The Hamiltons (2006): More than the sum of its parts

vlcsnap-2013-08-09-17h29m45s79In search for films to watch on the weekend, I found a blog that recommends horror movies I have never heard of. Being a huge fan of the genre, I was a little excited to see titles that are off my radar. The list includes the 70s film ‘Messiah of Evil’, the other adaptation of ‘I am Legend’ called ‘The Omega Man’, the cleverly-titled mockumentary ‘Home Video’, and so on.

Among the selection, the one that caught my eye was ‘The Hamiltons.’ The blog’s introduction to the independent film says ‘it’s better to see it without knowing much about it’ or something like that. Discovering that the movie was only reviewed by three critics on Rotten Tomatoes, I suddenly felt disinterested. Usually, the plan is to list down a couple of titles and then trim it down to the most well-received if not the most reviewed. Still, I gave it a chance. I decided to download it and conditioned myself to not give a shit if it sucks. But what do I fucking know? It was a pleasant surprise. In fact, I didn’t expect to like ‘The Hamiltons’ more than I thought I would.

It’s a story of four siblings who moves around the country a lot for reasons that are purposely undisclosed. They lost both of their parents at an early age. They seem like the typical dysfunctional family, but actually, ‘dysfunctional’ doesn’t even come close to describing the kind of family that they really are. As I would really like for a lot of people to see The Hamiltons, I will now stop divulging additional plot details.

The low-budget stigma is apparent throughout the movie. The set design looks cheap and the camera-work is ameteurish, but almost all the actors who play major roles are good. The complex but tight relationship between the Hamilton siblings is a thing of beauty and rarity for the genre. Even the supporting characters have well-structured roles which is refreshing to watch. They are not cardboard caricatures you could find easily in your ordinary horror flick. I can definitely say that this is the movie’s biggest strength.

One of the impressive things the movie also has in spades is its ambience. It pretty much gets an A for its subtle yet nervous mood. The scoring also adds a nice touch. It doesn’t go over the top when tension escalates. It’s not out to murder eardrums with unnecessary loud booming noises.

As for the writing, the dialogue exchange between the characters in many scenes and the main protagonist’s poignant narration are crafted in such authentic form. It’s believable and is an absolute step-up from the usual offerings of the genre. It doesn’t become stupid or annoying unlike the same old lines you hear from horror movies when the story gets to the point where a character’s life is in danger or when the antagonist explains the reason for his/her bloodlust. More importantly, it doesn’t treat the viewer like a stupid kid who needs to be spoon-fed with information that could be easily attained through mere attentiveness or little careful observation.

Some might be put off by ‘The Hamiltons’ low-grade production value, but those who are prepared to look beneath the surface will find a masterfully told horror drama that favors mood and a well-thought-out story over gore and cheap shocks. It also serves as an allegory of what it means to be part of a sequestered community in a world where doing what you can to live is something you can only do behind closed doors.

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