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Dark House (2009)

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Dark HouseReviewed by Heather Wixson

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Meghan Ory, Diane Salinger, Matt Cohen

Directed by Darin Scott

Produced by Fatal Frames Pictures


Chances are, if you are reading this review, then you’re probably a huge fan of getting scared. And we all know that one of the best places to get your spook on is at a good old-fashioned haunted house. But what happens when a haunted house goes too far and your worst fears come to life? That’s the terror explored in Dark House.

Dark House centers around a troubled young woman named Clare (Ory) who is haunted by a traumatic childhood experience — when she was younger, she was found inside the Darrode House in the aftermath of a murder-suicide committed by Miss Darrode (Salinger), a religious zealot who decides the orphans she tends to are all evil and must be cleansed through their deaths.

Now in her twenties and yearning to push forward past that horrific experience in her childhood, Clare finds solace in developing her acting skills. While in acting class one day, Clare and her classmates are approached by a charismatic haunted house developer, Walston (Combs), who wants the group to perform in his newest haunted attraction: Dark House.

The only catch? Dark House is the renovated Darrode House so Clare must decide if she can truly put the ghosts of her past behind her in order to work amongst the computer-generated ghosts that now roam the halls of Dark House. And since you are reading this review, you can pretty much guess what Clare’s decision is.

What I enjoyed about Dark House was the fact that writer/director Darin Scott tapped into the spirit of haunted house attractions with his script. Scott cleverly mixes together the realm of the supernatural with a hint of dark humor, and the result is a film that breathes new life into the long dormant horror subgenre of haunted house flicks.

Another thing I really enjoyed about Dark House was the idea that it wasn’t necessarily a “haunted” house but rather a house where horrible things happened at the hands of Miss Darrode, and so she becomes the catalyst that takes over the technology that runs the haunted house and uses it to inflict pain on those who dare to enter her former home.

Ory does her best to portray a very disturbed and unbalanced Clare, but admittedly, I found her performance to be lacking a bit in depth. I didn’t really buy that she was traumatized at all and found her character portrayal to be a little flat for most of the film. It’s really not until the third act of the movie when Ory seems to finally “find” Clare and steps up her performance.

I did, however, love Combs’ performance as the over-dramatic Walston. The character of Walston really gave Dark House the flavor it needed to keep it from being bland — he’s the guy you kind of love to hate really. Combs delivers a hilarious, over-the-top performance that makes it so you can’t take your eyes off the screen whenever he’s on it (think Geoffrey Rush in House on Haunted Hill, but with more of a twinkle in the eye). Dark House made me wish we saw more of Combs on the big screen these days.

Since Dark House incorporates the use of CGI within the story itself (rather than as a tool for the filmmaker), the look of the CGI monsters would definitely be a key determining factor as to whether or not audiences would be distracted by silly looking monsters or cartoonish blood. Neither of these issues are relevant in Dark House. The CGI monsters are cool, creepy, and vicious; and the kill scenes look great as well. It’s nice to finally see a horror movie where CGI complements the film rather than takes you right out of it.

Overall, I really enjoyed Dark House. It’s rare to find a horror movie that I can laugh out loud during and still find creepy at the same time. I know that the film is still up for distribution so my fingers are crossed that Dark House ends up in the right hands so that fans will get a chance to enjoy it as much as I did.

3 1/2 out of 5

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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