Thursday, April 2, 2015

Housekeeping: Horror Movie Feeds On Fiendish Class, Race And Gender Issues

Make no mistake, Housekeeping is strictly standard horror. Intended to perpetrate maximum scare tactics on audiences by basically any means necessary.

But it's not so much first time feature film director Jennifer Harrington's spine tingling strategy towards achieving this goal in Housekeeping that intrigues, but rather the subject matter. And once again, during this horrific state of affairs playing out in the ongoing economic crisis and doomed hard times in this country, it seems to be all about work. Or the lack of it.

And on that note, what could be more horrifying as a monster in residence in movies these days, than those demonic creatures known as bosses. Or dehumanizing worker exploitation. All of which adds up to a potential new pathological strain in the genre.

And in the case of Housekeeping, there's an added and innovative, indeed disturbing element, of the boss going postal instead on a worker, rather than the other way around. As well as in the particular case of this all female conceived and carried out Housekeeping, a horror movie for a change invoking female fightback over the torture porn of women. And with the implementation of problem solving brainy analysis rather than brainless violence.

Adriana Solis is Lucy Castillo in Housekeeping, a distraught Latina medical student in LA surviving on a scholarship. And who is desperate to raise cash quickly, in order to help her wayward younger brother being held and tortured by a street gang for money owed.

And Lucy is turned down repeatedly for even menial jobs she seeks, in the midst of the current mass unemployment and minimal prospects. And this scary reality is more than effectively conveyed in the rejection messages incessantly delivered via the creepy, robotic voice on her answering machine.

Disheartened and increasingly despondent, Lucy reluctantly accepts from a questionable old high school acquaintance, a job as a housemaid for another affluent, domineering former female classmate. And in fact the sort of dead end demeaning position in life she had been doing her best to distance herself from, that had been work performed by her late mother. But no matter how menial or humiliating had been the work her mother endured, Lucy is up against circumstances far more terrifying. And essentially an oppressive white employer who is never seen, but leaves increasingly demanding and depraved written orders for her each day to fulfill as her duties, or else.

All of which beyond the standard malevolent mayhem, raises larger, sinister questions. And basically, would you do anything to hold on to a job? And not necessarily the kind of colleague backstabbing that transpires in the competitive world of dog eat dog capitalism. But for instance, stabbing a neighborhood cat your boss deems annoying, because she orders you to do so.

As such, Housekeeping rises above its conventional horror to ponder those sorts of issues that can instigate human fears among the masses feeding horror in the first place. And opening the proverbial door for the socio-economic violence of issues like class, race and gender to kick in.

Prairie Miller