Hollywood@Home: No Solicitors

What’s cooking with these folks? Something macabre, I’ll wager, in “No Solicitors.”

If you’re going to make a film about a family of cannibals living in suburbia, feasting on unlucky passers-by, then, of course, it’s got to be a comedy. But to be taken seriously by fans of the horror comedy genre, it’s got to be funny. “No Solicitors” is the unfunniest horror comedy I’ve seen in many years.

Eric Roberts stars in this low-budget indie as a distinguished brain surgeon, who covertly operates an organ harvesting business out of his picture-perfect home in an unnamed suburb, your typical American neighborhood. His home is targeted by door-to-door salespeople, despite a prominent sign posted outside that says “no solicitors.” When the unsuspecting peddler rings the doorbell, he or she is greeted warmly and invited inside. At some point, they are rendered unconscious and taken to the basement, a makeshift hospital ward. They are kept alive as pieces of their anatomy are removed and whisked away to a needy transplant patient at a nearby hospital. Their more muscular parts are taken upstairs to the kitchen to make rump roasts and luncheon meat.

There are two approaches you can take to such a story. You can make it terrifyingly funny like Eli Roth’s “Hostel.” Or, you can play it broad like “Motel Hell.” Writer-director John Callas takes the latter approach, making his characters buffoons who couldn’t possibly get away with what they’re doing. The characters spout childishly written lines and goofy smiles, throwing believability out the window. If Callas had spent more time on the screenplay and less time getting his actors to overplay, the results might have been more palatable.

Even the title of the film is wrongheaded. The working title was “Death by Solicitation,” which is much preferred over the stupefyingly dull “No Solicitors.” This is a film that gets it wrong from the opening scene to the distinctly unfunny outtakes during the final credits. Grade: F

Eric Roberts stars in the cannibal comedy, “No Solicitors.”