By Daniel Meyers (Pittsburgh, PA)
House Of Forbidden Secrets, written, directed, produced and edited by Todd Sheets, is set in one long night at a pretty amazing building called the Shadowview Manor, which is really as much of a character in the film as anyone else. Todd knows how to build suspense with sound design and some very good timing. The architecture and lighting combine perfectly to create mood and atmosphere to build scenarios designed to coax the shadowy spirits to show themselves. And they do, in increasing degrees by the end of the film.
One of the many strengths in the film is the quality of the acting. These characters are well defined, real people. Their relationships, based on humor and forced bonding in a terrible situation, would be entertaining enough that if no ghosts ever turned up, we would still be entertained. House of Forbidden Secrets creates characters who are not just there to be splatter movie prey, but who have some dimension. And it is surprising! I was expecting it to be like Todd Sheets’ earlier efforts, and was pleasantly surprised. This film takes it’s time introducing the cast, and letting you get to know and care about them.
But make no mistake, House of Forbidden Secrets is no dead-serious, slow burn, somber affair. This is a film with Horror History blood in its veins, with one major goal: To entertain an audience. In the end, House of Forbidden Secrets is a masterwork of shadow, disturbing images, violence and color, brought to us by a director who has a true vision of Horror, who knows his history of Horror Cinema, and who in the end, fills his film with both originality and nostalgia, creating something unique for a low budget film. A finely crafted late 70’s to early 80s feel, but also something new, fresh and gorgeously rebellious.
Another strength is the stunning music. By infusing the film with the haunting melodies of Fabio Frizzi, the expressive Italian composer of Classic Horror like Lucio Fulci’s most cherished films The Beyond, Zombie and City of the Living Dead really brings the sound to life! Perfectly blending with the surreal visuals and the impressive color palette. In addition to Fabio, there is other music from Japanese composer Toshiyuki Hiraoka, bringing a modern almost industrial vibe to certain parts of the film. Once again a mix of Classic and Modern Horror. Toshiyuki’s music is full of texture, layered and deep, with dark passages that haunt. With these two at his side, Todd Sheets was able to make a film that transcends the genre, opening up a whole new world for Todd to paint his darkest and bloodiest dreams.
It’s a dark tale indeed, relishing in the shadows of the expansive mansion setting and thriving on throwing your expectations back in your face. Just when you think you have the film all figured out, it takes a new turn, twisting the story into something special. It begins almost like a typical ghost film, about a haunted building, but by the end, it truly takes you into original territory, with a story that never feels forced. These are the types of twists that leave an audience surprised and excited, never betraying logic or the rules set forth at the beginning. It exceeded my expectations at every turn and the smart script truly re-imagined the tired haunted house genre, infusing it with new blood and, in the end, it really worked.
If you haven’t seen this movie then you owe it to yourself to view it as soon as possible. Keep an open mind, sit back and enjoy the ride. A film full of love for the Horror genre made with passion and care, both nostalgic and original. With one of the best soundtracks I have had the pleasure of hearing on a modern Horror film. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys low budget indie cinema, and to people who appreciate a cinematic adventure, with a demented edge and a visually vibrant eye.