Starring: Luke Kleintank, Alex McKenna, Anthony Rey Perez, Zack Ward, Lacey Anzelc, Ethan S. Smith, Lesley-Anne Down and Tobin Bell
Directed by: Victor Salva
Written by: Charles Agron (screenplay), Victor Salva (screenplay) and Charles Agron (story)
Running time: 103 minutes
Rated: R (Rated R for horror violence and language)
Reviewed by Michael Juvinall
Before even watching this film for review, I knew it had a built in controversy. Viewers may or may not know about director Victor Salva’s past criminal history. While I do not condone Salva’s criminal history in any way, shape or form, I prefer to keep his personal life separate from his film work. While I may not like the man, there’s no denying his talent as a filmmaker. One of my favorite films of the 2000’s was his exceptional Jeepers Creepers. His latest offering is Dark House, but unfortunately it can’t hold a candle to his 2001 hit. The film’s writers seemed to be grasping at straws on what type of film they want it to be. Is it a haunted house thriller, a demonic possession flick, Angels vs. Demons, or what?
The story focuses on Nick (Luke Kleintank), a young man of 23 who has an amazing ability to see visions of how certain people will die – by touch, but it only works if the person dies a horrible death. If you die a non-violent death or natural death he cannot see that. Nick needs to know how and why he has this ability and discovers clues about his father that might get him answers. Nick inherits a house he’s never seen or set foot in before but has been drawing since he was old enough to pick up a crayon. Nick, his best friend Ryan (Anthony Rey Perez) and his pregnant girlfriend Eve (Alex McKenna) head to the isolated and abandoned house in rural Mississippi that locals whisper about as being evil and rumored to have supernaturally survived a massive flood that washed it away into oblivion some 23 years ago.
It turns out the house is still standing in the middle of nowhere, having been washed intact several miles into the isolated woods. The trio soon discovers the house is occupied by a grizzled, long-haired lunatic named Seth (Tobin Bell-Saw franchise) with unknown intentions. Alarmingly, Seth commands an army of axmen who shuffle crouched down side to side in unison like nightmarish gorillas. In trying to find answers about his father, Nick and friends find themselves in a supernatural nightmare they might not make it out of…alive.
Dark House formerly known as Haunted is a mishmash of horror tropes, some of which work and some don’t. There’s a lot going on in the film and much to sort out. The mystery surrounding Nick’s father is unclear. He’s an evil force that seems to live in the basement of the house yet controls his evil doers by talking to them from inside walls via heating vents in other places. Then we have Seth’s axmen with a different agenda, maybe good – maybe evil. Why are they like a hunchback chorus line slinging axes all over the place? Is this a Demon vs. Angel standoff? Ultimately, there are more questions than answers in the finale leaving viewers scratching their heads.
As I said earlier, Victor Salva is an accomplished filmmaker. Dark House is shot amazingly well and looks gorgeous. The film has potential with some creepy moments here and there but whatever tension builds up is eventually diluted by asinine character actions (lets have sex in the woods when we’re fighting for our lives with evil axmen running around).
The acting is above average; all the principals do a good job. Undoubtedly, Tobin Bell can do no wrong, he stands out in his role and does his best with the character, but for this film it’s too little too late. There isn’t an inordinate amount of gore in the film but there are a few key scenes with some interesting bloodshed.
I really wanted to like Dark House more than I did. It had an interesting look and feel to it with potential for success, but the writing doesn’t make it over the hump of mediocrity. With an ending that left more questions than answers, it ultimately falls flat and doesn’t work. Genre die-hards may find this worth a watch but mainstreamers probably won’t.
2 out of 5 Pentagrams!
Watch the trailer for Dark House here,