Friday, January 2, 2009

The House Next Door

Happy New Year! How did you spend your holiday? I spent mine watching a made-for-TV horror movie on the Lifetime Movie Network. Jealous much?

The House Next Door opens with a narration from Cole, played by Lara Flynn Boyle. Apparently there is some kind of Desperate Housewives vibe going on here. Cole has the smallest house on the block and she thinks everyone judges her for it. She is also judged for being 34 and not having children. She's just happy as long as she can garden in her uneven cutoff jeans. (Terri claims any woman worth her salt would keep cutting and cutting, no matter how scandalously short, until the length of the legs matched.) The only thing that is interrupting her idyllic life is the house next door. You see, the house next door is haunted. So Cole and her husband, Walker, decide to destroy it.

Before going any further, let me just point out that this house is fugged. It's described as "modern." Modern fug. There are 27-foot ceilings, fireplaces in the middle of hallways, and it looks like an asylum from the outside. People keep talking about how wonderful the house is. No.

So we flash back 18 months when Cole finds out that her tranquil forest next to her plot is about to be turned into a design nightmare. She meets the young lawyer couple moving in as well as the architect. Their names are Buddy, Pie, and Kim. Kim is a guy. So we have Buddy, Pie, Kim, Cole, and Walker. Jesus Christ.

Kim has a mysterious air about him. And he refuses to let go of the house even after it's built and Buddy and Pie (now very pregnant) move in. He wants this house, his first project, to be perfect. Cole takes a liking to him. And she finds a dead eagle on their property. This is followed by Pie's dead puppy having its throat ripped out. So, obviously, something is wrong with the house.

Lifetime then sets a land speed record for women's intuition when Cole wakes up at 11:59pm and as the clock strikes midnight, she hears an owl. "Someone is going to die," she sleepily predicts.

At the housewarming party, Buddy pushes Pie down some cellar stairs and she loses the baby. The young couple moves out and Kim is still babbling on and on about the house not being right.

So, now we have another couple moving in. Buck and Anita are an older couple. Buck is a physically fit teetotaler. Anita is a smiley lady who clearly has some crazy behind her eyeballs. They have a son in Iraq that Anita doesn't like to talk about.

We find out why when the couple has the neighbors over for pizza and wine. When the pizza delivery guy rings the doorbell, Anita hallucinates that her son, Toby, has come home from Iraq. Of course Toby is very much dead. When Buck reminds her of this, Anita collapses and lets loose a blood curdling scream.

The neighbors are all nosy and such, but they let this display of craziness pass. None of them knows what it's like to lose a son, so they cut Anita some slack. Anita invites Cole over a few days later to hire Cole as an interior designer. In the background, a technician is setting up a big HDTV. When he's finished, Anita turns the television on. She hears static followed by her son begging for help. His son appears on the screen before his helicopter explodes. Anita freaks out again. But this hallucination is different. Cole can see this with her own two Botoxed eyes.

Anita breaks down and switches back and forth between different channels of static. Cole goes upstairs and finds Buck making out with one of the neighbors, Virgina. It's been established that Virginia has only known one man, her husband. When Virginia sees Cole she realizes what she's doing and flees downstairs. She discovers Anita hanging from the 27-foot ceiling (how did she do that?).

Cole is now super-convinced that this house is haunted. It makes people do things they would never do in a regular house. She hypothesizes that perhaps the house gives you courage to hurt the ones you love or some mularkey like that.

I'm not quite clear on why Kim returns, but he does. He agrees with Cole that the house is haunted. So, they decide to check it out. Once inside the abandoned house, the making out begins. In earnest! Walker walks in on them and starts beating the crap out of Cole. He has a butcher knife and attempts a couple of stabbings. Cole runs out of the house and they both realize what they've done. It's the house!

Walker and Cole go on vacation. When they get back home, a nosy neighbor is waiting for them. Virginia and her husband have disappeared. The neighbor, Claire, even went as far to call the couple at their places of work. Claire suspects that Cole knows something, but when Cole won't squeal, Claire treats that as an affront to her womanhood and a betrayal of trust. After this fight, every time we see Claire, the camera angle is canted.

The next couple to move in to the haunted house is Norman and Suzannah Greene. When their daughter, Belinda (ugh), introduces herself as "Greene, with an 'E'," Cole offers a horrible response. "My name is Cole, with no 'E'." Oh, Christ. Her name is Col!? No. I will not go along with this. Cole, Cole, COLE!

Cole wants to tell the family about how the house ruins people, but Walker won't let her because that sounds crazy. Claire tells Cole that if she chases away a normal family from that house that she'll tell of the neighbors that Cole is a vindictive person. That'll show her!

From the looks of it, Norman doesn't need a lot of help going crazy. He browbeats his wife for putting the spices in non-alphabetical order and freaks out when the invitations to the housewarming party are printed and not embossed (he has a point). When no one shows up at the housewarming except the neighbors because Suzannah forgot to mail the invitations, Norman loses it. (Again, he has a point.) He yells at Suzannah in front of everyone until Belinda, awesomely, pisses herself.

The guests flee. When everyone is gone, Norman accuses Suzannah of trying to kill him. She put raw chicken in the vegetable crisper. Holy shit is Suzannah a bad housewife or what? Anyways, Suzannah shoots Norman when he isn't looking and it's implied that she kills herself as well. Belinda is OK though.

Claire admits to Cole that the house is obviously haunted and that there's nothing anyone can do about it. One person who can do something is Kim. Kim shows up again. But this time, Kim is evil. You can tell because he wears sunglasses and a blazer now. Kim is moving into the house he designed with his new trophy girlfriend.

He must be stopped.

Cole and Walker break into the house and turn on all the gas burners. Kim confronts Cole and they start making out again. Then Kim smells the gas. The security lights go on and that triggers a gigantic explosion. The gas was only on for 30 seconds and the house explodes?

We flash forward to the beach. Apparently the house burnt to the ground and can not be rebuilt. Even crazier, Cole and Walker escape any injury and Kim dies. They were all standing within two yards of each other! How does that happen!?

The conclusion takes another leap of implausibility when we find out that Cole and Walker have adopted Belinda. That's supposed to be a happy ending? Belinda is orphaned and left in the charge of two murderers?


The movie makes no sense. The heroes are felons who spend the entire film breaking into a house, and a girl pisses herself. So, pretty awesome.

I guess the film deserves some credit for handling the Buck and Anita plot pretty well. That was at least disconcerting.

Also, I love it when a director goes out of his way to let us know that he is DIRECTING. You know that shot in Goodfellas where it looks like the background is moving at you while the foreground retreats? This movie has one of those. And so many canted shots! These distracting techniques made the movie much sillier than it needed to be. Which is my gain, I suppose.

Another good thing about a film like this is that you can spend the boring parts wondering how Lara Flynn Boyle's face looks like that.


Lara Flynn Boyle was in Wayne's World, so some form of gratitude is in order. Walker was played by the dude from Eureka. But I remember him best from another Lifetime movie, Mom at Sixteen.

Other than that, there was no one here that I recognized. So I was shocked to see that Kim was played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar. You know. That guy from Dead Man on Campus.


That women's intuition thing killed me. An owl hoots at midnight! Murder is in the air! And props go out to Norman Greene. The way he verbally abused his wife is the stuff that put Lifetime on the map. This would have been a full 10 if Walker were somehow responsible for the house being haunted.


Very, very good and very, very stupid. Definitely worth your time next time it's on.


HarmonyC said...

Really very sad I did not get to see this. And for the record, Daisy Duke lost a merit scholarship to Sarah Lawrence over her shorts, and she did not regret it at all. Cutoffs are important to all women.

DU said...

Wouldn't Cole-without-an-e be "Coal"? "Col" would be "Cawl".

I wish there were some way you could post clips of these movies.

DU said... this.

Anonymous said...

Good work! It is my heartfelt wish that you could cover at least one Lifetimer a week.

And good point: how DOES LFB's face look like that? She has the face of a petulant bee-stung child, which contrasted with her freckly, weathered upper body is quite disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like this movie is based on "The House Next Door" by Anne Rivers Siddons. Col has no E because it's short for Colquitt. I read about this one in Stephen King's book "Danse Macabre," but a quick summary is available here:

evier said...

This was indeed based on Anne Rivers Siddons' book. That book KILLED me when I was younger. It's actually pretty good and freaky and doesn't at all have the ending presented in the movie. I watched this movie a while ago with pretty high expectations, which was my fault. It was awesome in different ways than I wanted it to be.

Anonymous said...

Norman Greene, with an e is AWESOME. If Lifetime has a Hall of Fame for dickish male characters, he deserves an honorable mention.

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generic viagra said...

hahahaha great story, I agree with you it is like Desperate Housewives, so I do not why de people do this kind of things.

Anonymous said...

I feel asleep after the lady hung herself..very boring movie, but would have a least like to finish watching it

Anonymous said...

Excellent movie. A little creepy though!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Woah Norman green with an e! You call your wife stupid, you don't let your daughter use the restroom, and then you put a gun to your wife!!! Geez if he wasn't dead, he would be in an insane asylum!!!

Cialis said...

This sounds like an interesting movie!

Anonymous said...

It would have been better with Chris Gelenites herpe'd lips. Necta movie though wicked pissa.

Amber Steffens said...

But still. Not awesome just bad.

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