Title: Dark House (2010)
Writer/Director: Darin Scott
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Diane Salinger
So Fangoria is putting out a bunch of horror films for Halloween Month (they call it Fangoria Fright Fest) and Dark House is the one that caught my attention. Why? Well, one of the reasons is that it’s a haunted house film, and I’m a sucker for those, and the other reason is that Jeffrey Combs is in it, and I’ve enjoyed Jeffrey Combs horror films since his Stuart Gordon days where he played Herbert West in the Re-Animator movies. Usually I tread carefully with straight to video movies because most of the time, there is a reason why these films didn’t make it to theaters. Most of the times its because they aren’t very good. But not all straight to video movies suck. Sometimes they are just not something mass audiences can consume, usually because they are too violent or gory. Another reason they get sent straight to video is because they are foreign films and studios don’t think they’ll make a profit by releasing a foreign film in theaters, they’d much rather remake it. And finally, sometimes, straight to video films are made specifically for the straight to video market, which is what these bunch of Fangoria movies are. A bunch of low budget horror flicks made for you to enjoy on Halloween. A gift from the folks at Fango, one of America’s leading horror magazines. So, how did this one fare?
Story revolves around a young girl named Claire who one day decides to venture into the spooky house on the block. I’m pretty sure we all know what that’s like, everyone has one when they are kids. So anyway, Claire decides to walk in to the old house hoping to impress her friends with her bravado. To show them she is a brave girl. Little did Claire know she would be walking into a full blown massacre! As she walks through the house she finds child after child dead on the floor! Soon after, she finds a woman destroying her hands on the kitchen sinks garbage disposal unit. Fast forward many years later, and this little girl is one screwed up young adult! She’s into acting now, trying to exorcise her demons. One day, during one of her acting classes, a sneaky looking showman offers her and her peers an opportunity to act in this new haunted house attraction that he is about to open. Problem is that as coincidence would have, this guy has made a haunted house attraction on the exact same house where Claire witnessed that massacre all those years ago! Will Claire accept the challenge and use this opportunity to face her fears? Or is she too scared that it will all be a little too much on her psyche?
What we have here ladies and gentlemen is a film that is a mix between the House on Haunted Hill (1959) and Silent Hill (2005). The House on Haunted Hill part of the film comes from the fact that the story has the protagonists locked up inside a haunted house. Jeffrey Combs plays the part Vincent Price would have played, welcoming a group of strangers and defying them to stay the night in the spooky home. Jeffrey Combs by the way relishes the part of the creator of this haunted house attraction. He apparently loves his job of spooking people. In a one part of the film he gives this whole speech on how important it is to give horror to the people, to give them that jolt of adrenaline to their bodies, to make them feel alive. So the whole house is rigged up to scare people. It has hundreds of hologram machines spread out through the house that project images of ghost and goblins, of creatures that go bump in the night. The holograms look incredibly realistic which he hopes will be the reason that this will be his best haunted house yet. This hologram element of the story gives the filmmakers an opportunity to show us a bunch of different looking ghosts, which I enjoyed. A lot of the ghost designs were pretty nifty in deed.
The Silent Hill part of this film comes from the fact that like Silent Hill, Dark House is a deeply anti-religious horror film. It’s the kind of film that isn’t afraid to say religion is messed up! And it can be dangerous when it falls in the wrong hands! It can mess up your life! It can harm you psychologically! And I dug that about it. It also reminded me a bit of Martyrs (2008) because its also about a girl who goes through hell because of a religious freak, only difference between this film and Martyrs is that Martyrs is a film that shocks, scares and stays with you long after you watch it. Dark House is just cheap Halloween fun, wich is not a bad thing and has its own validity. The main villain of the film, an evil ghost lady called Mrs. Darrode is very similar to the evil religious ghost lady in the Silent Hill film. You know the kind. She’s your basic bible thumper who sees demons and sins in everything in life; the kind of person that takes the bible and takes it way too personally. Kudos go to Diane Sallinger the actress who personified Mrs. Darrode. Her performance, along with Jeffrey Comb’s are two of the best things this horror flick has going for it. Because as far as Im concerned, the younger actors were not all that great. Especially Meghan Ory, the actress who plays Claire, the main character of the film. She didn’t pull through for me as far as her performance went. There were some dramatic and tense moments in the final half of the film where her acting didn’t pull through. Her performance wasn’t as intense as it should have been, to me she wasn’t really living it.
Aside from a bit of bad acting, the film also had one major let down for me and its in terms of continuity. When all is said and done, some things wont make a hell of a lot of sense, specifically when it comes down to the chronological way in which certain things happened, which felt like careless filmmaking to me, as if the script wasn’t really that well thought out. As a result the film has giant unresolved plot holes. It’s the kind of film that has a plot that’s so messy, that they have to bring in two cops (whom we have never seen through out the film) to explain to us how everything really went down. Another thing that let me down was that the technology that was supposed to bring the holograms to life was supposed to be advanced and state of the art, yet the graphics that are supposed to represent the computer program look so cheap that we are constantly reminded what a low budget production this is. This wasn’t a big thing for me, as this is something to be expected in straight to dvd low budget films like this one. Actually, given the budget, I think these folks got away with a fairly decent looking horror film.
Overall, this film has a few flaws, but what it has in flaws it makes up in fun. It felt to me as if I was watching an episode of Tales from the Crypt. You know, fast paced and entertaining. It has a glimpse of depth to it with the whole anti-religious angle. One scene has a little girl grabbing a bible in her hand and saying “No More! No More!” as if saying, “no more religion!” Then she goes and throws the bible in the fireplace, the rest of the kids do the same. That’s ballsy if you ask me. The film has its message, and it has some cool looking ghosts. Jeffrey Combs and Diane Sallinger save the day with their performances, I just wish that writer/director Darin Scott (Tales from the Hood (1995)) had constructed a less muddled screenplay.
Rating: 2 ½ out of 5