Gillis takes us inside one of the weirdest and most gruesome bed and breakfasts ever with his new release House of Many Sorrows. Writing a storyline that is reminiscent of Psycho and setting up camera shots that seem to pay homage to other classic horror flicks, House of Many Sorrows hits closer to a chilling sort of horror compared to Gillis’ other films, such as The Killing Games (review) and Wicked World (review), which are pretty much mentally unstable gore porn cult features.
I would say that the pacing of House of Many Sorrows is surprisingly on the slower side compared to Gillis’ other ventures. Again, it is closer to an actual horror film than he has previously done yet there seemed to be less killing and less exploitative nudity capitalization going on than usual. There is always a bit of a porno feel to Gillis’ works, even when there is little nudity, as is the case for House of Many Sorrows, which actually co-stars long-time porn actress, Miss Ginger Lynn. It could also be the barebones set decoration, the amateur acting, and the staccato dialogue delivery that gives off this distinct porno vibe, but it is one of the telltale signs of this auteur, whose trashy type of cinema is growing on me.
Despite these calling cards from this Canuxploitation filmmaker that might deter more high-brow viewers, to me, Gillis continues to deliver compelling slasher films in a time where too many indie films seem to be copying and pasting a bunch of genre tropes until they have an hour and a half of footage. In House of Many Sorrows, John Garofalo II stars as Arthur, kicking things off with a Travis Bickle inspired “you talking to me” monologue that sets a mentally charged, sadistic dark-horse kind of vibe for his character from the get-go. Things only get better from there — in typical Gillis fashion, the protagonist is an anti-hero, muttering to himself about the ills of the world like a Fyodor Dostoevsky character come to life. John decides to hire a woman, Loni (Samantha Brownlee) to help him to care for his ailing mother while he manages the tenants of their house, but eventually, the effects of his negative worldview and his horrific childhood manifest as killer behavior.
It seems that Gillis’ intention with House of Many Sorrows was to do more of a character study, I am hard-pressed to compare it to Taxi Driver, but there is more time spent showing the inner workings of the anti-hero/protagonist. It is an evolution, in a way, to more narrative-driven filmmaking, and there are some psychologically heavy moments bolstered by the use of dream sequences intermixed with the many typical unusual moments of a Gillis film. If you are a fan of his earlier work you are still very much getting a Barry Gillis, Canuxploitation feature, but one that is markedly experimental and surreal compared to his other works. Here and there, Gillis still takes detours into the unnecessary scenes that he likes to edit in, however, House of Many Sorrows is his more streamlined, coherent story, and has the added bonus of featuring one of his best bloody kill-shots to date — and that’s saying a lot, because a lot of people have been shot in Barry Gillis films!
One must certainly be a fan of those lone maniac movies like Hobo With A Shotgun, and/or have a love of B-grade, shot on video, exploitation types films to truly appreciate a Gillis film — think John Waters or Tommy Wiseau but with even less manners. House of Many Sorrows should hit the right spot for any shotgun-killer itches you may need scratched; it is worth a look, if not only for the fact that Gillis continues to produce sexually charged, gut-wrenching (emotionally and visually), and unique trash cinema. To catch this understated chiller, look out for it on streaming platforms and on Amazon for Blu-ray/DVD purchases when the film is released June 30th!
MOVIE RATING — 6.5 out of 10 ☠️