Bloodbath in the House of Knives (2010)

Rating:

USA. 2010.

Crew

Director/Screenplay/Producer/Photography – Ted Moehring, Music – Cedric Crouch, Zack Meitzler & Ted Moehring, Additional Music – Korr & The Night Creatures, Special Effects/Makeup Effects – MLA Creations (Supervisor – Marnie Beitz). Production Company – Swamp Picnic Productions

Cast

Ann Weiss (Ivy Wallace), Joseph Michael (Detective Bliss), Monica Moehring (Violet Wallace), Lloyd Kaufman (Mr Delgardo), Damien Colletti (Nick Lemenza), John Link (Peter Verlaine), Tim Reaper (Bryan), Brandy Lee (Penny), Mike Walsh (Elijah), Nicola Fiore (Vivian), Cedric Crouch (Chief Adamson), Adam Madeira (Edgar Wallace), Kurt Strouse (John Cadell)


Plot

Ivy Wallace joins her sister Violet and father at a performance by a hypnotist in a cafe. Things go wrong when the man the hypnotist puts under attacks someone and Mr Wallace is shot during the midst of this. The police begin an investigation. Meanwhile, a masked killer starts torturing and stabbing to death Ivy’s friends and acquaintances, all the while leaving her taunting messages.


Bloodbath in the House of Knives is a debut feature from 29 year-old Pennsylvania based Ted Moehring. The film was shot as a low-budget independent feature.

Bloodbath in the House of Knives strikes up an interestingly strange psychotronic atmosphere. The film opens with a quote from Leo Tolstoy, which you cannot be sure shows either a promising literary grounding by the filmmakers or a film with grand pretensions. Moehring then kicks in with a nastily sordid opening where a girl (Nicola Fiore) returns to her apartment and is attacked by a masked figure in black who promptly rips off her top and despatches her by repeatedly stabbing a knife into her vagina, all of which labels the film as something prepared to push the envelope. There is an even nastier scene in the middle of the film where the killer ties Brandy Lee up in her apartment half naked, pokes steak skewers into the skin of her arms and side and then rips them out. One of the film’s most bizarre elements is the character of the hypnotist played by John Link, a scruffy man with bug eyes and most of his teeth missing who delivers his commands in a sleepy voice, something that makes Ray Sager, the hypnotist of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s similar The Wizard of Gore (1970), seem like a good actor. All of this gives Bloodbath in the House of Knives a tone of psychotronic weirdness, not to mention a decidedly disturbed edge when the bloodletting kicks in.

Bloodbath in the House of Knives is passably well conducted for the most part, albeit with an occasional amateurishness in the photography and lighting. There is the odd moment where the low-budget shows through – the nightclub owner’s office consists of no more than a workstation desk with shelves, while an apartment is denoted simply by a handwritten note pasted on the door. The main problem comes in the two lead performances from heroine Ann Weiss and detective Joseph Michael. Both play earnestly but their delivery of dialogue falls flat. I am not entirely sure if it is Ted Moehring’s writing and direction or simply their performances but there is an undeniable feeling of rote blankness to the delivery. The film’s elements could have worked well but these aspects drag it down to an amateurish level. The worst performance however comes from the film’s most high-profile cast member – Lloyd Kaufman, the cult head of Troma films. Kaufman seems badly miscast as Ann Weiss’s lawyer where he plays the part in a hopped-up mostly off-the-cuff performance that makes him seem like an intellectually handicapped clown.

And unfortunately, Ted Moehring fails to sustain the film. The two extremely out there despatches dissolve into cheap red herring gimmick shots – a hand creeping through Amy Weiss’s flat with a bloodied knife that turns out to only be a cop, a point-of-view shot with a gloved hand creeping up to Brandy Lee proving only to be her boyfriend and so on. The atmosphere of strangeness regarding hypnotism, mysterious secrets about the heroine’s past and the black masked killer dissipates in a mundane ending that first has a red herring suspect wrongly shot thought to be the killer, followed by a predictable revelation of the real killer. For that matter, we nevert even get to visit any titular house of knives. The film feels like a giallo thriller – the extravagant psycho-sexual killings, the contrived end psychological motivation – played out on a cheaper, more prosaic level. Still, Bloodbath in the House of Knives is a film with promise. Hopefully with his next couple of films, Ted Moehring will have polished things to the point that he is capable of delivering on such promise in bigger ways.

Ted Moehring next went on to make Invasion of the Reptoids (2011) and Camp Blood 666 (2016).



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