Review

Review

FEARNET Movie Review: 'Dark House'

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It might not sound like much of a compliment to compare an independent horror movie to the long-running TV series Supernatural -- but it's not meant as an insult either. The certifiably strange new horror flick Dark House throws all sorts of old-fashioned genre tropes into a blender, including a few ingredients it they probably didn't need, and tops itself off with some new-fangled gore, gristle, and occult-style mayhem. Basically there's a lot going on in Victor Salva's Dark House, and at least 70% of it is fun stuff.

 
It's the old Jeepers Creepers director back with another scary tale, and while a good portion of Dark House feels like the second episode of a TV series (again, a lot like the earnestly goofy but sometimes suitably creepy Supernatural), it's safe to say that Dark House is most assuredly a "mixed bag" proposition; when the flick works, it works well. When it doesn't... you'll start itching for a commercial break. The devoted viewer will be treated to, at the very least, an odd concoction of familiar genre tropes that manage to coalesce into something fun every once in a while -- mostly in the second half of the movie.
 
Try to keep up with this stuff: a young man who has the power to (sometimes) see someone's death just by touching them has just lost his mother in a very suspicious asylum fire. This being a horror movie, our grieving hero has of course inherited an old mansion, which allows him to gather a few friends for a road trip and stumble across some unwelcoming hayseed types who quickly inform him that the creepy mansion he allegedly inherited was washed away by a flood several decades earlier...
 
...but legend does tell that the house still stands somewhere, deep in the forest, somehow intact after being swept away by the raging tides. (Still with me?) Then our gang teams up with a trio of land surveyors who... this is all the first 20-some minutes of Dark House, and let's just sum it up by saying a whole lot of reliable old horror tropes (haunted house, mysterious caretaker, zombie-like henchmen, a doe-eyed pregnant gal deep in the forest, etc.) start to pile up before Salva and co-writer Charles Agron tip their hand and go from "Supernatural meets Twilight Zone mixed with deep woods indie weirdness" to full-bore stalk, slash, scrape, and escape mayhem.
 
As mentioned earlier, when it sticks to the darker stuff, much of the movie works, but when Dark House meanders into melodrama territory (a few of the sidekicks take way too long to get skewered) things get more than a little goofy. All told, despite the rocky parts, Dark House does manage to get a wide array of horror DNA into one progressively more bizarre story of haunted houses, extra-sensory oddness, and some surprisingly effective occult conceits once Act III gets rolling.
 
Overlong, ambitious, and backed by a few fun folks like Tobin Bell (Saw) and Zack Ward (Freddy vs. Jason), Dark House doesn't always work as a cohesive whole, but it does have more than a few good moments/ideas, and (thankfully) a handful of dark twists and turns that help to keep things interesting. Plus it's always nice to see an indie horror film that was clearly inspired by three or four good movies, instead of just one.
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