An undeniably effective movie

by Nav Qateel

One of bonuses of reviewing independant movies is when you are taken completely by surprise by seemingly innocuous little low-budget efforts, that then go on to reaffirm your passion for indie filmmaking. House of Last Things is such film, and in its understated manner, begins rather slowly then builds up until you’re utterly drawn in and hooked. Writer-director Michael Bartlett has made only four films since 1987, with House of Last Things being his first after a break of almost 15 years. And his last two were German-speaking. Bartlett explained in an interview, how the film was shot in his own house, with an amazing attention to detail going into everything you see within, including original posters created specifically for the movie. After discovering his home was built on an old golf course, Bartlett went on to write his unusual but brilliant mystery horror, basing a lot of the story on fact.

House of Last Things tells the story of a haunted house that has seen tragedy and now wants to reach out to its new occupants. Music critic Alan (Randy Schulman) and his wife Sarah (Diane Dalton) head off to Italy in a bid to help Sarah recuperate. Alan hires the lovely Kelly (Lindsey Haun) to watch the house while the couple are away, and protective Kelly brings her disabled brother Tim (RJ Mitte) to keep her company. Kelly’s overbearing boyfriend Jesse (Blake Berris) turns up unexpectedly and before too long the three house-sitters begin seeing things that freak them out. Jesse takes Alan’s car and goes to the store, where he sees a boy standing alone. He decides to take the kid to the house but soon it gets even more crazy, with things moving around by themselves, and each of them slowly going mad. Or, are they?

House of Last Things
Written & Directed by
Michael Bartlett
Lindsey Haun, Blake Berris, RJ Mitte, Randy Schulman, Diane Dalton, Micah Nelson
Release Date
Nav’s Grade: A-

As well as some extremely clever writing and thoughtful direction, House of Last Things has a cast that do their characters justice, with the sexy Lindsey Haun giving a great performance as Kelly. Kelly is protective of her younger brother, but not so protective she’d ditch her boyfriend Jesse, who clearly dislikes Tim. Although Blake Berris’ character Jesse is a bit clichéd to begin with, it would appear Bartlett has written him thus for a good reason, but to reveal more would spoil the fun of finding out for yourself.

RJ Mitte’s Tim isn’t quite as important as the others, however, the character of Tim was perfect for the former Breaking Bad actor. Randy Schulman and Diane Dalton also do a good job with their characters, and it’s interesting to note neither actor has much in the way of experience, if their extremely short list of film credits are anything to go by. In fact, it would appear this is Diane Dalton’s very first role, hence, both actors should be commended. Young Micah Nelson, who plays Adam, has more experience than some of the other cast members, and his mysterious character Adam was one of the more interesting. We also get to meet an old lady, Rose Pepper (Michele Mariana), who appears at odd moments but is she only in their imaginations?

It’s clear director Bartlett has put a great deal of time, care and passion into each element of the film, and the end result is undeniably effective. You may find the slow first act takes a bit long to get any steam built up, but rest assured, once it does House of Last Things will blow your mind.

Rather than discuss House of Last Things further and risk spoiling any of the many surprises that await you, all I will add is that this film is a must-see if you’re a fan of horror and/or mystery. Bartlett appears to take long breaks in between movies, but after seeing this I hope his next break isn’t as long as his last.