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Stash House

2012 | 95 min | R | 1.78:1

Stash House


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Stash House Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 9, 2012

“Stash House” is a B-movie version of David Fincher’s “Panic Room,” struggling to cause a claustrophobic ruckus with little in terms of acting, directing, and screenwriting. It’s an uphill battle, though filmmaker Eduardo Rodriguez does manage to connect a few sequences of suspense, carrying the feature forward a couple of steps before it slumps back to the ground. For low-budget entertainment, “Stash House” is surprisingly long and loopy, trying to generate a high tech feel of domestic invasion when the material is probably better served as a roughhouse diversion, pitting desperate men against one another as they engage in a sleepless night of threats, gunfire, and stupid ideas.

Accountant David (Sean Faris) is eager to surprise his veterinarian wife, Emma (Briana Evigan), with a new house, nabbed from a foreclosure. Armed with a state-of-the-art security system, the dwelling is an ideal start for the duo, with hopes to build a life inside. While settling in, the pair discovers a secret stash of heroin inside one of the walls, a finding that immediately puts their lives in danger when shadowy men Ray (Jon Huertas) and Andy (Dolph Lundgren) arrive to collect their goods. Barricading themselves in a section of the house protected by bulletproof glass and fortified walls, Emma and David frantically research escape plans, monitoring the brutes on security cameras. While the standoff carries on through the night, the married couple begins to understand the severity of Ray and Andy’s presence, recognizing that the two killers might not be after the drugs, but something far more important locked inside of the house.

The screenplay by Gary Spinelli is simple in design, pitting a frightened couple who’ve stumbled upon a series of shocking discoveries inside their new home against a pair of enforcers out to retrieve undisclosed goods, making sure no witnesses remain. It’s a clean premise open to a filmmaker with interest in maintaining a pulse-pounding pace and tight narrative turns, keeping viewers off-balance as the evening wears on and Emma and David slowly run out of survival options. Sadly, Rodriguez is no Fincher, generally failing to enliven the material with directorial chaos that involves superfluous style and a general disregard for thespian clarity, with patches of exposition lost to mumbling, leaving a few exchanges unintelligible. Although Rodriguez imagines “Stash House” as some type of visual calling card for a career in budget cinema, the effort is a tad overanxious for what the story actually covers, laboring to generate a nail-biting atmosphere of twists and chases out of material that works better streamlined, highlighting acts of intimidation as the horror carries into the wee hours of the morning.

While a certain amount of silliness is expected with material such as this, “Stash House” does have troubling sustaining believability, leading with the entire system of cameras that litter the compound. These eyes in the sky are able to pick up any movement on the property (sure, okay), zoom in and out with HD clarity (I guess), pick up any and all verbal exchanges no matter the distance between the subject and the microphone (um…), and utilize facial recognition software that’s plugged into a database of some sort, allowing criminal types to be identified by their full name (no). The camera layout (which doesn’t carry any consistency) permits Rodriguez to continue the house siege outside, studying Andy and Ray’s actions through night vision. It’s an interesting idea, but poorly executed, keeping attention on the random technology at hand, not the characters. This is a common problem for “Stash House,” which always seems more consumed with gimmicks and tepid showdowns instead of delivering its thunderous qualities through the itchy personalities gathered.

Casting doesn’t help the cause, with Evigan and Faris lacking a level of screen charisma and skill needed to pull off these trembling characters. Huertas is also unsatisfying as bullet-happy Ray, turning his potentially menacing supporting role into a tiresome thug. The real center of attention is Lundgren, who, in an unexpected turn of events, is actually the only comprehensible member of the ensemble. While the work is stale, his presence is needed in a movie like this, adding a touch of star power and physical force to the action.

Even at 95 minutes, “Stash House” feels 20 minutes too long, dragging out the climax, taking an eternity to reach a foregone conclusion. “Stash House” isn’t satisfying as a whole, with exciting pieces of the production hinting at a stronger film under a different creative direction. What’s here doesn’t have the sheer strength of violence and peril it should rightfully provide.

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Briana Evigan, Sean Faris, Jon Huertas
Director: Eduardo Rodriguez

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