Written by: Ron Bricker
Sometimes, a love of one particular movie star can take you to some bad places. Beware, Seth Green fans: digging deep into Scott Evil's resume will bring you to Horror in the Attic, movie that has to be seen to be believed (though this is not recommended). Letty Muse Tomlinson was the unlucky victim for April Fools' Week.
A word from the nominator, Phoebe Raven:
Most people know Seth Green from the Austin Powers movies. More geeky people know him from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, playing monosyllabic guitarist-turned-werewolf Oz, which is precisely the role that made me fall for the short guy with the ever-changing hairstyle. But after seeking out everything he has lent his talent to over the years, I had to discover that not only do I not share his humor, Seth has also been in some true crap over the years. Horror in the Attic is one such movie, to which he not only lent his acting but also in part produced and financed, believing it to be something truly interesting and mind-boggling. The latter may even be true. It is so mind-boggling it doesn’t make any sense. But maybe that’s just me. I had to find out what someone else thought.
Horror in the Attic: The Perfect Movie (to Watch while Attempting Boredom-Based Suicide)
by Letty Muse Tomlinson
Poor Trevor Blackburn. He's trapped in his own personal Groundhog Day, but his is not nearly as clever or heartfelt as Bill Murray's purgatory.
We first meet Trevor lying under a tree on a blanket with a picnic basket to his side. Beside him is a lithe redhead who probably would've been cast in an Irish Spring commercial circa 1989. After he tells her that he's had a strange dream, she responds, "Trevor, I want to stay with you forever. I want to be with you always." He looks into her eyes and assures, "You will be, I promise." His declaration portends something dark lurks for these two.
Conveniently enough for the audience, they use each other’s names when they exchange professions of love – she's Faith – they kiss, and poor Trevor wakes up on an operating slab being prepped for brain surgery. The next thing Trevor knows, he's pinned, crucifix style to the floor of some house, with a chalk triangle outlining his body. And there's Faith a few feet from his bound ankles, dressed in a robe and nasally droning unintelligible incantations and looking rather sinister. She gets naked and lunges at him, with a knife. Luckily, he manages to free himself from one of the stakes pinning him to floor, which he then uses to stab Faith to death. The good citizen that he is, Trevor dials 9-1-1 and indifferently tells the operator that, “a murder has occurred.”
All this happened in 2000, we discover, along with Trevor. But Trevor, a siblingless, loner orphan has spent the last four years in a coma. The brilliant Dr. Eck, under whose care he has been, de-briefs Trevor: today is November 23, 2004, there was an accident, Faith is dead, there was a book; do you recall the book, Trevor? The book is very important to Dr. Eck. Eck is so consumed with Trevor's case that he has devoted his entire practice to the study of this one young man. Additionally, his reputation precedes him. Another colleague, Dr. Coffee has come to learn at his knee.
He releases his patient to a halfway house for people recovering from mental trauma. It's called the House of Love. (Of course it is.) There, Trevor meets Abby, the psychologist overseeing everything; Amy, the woman-child rape fantasist who proclaims him the "haindsomest" man there; Ronald, the schizophrenic whose alter ego is an alligator sock puppet; Liz, the writer who believes nothing exists unless she writes it; and Douglas, played by Seth Green playing Seth Green. Eck takes Dr. Coffee to his control room where he reveals that the House of Love is a set up solely to monitor Trevor. Cameras record everything that happen in the House of Love.
Of course, what happens in the House of Love is anything but lovely. Group therapy is as painfully awkward as being lectured on sex by fundamentalists; though the house has many windows, it is ridiculously dark; and Trevor has nightmares. In his recurring dreams, he's drawn to a trunk in the attic where sounds of knocking come from. He opens the trunk and alternately is pulled in by bloody hands or climbs down the spiral staircase the trunk is hiding. What happens when he goes into the trunk varies. Sometimes he has flashbacks of the occultist “accident” with Faith, sometimes he’s consulting again with Dr. Eck, sometimes he’s having panicked moments waking on the operating table, the crown of his is head removed and his brain exposed. We learn snippets of his past through his dream-life.
During his waking hours, he tries to pry information from the other tenants of the house. He has learned that Abby will tell him nothing, the alligator sock puppet will scare him, Amy will have sex with him and Douglas will rant about paranoia in a way that only Seth Green can. And then the murders start happening. Right after Trevor and Amy have banged to the strains of aggressive, grinding music, Ronald is bloodied and dead in his room. Not even his alligator puppet is spared. Everyone suspects Trevor, but does nothing about it. Then comes Liz, who is slain and pinned to the inside of her door. Her typewriter is silenced, the sheet in it dripping wet and red as a maraschino cherry.
Things start to make more sense to Trevor when Dr. Eck gives him a stronger hallucinogen. Trevor then meets with Faith, his dead fiancée who explains that the fatal ritual, wasn’t an accident. They had gotten engaged, bought a house and in the attic, discovered the magic trunk that led to a secret room where Trevor found the book that Eck so desires. The book would only reveal its secrets to Trevor and he gained much power. “You were a magis and I was your student,” Faith tells Trevor. They were in the middle of a ceremony of transferral. For reasons I got too muddled to care about, Faith was some sort of undead and Trevor had to die to join her. He promised they’d be together forever; remember? Faith warns him that Eck mustn’t get the book because the book has too much power and it belongs only to Trevor and Eck is really toying with his mind; the house residents are all just actors. Faith and Trevor then engage in what I can only assume is paranormal coitus. During the ensuing pillow talk, it’s clear Faith is a woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. She says she will possess one of his housemates to kill him and complete the original deal. Maybe she’ll possess Amy since Trevor liked tapping that ass.
Trevor is sucked back into the House of Love, presumably in November 2004. It has been completely re-set with all the original characters and even their original script. But now he’s armed with more information. The first thing he does is to “sneak” into the kitchen of the house. The kitchen door is marked “private” and has a padlock on it, but apparently no one cares about kitchen privacy, because the lock is unlatched and Trevor walks right in. He beelines to the fridge and checks an expiration date: December 23, 2000. Ha!
First he approaches Amy and calls her on the game. Except for the prior sex scene, their relationship was nothing more than transactional. So why he goes off on her – “If there’s anyone I hold responsible for how I feel right now or what I have to do, it’s you!” – is unclear. But there it is. Apparently it’s easier to blame betrayal on the hot chick you fucked once, than Seth Green with whom you pass all your waking hours. Then he uses group time to unload all his anger on everyone there and to confront Dr. Eck via the monitoring devices he knows are there. Then the fun starts.
Dr. Coffee, who has been expressing increasing doubt about the ethicality of Dr. Eck’s methods, and his blind lust for the magic book, finally tells him, “I thought I knew you in theory. But I don’t and I don’t even want to.” Dr. Eck’s responds by holding a syringe to Coffee’s neck, monologuing on power and knowledge (“What is magic, but a science that is too esoteric to prove?”) and then, of course, injecting him with whatever poison was in it. Coffee delivers a great death scene: eyes a-gog, gagging, a syringe rigid in his neck, he falls to the floor. Eck sends in hospital orderlies to quell the situation at the House.
Douglas bludgeons Abby to death with Liz’s typewriter. In the meantime, Trevor, certain that Faith is possessing Amy – or maybe he’s just an asshole – assaults Amy in her room and suffocates her on her own blouse as he dry-humps her. What a guy! Liz and Ronald, sensing the violence of the situation, flee the scene while Douglas stalks Trevor around the house. Douglas, it turns out, is actually Faith’s host. Trevor, stabs Douglas with a knife from the spine of the magic book. When he falls dead to the floor, we also see Faith, dead and naked crumpled and bleeding.
Trevor makes his way up to the top of the trunk’s spiral staircase and begins to slowly knock on it from the inside. Who should open the trunk, but himself? He pulls himself in, with bloody hands. And it’s all a cycle. How’s that for mind-blowing?
Horror in the Attic, alternately known as The Attic Expeditions wasn’t the worst movie I’d ever seen, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone I’d ever want to speak to again or to anyone with whom I hoped to reconcile a soured relationship. Overall, it felt like a Lifetime movie, but with more nudity and swears and fewer soft-lens shots. It was the kind of movie created to fill a two-hour slot in the day of an American for whom turning off the TV is anathema.
The sound engineering was fabulously sub-stellar. I don’t claim to be a connoisseur of the technical aspects of movie making, but it did sound like the vocal track was hand-laid on top of the natural sound track, which sounded like it was recorded in a boxcar. And sloppily laid beside those tracks was the score; a Theremin-edged motif that sounded like it was lifted from a lost episode of Scooby-Doo.
It was also unclear whether the set-designer and writer talked to each other. At least twice, Dr. Eck refers to Trevor having been laid on a pentacle during the ceremony in which Faith was killed. But the chalk outline was a triangle. Unless my etymology fails me, a pentacle describes a shape with five points, right? However, I doubt the script was preceded by in-depth research of modern or ancient magic or occult rituals. So what’s an oversight of an additional two points? These are just minor details, no doubt.
Horror in the Attic easily provided me the most wasted 96 minutes of my time in recent memory. That includes a work run to Costco for items it turns out we already had. But there is a dull-patina lining to this film. The value of this movie lies in its hokey conventions and its Alice Cooper walk-on.
The filmmakers, knowing they couldn’t deliver us anything original or terrifying, decided instead to pepper the movie with gimmes. Dr. Coffee’s conversations with Dr. Eck’s about his study of Trevor echoed 1985’s Night Train to Terror, in which God and Satan send protagonists through trials only to rationally discuss the outcomes with mild curiosity. The orderlies sent to quiet the House fracas are so dumb you’re glad they’re dispatched as the expendables they are. Says the first one, “This is the kicker – the strangest job ever. What do you think?” To which the nerdier one replies, “I don’t care, now that I get to hit somebody.” Dr. Eck is so pompous and self-important that he wears a late-Victorian era vest and tie, a costume that communicates the intellectual, rich, white researcher of an earlier time. And my personal favorite, when Douglas approaches the trunk with Trevor, Trevor admonishes him, “Something’s gonna happen. We should get outta here!”
Cooper’s brief performance is as nuanced and layered as Bush’s Iraq war policy. “I’m not supposed to be here,” he tells a nurse, with all the passion and believability of an 8th grade math geek in his school play. We know, Alice; neither are we.