‘Where desire becomes nightmare’
The House of Violent Desire is a 2018 British horror film written and directed by Charlie Steeds (The Barge People; Winterskin; Cannibal Farm). The Dark Temple Motion Pictures production stars Kate Davies-Speak, Peter Cosgrove, Joe Street, and Barrington De La Roche.
The film is described as “A Gothic horror set in the 1940s, a psychosexual thriller disguised as a traditional ghost story.”
In a remote hilltop mansion, a mysterious stranger emerges from a thunderstorm in the night, seeking refuge with the Whipley family; four young adults ruled by their strict religious mother, and their troubled father, who has vanished the previous evening.
But perhaps the ‘stranger’ is more connected to this family and to the dark unknown history of the house than they could ever suspect, and as the visitor begins to cultivate sexual tensions and paranoia within the house, the devilishly erotic history of the Whipley family threatens to lure them deep into its lustful, violent madness once again.
Awoken by screams in the night, young Evelyn Whipley (Yasmin Ryan) is found drenched in blood and mysteriously bound to the bed…
The House of Violent Desire begins with a rather silly pseudo-satanic opening, unimpressive by most standards, and diminished even further by the tinny, electronically enhanced canticle provided by Sam Benjafield. Charlie Steeds, who is the auteur here, directs adequately but his script isn’t entertaining enough, and as producer, he just doesn’t know when to quit.
On the plus side, as writer, Steeds is obviously drawing on older, tested sources, constructing a seemingly versed English Gothic, similar in tone to, but hardly meeting, James Whale’s The Old Dark House (1932). Thus, Steeds’ script succeeds with its rabble of eccentric, Dickensian characters and derivative plot
elements: a foreboding sense of mystery, an itch-inducing grounds keeper (Barrington De La Roche), a caustic Lady of the House (Rowena Bentley), ineffectual upper-class children (Kate Davies-Speak, Yasmin Ryan, and Daniel McKee), something or someone hiding in the attic, a dark figure skulking
through shadows accompanied by clicking sounds, and a mysterious stranger arriving during a nighttime thunderstorm.
Unfortunately, this also makes the film seem strangely displaced and antiquated, producing an ectopic synesthesia with a prying satirical undertone and a slightly off-kilter, creepy-uncle wink. From that uncomfortable high point, the movie slowly devolves into a carnal melodrama built on Freud’s best projected fantasies, with large dollops of perverse sex-play, bestial histrionics, and hints of the forbidden fruit.
At nearly two hours long, The House of Violent Desire is occasionally interesting, rarely intriguing, frequently tedious and, despite the weather-vane plot, mostly annoying. Perhaps why the film was made in the first place can best be summed up by the groundskeeper who, between ominous thunderclaps, says at one
point: “A most mysterious occurrence, mam. I haven’t a clue.”
Ben Spurling, MOVIES & MANIA
Cast and characters:
- Kate Davies-Speak [as Kate Marie Davies] … Agatha Whipley
- Peter Cosgrove … to be confirmed
- Joe Street … Damien DeHaan
- Barrington De La Roche … Sylas Scorpius – Cannibal Farm; Blood Moon
- Rowena Bentley … Lady Whipley
- Carl Andersson… The Visitor
- Yasmin Ryan … Evelyn Whipley
- Daniel McKee … Adriel Whipley
- Esme Sears … Cordetta Crimson Rose
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