Gory and frequently slipping into the realms of bad taste, Stay Out Of The Attic is a short, sharp shock that won’t suit everyone.
Synopsis: A diverse group of ex-cons-turned-movers are convinced by their creepy client to pull an all-nighter for a generous pay bump. As the night progresses and rooms are cleared, they slowly uncover the horrors that exist inside his old Victorian mansion, including boobytraps, human experimentation, Nazi monsters and more. Will they survive the night?
Odds are if you find yourself scrolling through available titles and linger over Stay Out Of The Fucking Attic, you’re likely not in the mood for anything subtle and with that in mind, you may be more open to enjoying the simple storytelling and schlocky outbursts it presents. This is Nazisploitation in a more modern setting, addressing the continuing repulsion of and fascination with Nazi material, lore and prominent figures.
Schillinger (Ryan Francis) is a former prisoner who runs a moving company, named Second Chance Moving Company (I did mention the lack of subtlety), designed to give himself and others in his position a chance at a life outside of the prison system. He is aided by Imani (Morgan Alexandria) and new recruit Carlos (Bryce Fernelius). After starting their work at the home of Vern (Michael Flynn), he offers them a much higher rate for a tougher deadline to clear the house, with the caveat that they are not to enter the attic or basement. Of course, no surprises here when the group break this rule and soon the secrets of the house begin to spill out.
From the title credits, we get shots of the house, intercut with sometimes antiquated medical equipment accompanied by crunchy, dirge-like audio that lets you know in advance that there is something dark beyond the walls. The film does spend time introducing its characters after this, particularly their pasts. Redemption is the primary concern of all three main characters and the company allows them to look forward to rebuilding their lives. For Imani, it represents a move away from her violent past. Carlos is seeking to forget his previous drug addiction and give his young daughter a better chance. However, Schillinger’s past is more complex and as a result, his arc dominates proceedings. While Francis’ performance is up to the task here, it does feel a shame that the equally capable Alexandria and Fernelius are not given anything much more than their introductions to develop. Flynn’s Vern feels suitably sinister, even as the plot unfolds in increasingly baffling direction.
Centring the white male protagonist, especially given the subject matter also feels designed to avoid adding too much in the way of further nuance. There are deeply uncomfortable set pieces on show here that fit the exploitation mould, but there is a cheapness and lack of pay-off to their inclusion that sits uncomfortably. This is not helped by an eye-roll worthy development that feels like an unnecessary helping of bad taste, rather than anything necessary to steer the film. In terms of providing horror that is genuinely horrific, it succeeds and the building of some imagery may well stick with you. The film is at its best when it dips a toe into the more complex issues at hand, particularly the need to (sometimes painfully) shed your former life and decisions you have made, but so often falls back into the more straightforward unpleasantness that it is difficult to gel with.
Grim by design, unashamedly shlocky and running at 80 minutes, Stay Out Of The Attic is mostly surface, despite its underlying nastiness.
Stay Out Of The Attic premieres on Shudder (US/Canada/UK/ANZ on March 11th.