For his first feature, Frenchman Samuel Bodin finds himself a prisoner of this studio film where his directing ideas are parasitized by the demands of a genre lacking in inspiration.
The French title sets the scene. In English, The House of Evil is called cobwebliterally translated as ” The spiderweb “, name probably changed at the last minute because of his acquaintance with the new film by Kim Jee-Woon, which is not a horror film but rather a dive into the world of cinema…
Therefore, how to venture into a film with such a French title, which promises nothing more than a new object of horror taking place once again in the heart of a haunted house? This House of Evil therefore had everything to displease, but it is not without counting on the crazy talent of Samuel Bodin, a little French genius of horror, who has become an important name across the Atlantic thanks to the success of his series Marianne for Netflix. For his first feature film, his talent is therefore exported to the United States with this studio film which very quickly tramples on the beginnings of its introduction, eyeing a striking expressionism thanks to its play of shadows projected on the walls of young Peter’s room, gracefully played by Woody Norman, the kid from Our children’s souls with Joaquin Phoenix. Behind this beautiful idea of staging, Bodin has to face the vicissitudes of a scenario which reveals all its keys to reading after 20 minutes, dealing once again with this theme of the harassed child, of the house as a habitat for terror, or even a junk childhood psychology that the character of a disembodied schoolteacher who acts as an unofficial sidekick tries to pierce.
Bodin knows his classics, however, and tries in vain to infuse this desperate object with a semblance of references, with his close-ups of the dumbfounded child, comparable to the shining of Kubrick, but also with the strange behavior of the parents, which recalls that of the elderly neighbors of the Rosemary’s Baby of Polanski, or with the name of Holdenfield, a clever reference to the town of Haddonfield in the center of the Halloween of Carpenter. A finale as a bloody release unfortunately spoils the magic, and condemns the film to wander in the necropolis of forgotten films of American horror cinema.
By Samuel Bodin. With Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr, Woody Norman… Duration: 1h28. Released July 19, 2023