Synopsis: Dark House is a thrilling and horrifying road trip, full of twists and brutal
surprises; a suspenseful thriller about a young man and a chilling old house that
has survived decades, awaiting the return of its prodigal son…a house that can
escalate Nick’s gift to see death before it happens, but holds within its walls the
origins of a dark family legacy so horrible it may have already reached out to
Nick’s unborn child.
Release Date: March 14, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Thriller, Horror
When it comes to haunted house movies, most of them tend to have similar themes. Even the good ones – movies like The Conjuring, The Haunting, The Amityville Horror – share many of the same elements. Every once in a while, however, a movie comes along that tries something new. Dark House is one of those movies.
Dark House is the story of a young man named Nick Di Santo (Luke Kleintank from “Bones”) who inherits a house in the country. It’s not just any house, though. It’s a house that Nick has been drawing ever since he could first pick up a crayon. See, Nick is a special guy; not only does he draw real houses that he doesn’t even know exist, but he also has the power to foresee how people are going to die just by touching them. So, curious about the house and hoping to learn something about his estranged father, Nick gathers up his best friend, Ryan (Don’t Pass Me By‘s Anthony Rey Perez), and his pregnant girlfriend, Eve (Alex McKenna from “Crossing Jordan”), and the trio goes to check it out. When they get to where the house is supposed to be, it’s not there. At the location they meet a geological survey crew consisting of Chris (Zack Ward from A Christmas Story), Sam (Ethan S. Smith from “Sketchy”), and Lillith (Hamlet’s Ghost‘s Lacey Anzelc), and the team tells Nick that the house washed away years ago in a flood. They travel downstream on a whim and find the house, completely intact. They also find Seth (the Saw franchise’s Tobin Bell), an ax-wielding creep who forces them to leave by commanding a group of similar axe-wielding creeps to chase them away. No matter which direction the group heads, however, they keep ending up back at the house. The six have to find a way to survive the night so that they can hopefully escape in the morning.
The script for Dark House was written by director Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers, Rosewood Lane) and first-time screenwriter Charles Agron. The story is solid; while ostensibly a supernatural haunted house movie, it also has hints of being a possession film, a psychological thriller, and a good old slasher flick. At times, the film suffers from this identity crisis, getting a little bogged down but, in the end, it has enough action, suspense, and twists to keep its audience entertained. Dark House is not a perfect horror film, but there definitely are worse out there.
Salva takes an interesting approach with Dark House. Although the house is the root of the problem, with the Seth character saying so directly by claiming that the flood cleansed the evil of the house from the land, but there are other threats as well. Seth’s army of axe-throwers is an obvious menace, but there is an underlying peril lurking within the group of victims as well. Whether they are ghosts, demons, or humans, the hazards come from all sides in Dark House, and the audience is kept on its toes because of it.
For a movie that comes off as so original, Dark House borrows quite a few concepts and ideas from other films. Nick’s psychic power is lifted from The Dead Zone. His drawings of the house are right out of Paperhouse. Salva even draws influence from his own Jeepers Creepers in Seth and the axe-maniacs, with their trench coats and hidden faces. Additionally, there is an apparent ongoing battle between the axe-trolls and the townspeople which looks suspiciously like the fight scenes from the Russian film Night Watch. Despite all of this, Dark House still doesn’t feel like a rip-off. It feels familiar, but the film also takes these ingredients and fashions them into something new. Dark House is a student of other horror films, and it has learned well.
Audiences are treated to some classic practical special effects in Dark House that really add to the experience. The effects were handled by Brian Penikas (Day of the Dead, Jeepers Creepers), and they include plenty of old-school tricks including axes in heads, slit throats, and even a beating heart being ripped from a guy’s chest. In a world where CG is king, the karo syrup and food coloring buckets of blood in Dark House are refreshing changes. The rubber-and-plastic effects help to achieve the vintage vibe that the film tries to put across. The whole film feels like a companion piece to the Jeepers Creepers movies, and the effects reflect that monster-slasher thing. Penikas and his crew have designed and built some bloody cool gags and, if for no other reason, Dark House should be seen just to appreciate them.
Because much of the imagery has been seen before, there are few genuine scares in Dark House. The character of Seth is such a stereotype that he’s not scary, but his axe-throwing, knuckle-dragging minions are frightening in a relentless-pursuit movie-killer kind of way. The gore is fun, but it’s not incredibly shocking, especially since Nick’s psychic ability foreshadows much of it. The house has its moments, but even that isn’t as menacing as, say, the Lutz house in The Amityville Horror. Dark House is good for a few chills, and maybe a jump scare or two, but not a whole lot of lasting, follow-you-home terror.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Victor Salva
- Screenwriter(s): Charles AgronVictor Salva
- Cast: Luke Kleintank (Nick Di Santo)Alex McKenna (Eve)Tobin Bell (Seth) lacey Anzelc (Lillith)
- Editor(s): Ed Marx
- Cinematographer: Don E. FauntLeRoy
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Bennett Salvay
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA