‘Stay out of the Attic’ is a fun, but fatuous B-horror

April 9, 2021

The entertainment value in a movie does not always have to correspond with the quality of that movie. In celebration of Passover, I sat down and watched a wonderfully gory horror movie that exemplified this idea. “Stay out of the Attic” is a fast-paced, stereotypical, 80-minute body horror movie that both entertained me and forced me to feel immense second-hand embarrassment.

“Stay out of the Attic” follows three ex-convicts who run a moving company. They get hired to pack up a massive old house in less than 24 hours by a creepy old German man. After being warned to stay out of the attic and basement, the movers quickly come to realize that there is more to this job than they expected. As the movie amps up, predictable campy Nazi filled horror ensues, including young twins surgically merged into conjoined twins, a miniature gas chamber and lots of Nazi memorabilia.

As this is a Shudder exclusive, it is notably low budget. The acting is rather mediocre, dialogue is often awkward and the cinematography is simple and sloppy. And while its production failings must be noted, there could not be a cinematically higher-value version of this movie. An inane horror plot works best with a low budget that emphasizes its silliness. “Evil Dead” or “Friday the 13th” could never work as well on a million-dollar budget. As Blumhouse Studios has demonstrated, in the majority of cases horror as a genre—whether the goal is to be creepy or funny or just disturbing—can be much more successful on limited resources. That said, there is a reason this movie has not found its way into popular culture. 

The plot is truly ridiculous, and every couple of scenes, it devolves further into absurdity yet manages to remain predictable. The protagonists find things like two random old birth certificates, which are never explained, a box of teeth, which are never explained and letters meant to be written by the real-life Angel of Death, Josef Mengele. These letters are explained, but the explanation is extremely ridiculous, and yet I predicted it from the moment the letters came on screen. The usage of Nazism and human experimentation in a horror movie is bound to result in silliness, the most a viewer can ask for is for this silliness to be unique, which in this case, it was not. 

This film also heavily relies on character tropes to quickly establish its characters as either sympathetic or evil. All information we learn about a given character we find out in a blunt monologue alongside a single shocking reveal later in the movie. Nevertheless, there are a handful of deeper character moments such as Albert’s (Ryan Francis) path towards redemption for his past as a Neo-Nazi and, well, that’s about it. In general, it is not a very difficult task to write characters that an audience does not want to see horrifically tortured or to establish for viewers that a former WWII Nazi is a villain, so little time is put into really fleshing out any of the characters. For the simplicity of this film as a whole, there is no shortage of plot holes, such as an entire room full of failed human experiments who never actually do anything nor get any form of proper explanation.  

While I have no shortage of complaints about this film, “Stay out of the Attic” impressed me with its body horror scenes. I cannot speak to the realism of their gore effects, but I was shocked by how boldly they were presented. Few movies show the full process of a needle being put through someone’s eye, nor dedicate nearly a minute to the act of cutting off a large tattoo. The latter scene made me viscerally disgusted in a way I have not felt since watching “Midsommar.” The body horror scenes served as a real juxtaposition to the rather lackluster production plaguing the rest of the movie. 

“Stay out of the Attic” entertained me to the extent that any B-horror movie should. I was never bored, confused or particularly offended. I was able to laugh at its incompetence while still feeling genuinely freaked out four or five times. This is not a good film, but it is definitely a fun one.

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