Free to a Bad Home

Mar 31, 2023

Anthology horror films are a lot of fun. They will almost always revolve around an object or theme as a throughline. Unquestionably, the likes of Creepshow, Body Bags, and V/H/S come to mind for many. A trilogy of stories centers around a box of objects in co-writers/co-directors Kameron and Scott Hale’s feature, Free to a Bad Home.
The film opens with a couple, Amy (Miranda Nieman) and Sam (Tyler McGraw), out jogging. They then stumble across a cardboard box of objects, including a necklace and ring. They take the ring from the box labeled “Free to a good home.” However, unbeknownst to them, it changes to “Free to a bad home” as they jog away.
This sets up the first of the three stories that make up Free to a Bad Home, entitled Amy. The titular character (Miranda Nieman), a widow, spends her days drinking away her sorrows. Amy lives in seclusion in a small house in the middle of nowhere. Strange occurrences happen as her friend, Jill (Hayley Sunshine), arrives to keep her company. One morning, Amy wakes up in the woods, beaten and bruised, unsure of how she got there. This leads Amy to make a drastic decision.
The next section Ryan is about a thief named Ryan (Jake C. Young). He breaks into a house, looking for whatever valuables he can. Among the items he finds is the ring from the box. While attempting to break into a safe, Ryan comes across a chained-up Amy, who looks more battered than ever. She tells him that she will help him break into the safe in exchange for Ryan helping free her so she can murder the neighbors. He reluctantly agrees.

“…Amy wakes up in the woods, beaten and bruised…”
Julia rounds out Free to a Bad Home. Julia (Olivia Dennis) is heading to a party with her friends Camila (Roni Locke), Everly (Olivia Barrell), and Beth (Katelyn Nevin). On the trip to the party’s location, they partake in eyedropper drugs, resulting in trippy imagery for Julia. What begins as a night of alcohol and drugs becomes violent, bloody, and surprising for all the friends.
I mentioned before that anthology films are a lot of fun. Yet, they are also hard to review because some stories are better than others. That’s certainly the case with Free to a Bad Home. The Hale brothers have crafted a slow-burn picture, which is both a good and bad thing. On the one hand, the narrative takes its time, and sometimes that works. Some moments linger and, with no music, create an unsettling atmosphere. But, unfortunately, the stories also meander a lot. In particular, the segments Ryan and Julia are very slow going.
Ryan, while a solid segment overall, features an eight-minute section of the character searching through the house with a single flashlight. On a technical level, it’s an impressive scene as it is presented in a single shot for most of it. That said, the story came to a halt without anything happening until Ryan reached the basement. Similarly, Julia has a ten-minute driving scene in which the main character’s friends have a bland conversation and get high before even arriving at the party. Moments like these didn’t add to the narrative.
Amy, the best segment, packs a tight narrative and offers the most possibilities. As Amy, Nieman is excellent as the throughline character in each tale. I wish the preceding segments followed the same path. Granted, Amy is quite vague in its plotting. It doesn’t always explain how the ring leads to the proceeding events. Perhaps that doesn’t matter, as it’s not about the explanation but the chain of events.
As an anthology, Free to a Bad Home is fun to watch, and audiences will enjoy it. It falls short in its pacing and needs to expand upon the ring’s story. Still, it has a lot of production value and is well-shot. Kameron and Scott Hale may not have had the entire recipe, but the right ingredients are present, and I would be curious to see what else this box of objects contains.

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