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“Stay Out of the Fucking Attic,” & stay away from this movie

Stay Out of the Fucking Attic

An interesting concept is wasted with shoddy special effects and indifferent performances.

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At least the title’s fun? If only the rest of this throwaway horror schlockfest could be as audacious as a curse word in a title. Stay Out of the Fucking Attic, Shudder’s latest exclusive, directed by Jerren Laudert and co-written with three other people (it only took one person to write Chinatown by the way), is a “House of Horrors” film that fails on two important levels. The house isn’t impressive, and there are no horrors to be found there.

Three unfortunate movers, all ex-cons looking to turn over a new leaf, are assigned to pack up an old Victorian mansion. The current owner is a peculiar fellow named Vern (Michael Flynn) who has bags of human teeth laying around and speaks in a vague Dracula accent. The movers discover, 40 minutes into a 80 minute film, Vern is actually a former Nazi still performing experimental surgeries, and he wants them to be his next victims. 

They spend the rest of the film trying to escape a house that isn’t that imposing (one of the characters tries the front door, sees that it’s locked, and just gives up) and running from one of Vern’s animal-human hybrids, created from an experiment gone wrong. Too bad the monster is as threatening as Chris Kattan’s wiry Mr. Peepers from SNL

More successful films in this genre are able to use the creepy house setting as a secondary character, or an additional obstacle for the protagonists to overcome. Think of the endless hallways, secret passages, and random slides that litter the home of the depraved, Reagan-like landowners in Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, or the military grade death trap that ensnares the would be robbers in Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe. The most creative set design Stay Out… musters is finding old furniture at a yard sale, turning on a bunch of fog machines, and hoping for the best.

At least the title’s fun?

The effects and makeup are also comically lackluster, starting with Vern’s old-man Nazi makeup that looks like Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button without the expertly used CGI. The most effective special effect is a conjoined twin (Brynne Hurlbutt) who shows up late in the film. Her attached, deformed twin is a nasty piece of work that oozes blood from her orifices, and their face is in a permanent, disturbing scream. This one piece of inspired direction is quickly thrown out the window though when Pizzuto has to struggle to walk around with what is obviously a big mannequin taped to her back. 

Low-budget horror productions may be limited with the art department, so they need to rely on strong performances to ground the audience in terrifying circumstances. However, it’s hard to find anyone less interested in this film than the people acting in it, especially Ryan Francis, who stars as the head mover, Schillinger. We learn about his past through some lazy exposition via a conversation between the other two movers, Carlos (Bryce Fernelius), who says he loves his daughter back home so often that you know his chances of survival are slim here, and Imani (Morgan Alexandria) who gets nothing to work with here besides a non-existent backstory and awful one-liners. 

Schillinger is actually a former neo-Nazi skinhead who’s turned away from that hateful orthodoxy. This sets up a potentially interesting movie that never blossoms. What happens when you put someone like Edward Norton’s Derek from American History X in a horror film? A man coming to terms with the awful sins of his past while dealing with monsters of a different sort. 

Sadly, the script and Francis don’t dig too deep beside him not showing any real emotion about anything and having a vacant look in his eyes. Francis gives such little effort in his performance that watching him attempt basic acting skills such as pretending to listen and react to his scene partners like a human man becomes an exercise in unintentional cringe comedy. 

There’s a strong theme that can be found here about how we shouldn’t be defined by our past, but it’s sucked deep into this miserable black hole of a movie. Also, that titular attic? They don’t open it until the last shot of the movie, so I guess the one thing Stay Out of the Fucking Attic does right is live up to the basic promise of its fucking name. 

(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this review mistakenly credited the deformed twin to a different actor in the cast. That has now been corrected.)

Stay Out of the Fucking Attic premieres on Shudder March 11th.

Stay Out of the Fucking Attic Trailer:

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CategoriesMovies
Sean Price

Sean Price was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana before moving to Chicago to pursue improv and sketch comedy. He has written, directed and produced several short films, music videos, and feature length screenplays.

He’s also performed and co-written several sketch shows, including a film-centric solo show called “Sean Price Goes to the Movies by Himself” at the Playground Theater.

When he's not contributing to The Spool, you can see him perform improv regularly at the IO Theater and ComedySportz Chicago.