Housesitters is an official selection of the Windy City Horrorama: Local Horror Showcase. It’s screening at the Davis Theater on N. Lincoln Ave in Chicago on April 28, 2018. I don’t want to stomp all over this movie’s big success, but I have to be honest with myself and anyone who may stumble across this review. Housesitters is…not good. It’s a comedy-horror film that’s definitely more comedy than horror, but that’s not the part that bothered me. And, Hell, I review independent titles as a job, so my standards and expectations are pretty fair. When it comes to this upcoming release from Dreamland Home Video and Tomorrow Romance Films…I just sense a lack of effort and a waste of potential. Housesitters had the opportunity to be all around amusing and enthusiastically retro, however, decisions made behind the scenes sabotaged something I could’ve championed. It started off good, I’d even say it started off great, before it swan-dived into disaster.
Housesitters is the latest spawn from writer, director, producer and editor Jason Coffman. Serving as his feature length directorial debut, I do want to mention that he has talent behind-the-camera despite the fact that I’m providing him with a negative review. The Housesitters script was fantastic, but it was the execution of the story that damned this title. Also written by Jamie Jirak and Annie Watkins, Housesitters follows two struggling young women who take a housesitting gig in hopes of kickstarting their good reputation in that field of work. Almost immediately things start going wrong far beyond typical home problems, especially when a warlock’s spell submerges the entire dwelling and its occupants into a dark dimension in hopes of bringing a demon into our work. Hijinks ensue as the two women, and a few friends, attempt to stop the warlock and free the structure from its prison. Or, ya know, they’ll sit and wait it out on the couch. Jamie Jirak, Annie Watkins, Peter Ash, Jay Bidwell, Bethanie Louise, Mariah Michael and Ben Schlotfelt star in this comedy-horror flick from Coffman and assistant director Jef Burnham.
Here’s the thing… Housesitters is funny at points, possibly 40% of the time, due to a combination of quick wit, dry humor, and first world problems. The three lead actress, especially, were on point with their deliveries and their performances helped to elevate this production to a standard comedic level. However, it was also accomplished only 40% of the time. The other jabs and jars seemed half assed; almost as if they were one and done takes. It seemed like the cast and crew were working against exhaustion and against time and budget; resulting in some pretty lackluster moments that could have severely impacted this flick’s appeal. The appeal of normal yet sarcastic young people being in a supernaturally daunting situation, with their given personalities, could’ve been movie gold. The uneven give and take can also be seen in the area of production. The audio is often distorted and the camera quality is almost always hazy. It’s only an hour long, including credits, and most of the scenes only served to make me hungry. But Housesitters is also nostalgic and retro. The way it was produced, and the fact that some sequences take place in 1991, takes me back to an era that I only experienced for a few years. The era of VHS, when you could walk down to your local video store, find a movie like Housesitters on VHS, and think, “Hm. What is this about?” The musical scores, the references, the displays of sexuality… I may not have liked Housesitters in 2018, but it probably would’ve been more appreciated in 1991 by indie horror fans.
I also enjoyed the practical effects demonic creature and the fact that men were basically brought in to be canon fodder. Again, Housesitters had a ton of potential. But, at the end of the day, it was filmed like they shot the entire feature in the course of 2 days and just kept saying, “It’s good enough. On to the next scene.” A little extra effort in fine-tuning the equipment and directing the crew and letting the actors really give it their all until the magic happened would have greatly improved this flick. Jason Coffman’s Housesitters isn’t terrible by any means. I’ve seen much worse. But, it suffers from a lack of effort and a lack of understanding the product that would be seen upon rendering. And it just wasn’t my cup of tea. If you’re a comedy-horror fan who wants to take a risk, or if you enjoy B-movies from the early 90’s, I’d throw caution to the wind and give Housesitters a chance; especially if you’re in Chicago at the end of the month for Windy City Horrorama. Final Score: 5 out of 10.