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By Don R. Lewis | November 19, 2006

AFTER DARK HORRORFEST 2006 REVIEW! Everyone wants to make a horror film. I mean, how many indie filmmakers have you met that said “I really want to make an Elizabethan period piece on DV with no name actors.” Horror films are fun, suspenseful and easy to sell. Everyone loves to be scared. Yet with the market flooded with self-described “B movies” that are more like “C” or “D” movies, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Then along comes “The Hamiltons.”

Part “Six Feet Under,” part 1970’s horror and all weird, the debut film from The Butcher Brothers is never quite what it seems to be. Francis Hamilton is a young kid who’s suffering the same growing pains we all go through. He can’t stand his family, no one will listen to him and his independence is challenged on a daily basis. Big brother David strives to take care of the family after the mysterious death of their parents, but he’s having a hard time. The difficulties are largely due to twin siblings Wendell and Darlene who are total sociopathic creeps. Oh yea, and there’s a bevy of women tied up in the basement who are routinely amputated. While there isn’t much gore in “The Hamiltons,” the Butcher Brothers create a suspenseful story that sucks you in and keeps you engrossed.

The acting here is subtle and outstanding, particularly Knauf as the angsty, confused Francis. Joseph McKelheer as Wendell and the goth sexy Mackenzie Firgins as Darlene are perfect antagonists to Francis as well as the community. McKelheer is like a time bomb waiting to go off throughout the film yet he also has a charming side which makes him all the more terrifying. This guy has some acting chops and I hope we see more from him in the future. Samuel Child who has been making a name for himself in the indie film world is also good, but he sports an ill-advised haircut throughout the film that is distracting and doesn’t fit his character. His role is also the most difficult as he tries to keep a straight face to the outside world all the while being the one who’s in charge of torturing the girls in the basement. His ability to remain straight faced makes you empathize with him and he pulls the role off really well in the end.

The Butcher Brothers have deftly crafted a horror film that has an honest storyline about family and growing up. Take out the incest, kidnapped and tortured girls and the downright shocking violence and you have a typical family drama. However all those extra elements keep you on your toes and make “The Hamiltons” one of the best indie horror films in a great long while.

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