Sunday, January 23, 2011

Horror Film Review

Dark House (2009):  How can you not like a movie with Jeffrey Coombs in it?  Never heard of him?  Shame on you.  I don't think it's possible to be a horror movie fan and not know Coombs.  You know, the Re-Animator series?  Anyway, if he's involved, it's a sure thing you're in for some over-the-top horror. 

Seven children are brutally stabbed to death by the woman running their orpahanage, Ms. Darrode.  On a dare to enter the neighborhood's creepy house, young Claire walks in and witnesses the aftermath.  Grown-up Claire has nightmares and blocked the memory of what happened next.  Her shrink thinks she should return to the scene and face her fears.  Enter Coombs as Walston, creator of horror-themed fun parks who's turning the old orphanage into a haunted house full of state-of-the-art holograms.  He needs actors, however, and so makes a plea to Claire's drama class.  This bunch is eye-rollingly stereotypical:  the stud, the blond bimbo, the token black guy, the geek, and the pseudo-goth chick.  Walston wants to do a dress rehearsal for a couple of reporters, but the ghost of Ms. Darrode infects the computer system running the holograms.  Let the fun begin!

I will say this about Dark House, it kept me guessing.  Are the holograms really killing people in unique and grotesque ways or is it all an act, part of Walston's plan?  Or maybe...I don't do spoilers in this blog unless the movie is a true and utter turd.  This isn't a turd, but that's not to say it's completely stinkless.  It tries to be funny part of the time (i.e. a lesbian sub-plot).  That's a tough pill to swallow when you're dealing with dead children.  I should add that I can't remember a film that actually showed stabbed children lying around.  Not that there's anything wrong with that as a plot device.  It's just usually implied. 

The Breakdown

Acting:  Coombs hams it up big time as showman Walston.  Meghan Ory as Claire is too manic and shrill and just isn't very good.  Diane Salinger plays psycho Ms. Darrode so far over the top that she's acting from low orbit.  Think Nicolson in Batman or Close in Fatal Attraction or creepy preacher dude in Poltergeist 2 and then amp the performance up to 11.  The weird part is that she somehow makes it work. 
Story:  Not something you see every day but a bit too reminiscent of the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill.  There are some twists and turns that I didn't see coming.  I love when that happens.  Direction:  It's only 85 minutes long so director Darin Scott keeps the action moving right along.  Nothing terribly inspired as far as camera work goes, though.  There are a few good tense parts and you'll probably jump once or twice. 
Production Values:  No complaints.  Realistic sets and they used quality film stock. 
Gore/FX:  There's blood, no doubt about it.  The hand getting chewed to hell by the garbage disposal was fun.  The hologram stuff was well done, no cheesy SyFy Channel-grade CGI. 
Ending:  Surprisingly effective...after I figured it out.  There are two twists right at the end that hit you fast.  Pay attention!  Because it ain't over till the credits roll. 
Verdict:  Should you see Dark House?  It's Coombs.  Of course you should.  Then go watch Re-Animator again.  Or for the first time (you know who you are).

My Rating:  3 out of 5


  1. Wrote a review of your short story on my blog :)

  2. I appreciate that. Thanks. That's the one thing I've discovered I just have to have in my writing...humor. I'm afraid the NPR folks must have missed the boat with "Howdy." About the cover art. Yeah. Wish I could take credit for those. I had input, of course, but my college buddy, Scott Jenner did the heavy lifting. He's an amazing artist. I'm coming out with another free ebook soon, a collection of my horror movie reviews, and can't wait to see what Scott comes up with. By the way, I like your blog. And not just because you gave my story a positive review.

  3. Let me know when your ebook comes out. I would love to check it out :)