DVD Review: Stash House
Review by Tristan Bishop
Films can teach us valuable lessons about life, and one such lesson which has been repeated throughout the decades is that drugs are dangerous – from the pothead teens of Reefer Madness (1936) through to the sixties LSD scare films such as Alice In Acidland (1969) right through to more modern fare such as the nightmarish spiral of addictions that is Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream (2000). Stash House is a rather different beast, as, rather than showing us the perils of taking a couple of puffs at a party, or the hell that can result from addiction to harder chemicals, it warns of the far more immediate danger of accidentally buying a house made of drugs and having Dolph Lundgren try to kill you for it.
A young couple, David and Emma Nash, played respectively by Sean Farris and Brianna Evigan (daughter of BJ and The Bear’s Greg Evigan!), manage to secure their dream home for a song in a government foreclosure sale. The house is fitted with several surveillance cameras, and seems to be extremely secure. So secure, in fact, that it transpires the windows are made of bulletproof glass, and the walls of metal, which starts to make sense when they discover massive stashes of heroin secured in the walls; they have somehow managed to purchase a drug gang’s stash house, fortified against attacks from other gangs. Realising that they probably don’t have the most desirable residence on the block, they attempt to get out immediately, but they are scuppered by the arrival of Ray, a man posing as a policeman who had previously called to welcome them to the neighbourhood. It turns out that Ray is rather sinister, and pulls a gun on them. Retreating into the house and barricading themselves inside (helped by a whole host of security measures they had not previously discovered), they attempt to bargain with Ray and his accomplice Andy Spector (Dolph Lundgren) who has just arrived. However, even throwing the drugs out of the window doesn’t seem to work – Ray and Andy appear to be looking for something else, and will not stop until they get it. The rest of the film is a cat and mouse game as the couple defend themselves against the criminals.
There’s really not a great deal new here – Most of the film plays out like Home Alone meets Panic Room, although there are a couple of new ideas and twists later on. The set-up is fairly fresh, however, and the film does move along at a swift pace, with a decent amount of action for a film with such a small cast. Acting is pretty solid for the most part, although Dolph will never win any awards, and to my mind he doesn’t really have the threatening presence required from a good villain, despite his physical mass. Dolph doesn’t get to do much action man stuff in this one, sadly, although the script takes some surprising turns and almost makes him into a sympathetic character at one point – although, it has to be said, not for long.
Eduardo Rodriguez’s direction is actually not too shabby, and he pulls off some real tension in a few sequences (specifically one where David attempts to sneak up behind the dodgy duo and take one of their guns without being noticed), but, unusually for a film with such subject matter, it feels a little restrained at times – there is a particularily wince-inducing moment involving breaking fingers, however, for those that like that kind of thing (i.e. me).
Unfortunately the film scuppers itself a little by using far too much black and white surveillance camera footage – a little here and there may have racked up the tension and added atmosphere, but often I was left wondering what purpose it was supposed to serve. Perhaps Rodriguez was trying to cash in on Paranormal Activity mania? Also, the ending relies on such a quick succession of twists and coincidences that the audience is likely to feel a bit cheated.
In all I guess Stash House, suitably for a film filled with drugs, is a bit like a cheap high – You’ll have fun whilst it lasts, but afterwards you’ll be left feeling a little ashamed and empty, wondering if you just wasted 90 minutes of your life.
Stash House comes to Region 2 DVD and Blu-Ray on 3rd September 2012, from G2 Pictures.