Chicken House (2022) Film Review

★★★

Directed by: #CateJones

Written by: #CateJones

Starring: #AshleyMandanas, #CateJones, #JessiKyle, #KassieGann

Film Review by: Emily Davison


An eccentric new roomate from LA shakes up the lives of three, small town aspiring actresses.

Chicken House (2022) is an American subversive comedy, shot in nine days on a $17k budget. Director/writer Cate Jones also stars as the unusual new roomate, Cat, who quickly makes a strong impression on her three acquaintances when she turns up on their doorstep and not long after warns the others of an evil presence in one of the bedrooms, stating that there is a poltergeist living there.

The overall tone of the movie is definitely striking as original and daring, with an array of bizarre circumstances and character interactions taking place throughout the almost ninety minute running time, with our four leads all having unusual or quirky traits about them. Before the mysterious Cat even arrives, we are introduced to intriguing characters with the three oddball roomates. Charlie is the awkward, yet friendly one who struggles with her sexual identification as a lesbian; Beth is a religious fanatic who has covered her room in artefacts and a painting of Jesus above her bed and April spends her time recording voice over auditions about vaginal health.

Cate Jones certainly has a unique vision when it comes to her filmmaking, presenting a captivating visual aesthetic with different styles of cinematography and experimenting with various, clever uses of the camera to tell her unconventional narrative. Jones largely shoots with black and white photography for flashbacks in the house, with more grown up versions of the cast being interviewed about their experience in full colour. She also makes use of home video style film footage with a grainy quality to the image, as we hear of each character’s background through voice over. Jones even changes the aspect ratio from widescreen to academy 4:3 later in the film for one scene.

The black and white photography works at enhancing the surreal quality of the film, as well as the dedicated performances from the cast, especially during a dreamlike intimate sequence between Cat and Charlie. There is generally a high quality, stimulating experience to the movie, with Jones incorporating a lot of hand-held camera to flit between characters talking and delivering on the dark sense of humour found throughout. A simple conversation between Charlie and Cat becomes more engaging and thought-provoking when Jones opts to include a mirror in the background, allowing viewers to see her reactions instead of cutting back and forth between over the shoulder shots.

Although the film does have its technical and performance highlights from everyone involved, there is a downside when it comes to the narrative, which will not be accessible to most. The originality and bizarre quality of the film does make it strangely compelling, however, it is not always clear what is going on and if any of the odd events are leading up to anything. Many times the plot does feel like a series of comprised circumstances, though different chapter title cards does give the movie some sense of structure and a hilarious twist ending involving an exorcist and misunderstandings leaves you with a strong impression.

Overall, Chicken House is a quirky little film exhibiting great direction and admirable performances, but it does somewhat struggle to keep its momentum with an often confusing and shaky plot.


#EmilyDavison

Chicken House (2022) trailer:

https://vimeo.com/692035668

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