Director: William Scherer
Writers: William Scherer
Stars: Chanel Ryan, Megan Jay, Jaye Wolfe
House on Rodeo Gulch touts itself as a Hitchockian thriller and, unfortunately, this is not the only newbie mistake the film makes. William Scherer has written, directed, edited, produced, done the special and visual effects and played a small part in his feature debut. All of this ambition and determination is nothing short of impressive, but perhaps he bit off more than he can chew.
Starring Megan Jay as Shani and Chanel Ryan as Denise, these two ladies have just moved into the mysterious house on Rodeo Gulch and it’s gorgeous. It was also suspiciously cheap for such a sprawling house, secluded up in the mountains and you know what they say about things that seem too good to be true. To add extra drama, Shani is a teenager who has just been uprooted to California by her new stepmom while her dad is out being an Army Ranger. Shani is a real spitfire and while this disposition will, obviously, work in her favor as the movie progresses, she’s a wee bit irritating. She’s a smart cookie, though, and it’s always nice to have the young, female character be the one who possesses the most strength; both of character and physicality.
Shortly after arriving at the new house, their neighbor James (Jay Wolfe) arrives to introduce himself. Dressed like a member of the Heaven’s Gate cult, James carries a bible, wears a giant cross around his neck, has a cross embroidered on his baseball hat and his ringtone is Hallelujah. So, I guess we can assume that he’s a good, religious man, right? Of course not. He has a minion named Raul who does his dirty work. Allegedly, James saved Raul from drug dealers and brought him to America to work in the church, but as far as I can tell, Raul’s main function is to be a walking, talking immigrant stereotype. And for some reason, he brought a giant python with him that will later play a part in a truly ridiculous moment. Burritos, aliens and gummy worms, oh my! I’m losing my train of thought, but that's what watching this movie feels like.
You can’t just go around describing yourself as Hitchcockian and then hope viewers don’t mind when they find your film lacking a certain level of suspense and clever story telling. That’s akin to describing your film as Lynchian just because you utilized a strobe light in one scene. House on Rodeo Gulch lags unnecessarily, never fully explains a million different things that all seem pretty pertinent to the characters, the acting is hard to take at times and no one is really likeable. All of that being said, Scherer must be commended on how rich the movie looks and his camera work is certainly nothing to complain about either. I just wish he had spent as much time on the plot as he did on the style.
Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont