The Hamiltons (2006)

What has Lionsgate done with its mojo? And has it checked down the back of the sofa? Seriously, there was a time when Lionsgate's marketing just worked. Whatever you think of the Saw movies, you've got to admit that their posters are powerful and distinctive; the posters for both Hostel movies were pretty damned impressive, too. But both of those franchises delivered on the promises made by their marketing. But now every horror movie Lionsgate puts out seems to get the same treatment - see Blood Trails, Paradise Lost, Snuff Movie, and The Hamiltons. It's like someone at Lionsgate HQ has a formula they're sticking rigidly to - a certain quantity of blood, and certain quantity of grime, and a certain amount of implied torture.

And in fairness, it was working, for a while. Torture movies, at least until very, very recently, were selling like hot cakes; cashing in may not have been a noble or admirable thing to do, but it was certainly understandable. What's not quite so understandable, though, is slapping one of those formulaic covers on a movie that doesn't fit the mould. Sure, you might shift a few copies to the dedicated gore hounds, but what's the point? They won't enjoy it, they won't recommend it, and anyone who might actually have enjoyed the film won't pick it up because of the cover. Not smart.

That was quite a lot of blather to just convey how horrendously mismarketed this movie is. Thing is, I don't want to talk about the plot at all, because it'll give too much away. So I'll just talk around it.

The Hamiltons is a low budget movie. It's shot on video; the lighting, particularly, highlights the fact that this isn't a slick and polished production. There's a bit of silly messing around with pretend camcorder footage, which is really just the same footage with a frame around it. And the acting ... really isn't great. But the script is clever - subtle enough that I didn't figure it out, sensible enough that everything fitted easily together once the ending had been given away - and though the special effects have clearly been done on a shoestring, they're not particularly ambitious and so the no-frills approach is perfectly adequate. At 84 minutes, there's no time to mess around; just a neat little horror story. It's even, dare I say it, pretty original and refreshing to see a low budget movie that understands its limits and works with them this well. (Hint: it's all in the writing, guys.)

It's just that I'm finding it really hard to get past that box art. It's like buying caramel Snack-a-Jacks instead of cheese ones*, because the packaging is a similar colour - it's not that you don't like the product you got, it's just that it wasn't what you thought you were getting. In the case of The Hamiltons, the product actually far exceeded my expectations, it's just that they were so far of the mark, and it's all because of that stupid, stupid cover.

The movie is definitely worth watching. Just chuck the box away, first.

And maybe jump up and down on it a couple of times for good measure.

IMDB link

* Why, yes, I have done this recently.

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