The Horror Zine Review
A Film by Antone Anania
Director: Antone Anania
A Film by Antone Anania
Review by Christian A. Larsen
You think you've seen this movie before: a group of friends head out for a weekend of good times (including requisite drinking, drugs, and sex) and bad things start happening. But with Hawthorne Road, the difference is that the bad things have already started happening—the characters bring them with them, and then over the course of the movie, the bad things get much, much worse. Hawthorne Road is as much an interpersonal drama as it is a horror film, and writer/director/producer Antone Anania even mixes in some mystery.
The couples embark on a weekend retreat to a vacation home at the end of Hawthorne Road. There is nothing remarkable about the house—it’s not near a cemetery, the shutters don't bang in the wind, and there are no bats roosting anywhere on its grounds—but the tension is definitely there.
From early in the film, the moment Adrian (Kim Ramirez) and Morgan (Emily Simoness) meet Laquita (Shanna Beauchamp), they being baiting each other with catty remarks. Director Anania's bare-bones style allows the viewer to observe how each character's personality adds to the unfolding of the story and the ominous unraveling of their relationships. The cold war between the women only deepens as the weekend progresses.
While the women are hostile to each other, the men are detached and distant. Chase (Jefferson Isleib), who is dating Laquita, just found out that he had his life's savings stolen, and spends the weekend on his computer trying to get it back his own way. The signs of relational decay that he probably would have noticed otherwise were lost in a maze of vigilante cyber-justice, and in a way, he's not the most tragic character because he missed those signs—he's the most tragic character because if he'd have been paying attention, many of the problems that surfaced on Hawthorne Road would have most likely not have ever occurred. But how Chase ultimately fits into the puzzle (or trap) is up to the viewer to determine.
Mike Anderson does an admirable job as Ray, who is good intentioned but not if it means giving any effort, or giving up something that he wants, and Ray definitely wants something on Hawthorne Road that he shouldn't have. When he takes it, he hurts himself as much as he does the others.
What makes Ray even more flawed is that he expects high standards from his friends that he somehow doesn't have to live up to and he judges Charlie (Ian Merrigan) most harshly, maybe because his wants are so insidiously similar, and maybe because Charlie wants Ray's approval worse than anyone. Director Anania makes us sweat along with Charlie, showing how he feels even if we don't understand why, and the violent confrontation induces its own brand of chills.
And then we have Merrigan….awkward and gravel-toeing around Ray. His character is so convincing, it made me wish the two had more screen time together.
Using realistic shortcomings such as sexual dysfunction, financial difficulties, and personal insecurities, Anania engages the viewer with a voyeuristic look at the lives of people who could very well be our friends, or even us.
Then we are teased with the potential of the characters' decisions as they proceed to betray, abuse, and assault each other in ways that, taken episodically, seem reasonable. Taken together, it almost seems fantastic, and maybe it is.
Director Anania takes the bold step of leaving it to the movie-goer to determine if a haunting or supernatural presence is driving the progression of misdeeds at the house on Hawthorne Road of if the people vacationing there are themselves to blame. And therein lies the mystery of Hawthorne Road.
In a sense, the film reminded me of Agatha Christie's mystery classic And Then There Were None, in that the horror is not just self-contained but claustrophobic. Anania does quite an efficient job of creating a melancholic mood using everyday props and situations with which the average movie-goer can relate. Supported by a suitably creepy score by Nick Pethtel, the horror is there, but it's merely suggestive, and scores a hit in the 'subtle' category. Anania puts the movie-goer in an uncomfortable position, not because the characters are unlikable, but because, in a sense, they're us.
Be forewarned: Hawthorne Road is not a hack n' slash gorefest, and the monsters are (for the most part) offscreen. Anania treats his viewers to a no-frills story, allowing the actors the chance to breathe life into his script. Boyfriends will not have an excuse to pull their girlfriends closer to protect them from blood-encrusted vampires, but the rewards of Hawthorne Road are better than that. The discussion after the film will leave you just as wobbly-kneed.
See the movie here:
About the Filmmaker
Antone Anania was born in Huntington Beach, California. He was a Production Assistant and Assistant Director in Los Angeles for several years before moving and spending four years at The North Carolina School Of The Arts.
His first short film was THUNDER AND THE DIAMOND, where he focused on screenwriting and directing. Upon completion of that film, Antone moved back to Los Angeles where he made first full-length feature HAWTHORNE ROAD.
Recently, Antone was signed to ADA Literary Management from a follow-up to the script LAMENT. He has just completed his next feature script, DECLIVITY, about the accidental discovery of the Devil's body. He is currently working on GLUTTONS, an intertwining story regarding several over-indulgent Angelenos.
About the Reviewer
Christian A. Larsen
Christian A. Larsen grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has worked as a high school English teacher, a radio personality, a newspaper reporter, and a printer's devil. His work has appeared in magazines such as Golden Visions, Lightning Flash, An Electric Tragedy, Eschatology, Indigo Rising, and Aphelion. He lives with his wife and two sons in Kenosha, Wisconsin.