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Film noir: French for 'black film', the term refers to a genre or style
depicting a dark, corrupt, and/or violent world characterized by an
expressionist mood and MISE EN SCENE. Many of these films also include
violence and an underworld of some sort. Noir is equipped with many
narrative conventions and twisted deceits. Most Film noir have stories
set in impersonal suburban spaces that reflect the alienation and
decadence of the characters. The city is a palpable presence taking on
a menacing quality that threatens the character within it. Almost
always, the protagonist is a male, in this films' case, it is the
leader of the cast, a woman. Not just any woman, but the charming,
gorgeous Helen Slater, in a role that seems to bring out an enormous,
as well as outrageous aspect of her talent.
In a quiet, isolated community in the Hollywood Hills, silence is broken as a young woman is strangled to death in her pool. This story is everywhere people look, although not taken seriously by most, especially by an aspiring actress named Alex Weaver. Alex is determined to make her mark in the profession of power and beauty, but first, she must sacrifice the dreams, for a tacky day job at a cheesy Italian eatery. She is then persuaded to house-sit for a fellow waitress, in a lush setting that puts B.H. 90210 to shame. After playing on an exterminator, whom is not who he says he is, she is pulled into a real web of lies, deception, and passion. She broke all the rules, allowing a stranger into the house during the weekend...bad choice.
Helen Slater is a marvelous actress, and rightly so, as she holds the majority of this twisty tale on her shoulders, no wonder she played Supergirl nine years earlier. Michael Madsen is tough, and rugged, no surprise, as he worms his way into the house, with revenge on his mind. Soon, he and Slater are spending their time talking back and forth about their lies and convictions. Soon, the tension heats up so bad, they end up in the greenhouse performing unspeakable acts of passion amidst a beautiful collection of expensive flowers. Also in the film, is Jeffery Tambor in a down and out riot role as "Willy". Only time can tell as these characters are woven together to an ending resulting in madness and laughter.
This film is a Noir thriller on steroids. Helen Slater is a sure leading lady, but also an antagonist as well. She brings all her troubles onto herself, as she is her own worst enemy. Michael Madsen is, naturally, effective, and menacing as he pulls the audience into his clutches with every scene. His character brings forth flashbacks(another element in Noir) and the violence that ensues the last 45 minutes. Most of the film is not to be mistaken for a staged play-turned film. Most scenes are in fact, Slater and Madsen, uncovering layers of deep, thoughtful character study. Tambors "Willy" is also to be mentioned, as he becomes a strange force in the humorously crazy finale. No one, within the three main stars, can truly be trusted with one another, creating a real noir feel. All three initially lie about who they are at one point or another, and bring a homey house to a shatter-box.
The film also sees a soapy feel, as though it ran on a daytime dial. This is because Slaters 'Weaver' is up for a role, and creating the deception is all part of a formula that speaks in layers about asking ourselves if we really know what we are, or what life is, or where we are going. The film is indeed, a though provoking story, and well characterized by Slater and Madsen. Why it is not too recognized in these days is beyond my knowledge. I feel it should be more known, perhaps a more public screening on actual cable again, like ten years ago on HBO. To sum it all up, this film is a fast, dramatic, humorous, twisted thriller about truths, lies, and deception. It certainly beats any other satire of the like, and Helen Slaters' sexy performance opposite a game Madsen works well. Definitely worth the time!
The first 30 minutes or so of this film makes you think it's a knock-off of "The Desperate Hours". But it's not. The film keeps coming at you with unexpected plot turns. Helen Slater is fabulous as the actress/housesitter. Michael Madsen is as good as he usually is, looking extremely menacing when he wants to. I thought this movie was delightful, surprisingly good for a film I'd never heard of.
The film was pretty slow at the beginning. I had never watched Michael Madsen perform before. I thought he had a sour face! But did I change my mind? This film really grows on you. And I ended up loving it. Slater and Madsen played so well together. She was the weak feminine actress who against her will fell for this unknown man. And he was this strong willed he-man! This is a film of my liking: a thiller mixed with romance, that´s the best. I sure hope it comes out on DVD, so I can buy it.
I watched this on cable after rejecting a couple of films that I thought would have promise. At first, I had little hope for this one, either. When Mickey doubted that Alex was really an actress, so did I! But it was too early to go to bed, and I couldn't bear to go back again to "Comtaminated Man", I stuck it out, right through all the plot turns and miscellaneous characters that wound up getting involved in it. The best thing about it was, I never found myself saying "Gimme a break!"---the place where the totally unbelievable turn of events finally bombs a bad plot. This one held together. A nice little film.
This one truly didn't appeal to me for the obvious reasons...it seeming
so, but I always know Helen Slater prevails, and I had a hunch this movie
do so as well. Slater is sexy and strong in character as she holds the film
shoulders (not including a game Jeffery Tambor). This twisted humor bender
has more twists than a twizzler,GOOD or BAD? I say good, no other actress can play innocent in a sexy way like Slater! With deep character development , a
fine set-up, and a great rich Beverly Hills setting, this one sure is entertaining to the very end!
The plot is not all that bad for a low budget item. The acting is good. Three viewings and no boredom! Must say something for it. The underlying theme to me is that sometimes in life two people come together reluctantly and their life changes. They are not meant for one another or so they believe. But every now and then they wonder: "What if?"
There is a murder in the Hollywood hills. Alex Weaver (Helen Slater) is
a struggling actress working as a waitress. She replaces her friend to
housesit for the needed cash. The cops are next door investigating the
murder. The Rankins mistakenly take her bag. Exterminator Mickey
(Michael Madsen) unexpectedly comes and assumes Alex to be the owner.
He's looking to get something from Rankin and takes her hostage. Will
Stryker (Jeffrey Tambor) is the Rankins' new neighbor.
There are a couple of scenes where it is a little too convenient. This should be an intense kidnapping thriller. However there are a lot of false notes being played. The music cues are wrong but that's not the half of it. Madsen is being too cool and lacks the intensity of a real criminal. The romance is awkward and fake like a bad romance novel. It's incredible that Mickey would fall for it. It's completely set up wrong. Jeffrey Tambor is a nice turn but the movie keeps trying to go back to the romantic tones. There is no chemistry to work with here. Just when the movie is coming to an acceptable end, it becomes silly as Helen Slater overacts unconvincingly.
Saved by an intelligent script and some good performances, A House In the Hills chronicles a housesitters descent into the maelstrom of violence and lies at the heart of the California Dream (well, the Southern California one, at least). It's not Htichcock, but it's miles better than your average Showtime filler. Jeffrey Tambor delivers a particularly rich performance as next door neighbour Willie, and the rest of the cast is up to the task. Apparently filmed in Luxembourg, of all places.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lovely, willowy, under-appreciated straw-blonde knockout Helen "Supergirl" Slater gives a characteristically strong and winning performance as a struggling, out of work Los Angeles actress who's hired by a rich couple to take care of their stately countryside mansion while the hoity-toity twosome are away on vacation. Michael Madsen, who was terrifyingly on the money as the blithely malevolent Mr. Blonde in "Reservoir Dogs," is equally impressive here as a cagey, fearsome prowler who breaks into the opulent abode and takes poor Helen hostage. Suspenseful, handsomely made and absorbing, this nifty little straight-to-video thriller boasts an intelligently wrought, very clever and enthralling twist-ridden script, a funny, engaging turn by the always delightful Jeffrey Tambor (Garry Shandling's meek, bumbling sidekick on the superb cable TV series "The Larry Saunders Show") as a gregarious, but meddlesome neighbor, and laudably solid direction from the often lackluster Ken Weiderhorn, who makes belated amends here for having written and directed the appallingly awful zombie horror "comedy" dud "Return of the Living Dead Part II." Overall, it's a modest, but totally up to speed winner.
Just goes to prove it, if you can't beat them, join them. Helen Slater finally did it, appearing nude on film. An interesting movie made all the better by Slater's performance.
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