`Learn the startling answer in this expertly crafted thriller from director Peter Rader (co-writer of Waterworld).' This is part of the editorial review listed on Amazon for the film Grandmother's House aka Grandma's House (1988). If this was meant as an enticement, it didn't work, as I saw Waterworld, and I didn't think it was all that great...maybe it had something to do with a man (or mutant, as the case may be) drinking his own wiz...I think Kevin Costner should have to enjoy a cup of his own urinations for each person subjected to his vanity projects...but I digress...this review is for the Image Entertainment release of the film, which lists the title as Grandmother's House and claims to be the 2003 version...there was a previous DVD release of this film titled Grandma's House, and it's essentially the same film with a few differences (I'll explain more later).
The film, directed by Peter Rader (Hired to Kill), stars Eric Foster (Death House) and Kim Valentine (.com for Murder) as recently orphaned siblings David and Lynn, respectively, who are sent to live with their grandparents, played by Len `Uncle Leo' Lesser (Seinfeld, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Kelly's Heroes) and Ida Lee (It Runs in the Family). Also appearing is scream queen and B movie fav Brinke Stevens (Repligator, Horrorvision, Mark of the Astro-Zombies). The film starts out with a funeral, as Eric and Lynn are paying respects to their recently deceased father (apparently, their mother passed sometime earlier). How did he die? Don't know, don't care, doesn't matter...after arriving at their grandparent's orange farm in California (southern California, by the look), things seem all right at first, but the appearance of a rather scary looking woman (Stevens) heralds a world of trouble as David and Lynn discover every family has skeletons in their closet, and some literally...(okay, there are no skeletons in this film, but I thought it sounded kinda cool).
Despite many flaws, I found much to like about this film, even though, based on the title, I was expecting something a little different (I thought it might have been a modern retelling of the story of Little Red Riding Hood). So what was wrong with the film? Well, for starters, the script seemed half-baked, and I don't mean that in the way one would describe someone who uses the Maui Wowie, but in terms of not being fully realized. At times it did work, but then other times it seemed, well, lacking substance, not feeling very realistic....and this wasn't helped by often weak performances. Most of the main actors did well, about as well as you'd expect for this kind of film, but the secondary players tended to stink to the point where they really stood out. This is painfully illustrated by two specific performances, one by Furley Lumpkin (seriously, that's his real name) who played an off duty deputy, and Michael Robinson, who played Lynn's overly amorous love interest Kenny. A side note...did anyone else find it a lot creepy that Kenny, who was clearly in his mid 20's, should have such an infatuation with Lynn, a girl who seemed to be between the ages of 15 and 17? His definition of a date subsisted of thinly veiled innuendoes and a whole lot of groping...ick...the plot got bogged down a few times as it tried to develop a sense of danger where there really wasn't any, similar to a shoddy mystery that pushes the `red herrings' too hard (the scene where the shotgun toting grandfather is searching the house for David comes to mind...it was shot well, and created a good amount of edginess, but ultimately led nowhere). Another thing that kind of bothered me, and I see this a lot in horror films, involves the antagonistic character played by Brinke Stevens, who was pretty effective, even though she didn't have much dialogue. Often she would move throughout the film, magically appearing here and there with relative ease...I would have thought she was twins, or even triplets, the way she got around. So what was good about the film? Well, for the most part the story held up well (the relevant parts), and the director did better than I would have expected in creating tension, avoiding a lot of cheap tactics (pop out scares and such), cultivating the suspense and keeping me interested (he was also helped by genuinely decent musical score). Most of the film took place in the large farmhouse and the surrounding grove, both of which were used well. As I said before, the main actors did pretty well (I did get annoyed with Eric Foster rather quickly, I suppose mainly because he sported a `flock of seagulls' haircut throughout nearly the entire film). I liked the twists and turns in the plot, but that last one seemed to come out of nowhere, and there wasn't really anything to support it within the film (unless I missed it). All in all I'd say this is a pretty watchable film, better than most in its' class, and worth a look if you're interested in a eerie little thriller with more scares than blood.
This release from Image Entertainment is labeled the 2003 version, and claims to have restored audio and video elements. The wide screen (1:85.1) anamorphic picture does look pretty good, but there are a few, minor flaws (nothing to get upset about). The DVD boasts five different audio channels in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround for English, French, German and Italian, along with Dolby Digital 2.0 in English. Special features include a featurette titled `The Films of Nico Mastorakis, Part II' (he's the producer, and I am unsure where part I is located), a theatrical trailer, filmographies and biographies. One thing I learned from this film is when running through an orange grove, it's better to keep your eyes focused in front of you than behind...as I'm sure David would agree...ouch...