A small group of medical students hang out together and enjoy their youth by doing drugs, having sex, and partying. Things soon somber up after one of their friends is raped and murdered. Now these friends have to rally together and try to escape their drug fueled nightmare, as they are systematically picked off one by one from John and Wilma Hopper; an infamous couple known for raping their victims to death. Only problem is that the Hoppers died back in the 70's.
Considered to be a genre-defying contemporary take on grindhouse cinema; "Someone's Knocking at the Door" is another endeavor in these days of neo-grindhouse movies that get in the face of the viewer with unpleasant content while also trying be a respectable title outside its shock factor. I was quite happy that Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films sent a screener as it looked like it was going to be an exciting film, especially with all the buzz surrounding the film's content.
The story revolves around degenerate medical school students who spend their time doing drugs and sleeping around; your typical archetype horror characters. But what good is a group of debaucherous teens without someone there to not only kill their buzz, but them as well? In true trash-house fashion the killers, John Hopper and Wilma Hopper use the kid's fun times against them and kill them with sex. Or to be more specific; John rapes them to death with his Elephant Man-like penis or Wilma devours them with her cooch.
So yes, the general plot of the movie definitely strikes the right chords for exploitive trash and is a reasonable homage to grindhouse movies. That’s where it ends though because the movie touches on many different genres and styles, and unfortunately it doesn't do a very good job of doing so. In general the entire movie intentionally plays out as a black-comedy; sometimes using the horrific idea of people (both men and women) being raped to death by a cock that's 15 inches long and 4 inches in diameter for laughs rather than horror, but still playing up on the trash aspect. The hardest part of the movie though is getting past the first half of the movie which plays out more as a character drama than a black-comedy.
The movie is a slow-burn in general; but the first half of the movie spends so much time setting up the characters and their situation. It feels like it takes longer to get through those 30-40 minutes than it actually does. It works to help setup the story but it fails on some points because it focuses so much on the characters who are all cliché and one dimensional. You don't really care if they live or die. Once you get past that first half though, the rest of the movie plays out in the horror-exploitation style that I think most people, including myself, were expecting. These horror-esque moments are fairly respectable since they can be suspenseful and down right creepy when they want to be. But because these parts are so good it makes the pace and the tone of the movie turn into a bit of a mess and make it seem like the movie didn't know what it wanted to be. It's a black-comedy but with equal parts horror, drama, absurdity, art-house, and even sometimes straight comedy. The problem is that there is no real transition between these tones: its slow or its quick, its humorous or its creepy, its trash or its artistic. As a result, it makes the viewing feel choppy because it just jumps from one to the other.
For me though, what I felt was the strongest aspect of "Someone's Knocking at the Door" is the editing and the audio. I wouldn't necessarily pigeon hole this movie into the experimental subgenre, but how the movie is pieced together in editing and a few underlying themes it certainly take ques from that style of film. "Someone’s Knocking" doesn't bombarded the viewers with too many of these visual stimuli but it does insert enough sets of quick cuts and flashy imagery that it helps to give the movie an atmosphere of being on the nightmarish-drug trip with the characters. With the audio; I'm not strictly talking about the soundtrack, which itself can get quirky at times by playing oddly upbeat tunes during the more horrific moments. Rather I'm referring to the sound effects and the audio that plays with experimental visuals and editing. To credit the work of the Chad Ferrin and the post-production crew, these moments aren't merely done at random like it seems when you are initially watching it. Once the movie reaches its climax, some of the random moments won't seem as random and will hold relevance from the connections to the story.
Oddly enough the ending is actually what helped to bring me back into this movie, because I was almost at the point of residing myself to disliking the movie. While I did enjoy the direction the movie took towards the end; the ending itself is something that has been done before and in movies that are better which makes it a little disappointing in that aspect. In the end; I'm on the fence about "Someone's Knocking at the Door". After it was over, I really wanted to like it because of the editing, the audio, and in general the production quality the film has. What hurts it the most though is the story being flimsy from nothing ever really fleshing out and the lack of a general cohesiveness. As well as the erratic pacing and ever changing tone, along with bad acting and the fact that the movie seems to spend more time trying to be esoteric than creating a tighter product. Another thing is that the movie doesn't work at being a shock title like it seemed to be going for. While there are claims of it being shocking and depraved, the movie never really goes too far or shows too much. As a matter of fact it plays a lot on "it's what you don't see" and it works quite well for the movie but for a shock film, not so much.
Also, even though it's of no real importance, I will say that it isn't quite the grindhouse throwback like it says; it certainly is a movie that would be played in a grindhouse given the content. The best way to describe this movie would be to call it trashy-art. I wouldn't put much of an urgency in watching the movie but if you do have a general interest in it, then I'd recommend checking it out down the road. If you find yourself not to keen on the synopsis, then I would advise you to skip it as the movie is going to have a very selective audience.