THE HAMILTONS (2006)
The fact that The Hamiltons opens with a pretty young woman (Brittany Daniel) bound and gagged in a basement desperately trying to free herself and escape, lets us know right off that there is something far more wrong with the title family than dealing with the death of their father and mother. While the Butcher Brothers play this horror out to an extent like a family drama, this is far from your average family. The story is told through the eyes of Francis (Cory Knauf) the youngest of four siblings, who is not only trying to deal with the death of his parents, but his role in this very unusual and very homicidal clan. There is David, (Samuel Child) the oldest and the one who is trying to keep the family together, when not bringing home strange men for evenings that end in screaming. Next are Darlene (Mackenzie Firgens) and Wendell (Joseph McKelheer), the twisted twins whose lack of restraint keeps this family on the move. Finally, who (or what) is “Lenny” that needs to be kept locked up in a cell in the basement and evokes fear even in these four? So just who are the Hamiltons and why do they keep captives and corpses in their basement?
The Butcher Brother’s answer all your questions and by the closing frames you may be delightfully chilled by the answers. The directing duo (Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores by name) approach this material in a straightforward, no-frills manner and it works as if we’re watching some twisted and blood-soaked Lifetime drama about a struggling family…one with real skeletons in their closets, so to speak. The cast are all fine. Performances range from good to adequate. The real standout is Rebekah Hoyle as Samantha, one of the Hamilton’s captives who overcomes her horror and fear to try to manipulate the troubled Francis into letting her go and running away from a family he doesn’t appear to fit in with. There are some disturbing moments and blood flows when the Butchers decide it’s time to bring their slow burn to a boil.
The Hamiltons is not a traditional horror film, but that’s what I liked about it. It kept me guessing and creeped out and then got downright chilling in its final revealing act. A refreshingly offbeat low budget horror from a directing and writing team to keep an eye on.
Rated 3 (out of 4) captive cuties!
THE THOMPSONS (2012)
***WARNING: If you are interested in watching The Hamiltons, the review below for it’s sequel, The Thompsons contains details that are spoilers if you haven’t seen the first film!***
After 6 years, The Butcher Brothers (Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores) return to the dysfunctional vampire family last seen in their low budget chiller The Hamiltons, who, as per that film’s finale, now go by the name of the Thompsons. When a stop at a roadside diner puts them in the middle of a robbery, youngest member Lenny (Ryan Hartwig) is seriously wounded. After slaughtering robber and patron alike, the fiendish family flees to Europe to find help from others like themselves and escape the police manhunt. In the small town of Ludlow, England they find their British equivalent, the Stuarts and it seems they have found help for Lenny in this kindred family. But the Stuarts unveil their own sinister agenda and as Francis (Cory Knauf) falls in love with their beautiful daughter, Riley (Elizabeth Henstridge), a war of the vampire clans erupts and a blood-soaked battle for supremacy begins.
Where the first film was a creepy and twisted family drama, the sequel shows us what a Twilight movie would be like if they had any real fangs…and gallons of blood. And the Butcher’s version of that neutered vampire saga is a lot more gory fun. Where the first movie kept their vampiric nature a secret till the end, this is a full-blown vampire flick that explains a lot of about the character’s condition that wasn’t fully explored in The Hamiltons. There are barely any humans in the cast either and those that are, don’t last long. It’s all red eyes, bared fangs and spurting blood. The film moves quickly too, at barely over 80 minutes, so there is little time wasted on melodrama and what I really liked was how the Butchers turned the sick and blood thirsty Hamiltons/Thompsons into the victims this time round and thus the heroes. We find ourselves rooting for characters that creep-ed us out in the first movie and that was part of what made this sequel entertaining.
If you are a fan of The Hamiltons you probably will enjoy this sequel especially as the original cast are all back, except for Hartwig as Lenny, and they are taken in a different direction. The budget is slightly larger, but not by a lot, as the Butcher’s style seems to be a good fit for low budget indie horrors. It’s not perfect, there are some flaws, it’s not as atmospheric or creepy like the first film, not that it lacks its share of shocking moments, but overall, an enjoyably different follow-up to the disturbing original.
Rated 3 (out of 4) pointy fangs!