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17/06/2012

The Hamiltons (2006)




What does it mean to be happy? To be content in the world around you?



*...I don't know why I continue to see the Butcher Brothers' feature The Hamiltons as a short - I have watched it often enough to be familiar with and aware of the 86:35 playing length, so it can't be that. I am not usually stoned and/or drunk when watching it, and have not experienced intoxicant-induced blackouts recently, so it can't be that either. I know the story, the structure, the characters. But it still remains a short in my mind - short movie as well as short story.

It is a good story, though - perfect material for a short story. A novella if you really want to dig into the material, but being one of the creatures with a penchant for stringing words together so that they may look pretty, shiny and appetising, I'd spontaneously go with the short story-format.
Take care: A teenager is rebelling against his family whilst slipping into puberty. Twist: He's from a family of (...) monsters (?).
Essentially, this is the plot. And I can see how you can work a solid story around this, how to use the particularities of a teenager trying to figure out where he fits into the world in the case of a family without parents trying to figure out their place in the world. The isolation, the problems. Seriously - I would like to write something like this if I would be more inclined to A) take up the pen again, B) had any sort of connection to that concept - besides for having been a teenager once myself, as I suppose most of us have. But the thing I would not be able to do is wring more than is in the story out of it. And I think that this is what The Hamiltons is attempting. It does not fail - it works commendably considering what it has to work with. However: Do not make full-length movies (or stories!) out of short-story-material.

That said:

I have a soft spot in my heart for anthropomorphic non-traditional monster portrayals in which the monsters can also be, you know, 'normal' and stuff like that. Considering that, I really should appreciate the new millennium, as the fad of using outsiders and monster-like creatures as protagonists doesn't seem to stop anytime soon, but I am admittedly not the biggest fan of those ...thing-ies. Do remember, however, that Cannibal Flesh Riot! is the best movie in the whole world evar.

So... monstrous humanoid family. I guess it's not a big secret that the actual kind of monstrous humanoid being under consideration here are vampires (and yes, I dread vampire flicks these days...).
I imagine that people who perceive human blood on a superficial level (smell through skin, aroma on sweat, see the subcutan veins and capillaries, are aware of the pulse and/or heartbeat, can see the minute movements of skin spread out over the pathways of blood...) all.the.effing.time appear to be spaced out a bit when they are caught up in someone's blood's perception. An I imagine near-perfect portrayal by young actor Cory Knauf - so yeah, in order to check the acting we'd need to observe a starved blood-drinker in its natural surroundings, and I somehow doubt that this will happen anytime soon. As long as monsters are not being revealed to mankind as real, we have to take this performance as the best we can get at the moment (not counting TV-appearances by self-proclaimed 'real vampires' - more power to those of my awesome readers who happen to be of that persuasion, but: srsly?).

Staying with that topic for a moment, I shall rant: Amazingly, this movie is not on the hot-list of real vampires all over the world, or at least so I gather from the occasional mention of 'real vampires' disapproving of this movie on the various online media which cater to movie-lovers and other creatures of the horror movie world, under which I freely subsume those who need to proclaim that they are licking other irresponsible people's blood off the tiny wounds they inflicted with diabetics' tools. *shakes head* Srsly. People who want to be taken seriously should attempt to stay away from clichés like having a fake European accent, being all pale and clad in black, wallowing in self-pity - in general: Try not to be V:tM. Even if it goes against even your most uninhibited animalistic instincts to throw yourself at the mercy of the media and rational people waiting to point their fingers at you mockingly.

So.
Enough of subtly insulting minorities, on with the review in question.


How would you feel if you knew you were suffering from a rare disease of unknown origin - one that made you need human blood, one that made you need to drink it (-- fresh --) regularly? In large doses? A disease for which there was no cure, which wasn't even acknowledged by the medical sciences or even within the emerging fields of new medical research? Something apparently genetic, which has already changed you, made you different from other people - and you know that you'll need to drink at some point, else your health and sanity fail.
What would you do?

The Hamiltons tries to tell this story from the POV of a teenager (Francis, played by aforementioned Cory Knauf) born into a family of blood-drinkers. 'real vampires', if you will. They're apparently not immortal, nor immune to diseases, aging, wounds etc. - or the effects from lack of food. They love, hate; they feel passion (mostly for one another, but who would blame then - if you'd be part of a family of monsters that eats humans, you wouldn't exactly want to be with a human being unless you truly enjoy making yourself suffer mental and psychological agonies like straight from the abyss, or at least that's my guess). They try to live a normal life in a world that doesn't really offer up a place for them, stuck in a society in which they're not really able to 'be normal' at all; and the need to take in human blood as per survival makes normalcy within a human society very, very complicated... especially for teenagers of a rebellious age. And a family this volatile.

So... the family:
- David (odd but good performance by Samuel Child), the oldest of the siblings: Working as a butcher, he remains the one attempting to make their lives as normal as possible. Under 'normal', David understands 'banal', 'trifling' and 'American', judging from the things he enacts in order to introduce normalcy to their lives. He is also a quiet homosexual and raging with suppressed anger, which comes out pretty clearly in how Child chooses to depict the 'nice elder brother[-thing-from-the-beyond]'. 
- The twins, Wendell and Darlene (Joseph McKelheer and Mackenzie Firgens respectively). They are the ones who don't care for normalcy or 'fitting in' with the crowd - after all, the crowd consists of food. Point. The incestuous couple seems to follow a hedonistic life principle, where enjoying yourself and feeding, using, abusing and playing with people is one of the more fun things to do. Add sex and slight bi-polar tendencies in both, and you got yourself an explosive mix.
- Francis - teenager. 'nuff said.

Teenager Francis' plight is actually understandable in hindsight: Watching the movie for the first time, statements like "But I really don't fit in there!" in regards to school, just to state one example, just seemed eternally, abysmally bad. After the ending, re-watching the flick to see how I responded to the movie after knowing the story, I found the stereotyped scenes to be amusing and a kind of an inside nod to the viewers in the know rather than a mistake of the script / movie's conceptualisation. It's things like this that make up for the lack of the story's potential outside a short. It would be my guess that the Butcher Brothers are quite intentionally portraying ironically heightened stereotypes of certain rôles within society these days - a pointed and realistic portrayal of people in need of portraying people due to not-really-being-people. Gods, this is complicated at times like this...!

Talking to an acquaintance about this movie, I realised that the plot's elements actually correspond quite perfectly to van Gennep's theory of rites de passage - in this particular case, the class of initiation rites. What Francis is going through symbolises the classical transition from child to adult, the coming-of-age as it is more commonly known - within the universe and mythology the Butcher Brothers established in this movie. The focus of the movie on transitions is palpable throughout, as well as a focus on boundaries and the transgression of them. I don't want to accuse the movie of having been structured after ritual theory and/or other anthropological/sociological/psychological etc. concepts, but if you're taking those into consideration, it helps to enrich an otherwise pretty (low-)standard flick. And make me wax philosophically about fucking ritual theory... I really should get a grip on myself.

Speaking of people not-really-being-people: Why, do these vampiric types always decide to dutifully eat food that they know they cannot stomach properly, leading to the inevitable throwing up after eating? Why? I mean... WHY?! What could it possibly be that makes people eat things that make them throw up violently? A kind of weird, pseudo-humanistic insistence on being like everybody else, only not in the sense that solid food makes you vomit (...then again, I am the last person that should talk when it comes to throwing up 'normal food' and living with an unusual diet...)? What kind of twisted world view is this?
...I am baffled. Simply baffled.

Besides for this complex topic: David actually is merely keeping up a rational and sane persona all the time - which breaks at around the hour mark, when he starts exsanguinating a blonde twat and rants to her about random things - I would be more specific here, but alas, I don't want to watch the movie again for merely this quote. 
Admittedly, this is exactly the point where I would suspect someone who has kept a mask of sanity all the time around others and who gets triggered by the scent and/or sight of blood to break out of the persona and fall right into the pit of self.
As for being a stickler for details:
During the exsanguination, David uses some sort of... I don't know, a mix between a dialysis-machine, those things used for washing plasma and simple bags and tubes.
I cannot see the pumping equipment; also, as far as I am aware of, you need thicker plastic tubes to transfer blood effectively from the human body to some receptable (like a blood bag, as used in this movie). However, I shall believe the pwetty pictures, so I'll let these things slide. For nao.



6.2 / 10 memories slipping away in blood. And family.

 
"We live with a disease.
[...]
And everything you thought you knew about us is wrong.
We live in the houses next to you; we work in the stores you shop at; our kids play with your kids. We're just trying to be an ordinary family trying to figure out where we fit in in the world.
But we do need blood. And we need a lot of it.
Preferrably fresh, and not frozen."


* No screenshots for the time being; the laptop I am using is not able to handle that much stress. 

8 comments:

  1. whoa, massive and very well written review for a movie I thought was pretty crappy. The basic concept is interesting as fuck, but IMO the Butcher Brothers totally failed to create any likable characters, the acting is so-so and there's almost no suspense or tension. I ended up bored as hell.

    I'm a bit of a Burtcher Bros hata. Their April April remake was a huge piece of dreck, and Violent Kind was a muddled mess (still, it's their best movie so far)..

    For whatever reasons, the just finished a sequel to Hamiltons, THE THOMPSONS. Trailer looks meh and is packed with too much CGI blood (sigh...)
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xqxltn_the-thompsons-trailer-vo_shortfilms

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  2. I may be overdoing this whole 'find explanations for crappy things in horror movies'-thing, but I think the non-likeable characters are like that on purpose. Then again, you're definitely right about the lack of proper acting (although I did find Daniel Child to at least try and give his character depth of some sort), and yeah... not a lot of atmosphere to go on.

    I've yet to see any of their other flicks, so I can't really judge the rest. Dammit, need Violent Kind.

    I've read about The Thompsons, and admittedly am not really too keen about it. The story looked like a forced attempt to wring some sort of, IDK, deep vampire-thing out of their established premise, which kind if sucks IMO. And yay for CGI blood (...not)!

    Merci for the link, Mr. Morrissey. Highly appreciated.

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  3. yeah, it's probably just a stupid cash-in, especially because the Butcher Bros' last 2 movies both flopped. Superfluous suck-sequel.

    My pleasure, Ms. Sanity :) oh, and dammit, you just saw Violent Kind! :D

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  4. HBA Welcome Wagon...
    Wanted to let you know, you part of the Alliance. Please stop by and check to make sure your link is correct. Remember to say Thank You and visit the other HBA Members.

    Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
    Visit The Madness:
    [RETRO-ZOMBIE]
    HBA Curator

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  5. I agree with the first post. This was an amazingly well done review. Lots of detail. I didn't care for the movie overall but it was decent. I liked how they incorporated them being vampires.

    swing by my page
    http://grimmreviewz.blogspot.com/

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  6. Hey, welcome to HBA!
    BloodyBrooklynn.blogspot.com

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  7. Hey, Sorry that this is completely off-topic, but I tagged you for a Liebster Blog Award: http://therottingzombie.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/liebster-blog-award.html
    (If you don't want to pass it on, that's okay, just wanted to let you know!)

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  8. w0000t! I am away from the internet for a month, and suddenly things happen and people look at what I write :)

    Thanks for the comments - means a lot to me to know that I do not embarrass other horror fans too much with my ranting! Appreciated much.

    So, now off to check out your respective sites, check out this Liebster Blog Thing (...no idea what that is, to my shame...), post a new review and hope the laptop doesn't crash again!

    ReplyDelete