The House of Violent Desire, the newest film from writer/director Charlie Steeds, is posited as a classic Gothic story intermingled with a psychosexual thriller. And truthfully, that’s what you’re provided. That’s a heavy load for any one movie to handle, but there’s something to be said for going all out and throwing everything into the mix. So despite it not pulling off everything it tries to, it’s commendable in its intention as it’s a risk you seldom see.
Aesthetically, Steeds does a fantastic job of taking Gothic tropes and amping them up to 11. There’s conventional imagery subverted through unconventional lighting and color; although, it does seem slightly oversaturated when employed too often. Pacing could be much tighter as well. We’re often found lingering on something/someone for far too long–even by Gothic horror standards. There just wasn’t enough intrigue in the psychosexual elements for it to stand out from the Gothic horror, which made for a confusing narrative that seemed rushed.
Performances are a little overzealous, but it’s hard not to be emotive with such time-specific/region based dialogue. The House of Violent Desire almost resembles a stage production in that way. That said, Esme Sears delivers a truly standout performance. Cordetta is essentially always in a panicked mental state, and she dominates the scene each and every time she gets the opportunity. Both Carl Andersson and Rowena Bentley’s contributions are also noteworthy as they drive home how aesthetic excess can sometimes give way to truly nuanced moments. For Andersson, it would be the seduction scene with Daniel McKee. For Bentley, the scene in which she recounts her daughter’s diary entry to Agatha’s fiancé.
It’s a highly stylized homage to Gothic horror, and while not it’s not completely successful in its execution, it takes refreshing risks. I look forward to Steed’s future films, and you should be too. The House of Violent Desire is available now on Amazon
The House of Violent Desire [Review]