Dark House (2009)

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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  • thehorrorchick

    I screened this at Shriekfest and during the Las Vegas Fango Con. There’s no word yet on a theatrical or DVD release just yet. Fingers crossed though.

  • kiddcapone

    Is this a theatrical release or DVD ???