompous git and just review the damn film - and you may be right.
Well, ok then, here is my summation: It's shot well, it has good production values, it has some strong ideas in there, the actors are ok although, I felt, hampered by pointless accents and a bad script, it wasted any possibility of tension and the soundtrack, while well orchestrated, seems to be for a completely different movie.
Lastly, when the "twist" happens about two thirds of the way through and the movie shifts gear a little, it was rendered just utterly ridiculous to me because of a mixture of casting, pacing, scripting, directing and everything. There was absolutely no attempt to explain the antagonist's plan, the antagonist was in no way threatening, menacing or scary (neither were they sufficiently comedic enough either), characters made endlessly stupid decisions, the dialogue between Mischa Barton's fiancé and the receptionist at the storage facility was painful and the final reveal didn't illicit the intended feeling of dread, sympathy or horror.
It was for me, ultimately, a frustrating and hollow watch as there was so much potential, a decent enough idea and clearly enough money to make it very good. To waste that when so many other indie horror film makers would kill for that opportunity is just a little disappointing.