Despite all of its shortcomings, House of Quarantine isn’t without its appeal. Just as there are symbolic aspects to its storytelling, this horror film works just as well as an unintentionally dark comedy: for every forgotten character, obvious attempt at breaking the fourth wall, or quick measure taken to ensure another character is written out of the story, there is bound to be some enjoyment, whether intended or not.
“Nine people have been locked down together in a house while trying to shoot a movie. Unknowingly, one of their group is infected with COVID-19. The next three weeks become a life and death struggle for survival with no help from the outside amidst a global pandemic and national chaos.”
Take The Shining and move it from a giant lodge to a somewhat wealthy guy’s house. Throw it into the Scooby-Doo universe where clues are based on wild, early speculation about COVID from cable news. Then sprinkle in a touch of Gilligan’s Island and some random, familiar horror concepts, and you have House of Quarantine, a 2020 film from Mitesh Kumar Patel and Applied Art Productions. A film crew is “trapped” in a house via quarantine protocols until somebody somewhere gives them the green light to leave. It includes the director (Drew Leatham), makeup artist (Zoey Walker), sound guy (King James Chavez), and some other cast and crew (Kelcie Weber, Nathan Gayan, Philip P. Carlisle) whose misadventure takes the COVID hysteria into “What if?” territory and adds plenty of familiar horror cliches throughout. The premise is more interesting than it seems at first glance when examining the whole thing at a metaphorical level, and the camera work and quality adds a unique horror throwback element to it. There are some fun insider nods to the filmmaking process and the labor involved, and the organic nature of tension and camaraderie is apparent in the writing.
But, as often happens when such tactics are relied upon, the larger outer story and characters end up sacrificed to the proverbial movie gods. With so many characters, it is difficult to develop many of them to a great degree, but here, NONE of the characters really have anything significant going for them past a few actions to advance the plot. Carlisle and Chavez bring the most energy to their roles, and Kelcie Weber could have been a great protagonist focus with the proper writing. But here, a given character is simply locked in a room and forgotten about for most of the movie, or death occurs off camera and written off almost entirely without any prompting other than “might have coronavirus” and other characters simply add nothing to what plot there is to be found. The pace is more akin to televised golf than a horror film. The viewer will likely be asking such questions as “Who exactly am I supposed to identify with or root for? When did they all blindly accept to stay in the house? Why doesn’t he just slide the small bricks off the grate? How can’t they get past one barking dog? Why were there even handcuffs here in the first place?” Instead of getting any answers, the predictable horror plot goes through the motions and the movie ends.
Despite all of its shortcomings, House of Quarantine isn’t without its appeal. Just as there are symbolic aspects to its storytelling, this horror film works just as well as an unintentionally dark comedy: for every forgotten character, obvious attempt at breaking the fourth wall, or quick measure taken to ensure another character is written out of the story, there is bound to be some enjoyment, whether intended or not. This is exactly the kind of movie that isn’t worthy of a high rating under normal circumstances, but is still worth your time if you’re the kind of person to find humor in the chaos and hastily written tragedy. You probably won’t die or even get too sick in this house of quarantine, but if you get just drunk enough, you can spend a night in it.
Written by Mitesh Kumar Patel and Randall Lee Smith, directed by Mitesh Kumar Patel.