"A bold and startling work filled with images at once beautiful and profoundly disturbing, the film is a hybrid of DeSade, Dali and Bataille, a nightmare that takes place somewhere between sleep and death. A profound testament of the body at its limits, whose fantastical vantages lend the body a rare grace... Leave the inner child at home." - Bill Evans, Metro Cinema
"The Canadian avant-garde has found its Salo, and its name is 'House of Pain.' Prolific, hugely talented Toronto/Vancouver/Toronto experimental filmmaker Mike Hoolboom's new feature must be the most transgressive Canadian film ever made. Shot in black-and-white and printed in colour to achieve its luscious sepia-like tones, House of Pain's four parts simultaneously seem to celebrate and be revolted by that House of Pain in which we all reside: the body. Hypnotic, hallucinatory, entirely wordless, and completely beyond the pale... the film reads like a nightmarish, nocturnal-emission compendium of avant-garde, cinema-of-shock history." - Jim Sinclair, Pacific Cinematheque
"'House of Pain', the latest offering from prolific experimental helmer Mike Hoolboom, is one of the most extreme, disturbing pics to emerge from Canada's indie film sector, and the ultra-explicit portrayal of a wide variety of sexual acts, coupled with Hoolboom's idiosyncratic style, ensures a highly limited theatrical life." - Brendan Kelly, Variety (Oct. 16, 1995)
"The prolific experimental filmmaker Mike Hoolboom's new work is in fact a collection of four short pieces thematically and stylistically related. Described by the director as a 'psycho-horror in four parts,' there is indeed plenty in 'House of Pain' to shock, alienate, confront and revolt its audience. At the same time, there is also a pervading passion and tenderness that suffuses the piece, most evident in the beauty of its cinematography. Hoolboom's recent filmic concern seems to be dealing with the very elemental nature of life, with corporeal existence at its most basic yet most profound. The body is represented as having an existence independent of consciousness or control, and is fragmented by the cinematography as well as the action. Sex itself is often seen as an anonymous assault of body parts.
"In the opening piece, Precious, a woman engages in a celebration, lament and mourning of life, love and death. The following three pieces - Scum, Kisses and Shiteater - though maintaining an almost lyrically luscious photographic quality become increasingly provocative and challenging. As hetero and homosexual partners engage in rituals and games of masturbation and defecation, whipping, binding and shaving, sucking, sodomizing and fondling, Hoolboom's cinema of cruelty turns its attention to the rituals and pastimes of nineties love. The often religious or ceremonial tone of the whole film is accurately offered up in Earle Peach's consuming score, with musical motifs ranging from devotional to lounge." - Alison Vermee, Vancouver International Festival
"Just when it was beginning to seem that Mike Hoolboom, one of the most prolific and compelling figures on the contemporary Canadian experimental scene, was threatening to become, well, respectable, along comes this, easily Hoolboom's most uncompromisingly confrontational movie yet. Comprising four luminously shot, sepia-toned vignettes that vividly depict the body as the primary site for moral transgression (which is a polite way of saying that, in this movie, the functions of sex, eating and defecation are displayed in queasy and uncensored proximity to each other)... it's proof that Hoolboom is not an artist to be comfortably compartmentalized and tucked away yet. Fascinating and distinctive..." - Geoff Pevere, Globe and Mail
Awards: Jury Prize, Mediawave, Hungary, 1996