In her first scene in The Curse of Hobbes House, Jane Dormant (Mhairi Calvey) is at rock bottom. She wakes up in her car, a four-door Sedan she lives in, to the sound of her phone ringing. Her boss is calling from the bar where she works, telling her not to bother coming back in. They’ll mail her check. She gets another phone call from a lawyer. Unfortunately, her Aunt has died. Would she be able to make it to the reading of the will at the titular Hobbes House? Jane has no option but to say yes.
Jane is one of the film’s bright spots. The character is well-scripted by Wolf-Peter Arand from a story by director Juliane Block to get empathy from viewers. She has immediate wants, and Calvey does a good job carrying Jane’s weariness with her throughout the film. The performer might not hit all of the high notes as the film becomes more emotional later on, but she makes the character feel real early on.
Jane’s estranged sister, Jennifer (Makenna Guyler), is also called for the reading of the will. She’s a social media influencer and takes her absolute sh*tbag boyfriend Nigel Thatcher (Kevin Leslie) with her everywhere. The other person named in the will is the property’s caretaker, Naser Mohammedin (Waleed Elgadi), who Thatcher suspects of being involved in Aunt Alexandra’s death by suicide. The four are there for the lawyer, Eurydice Saul (Jo Price), to read the will but a fight between the girls prevents Saul from continuing. They decide to take a minute to cool off when the monstrous guardians of the house attack.
A voiceover during the opening credits explains that the original owner of Hobbes House cursed King Dormant, so that his bloodline would need to protect the house for eternity. The guardians seem to follow the rules of George A. Romero style, slow moving zombies. Like in Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead, these creatures are never referred to as “zombies” in the film, but they are in the marketing materials. Unlike Romero’s zombies, the extras playing these monsters wear bright blue eye contacts that seem to almost glow. It’s a cool visual effect.
There are a few other nice touches in The Curse of Hobbes House. It’s got a good structure, but a lot of the details fall flat. Some of it feels like it’s not fleshed out enough. For example, if Jennifer is going to be a social media influencer, it would be good to use some of the videos and photos she takes in the film. Instead, it’s mentioned and she’s shown taking a video, but then it’s dropped. Romero would’ve had a field day playing with social media and zombies. As it stands, The Curse of Hobbes House seems to take its zombies at face value, leaving out the social commentary that’s woven into so many other zombie films.
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The editing also feels like it’s almost there. Like any zombie film, The Curse of Hobbes House is filled with exciting chases. The problem is that frequently the guardians will be just about touching the characters in a shot from the side. The film then cuts to a shot through a doorway with the humans in the foreground and the guardians chasing them a few steps further behind. It gives the human characters time to slam the door, but the sprint to make that separation between human and monster isn’t in the film. It’s only a second or two off, but it’s enough to make viewers wonder about that second instead of whether or not the characters are going to escape.
The well-named Nigel Thatcher is a truly horrible boyfriend, and Arand and Block do a wonderful job making audiences hate him. Leslie luxuriates in the self-centered sliminess of the character. But Thatcher’s comeuppance happens off screen. After all the build-up, which is well-executed, not getting to see his fate feels like a major let down.
All of that being said, The Curse of Hobbes House feels like a film that could’ve been good. All of the elements of a good movie are in there. They’re just not popping yet. Arand and Block have previously collaborated on two other features—8 Remains and 3 Lives. It’ll be exciting to see what the duo does next.
Wicked Rating – 4/10
Director: Juliane Block
Writers: Wolf-Peter Arand, Juliane Block (story)
Stars: Mhairi Calvey, Makenna Guyler, Waleed Elgadi, Kevin Leslie
Release Date: December 15, 2020 (VOD, Digital HD And DVD)
Studio/Production Company: J Blockbuster
Length: 83 minutes