Dark House Movie Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
Directed by Victor Salva
Written by Charles Agreon and Victor Salva
2014, 90 minutes, Rated R
Released on March 21st, 2014 (San Francisco | D.C. | Atlanta)
Luke Kleintank as Nick Di Santo
Alex McKenna as Eve
Tobin Bell as Seth
Anthony Rey Perez as Ryan
In modern cinema, there’s a fine line between a loving homage to older films and a listless retread of the same. Dark House is most certainly the latter. It’s a film made by people who clearly thought they were doing something new, or at least inventive and interesting. Sadly, good intentions don’t make a good film, and instead all we get are familiar elements that serve to remind of other, better films.
At the start of the film, we see Nick (Luke Kleintank) visiting his mother in a mental hospital. Despite his saying he hasn’t seen her in years, their reunion quickly devolves into teary-eyed, soap opera-level melodrama (that the filmmakers probably considered to be character development) regarding Nick’s absentee father, and who gave him his “gift.” The gift, as it turns out, is an ability to see how people are going to die just by touching them. But it doesn’t work for everyone, you see. It only works if the death is tragic and violent…and convenient to the story, of course. He demonstrates this at a bar with his friend Ryan (Anthony Rey Perez) before he meets Eve (Alex McKenna), whom he takes home and has sex with that night. Fast-forward eight months, and their one night stand has blossomed into a loving, monogamous relationship (unbelievable) with a baby on the way that they’re both stoked about (even more unbelievable). Soon they find out that Nick has inherited the deed to a creepy old house that looks just like the one he’s been drawing over and over his whole life. On their way to check it out, they run into – almost literally – a geological survey group led by Chris (Zack Ward). Upon finding the house, they see that it’s guarded by Seth (Tobin Bell), who of course warns them to stay away. Do they listen? What do you think?
One of the main problems with the film is that everything that is supposed to come off as scary or sophisticated fails. Seth dispatches a group of axe-throwing henchmen to chase the kids away, but the henchmen shuffle along like something out of The Hobbit, and it just looks silly. There is a lot of talk about angels and demons and the war between God and Satan, but it all sounds so trite and lifted from any number of demonic horror movies we’ve seen before. You know, ones where we didn’t have plot revelations handed to us by a character reading from Google on his phone...
I wasn’t expecting great acting from anyone, especially after Nick’s painful opening exchange with his mother, and no one surprised me. I would have thought Tobin Bell was staying fat enough off Jigsaw residuals that he wouldn’t have to do a movie like this. But here he is, trying to be an axe-wielding menace but looking more like the homeless guy I see by the In-N-Out Burger down on Sunset Boulevard. I guess even cult movie actors have bills to pay. I realize a lot of horror productions have to rely on the use of recognizable talent for financial and marketing purposes, but it’s frustrating as a viewer when that name talent brings nothing rewarding to a film. I can only imagine what the villain of a half-billion dollar horror franchise charges daily, but other than his trademark smoky voice, Bell does nothing special here.
Also touted on the poster and in the trailer is Victor Salva’s most recognizable credit as director of Jeepers Creepers. That's a dubious honor since JC is one of the more overrated films in recent horror history, although it's still far more enjoyable than this one. Here’s an idea: how about everyone takes the money they throw at these name actors and directors, and put it towards better production values, visual effects, etc? Better yet, forward the script to a more established writer and pay them for a few story and dialogue punch-ups.
Again, I’m sure the intention was to make a smart, twisty horror film, but the whole thing just comes off as a lame, predictable mess. It’s not the worst film I’ve seen (heck, it’s probably not even the worst I’ve seen so far this year), but unless you’re a diehard Tobin Bell fan that could not bare to miss his twelve minutes of screen time here, just stay away.
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