A young man with a powerful supernatural ability, an institutionalized mother, a missing father, an old mansion shrouded in legends and axe-swinging hobos, a fiery death, a phantom who travels within walls and speaks through vents, and a bar hookup that results in pregnancy. All of this occurs roughly within the first 15 minutes of Dark House. THE FIRST 15 MINUTES. I was half expecting an actual kitchen sink to get thrown in at some point because why stop there?
Director Victor Salva, known for the Jeepers Creepers films, continues the supernatural shenanigans of Pertwilla County (home of the Creeper) with Nick, a haunted 23-year-old looking for answers. Since he was a child, all he ever wanted was to discover who his father was and the meaning of his mysterious power, a gift that allows him to witness a person's eventual death by simply touching them. When Nick learns that an old decrepit mansion that plagued his childhood dreams actually exists outside of his imagination, he knows it must be home to his dark family secrets and sets out to find it.
Dark House sure is one crazy ride. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up for debate. The fast pace certainly never gives it the chance to feel boring, but unfortunately it doesn't really give it the chance for much else, either. With so many plot threads popping up like they're going out of style, it manages to keep you interested without ever really feeling immersed. No time was taken to develop the characters or build up the supernatural mysteries, leaving it all feeling very flat. When it only takes a few minutes for some random girl in a bar to become a pregnant central character in her third trimester, you know things are moving just a bit too fast.
That being said, Dark House does have some things going for it and definitely has an intriguing idea in place. The story behind the house itself didn't entirely make sense, I'll admit, but it didn't really need to. How the house got to its current location is actually kind of creepy, and the fact that its still intact even creepier. Tobin Bell, as the house's keeper, was surprisingly effective, and the axe-men, while mostly annoying, had their moments.
There's something really interesting happening at the core of Dark House. We may only get a glimpse of this core, bogged down beneath the weight of the overambitious script, but it's enough to keep the viewer entertained from beginning to end. Given more time to let developments properly settle in, Dark House could have been something special, but as it stands, it's a decent enough horror film that's worth a look.