3:33 a.m. The Witching Hour – Movie Review

3-30 a.m. The Witching Hour HORROR MOVIE RIVIEW

When John’s accused of a series of brutal murders, he uncovers a sinister cult right next door. And not only do they want his life, they want his soul.

Director Daniel Falicki

A Horror Movie Review by Bob Freville

This may be my favorite flick by SOV horror vet Daniel Falicki. It’s funnier in spots than Accidental Exorcist (another contender for the number one spot) and stranger in some ways than 13 Demons (still another contender for the number one spot), and it’s far superior to All the Devil’s Aliens

The dialogue and characters are what really do it for me. Falicki is always gloriously un-PC, which comes as something of a reprieve from the onslaught of mealy-mouthed and oftentimes needlessly didactic narratives of today.

Giovanni Edward Spinelli (“It’s just John.”) is forced to get a job as a dishwasher and move into Wellhome, a waystation for the mentally deranged and recreationally preoccupied. Enter Ms. Cresne, the halfway house’s unflappable house mother who spouts bizarre edicts such as, “When Johnny Carson’s monologue begins, you are too late to enter the premises and must make other arrangements elsewhere for the evening. Your silence is consent, is that clear?” and, “There will be no swashbuckling in this house!”

It is Ms. Cresne who formally introduces us to the forboding house at the center of 3:33 a.m.‘s plot. As she shows John around his new room, she gestures to the window and its view of a tree-obscured edifice which, up to now, we have only glimpsed as some twisted yellow-shingled fever dream 

surrounded by wafting CGI fog. She alludes vaguely to the house’s dark antiquity and her intention of buying it should it ever go on sale. She then warns John against inquiring about the tree’s removal, reminding him that his silence is consent.

If it’s naturalistic dialogue you’re after, you’ll want to walk on the other side of the street. This one is about as unnatural as dialogue can get without veering into full Ed Wood territory. And I have to say, that unnatural quality works to 3:33‘s advantage.

Falicki’s flick are as memorable for their dialogue as they are for their impressively imaginative DIY set pieces. 3:33 a.m. is one of his career headlights with lines like “Pound me in the ground,” “Gotta go make taffy money,” and “You got about five minutes to get your pastrami asses outta Doleman’s before I kick you in the stomach so hard you’re gonna piss shit!”

Such dialogue gives you a good indication of what kind of movie you’re in store for… or do they? If there’s one thing that Falicki excels at it is seguing without warning from one tone to another and then back again. In lesser hands, such tonal shifts would seem purely amateurish or annoying, but Falicki has developed something of a signature style that is straight Falickian. You’ll see what I mean once you’ve gobbled up his pics the way I have. There are nine of them on Tubi alone.

Anyway, John must live in this halfway house full of degenerates, including a perverted light bulb salesman with a bad haircut, two Lithuanian beer bootleggers and worm farmers, an exercise junkie with a bad attitude, and a grown woman who’s preternaturally attached to the doll she speaks to. But the real star of the show is the house across the way and the strobing light that issues from its window at precisely 3:33 a.m. every morning.

After John first notices the lights, he decides to ignore them and return to sleep. Later that morning, he awakens to the sight of police officers inspecting the room across from his window. Detective Allingham, a gravely-voiced dick with a chip on his shoulder takes vigorous notes at the crime scene. The cop catches sight of John through the glass and heads over to Wellhome to pay him a visit.

It would appear Stevie, the light bulb salesman and a former associate of John’s, has been found brutally murdered in the house next door and the detective suspects ex-con John of doing the grisly job. John has no alibi, but he keeps talking to anyone who will listen about the mysterious lights. 

Each night, the light persists in strobing and each morning a terrible sight awaits John’s waking eyes. The strobing persists relentlessly until John is finally compelled to act. His search for answers leads him to confront his housemates, including the two Bobs, the beer-swilling brothers, and the creepy nun, all of whom already know about the goings-on next door.

What John quickly learns is how tight-knit the community is, what they know about him, and what they are willing to sacrifice for their quaint and idyllic way of life. When the house’s inhabitants all gather around John’s window at 3:33 a.m. to see what transpires, the window across the way remains shrouded 

in darkness.

In a state of desperation, John turns to a bizarre priest with some very heavy words of wisdom. The priest agrees to wait by the window with John to see what happens, but again no lights issue forth from the window across the way.

If I have one complaint to level against 3:33 a.m. it is the filmmakers’ poor choice to market the picture in the way that they did. The promotional image used to advertise the movie on Tubi suggests straight horror of the truly horrific and demonic variety. While the flick delivers on the demonic element 

as most Falicki flicks do, it’s a crude down-and-dirty ensemble comedy at its heart. Frankly, it makes little sense to treat 3:33 like The Dark and the Wicked when it’s more Night of the Demons or Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Some of the house’s colorful characters aren’t all that fleshed out, serving as little more than furniture for the second half, but this isn’t a chamber drama and John is clearly the star. His wide eyes and furrowed brow are the face of reason in a production that frequently veers into the depths of camp.

When John receives a disturbing call from Beverly, the owner and occupant of the house next door, we finally begin to understand the religious undertones that have run throughout the flick. This is when Falicki delves facefirst into full horror atmosphere, employing blue gels and a sheet of fog as John is privy to yet another brutal murder.

For all of the oddballs and curveballs Falicki hurls at the camera it is Chris Kotcher who is the real standout as Father Stark. Kotcher is an actor whose skillful range makes him an ideal red herring and an appropriately stark voice of reason in a flick full of hams perpetually pitching fits. If 3:33 a.m. is any indication, this cat has a bright future in genre cinema. 

As the narrative progresses, we learn the gristly history of the house. We are also given one of the most unpredictable expulsions in film since Cameron Diaz took that “hair gel” off Ben Stiller’s ear and gave herself the now-infamous swoosh. Fans of the Farrelly Brothers and the Coen Brothers will approve.

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