Ah, The Butcher Brothers. The assumed name (their real names are Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores) clues you into the fact that these guys want to have fun and provide the goods for horror fans. The first movie I saw from them was the very enjoyable The Violent Kind and I then sat through their surprisingly tame remake of April Fool's Day. The Hamiltons is one the movie that, essentially, game them their big break. Directed by the boys, and co-written with Adam Weis, it made quite an impact while doing the rounds at numerous horror festivals and therefore I was expecting something pretty good when I finally got around to sticking the DVD into my player.
It WAS good but it's not something that I'd rave about or quickly recommend to others. The Hamiltons is all about a family unit fending for itself after the parents have passed away. David (Samuel Child) tries to play the father of the group while young Francis (Cory Knauf) does the typical, troubled teenager act. Twins Wendell (Joseph McKelheer) and Darlene (Mackenzie Firgens) don't help to keep things in a state of domestic bliss either, especially when they get carried away and kill people. Oh yeah, The Hamiltons have quite a big secret. They kill people, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. Are they a bunch of psychopaths or is there any method in their madness? It would seem to be the former but things aren't always what they seem.
It's hard to see exactly why so many people raved about this movie a few years ago. There is some nastiness shown onscreen, the dysfunctional family provides as much black humour as tension and there is one decent twist that makes everything feel a bit fresher than it actually is but it's not quite enough to make it into a fantastic entry into the horror genre.
First of all, the acting is a real mixed bag. Cory Knauf does well and I also enjoyed the exchanges between McKelheer and Firgens but Samuel Child is a bit of a weak link and one or two of the supporting players, such as Al Liner, stick out due to their inability to act naturally. Brittany Daniel is onscreen for a few minutes so that gets the film a bonus point right there (I'm a fan, so sue me).
Then we've got the script. It's okay, I suppose, but it doesn't really have one line that sticks in the memory after the credits have rolled. Not one.
The direction is competent and the material is well-handled but it's nothing, for the most part, that we haven't seen a hundred times before. A psycho family who have some victims chained up on their premises and are trying to deal with neighbours and visitors in a pleasant and civil manner while cracks are appearing in their thin facades? It makes up at least one scene in every psycho thriller out there and to be really effective nowadays it has to be played out with maximum tension or maximum nastiness. The Hamiltons does neither, which is why it ends up as a film that just rises above average. I almost rated it lower but The Butcher Brothers always seem to have good intentions so I am always willing to give them a little bit of leeway.