Chattanooga Film Festival: Chicken House (2022)

Director and writer Cate Jones — she also made She’s the Eldest — comes from Lawton, Oklahoma, known — as her IMDB bio helpfully reminds us — for high crime, meth and an Army base. She left town as soon as she graduated and now makes movies. She’s also Cat, the new roommate in a house of actresses who turns everything way upside down, inside out and shakes it all about.

Shot in nine days on a $17,000 budget — a fact that is not apparent — this film has three actress roommates — if not friends — at its core: Charlie (Ashley Mandanas) is struggling with her sexual identity, Beth (Jessi Kyle) is obsessed with religion and April (Kassie Gann) is non-stop recording auditions for ads about vaginal wellness. They’re all conflicted in how they feel about themselves, never mind one another, so even Cat arrives and refuses to even discuss the limits on how hard of drugs can come into the house — and then reveals that a poltergeist is also living there — things start getting wonderfully messy.

There are also Mormon missionaries, questions of existence and, yes, the reveal of the ghost within the room who ends up — spoiler warning — perhaps being the best roommate of them all. Big points for casting Mickey Reese, the director of Agnes (and at least a movie a year, every year and sometimes two, like in 2019 when he made Climate of the Hunter and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune).

The film plays out like an interrogation of what happened in the home — in color — mixed with remembrances and scenes — in black and white — and the narrative works so well. Yes, we all have issues, actors and filmmakers more than most, but sometimes the strangest — and most supernatural — events unite us. Even if it’s an ill-advised exorcism. I mean, what’s some holy water between friends?

Want to see it for yourself? It’s now playing as part of the Chattanooga Film Fest. Virtual tickets are available at www.chattfilmfest.org/

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