NOW ON YOUTUBE! An American indie visionary rises higher in the mesmerizing horror short Home Sweet Home II by prolific filmmaker Ashley Nicole. It is a prequel set in 1972 in the same haunted house as the original. Connor is a 24-year-old who just bought his first home. A glowing eye looks down from the highest window. Every night after midnight, strange things start happening: blood drips from openings in the wallpaper, making it clear something behind the walls wants to get out. The phone begins ringing late at night, and Connor hears something whispering awful things.
Stupendous. You can’t get anything like this anywhere else. Nicole makes a masterstroke move by using wild paper dolls to represent Connor. The framing of his earlier 1970s haircut with wide staring eyes is a unique cinema visual that should be hanging in a gallery. It cements the intentional artificial aesthetic that gives the images an irresistible power, similar to the sensation found in the films of Syberberg. I couldn’t take my eyes off this horror short as it made the skin on my arms ripple. The miniatures put to work in the first film are literally back with a vengeance. What is striking here is how Nicole breaks new ground with the presentation of this installment.
“…phone begins ringing late at night, and Connor hears something whipsering…”
The first short told about the house was a loud, colorful attack on the senses like Inferno. Home Sweet Home II goes down another road by exploring lethal restraint instead of delicious excess. The lighting is more realistic, and the sinister elements are more subtle. This elevates the creep factor instead of diluting it. Also, like the great underground shorts of yore, the visuals are really fun to get high too. The seams of the reality showed will fly through your head with the power of Christopher Reeve’s superimposed cape.
The filmmaker pulls off the Herculean task of telling a story in a new way without cannibalizing the originality of the first installment. This time the narrative doesn’t have the ambiguity of whether the haunting is real or imagined. Connor has no hint of crazy before encountering what happens after midnight. By removing the hallucination framework, Nicole increases the threat of the house and also embellishes the scope of her original short.
The enterprising director also rights a historic wrong in horror history by making a genuine prequel in her haunt house saga. In 1982, Amityville II: The Possession was marketed as a prequel when it really was a sequel, featuring the devil talking through a Sony Walkman as concrete proof. I feel vindicated that we are obviously deep back in the day with the 1972 setting. The way the narrative finishes here is confounding and undefined. I was initially disappointed with the ending but began to respect its boldness. Home Sweet Home II shows there is a gleaming spire in a corner of the world of cinematic art that is being built with someone’s bare hands.
"…respect its boldness."