DARK HOUSE (2009)
Director: Darin Scott
Writer: Darin Scott
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Meghan Ory, Diane Salinger
You’d think that Fangoria would be a little more discriminating in the movies they slap their name on. How foolish of me to think that! The fact that Fangoria slapped their “Fangoria FrightFest” label on 2009’s Dark House shows they have lower standards than I do. And that’s pretty fuckin’ low.
The film opens with a pretty desperate attempt to conjure up a creepy atmosphere: cheap dolls splashed with red food coloring…er, I mean blood. Yeah, we’ll call it blood. In the background screams can be heard. Yeah, we’re in for a good time here, folks. Anyways, a little girl goes into a house (the Darrode house) and finds the bodies of murdered children littering the place like refuse. In the kitchen, she finds a crazed woman with her hand in the garbage disposal—which, of course, is turned to full blast and eating the shit out of her hand. Fast forward 14 years. The little girl (or is it?) has grown up. We find out that her name is Claire (Meghan Ory). She is an aspiring actress—keep aspiring, honey—who is mentally disturbed by the events she witnessed at the Darrode house. Her psychiatrist suggests that she return to the house and face her fears but Claire says that every time she tries she chickens out. Jump to her “advanced” acting class—populated by people who bribed their way in and who’ll never graduate. The lesson is interrupted by Walston (Jeffrey Combs, the best thing about this movie). Walston creates haunted attractions for a living and requires some actors and actresses to assist in his latest attraction—which just so happens to be set up at the Darrode house. Claire, seeing an opportunity to follow her shrink’s advice, convinces the others, who are reluctant because they are “serious” actors, to take Walston up on his offer. Once there, things go awry as the holograms set up to scare people are possessed by the spirit of Mrs. Darrode (which the movie reminds us of several times to pad out the running time) and begin killing people. Who will survive? Will Claire be able to overcome her fears? Will the audience be able to stay awake?
I knew from the opening scene that Dark House was going to drag me right to the bottom of the pit. And I was right. Is there anything positive to say about this movie? Yes. Two things.
1) Lily (Shelly Cole) in her bra and panties (incomplete with no ass shot which depresses me).
2) Jeffrey Combs. He’s pretty much the only reason to suffer through this turd. He just let loose and set the Ham Factor so high that you could serve him at Christmas and no one would know the difference. He’s also the only one here who knows the definition of “acting,” unlike the other corpses shambling about who couldn’t act their way out of a wet paper bag in the middle of a rainstorm. Truly awful and laughably inept come to mind. And if the actors aren’t insulting acting, then they’re just being annoying. Moreton (Scott White) is like a hybrid of Chris Angel, a Jackass jackass and Johnny Depp from Secret Window without the talent of any of them I couldn’t wait for that annoying shit to buy the farm and I was poppin’ open the champagne and smokin’ a big fucking cigar when he did! Oh, and there’s some fuckin’ reporter dude named Reed (Ian Reed Kesler) who’s irritating as all hell. You’ve probably met a type like him: one of those people who are over-enthusiastic about everything that it’s tantamount to an ethical violation. Sorry bud, the stuff on display is not worth creaming your panties over. Another cigar and bottle of champagne emerged when he croaked as well.
Okay, let’s leave the “acting” behind and move on to production values, which were probably bought at the .99 cent store. Seriously, this looks like a failed Goosebumps episode. Most everything is bland and generic, boring to look at and is an affront to aesthetic taste. I’ve seen coffins with a better interior design. And the effects appear to have been lifted right out of a Disney Channel Halloween movie. I’ve seen better vanishing effects on YouTube videos. And, I’m guessing, the filmmakers were either too cheap to purchase a light bulb, or the budget didn’t allow for it because—and I’m not kidding—they CGI a porch light coming on complete with a click! sound! Oh Lord, hope and faith have just gone the way of my entertainment.
Normally, I won’t pick at little inconsistencies or stupid actions if the film is enjoyable. But this film isn’t so here we go. At one point a perfectly normal door becomes, in Walston’s words, a “security door.” Uh, when the fuck did this happen? And why wasn’t it brought up early on? Or, why wasn’t it brought up when a character was attempting to get out? Instead, it isn’t brought up until another character is trying to get out. And, according to this movie’s logic, windows can change places. Early on, it is mentioned that the only unsealed window is in the attic. Then, it changes to the bathroom window. Oh, and we can’t forget my favorite bit of brain-deadery: after the basement door magically becomes another “security door” when the characters attempt to break it down, Walston and Co. must go upstairs to a second fuse box, cut some wires and shut off the holograms (which, of course, is supposed to be a “suspenseful” scene). After the wires are cut to no effect and another character gets written off, Walston realizes the keys to the basement door are in his pocket! Wow. Seriously!? I suspect this bit was added merely to pad out the running time about 10 extra minutes—as well as testing your patience for 10 extra minutes.
Hm…am I forgetting something? Ah yes: the death scenes! Well, apparently the movie forgot them too because most of them happen off-camera. And the few they do show are unremarkable at best. And minimal gore begs the question: just how in the hell did this film land an R rating? This is PG-13 fare at best, especially seeing as there is no nudity to go along with the crumbiness.
So there you have it: the unremarkable, non-memorable, failed abortion on celluloid that is Dark House. I’d say give it to your dog as a chew toy but Fido deserves to be treated better than that.