Monday, October 18, 2010

[Review] Dark House

Three little girls approach the front gate of the Darrode house, a spooky place where the "weird kids" live. One of the girls explains that they're just foster kids and decides to enter the house to prove there's absolutely nothing to be afraid of. But to her surprise, what she finds inside is the site of a massacre; kids strewn about in each of the rooms in a big bloody mess and the foster mother, Mrs. Darrode, with her arm shredding in a garbage disposal.

Cut to present day and 21 year old Claire Thompson (Meghan Ory) is struggling with the memories of that awful night, something therapy and medication can't seem to help. But when her college acting class is given the well-paid opportunity to work in the Darrode house, now a flashy haunted house attraction run by kooky Walston Ray (Jeffrey Combs), Claire is quick to accept, seeing this as the perfect way to finally face her fears.

Once inside, Claire and the handful of other students are given a very short tour and informed that all the spooky characters found throughout the house are actually computer generated holographic images. Courtesy of the latest technology, these holograms appear as real as can be, and courtesy of Mrs. Darrode, they're about to become deadly!!!

(cue scary music)

In a cheesy sequence that makes no sense, Mrs. Darrode's spirit somehow manages to enter into the computer system like a virus and take control of the holographic characters, turning them from realistic to downright real. And from there on out, no time is wasted in starting up another massacre.

Haunted house attractions are—let's face it—not very scary. Most of the time they're pretty corny and unconvincing but they still somehow never manage to fail at charming the crap out of the little Halloween-loving kid that we all are deep down. Dark House tries and almost succeeds at capturing that same charm, but ultimately falls flat with a cheap and awkward looking set and an atmosphere that's all wrong; Halloween is no where to be felt in this house, and considering the house itself seems to be the main character, this is a major flaw. Once Mrs. Darrode takes over the system and turns it into a real haunted house, the phony atmopshere continues on the same path when it should have obviously made a big change.

While watching Dark House, I found myself reminded of the House On Haunted Hill remake. That film revolved around another kooky tycoon, known for his scary theme parks, who invites a group of strangers into a haunted house with the offer of one million dollars each if they survive through the night. While it really wasn't all that great of a horror film, it certainly knew what it wanted to be and accomplished it; it was an over-the-top nod to haunted house attractions and films and it worked because it seemed very self-aware. Dark House, on the other hand, lacks this awareness and comes across as too silly as a result.

Written and directed by Darrin Scott, writer of the horror anthology classic, Tales From The Hood, Dark House is quite the disappointment in comparison. But it is a low-budget b-movie after all, and with the always pleasurable presence of Jeffrey combs and some passable acting and special effects (the very little CGI used looked fairly well done and all of the ghosts, thankfully, are portrayed by real people, so there's no Syfy Channel crap to be seen here), I can't quite say that it's a total failure.

Dark House is a very light, easily digestible romp that makes me feel bad for being too hard on it, but in the end, it just can't quite hold up. I know it will find an audience out there somewhere, but for the general horror fan, I'm going to have to say this ├╝ber-corny house is not worth a visit.


No comments: