Reviewed 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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7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB Review – Rest Easy, Indiana Jones, There’s Not Much To See Here
Starring Kellan Lutz, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammar
Directed by Kimble Rendall
If it only weren’t for those friggin’ spiders. Kimble Rendall’s adventurous flick, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is one of those “wanted to be, yet couldn’t quite hit the mark” action-films that will probably entertain those looking for some cave-dwelling escapades caught on celluloid, but for the more picky aficionado of said slam-bang pics, this one might be viewed as a bit stagnant. Let’s strap on our mining helmets and pick around this one, shall we?
Acting as a bit of a search-and-rescue formation, the movie tails alongside Dr. Jia Lee (Li) as she hunts down the whereabouts of her missing brother after losing contact with him while he was on expedition in Western China. Apparently he was looking for a secretive Emperor’s tomb that supposedly holds a potion that can reanimate, or re-invigorate…or rehabilitate – anyway you slice it, the juice has got some pretty potent powers. So a search team is assembled, led by Mason (Grammar – glad someone got Frasier off of the barstool), and he’s latched onto all-American fella Jack (Lutz) to assist this operation. As it turns out, the initial journey is cut off fairly quick when a violent electrical storm forces the group to head underground, and that’s when things get creepy and crawly…like 8-legged style. The film is ripe with some feverish action and a few decent performances, but it’s the overall framework that acts as the big bully, tauntingly kicking sand in the little guy’s face at the beach.
We’ve got love interests, a flurry of backstories, and oh my lord, those spiders! Yep, even the heartiest of CGI can effectively ruin a good case of the willies when it comes to arachnids and their powers of sucking humans and animals dry of their lifeforce. It’s an intently goofy movie, and even the dialogue seems a bit showy at times, leaving plausibility and intelligence at the entrance to the caves. Lutz is fun to watch as the burly rescuer, and he looks as the type who is just waiting for his cinematic moment to step into the spotlight. What pains me is that this movie really could have been something much bigger, and apparently it looks as if the majority of the film’s budget was wasted on those hokey-looking computerized spiders.
All in all, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is spotty entertainment, even if you despise those little skittering aphids racing towards you, programmed or not. Give it a peek if Raiders Of The Lost Ark isn’t readily available at your disposal…even that crappy Crystal Skull one.
A film that could have been so much more adventure-wise instead comes off looking like a lesson in how not to waste too much time on computer imagery.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 160 – A QUIET PLACE
Lately, it seems as though comedy actors are cutting their teeth as horror directors and absolutely killing it! This year’s indie horror darling comes in the form of John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Chris has been sick as a dog, so the haomie Christine from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest is filling in to discuss whether A Quiet Place is 2018’s horror heavyweight, or just a lot of noise.
What Bruno took was what changed me; it only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 160!
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THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH Review: Friedkin Goes Mondo Catholic
Directed by William Friedkin
Hitting theaters this weekend in NYC and LA is William Friedkin’s new documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth. And right away I am asked: “Is it ‘good’?” You don’t watch a documentary like this with that in mind. Faces of Death, Traces of Death, Mondo Cane. They are not here to be “good”—they are beyond words like that. Beyond good and bad.
It is more like the sideshow—Behold! See what has not been seen before! The Horror! The Forbidden! And you hand the man your ticket — you see The Arabian Giantess at the flea market in New Jersey, and maybe it is a sleight of hand and made of papier-mâché, but it was worth that dollar, and now you have a story. You have bought your way into the unknown.
The Devil and Father Amorth is light on science (and length – it runs just 68 minutes) and heavy on faith. If you have been exposed to Friedkin’s — or more specifically, William Peter Blatty’s — work, there is the struggle with belief in the Roman Catholic faith, and also in the search for evidence of the miracle. You could also prove the Force of Divine Good if you could face the opposite side of the coin—the Force of Evil, in the vernacular of Catholicism—the Devil himself. Paradoxical, yes—faith exists without proof; and so what is the drive to tell the world God exists, the Devil exists?
In the documentary we learn Rome is filled with the possessed. Hundreds of people are contacting the Church about their own possession or the possession of their loved ones. The Most Holy Father Amorth is the person the Vatican has tapped to perform exorcisms—thousands of them. And sometimes he has repeat business. Christina is one such woman, exorcised nine times and still susceptible to the Force of Evil. Those of us who are non-believers look at this woman as someone who is troubled—but “through the eyes of faith,” obviously it is a demon.
Surrounded by her family, the rite begins, and you see… an actual exorcism. There is no enhancement, no Dick Smith make-up; it is not as dramatic as we want it to be. Should we get her help that is not in the form of a witch doctor? What about doctors? And so we meet them.
Friedkin brings the footage to top hospitals in NYC. Psychologists give their point of view. Then neurosurgeons. They don’t know what’s going on—the exorcism seems to help, but they do see that it might be a cultural remnant. There is a medical diagnosis for it, as it can affect anyone of any faith. But the doc never digs too deep. I am disappointed: I needed to know more. I don’t believe it.
Are they hurting Christina? Is she just another female the Church is suppressing, as they did with witches—the control, the stigma, of the female body and identity? None of this is explored because it’s just a 1-dollar ticket under the striped tent, just left of the dancing girls and the strong man—Actual! Exorcist! Footage! Hurry up and see!
As Friedkin mentioned himself, when someone asks you to film an exorcism, you say yes. So see it for the freak show. Expect nothing else. And either you believe or you don’t, based on how you were raised — mythology, religion, or superstition.
See it for the freak show. Expect nothing else.
- Josh Gastronomicon Myers Sweet!
- Tarman_85 I just read that Bruce isn't interested in continuing on with the character. https://twitter.com/GroovyBruce/status/988510246829109249?s=17
- Steven Millan The most important question to ask Dario Argento during his HorrorCon UK appearance is what is the status of THE SANDMAN(his crowdfunded project),which once seemed ready to film until Dario had a...
- FortesqueX I bet there'll be a bunch of hillbillies.
- FlixtheCat You're very kind.
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