Horror and comedy are genres you don’t too often see mixed, even in the great melting-pot of the Edinburgh Fringe. That being so, The House on the Hill offers a tantalising promise of late-night chills and laughs based on its premise alone.
Thankfully, the payoff is good. LoveHard, Birmingham-based comedians Jacob Lovick and Tyler Ross, have crafted something that stands as a decent comedy, occupying similar space to narrative sketch but with slightly more theatrical elements. And they also deliver a genuinely sinister atmosphere throughout.
The story follows an American family, the Kings, who move to a remote Scottish village to escape their traumatic past – only to take up residence in a mysterious mansion with its own bloody tale to tell. The prologue setup is quick and crisp, and establishes a nice tone that allows Lovick and Ross to flit between spooky and funny with ease. The protagonists are also well-realised and distinctive, important in a show promising “2 men, 25 characters.”
The broader cast of antagonistic village-folk is patchier, and it was perhaps ambitious to attempt quite so many different variations on a comedy Scottish accent – particularly when performing in Scotland. The characters become somewhat indistinguishable, either as personalities or in terms of geography, with voices occasionally ranging accidentally into parts of the world far, far away from Caledonia. Some of the broader comedy felt out-of-place: a diversion with a pair of street vendors hawking dildos was unwelcome, although a sequence with a mango and a scripted fourth-wall break worked better. A later bit of improv-inspired corpsing also hit the mark, and mixed things up a little.
I was left wondering if they could have gone even further towards the horror side of the scale: a creepy power outage scene was well staged at the mid-point, and the finale wove in a fine horror trope that could have been played for even more scares. As it was, they went for the laugh, with an absurd and hilarious exposition that undercut the tension they’d built – intentionally, but just maybe too heavily.
Although not quite as deft at deploying the macabre as, say, a group like Casual Violence, the LoveHard pair have nonetheless achieved something with The House on the Hill. It’s a welcome addition to the line-up on the free festival, and well worth a visit down the hill on Broughton Street if you want midnight frights with your late laughs.