Dark Ride (2006)

Dark Ride (click for larger image)Starring Jamie-Lynn DiScala, Patrick Renna, David Clayton Rogers, Alex Solowitz

Directed by Craig Singer

Distributed by After Dark Films and Lionsgate Home Entertainment

You’ve seen it before a thousand times; stupid kids get into a stupid situation and get stalked by a remorseless killer. The 80’s were the heyday of such films, unfortunately the 90’s brought it back in a lighter form, and lately we’ve been getting some pretty good new entries in this sub-genre.

So how does Dark Ride stack up with all the stalk-in-slash films you’ve already seen? I’ll say this; it sure won’t shock you with anything new. So I guess if that’s what you’re looking for…

Five friends hit the road for New Orleans, attempting to do something non-Flordia related for Spring Break. On the way Bill (Renna), the movie geek of the group, finds a flyer for the re-opening of a New Jersey dark ride and convinces the group to make a pit stop. What most of them don’t know is that the dark ride was once the site of some especially brutal murders nearly two decades earlier and that the perpetrator of those crimes just managed to make his way out of an insane asylum.

Dark Ride review (click to see the pic bigger!)So the timing is perfect for some mindless mayhem, wouldn’t you say? And seeing said psycho’s nuthouse breakout, in which he punches a hole clean through one of the moronic orderlies taunting him, one would think that such mayhem would be plentiful. Sadly such is not the case, which you’ll realize after about 45 minutes of these characters sitting around, getting high and telling stories.

To say Dark Ride takes a while to get going is an understatement. Indeed, it almost feels like they forgot what kind of movie they had made in the editing room, or just really wanted you to get to know these characters. A lot. Over and over again. And right about the time when you’d think the aforementioned slaughter is set to get into full swing it … just … doesn’t.

That’s the biggest issue you’re going to have with Dark Ride; it’s a 45-60 minute film stretched out to 90. There’s way , way too many scenes of these characters interacting with one another, though to their credit the acting is above average, and not nearly enough of them being pummeled by the giant psychopath on their case.. They’re not necessarily annoying characters exactly, we just spend way too much time with them. Then, when the killing finally does start we’re only treated to one or two actual on-screen deaths (one very cool demise involving a cop’s head and a big knife), the rest we just see the aftermath of.

Dark Ride review (click to see the pic bigger!)The issues don’t stop there; big, gapping holes of logic threatened to take me out of the film more of than not. Why can’t these kids find their way out of an amusement park ride that has tracks running down the middle of it; tracks that they know leads to a door of some sort? Why does Cathy (DiScala), after telling her friend that she’s calmed down after seeing her boyfriend killed, turn around and freak out mere seconds later and leave her friend alone? Why can’t any of them figure out that they could just get out the way they came in? All these questions and more will likely run through your head for a good chunk of the film and when the ending comes not only will they not be answered, but there will be at least half a dozen more.

I think with either some serious editing or more action scenes to replace the long drawn-out dialogue moments, Dark Ride could’ve been a helluva lot more fun. The killer’s got a great presence, the characters are believable (if not a bit stereotypical), and the setting is fantastic. But there were just too many problems with the overall for me to be able to call it a good time, which is honestly all I had hoped for.

So much potential, very little of it met. There are bursts of slasher movie greatness in Dark Ride but they’re few and far between Singers’ definitely got the potential to churn out some good horror if he plays his cards right, but first and foremost he needs to learn when to talk and when to kill.

2 1/2 out of 5

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Johnny Butane